By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 12/13/16 (Tue)
Several years ago I had a morbid curiosity to find a harmful link between malathion and wheat and began researching.
When I was a kid, say 14 or 15 years old, local farmers hired me to auger and shovel grain and in return, I earned $1 per hour spending money.
I was working for one farmer at harvest time and he was driving one truck to the grain bins and his wife was driving another truck.
I was at the bins watching the grain load into a bin as the hoist was being lifted.
One day the farmer gave me a can that kind of reminded me of a tomato juice can, but it was liquid malathion.
He told me to dump it on the wheat periodically as it augured up into the bin. So I did, apparently to kill any bugs that might cause hot spots during winter storage.
Fast forward nine years and I was working in a grain elevator before harvest. My boss told me to go into some bins, clean them out and get them ready for the new barley crop.
Again, I was given that “tomato juice” can with malathion and told to open it when I finished sweeping, then get out of the bin as fast as I could.
It took 10 seconds for me to exit the bin and close the door and in that time I was higher than a kite from the malathion fumes.
This time it was barley and not wheat, but I couldn’t help but think that if you look at a kernel of wheat under a microscope, you’ll find it’s somewhat porous, which means tiny droplets of the malathion will settle there and absorb into the kernel and when the liquid evaporates, will leave a residue.
Then what happens? It’s ground into flour, spaghetti and other products.
Knowing that just increased my curiosity so I dug a little deeper and found a plethora of information in the Proposition 65 initiative.
It’s a list of hazardous chemicals administered by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment that points out risks and dangers to every chemical that has a human health affect. Malathion is on that list and is regarded as a cancer causing chemical.
Hmm, this is intriguing. Digging deeper, there were numerous things I found that kind of shocked me into reality.
One of them has to do with a chemical called diuron. It’s commonly used on blueberry bushes and I found out through Proposition 65 that more than 50 percent of the nation’s blueberries (mostly from Michigan) are sprayed with diuron, a known carcinogen.
Captan is another carcinogenic chemical that is most often used as an insecticide on citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and lemons.
Citrus fruit is much like that tiny wheat kernel I examined when I was 14 years old. The rind is porous and there is no question that Captan will settle into those spots and be absorbed into the citrus product.
In all the research I did, which ended up becoming a two-year public speaking circuit, I never found that hazardous link between wheat and malathion because it was only earlier this year that malathion was added to the Proposition 65 list.
If you think there is a chemical in question, just Google “Proposition 65 List,” and it will pop up on your screen. Type in the name of the chemical that concerns you and a screen will give you details about that chemical and its hazards.
There’s been a lot of controversy over Proposition 65 that started in the 1980s when the state of California was eradicating marijuana fields in northern California using paraquat.
The state wanted some warning to people that paraquat would be absorbed into the marijuana they were smoking which became dangerous to human health.
As you might imagine, most of the “smokers” didn’t pay attention to the state of California and many of them suffered physical and mental health issues.
As a result of that program, Proposition 65 started out to warn the California public about the hazards of being exposed to chemicals.
It was apparently well done and well organized because now, most everyone in the free world looks at Proposition 65 and assumes it to be true and compelling information, even though certain people, mostly chemical company public affairs staff, dispute the findings.
It would be worth a look to see what is and isn’t harmful to human health, especially those chemicals that are used in our food supply.
When university studies about that are done, they quickly get swept under the rug, but Proposition 65 has lasted 30 years.