Are Chemical Additives Harmful?
THE public is asked to believe that there is no harm in all the chemical additives in food, since the amount eaten each day is usually very small. Still, this question persists in the minds of those who reason on what they are asked to believe: If a large amount of a chemical is poisonous and harmful, will not a little bit each day be harmful too, but just take longer to have its effect?
Those who argue for the safety of additives often refer to the fact that a small amount of salt is good for the health of most persons, but large amounts of salt can kill. They therefore conclude that other chemicals are safe in small amounts. This may be true, provided those other chemicals can be carried off like excess amounts of salt and are not cumulative in the body like DDT.
It can be argued that there is no definite proof as yet that these chemical additives are harming people. But is this not putting the cart ahead of the horse? Perhaps it is better to state the converse, that there is no definite proof as yet that these food additives are not harming people. Would it therefore not be mere sensible to keep the use of these additives to the absolute minimum until such time as all shadow of doubt as to their safety has vanished?
A case in point: There were those who long ago argued that smoking was probably harmful. But from day to day it was not possible to see any visible change in health, so the promoters of cigarettes liked to say there was no harm. Now, after decades of experience, it is definitely established that smoking is injurious to health. It can cause cancer, heart disease and other ailments. But that took many years to prove. Who is to say that the additives to our food are not also having harmful effects, even though over a long term?
There are vast differences in body makeup. You likely know persons who can stay out in cold weather for long periods and not get sick. Yet, others may stay out only briefly and come down with an illness.
No one can say what the limit of tolerance is for any person. What may not harm one who enjoys enough vitality so that his body appears to throw off harmful agents may kill another who does not enjoy that vitality. So who is to say how much of a chemical really harms one’s health? Even if it is only a small percent of the population that is harmed, would you care to be part of that percent?
Those who argue for a certain viewpoint may direct your attention to the results of certain experiments. But is such evidence always conclusive? For example, rats that were well fed over a period of six months were given nothing to drink but cola beverages. It was found that their teeth dissolved down to the gum line. It is said that the acids in these drinks can dissolve iron and limestone. That seems on the surface to be a very impressive experiment and the conclusion may be drawn from it that surely some harm would come to humans if they drank such beverages, whether over a long period of time or only occasionally.
However, much of the force of this argument is lost when someone points to the fact that the acids in lemon juice and vinegar will also dissolve iron and limestone. Hence, if the cola acids in small amounts are harmful over a long term, then lemon juice and vinegar also might be said to be detrimental to one’s health. So, it is evident that a broad range of knowledge is needed if sound conclusions are to be drawn.
Who Knows Better?
In this controversy over food additives one finds that opinions vary from one extreme to the other. There are those who enjoy to the full every additive that pleases and excites their senses. Conservatives, on the other hand, may ask you: If the Creator had purposed that certain chemicals should be in our food, would he not have put them there? After all, who knows best the right composition and balance in food—the Creator, or imperfect men?
Following this line of reasoning: If you had a fine automobile that took high-test gasoline, what would happen if you began to put dirt particles and cheap fuel into the gas tank? In time it would begin to malfunction and would eventually break down, its life-span shortened.
Dr. William E. Smith, a cancer researcher, said: “The growing custom of introducing an endless series of biologically foreign molecules into the human organism for various commercial advantages is not unlike throwing a collection of nuts and bolts into the most delicate machinery known.”
It has been concluded by many that it is no longer a question of whether these chemical additives are harmful or not. In their opinion it is only a question regarding the extent of the harm. Dr. Edward Ryan, former editor of the Dental Digest, stated: “Every time a natural substance is removed from a food, every time an adulterant is added to a food, the balance in nature is disturbed. . . . The chemical and cellular processes within the body cells cannot react to the passing whims of chemists without disturbance in function.”
