High levels of the heavy metals cadmium, lead and arsenic, which have recently been found in South African pineapples due for export, are a serious health threat.
Cape Times (6 July 2007), local farmers unwittingly used the contaminated fertiliser, which was imported from China to cultivate their pineapple crops.
Environmental sources of heavy metals include air emissions from coal-burning plants, smelters and waste incinerators, and wastes from mining and industry. We can be exposed to heavy metals through air pollution and contaminated food, water and soil.
Research shows that cadmium might increase the risk of breast cancer for pregnant women and their female offspring. Cadmium mimics the effects of the female hormone oestrogen – a situation that could trigger the development of the hormone-sensitive cancer.
Children six years and younger are most at risk from lead poisoning because their bodies and nervous systems are still developing.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in food, drinking water and the environment. But exposure to high levels of the inorganic form, such as that found in wood preservatives, insecticides and weed killers, can be deadly.
What dangers lurk in your food?
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