In a recent Sprout newsletter (which you can read here) we advised pregnant women about some of the risks for their babies that can be found in our environment. We got an email response from one of our customers expressing how terrifying some of this information is. This is something I commonly worry about, the fact that people will be so scared by the information we share that they will not want to listen. I know that other customers must feel this way and not take the time to express it. I thought about it a lot and then wrote her a long response. When I shared the interaction with a couple of other people on the Sprout team, it was suggested that we should publish her email and my response. We hope others who feel this way will read this and understand what we are trying to do:
Normally I love your newsletters, but in my 8 months of pregnancy, this is the worst bit of news I have read! All these studies about pregnant women's exposure to pesticides and links to autism and developmental delays, including studies showing American babies are born with over 300 types of toxins in their bodies? This is horrible! As a third time mom, I am doing the best I can eating well and feeding good food to my family, but I am sure I ingest chemicals or pesticides that I don't know about, or breath them in just walking down the street. Then to read this, as a pregnant mom I'm in a panic thinking I'm doomed!
These studies are so vague, they don't tell you what to eat or avoid (don't we all know the obvious ones by now) and leave you with a sense of dread, wondering if I have harmed my unborn child, even though I haven't touched alcohol, tuna, sushi, deli meat, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, processed foods, and try to eat as much organic produce and dairy products as I can. The reality is I can't afford to buy every piece of produce I eat or feed my family at a farmer's market, not to mention dragging along 2 boys under age 4 week after week to farmer's markets isn't going to happen. It's sad to feel like I might have failed as a mom, exposing my unborn baby to possible pesticides, and I'm left with 6 more weeks to worry about whether or not he will be born healthy.
The studies in your newsletter were horribly scary! Not a fan of this newsletter.
Thanks for listening,
Mom of soon-to-be 3 (hopefully healthy) boys”
Here is my response:
I have been thinking about your email all day. I am so sorry to have scared you. I am sure your boys are and will be healthy. I am sad to hear the panic in your email, it was, of course, not our intention. But yes, the information is horrifying. Reading about this stuff and being horrified by it is exactly why I started Sprout. I started learning about all of the scientific evidence proving that things in our environment are harming us, as well as the fact that not much is being done about it to make sure that these toxins aren't sold. I felt like I had a responsibility to let people know. That is really the purpose of Sprout, to spread information.
I am hoping that enough public outrage can change policy, even if science can't. For example, scientists first learned about the estrogenic effects of BPA in the early 80s. But it took moms around the country refusing to buy BPA bottles for their babies for the companies to finally give up on making them. Then the government was able to ban them, just a couple of years ago.
So I write these articles so that people learn these facts and then can make their own decisions. It's not meant to scare you. Because these are all examples in the extreme. The pesticides article is talking about women who are pregnant living near heavily pesticided farmland. It's unbelievable to me that these studies are out there and companies are still allowed to spray these dangerous pesticides near where people live. And yes, I extrapolate that to say to buy organic food, when you can. But that doesn't mean that if you eat some non-organic food you are going to have the results of these women who live near the farmland. It just means to acknowledge that pesticides are not all okay and to do what you can to avoid them as much as you can.
What I always tell our customers is “you do what you can do” and that is better than doing nothing. If you eat 25% organic, that's 25% less pesticides in your body and that's huge. Also, because you have older kids you may be thinking, “I don't want to hear it because it's too late for them.” That's not true at all. There are a couple of studies on our site, one on BPA and one on organic food, where scientists limited a family's exposure to BPA or kids' exposure to pesticides and within a matter of days, the BPA in their blood or pesticides in their urine dropped by over 60%. So you can make small changes at any time and make a huge difference.
I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old. Both girls. They don't eat organic all of the time. I can't control what they have at school or at friends' houses or even at restaurants. I just know that then I control what I can control so that overall their exposures to the things I worry about are less than they would be if I did nothing. But really these newsletters are about much more than what I do or what you should do. It's about what really needs to change to keep all of our children safe so that we don't have to worry about these things. Because no matter what you do, you can't control most of the things you are exposed to. So I hope if more people are aware, then over time, things will have to change.
P.S. The picture above is of my daughter eating very sugar-filled and non-organic ice cream at a cousin's wedding.