Sunday, December 10, 2023

Your food is on drugs

| April 25, 2023 1:00 AM

April is Earth Month. That’s not just about the planet; it’s about you.

You may have read that Americans are consuming more drugs, using more plastic and creating more trash per person than ever before. Climate change — whatever its genesis — is causing bigger weather disasters and challenging community resources.

Despite their common thread, some care about it less than others, with a “that’s not my problem” viewpoint.

Even if fire, drought, storm, or flood hasn’t yet hit each of us, now that we’re all literally eating those drugs, plastic and trash, it’s become everybody’s problem.

The thing is, what goes in our bodies (i.e., medications) gets into water systems — however wastewater is processed. What we put in the trash eventually reaches the waterways or leaches into the soil. Water and soil feed animal and plant life, so the cycle ends up back in our bodies as food.

Drugged, plastic food. Even when in trace amounts, it adds up.

That’s not just theory, according to several studies. Take fish (which swim in the waterways that nourish the soil where plants grow and cows graze). A Florida International University study released in April tested redfish, a popularly harvested seafood consumed in Florida and around the nation, for 94 commonly prescribed drugs at various coastal locations. Here’s what they found:

• All fish had drugs in their blood, about half beyond trace amounts, from mostly cardiac, opioid and psychoactive medicines.

• All had heart-related medications.

• 90% had opioids (painkillers).

• Two out of five had psychoactive drugs used to treat schizophrenia. These results were similar to an earlier study of bonefish, all contaminated with similar drugs, including antidepressants.

Other studies have indicated the meat we consume is also disturbingly contaminated:

• A major National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which analyzed samples over 20 years from thousands of participants across the nation found BPA, a chemical used in plastic, in 93% of urine samples taken from people above age 6.

• A 2016 study by Umea University in Sweden noted changes in salmon and crawfish exposed to anti-anxiety drugs, which also reduced fish supply because it changed their behavior.

• A study published by the National Library of Medicine on Aug. 15, 2014, “Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in chicken meat and other food animal products,” found antibiotics, acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) and product remnants (some containing microplastics) in sampled chicken, ground beef and milk. Similar results were found in meat in the U.K.

Even if you don’t care about ocean, animal and plant health, you probably care about human health. What ingesting aggregating trace amounts of drugs and microplastics (which can leach from containers into liquid or food) into a body does over time, we don’t know.

It can’t be good. “Green” isn’t just a hippie thing anymore; it’s become a significant health thing.

It’s all connected, every living thing, one way or another. Turning to what we can do about it beyond reducing or eliminating single-use plastics in favor of carrying our own reusables, reducing trash by composting and considering mass transit investments such as trains, state lawmakers might also consider specific opportunities for improvement.

For Earth Month the finance site WalletHub released its 2023’s Greenest States report, ranking states on 25 metrics covering the state’s environmental health and residents’ environmental friendliness. Vermont is the “greenest” and West Virginia the least green. It found “Blue” states tend to be greener, with an average rank of 15, compared with “red” states’ average rank of 36.

Looking at Idaho:

• The Gem State hit the middle, ranking 29th overall, with the same ranking for gas consumption and alternative fuel vehicles.

• First in organic farms per capita.

• Good air quality (16th), low water (42) and soil quality (41).

• Eighth in average commute time.

• Idaho ranked low in corporate clean energy and daily water consumption per capita (both 48th), with the latter likely due to Idaho’s high percentage of agricultural land which needs water to grow food. Also low were green buildings per capita (42) and alternative fuel stations (45).

See the full report at

Idahoans are so fortunate to live surrounded by some of the planet’s finest offerings. Here’s hoping we can work together to keep it that way.

Happy Earth Month.

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who’s worried about the sustainability of this good life. Email:

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