(NaturalNews) According to the New York Times on 12/4/08, the National Christmas Tree Association reported $l.3 billion in Christmas tree sales last year. This amounted to 3l million trees sold. Real Christmas trees bring an appeal that artificial trees just cannot provide, the pleasing scent of a pine forest. When selecting a traditional tree, there is one more thing to consider along with its size, shape and cost. It is not the possible tip-over from adventurous pets and small children or the fire-hazard potential. It's giving some serious thought to the pesticide factor. The pervasiveness of these chemicals extends to yet another facet of life in this holiday season.
The two classifications of pesticides used by growers are organophosphates and pyrethroids. Washington,D.C. based Beyond Pesticides, states: "Of the pesticides that the EPA has registered for use on Christmas trees, most are linked to one or more adverse effects, including cancer, hormonal disruption, neurotoxicity, organ damage, reproductive and birth defects, asthma, environmental effects and more."
Organophosphates include household and agricultural pesticides as well as deadly nerve gasses like sarin. They irreversibly inactivate acetylcholinesterase,the enzyme essential to nerve function. In the February 2004 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, findings of a study showed five metabolites of organophosphate (OP) pesticides in over 50% of people examined. Children were found to contain significantly higher levels of OP metabolites, an alarming and grave concern "considering their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure."
Pyrethroids are sold as commercial pesticides used to control pest insects in agriculture, homes, communities, restaurants, hospitals, schools, and as a topical head lice treatment. Pyrethroids are neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors. When tested, certain pyrethroids demonstrate significant estrogenicity and increase the levels of estrogen in breast cancer cells (Go et al., 1999). Because increased cell division enhances the chances for the formation of a malignant tumor in the breast, artificial hormones, like those found in pyrethroids, may increase breast cancer risk (PCBR, 1996). They also can trigger life-threatening allergic responses including severe ashtma and heart failure. Pyrethrins, included in this class, are classified as "likely to be human carcinogens" by EPA because they cause thyroid tumors in laboratory tests. Farmers using these pesticides on their crops have an increased risk of developing leukemia.
As to whether or not the pesticides on the Christmas trees would pose a health danger, Dr. Thomas Arcury of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in N.C. stated: "Some residues would probably remain, just as they remain on the food we eat. How much that is — how dangerous that is — nobody knows." Dr. Arcury is professor and research director for the university`s Department of Family and Community Medicine. He also commented: "Many of the pesticides, particularly the organophosphates and pyrethroids, will break down in rain and UV light."
Dr. Arcury has completed studies on the effects of these chemicals on Christmas tree farm workers. The studies found traces of the chemicals used on the trees in their homes, on the hands and toys of their children, and in urine samples from the families. Because of their relatively high exposure and their developing bodies, infants and children are more likely to experience pesticide-related health effects—sometimes permanent—than other groups.
Families celebrating this holiday season can choose to go green and avoid the toxic chemicals that are typically used in the growing process. There are organically-grown options and perhaps some locally-grown without pesticides. Organic and non-toxic living makes sense in a world of on-going chemical assaults from many directions. While you`re out and about shopping, give gifts of health by keeping the gifts under the tree non-toxic.
Note: Certified Naturally Grown, a national organization with 500 members from 47 states, was founded in 2002 (the same year as the Agriculture Department's organic certification program) by small farmers looking for an alternative that didn't require a licensing fee and complicated record-keeping. State groups like the Farmer's Pledge, sponsored by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, can also provide assurances that a tree has been grown sustainably. (New York Times 12/4/08 "How green can a Christmas Tree Be?")
"Concentrations of Dialkyl Phosphate Metabolites of Organophosphorus Pesticides in the U.S. Population" is the study conducted and reported in Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb. 2004.
Go, V. et al. 1999. "Estrogenic Potential of Certain Pyrethroid Comounds in the MCF-7 Human Breast Carcinoma Cell Line." Environmental Health Perspectives. 107:3
"Hormonal and Environmental Factors Affecting Cell proliferation and Neoplasia in the Mammary Gland." Progress in Clinical and Biological Research (PCBR). 394:211-53, 1996.
About the author
Susanne Morrone, C.N.C., is an author, speaker and natural health educator. Her book, "The Best Little Health Book Ever," is the quintessential natural health primer. She is also included in "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health" by Selfgrowth.com. Her mission and educational outreach is found at www.naturalhealthchat.com.