Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Problems with Nuts

There are a few problems with nuts you should be aware of. But don't worry; we will also suggest solutions!

Personal Health —Aflatoxin — Peanuts are among the top three crops that are subject to infestation by molds that produce aflatoxin, a potent human carcinogen. The toxin has been found in both peanuts and peanut butter, as well as corn, rice, wheat, soybeans, and sorghum. The USDA is responsible for testing peanuts and peanut products to ensure that they do not exceed acceptable levels of aflatoxin. While new methods for eliminating these molds are being implemented, there is still some concern about the long-term effects of ingesting low levels of aflatoxin.

Allergies — Peanuts and tree nuts are both on the list of the eight most common allergens. Children are more likely to develop allergies if their parents or siblings suffer from allergies to legumes or nuts, but even those with no family history of allergies are susceptible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that particularly in families with histories of peanut allergies, nursing mothers should not consume peanuts and tree nuts. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology also recommends that children under the age of three not eat peanuts.

— Environmental —Pesticides abound in the production of nuts. A few examples follow.

Endosulfan is banned in many countries but legal in the US and India, where it is used in cashew production. This pesticide presents health risks to farm workers and to those living near where the chemical is used. In December 2003, Environmental Health Perspectives published a study linking endosulfan to delayed sexual maturation in boys in India. Animal studies indicate that the pesticide attacks the central nervous system, and can cause damage to the kidneys, testes, and liver. It is highly toxic to animals and fish as well.
Cyfluthrin, which has been used for decades on nuts, is known to be highly toxic to marine and freshwater organisms.
Phosmet, used on pistachios as well as apples and peaches, is highly toxic to honey bees.
Atrazine is one of the most widely used pesticides in the US. It is used on macadamia nuts, has been found in well water in the Midwest. It is known to harm aquatic organisms like fish and frogs, and there is some evidence that it may have a negative impact on human reproduction.
Diazinon, well known for its turf and residential pest control applications, is also used on walnuts and is highly toxic to honey bees and birds.
Once harvested, nuts are often fumigated with methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide. While methyl bromide probably won't cause any harm to you when you eat nuts or other treated crops, it is quite dangerous for the farm workers who use it. Also, it is such a large factor in ozone depletion that the countries around the world are phasing out its use.

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