Public health is invariably intertwined with the health of our environment. Why? If the environment in which we live in is sick and polluted it is only logical that we become sick as well. All life on planet earth is interconnected. We all breathe the same air. If the food we eat is full of preservatives, heavy metals, pesticides, insecticides, white sugar, and bleaching agents, and all types of chemicals that are not natural to the human body, it is detrimental for we live in this soup. It will, in turn, affect our ability to control our emotions, our minds, and our actions in daily living.
Do I have proof of this? My health has been affected by chemicals in foods. The chemicals I ingested in food caused walking to be painful. If the air you breathe is polluted with chemicals, it could affect your respiratory system. The World Health Association states that 1.3 million deaths occur yearly due to urban pollution. The question is if these are just deaths then how many are there who suffer from and live with adverse symptoms of air pollution? There certainly must be millions more. Just recently, I experienced headaches when in Malaysia due to the burning of forests in Indonesia.
Even wireless pollution is a problem. People spend so much time on mobile devices, that we have forgotten how to concentrate on a single topic for an extended period. Our ability to interact with others is hampered as our social skills remain underdeveloped.
There is another problem too. We have become so unconcerned about the earth, we just produce more and more chemicals. We have forgotten that the earth belongs to bees and other animals too. We are only concerned about the profits, not even the well-being of our race. There is a balance in nature. If we disregard the bees then we suffer big time because they are the pollinators of flowers and food plants. If they die off, we die off. We as a species are not thinking of the consequences of our actions. We need to develop a loving relationship with our environment, one of cooperation, kindness, respect, and mutual interdependence.
I would like to describe how one food item, white sugar, is produced and how its production is negatively impacting the environment and our health.
THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS TO PROCESS RAW SUGAR CANE INTO WHITE SUGAR
All theses processes involve harmful chemicals. The number of chemicals used in the refining process may be small, but the production of that chemical used may have many side effects both to humans who produce it and the earth’s environment.
Using Bone Char
This method uses bone char which comes from the bones of animals in Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. It is used as a decolourisation filter. A spiritual teacher in India once said that processed white sugar with bone char etc. is a precursor to cancer. So to make sugar white we not only disrespect animals and waste their lives, but we disrespect our own creation because we cause ourselves cancer.
Refine plantation white sugar
Another method of making sugar white, one that is used in India, is referred to as “refine plantation white sugar.” I have never seen sugar labelled as such. And with processed foods being imported into India, there is no guarantee that the sugar coming in pre-packaged foods will be labelled as “refine plantation white sugar.” This process devoid of bone char is vegan, BUT instead of bone char, THERE IS THE SULPHITATION process. I don’t want to detail the whole process of sulphitation (sulphur dioxide), but I will say this, “even though sulphur compounds are drained out with the molasses there is much sulphur left.” In India, the standard is 70 parts per million. Compare this to the international standard which is 10ppm. Sulphur Dioxide causes respiratory diseases and according to the New Zealand government: bronchitis, irritation of nose, throat and lung; and is linked to cardiovascular disease. Sulphur dioxide according to the Australian government is absorbed by soils and plants, affecting our land and water ecosystems and leads to acid rain. The USA and Europe do not allow imports of sugar that undergo sulphitation in India because of their high sulphur content. But with pre-processed foods imported from India to the USA and Europe, it is hard to know if they contain sugar processed through sulphitation
Ion Exchange Resins
Ion exchange resins are used to refine sugar. This uses beads of polystyrene macro porous reticulated with divinylbenzene or polyacrylic porous reticulated with divinylbenzene. The liquid sugar is passed through these beads for decolourization. Polystyrene is a combination of styrene and benzene which are suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins which means they affect the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. As liquid sugar goes through these beads these substances are possibly leached into the sugar. If so, it could be deadly to consume them. Environmentally these are petroleum-based plastics that take 100’s of years to decompose and are heavily polluting.
Using Phosphoric Acid
Scientists from India, at Kanpur and Deccan Sugar Association, have developed another method of refining sugar involving carbonation of sugar without sulfur. They use small amounts of phosphoric acid. However, how healthy is phosphoric acid? Of the two types of Phosphoric Acid, the one used in sugar processing is Food Grade. It is mined from rock, burned and mixed with water. Even as a food-grade chemical it still has side effects In the human body: it lowers bone density, causes osteoporosis, creates chronic kidney disease and stones in people with previous conditions, causes urinary changes, damages tissues, and affects the heart.
Using Calcium hydroxide
Refining using Calcium hydroxide, a type of lime, and it is a white powder which may cause vision loss, severe throat pain, skin and eye irritations, vomiting, and organ damage if consumed in too large a quantity. It is dangerous to the employees who make it. Calcium hydroxide removes impurities along with THE AMINO ACIDS which make up protein and which are essential to human life.
Sugar refinement using carbon which could include: wood, coal and/or coconut. Coconut seems like a perfect idea, but I truly wonder about wood and coal. Cutting down trees that provide oxygen so my sugar can be white; It doesn’t seem like an acceptable trade-off. I would rather have the extra air to breathe. Coal doesn’t seem like something any of us would want in our food. Besides to begin with its already an environmental pollutant.
My next article in this series is on the rest of the chemicals used in sugar refinement. There will be three more sections: the effects of white refined sugar consumption on people, the various names refined sugar hides behind, and a section on sugar alcohols and artificial sugars.