Putting It All Together
Chemical Week of December 10, 1969, commented: “The increasing problem of putting more and more chemicals into foods, observed panelist Maurice Shils, associate professor of medicine at Cornell University, is ‘part of the pollution problem. There ought to be a good reason before new chemicals get into our food supply.’”
The comparing of these chemicals to pollutants brings up another aspect of this matter. The average person may not eat enough of any one chemical additive each day to be harmed, but he is exposed to more than just one chemical in his food each day. And besides, he is exposed to many from other sources.
More and more people are becoming concerned over the polluted environment in which they live. There are alien chemicals in much of the drinking water. The land that produces much of the food has been doused with chemical pesticides and fertilizers. And what about the air we breathe? In many lands it is positively ghastly. For instance, a report concerning the findings of American scientists of the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center states: “The last vestige of clean air the center noted in the United States was near Flagstaff, Ariz., but it disappeared six years ago when . . . air pollution from the California coast reached the northern Arizona city.”—The New Haven Register, December 21, 1969.
Newsweek of January 26, 1970, reported: “The waste in U.S. air cripples cattle in Florida, discolors the paint on houses and automobiles in Lincoln, Maine, kills pine trees 60 miles away from Los Angeles, and ruins orchids in Texas and Illinois as well as spinach in southern California. Some Americans are paying with their lives; respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and emphysema are growing at alarming rates.”
So when you put it all together, you will find that it is not just one chemical in small amounts any longer. The assault of all these unnatural elements—the chemicals in our foods, the dirty air we breathe, the foreign substances in the water we drink—may well be responsible for some of the sicknesses suffered by people today.
What Can Be Done
What can a person do if he prefers not to consume so many chemicals? While it is impossible in much of the world today to avoid them altogether since their use is so widespread and very often hidden from view, you can apply the suggestions on the chart on page 7.
Your personally doing such things will no doubt be beneficial for yourself and your family to some extent, but it will not remove the major causes of ill health and disease. Even if we lived in a pollution-free environment, and food additives were outlawed, mankind would continue to suffer the effects of sin and death. Man cannot by his own works free himself from this Adamic curse. Also, the problem of pollution is inherent with the present system of things in which we live, and this system of things is not something we can change.
But God can free us from both. And in his Word the Bible he has said that he will do so. He has specifically taken note of the fact that man is spoiling this good earth that He created, and He has declared his purpose “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Rev. 11:18.
All the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy shows that we are very near the time when God will display his great power and authority by bringing an end to this selfish system of things and those who love to have it that way.—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
After that miraculous act of God, the affairs of mankind will be administered by the righteous government of God in heaven. His Word promises that the earth will become a paradise. Not only will there be a permanent end to the pollution of the atmosphere, the land and the water of the earth, but something far more wonderful—the restoration of mankind to a state of perfection in body and mind! Pain and death will become things of the past.—Isa. 45:18; Luke 23:43; Rev. 21:4, 5.
Jehovah God, the Creator of man and the One who causes the earth to produce food for all living things, knows what is required to bring these things about. He has given his own unalterable word that he will make them a reality.—Rev. 21:5.
[Box on page 7]
To Cut Down Your Intake of Chemicals
(1) Check labels on all foods that are packaged, canned or bottled, and choose those with as few additives as possible.
(2) Cut down on use of ready-mix foods. It may take a little longer to mix your own, but in some cases it may be more healthful.
(3) If you cannot find bread that is wholesome and largely free from additives, it may be to your advantage to bake your own. Some commercial bread has little real food value.
(4) When possible, serve your family fresh fruits and vegetables, carefully washed. You might even grow some in your own yard.
(5) Favor natural drinks, such as milk, instead of “soft” drinks. Some fruit juices sold commercially may be largely free from additives. In certain instances you may want to squeeze your own.
(6) By obtaining fresh, unprocessed meat and cooking your own you will avoid many of the additives used in cold cuts and other related products.
(7) Since such pesticides as DDT tend to concentrate in the fat of animals, you can cut down your intake of it by trimming the excess.