The bottom line: Of the 3,000 chemicals used in high volume in personal care products, only half have been put through basic toxicity testing, according to Landrigan.
You may be paying more for "organic" products that aren't actually organic; the USDA regulates organic personal care products only if they're made of agricultural ingredients. Look for the USDA logo rather than the word "organic" on the label.
Many processed foods -- pasta, candy, cookies, crackers, baby food -- now come in organic versions. Products made from at least 95 percent organic ingredients can carry the "USDA Organic" seal if the remaining ingredients are approved for use in organic products. Products with at least 70 percent organic ingredients may label those on the ingredient list.
The bottom line: Processed organic food hasn't been shown to be any more nutritious than processed conventional food.
In conventionally processed products such as baby food, pesticides aren't commonly detected because the processing steps "are quite effective in breaking down trace residues of pesticides," said food toxicologist Carl Winter, director of the FoodSafe Program at the University of California at Davis and co-author of the Institute of Food Technologists scientific summary.
"Pesticides are rarely used on crops grown for baby foods since the ultimate appearance of the crop is less important due to the processing before the product is ultimately sold," Winter said.
Some consumers may decide to choose organic because those products are not supposed to contain genetically modified organisms.
Cotton and coffee are two of the most pesticide-intensive crops in the world. Pesticide residues have been detected in the cottonseed hull, a secondary crop sold as a food commodity. It's estimated that as much as 65 percent of cotton production ends up in our food chain, through food or indirectly through the milk or meat of animals, according to a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation. Conventional coffee production also has contributed to the deforestation of the world's rain forests.
The bottom line: Pesticide residues are generally removed during the processing but the chemicals can have a huge impact on the local land, biodiversity and the health of the workers involved.
Though buying organic can help preserve environmental health and support farmers who use ecological methods, "it's more important to focus on the circumstances of growers and farms versus the product itself," said food writer Corby Kummer, the author of "The Joy of Coffee."
Sifting through organic choices
Consumers should weigh cost vs. benefit when deciding what products to buy
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