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The Village Lou

Understanding the Risks of Harmful Food Additives for Adults and Children

Feb 27, 2024 03:53PM ● By Marie Lewis

In recent decades, our reliance on chemicals in various aspects of daily life has soared. From the plastics used in packaging to the preservatives added to our foods, these chemicals were initially introduced with the intention of improving convenience, freshness, and aesthetics. However, emerging research is revealing the potential harm they can pose to our health, particularly for children, who are more vulnerable due to their smaller size and developing bodies.

A policy statement titled "Food Additives and Child Health" by the American Academy of Pediatrics sheds light on the dangers associated with these chemicals, emphasizing that children are often at higher risk. Their exposure can be more significant due to factors such as increased hand-to-mouth activity, higher doses relative to body weight, and longer duration for potential damage to occur.

Let's delve into some of the concerning chemicals highlighted in the statement:

Bisphenols (BPA): Found in food can linings, plastics, and receipts, BPA can disrupt hormonal balance, impacting puberty, fertility, body fat distribution, and immune and nervous system functions. While its use in baby bottles and sippy cups has been banned, older items may still contain it.

Phthalates: Widely present in plastics, phthalates can mimic hormones and interfere with male genital development, increase obesity and cardiovascular disease risks, and are found in various personal care products.

Perfluoroalkyl Chemicals (PFCs): Commonly found in packaging and household products, PFCs are associated with adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes, immune function, thyroid health, and fertility.

Perchlorate: Used in dry food packaging, perchlorate can disrupt thyroid function and early brain development.

Artificial Food Colors: Linked to exacerbating ADHD symptoms in children, artificial food colors are prevalent in many processed food products.

Nitrates and Nitrites: Found in processed meats, these additives can impact thyroid function, oxygen delivery in the blood, and increase cancer risks.

Given the ubiquity of these chemicals, it's challenging to completely avoid exposure. However, there are steps individuals can take to minimize risks:

  • Prioritize fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables over processed meats, especially during pregnancy.
  • Minimize microwave use with plastic containers and opt for glass or stainless steel alternatives.
  • Avoid plastics labeled with numbers 3, 6, and 7.
  • Limit consumption of canned foods and fast food.
  • Practice diligent handwashing before and after handling food, and ensure thorough cleaning of fruits and vegetables.
  • Read product labels to understand ingredients and choose natural, fragrance-free alternatives.
  • Consider making homemade cleaning products using simple ingredients like baking soda and vinegar.

The goal isn't to incite paranoia but rather to empower individuals with knowledge and encourage simple changes that can lead to healthier outcomes for families. By becoming informed consumers and making conscious choices, we can take proactive steps toward reducing exposure to harmful food additives and safeguarding our well-being.

Here are some ways you can contribute to food justice efforts in Louisville:

  1. Support Change Today Change Tomorrow (CTCT): Consider donating funds or volunteering your time with CTCT, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering communities through education, activism, and social change. CTCT's initiatives focus on addressing systemic inequalities, including food insecurity, and advocating for sustainable solutions.(

  2. Patronize Ag in the City: Support local farmers and access fresh, healthy produce by ordering from Ag in the City. This urban farm initiative offers a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, contributing to food access and sustainability efforts in Louisville. (

  3. Engage with Black Soil: Get involved with Black Soil, an organization committed to promoting Black agricultural heritage, supporting Black farmers, and fostering community resilience. Consider donating or volunteering to support their initiatives, which include educational programs, community gardens, and farmer's markets.(

  4. Attend Classes at Common Table: Catholic Charities' Common Table offers classes led by Makeeda Freeman-Woods, focusing on nutrition, cooking skills, and food justice education. Participate in these classes to learn valuable skills and contribute to building a healthier, more equitable food system in Louisville. (

  5. Join the Food In Neighborhoods Community Coalition (FINCC): Become part of FINCC, a grassroots coalition working to address food insecurity and promote food sovereignty in Louisville neighborhoods. Through advocacy, education, and community organizing, FINCC strives to create positive change and empower residents to access healthy, affordable food. (

  6. Support the Food Literacy Project: Donate to or volunteer with the Food Literacy Project, an organization dedicated to empowering youth and communities through food education, farm-based learning, and advocacy. Your contributions help support programs that cultivate leadership skills, promote food justice, and foster sustainable agriculture practices. (

  7. Participate in Play Cousins Civic Engagement Program: Join the Play Cousins Civic Engagement program and become an Advocacy Warrior. Through community engagement, education, and advocacy initiatives, Play Cousins empowers individuals to address social and environmental justice issues, including food access and equity. (

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