Food contamination on Chinese farms 

I'm blessed in a lot of ways by living here in Southern California, and not just because of the endless good weather.

Just beyond the desert that surrounds the San Diego area, you'll find some of the nation's most fertile farmland -- including thousands upon thousands of acres dedicated to healthy organic fruits and vegetables.

That means the markets here are always full of fresh and local organic produce.

But many supermarkets, even here, don't stock local foods. No, much of it's imported from places like China. It's cheaper, even with the cost of shipping. But it's also grown in dubious conditions with a high risk of food contamination.

Now, the Chinese government admits that a full fifth of the nation's farmland is contaminated with toxic metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic.

If you want to trust the Chinese government's official numbers, you can. But personally, I'd bet the farm that the real number is much higher.

The food contamination is of course causing problems for people who live near the farms, including cancer clusters in the surrounding communities.

But I'm more concerned about what this means for you -- because when you ingest foods contaminated with trace amounts of metals, you won't get sick immediately after eating them.

Instead, these metals slowly accumulate in your body, building up over time and eventually causing or contributing to serious health conditions, including problems with your arteries and heart as well as damage to your vital organs.

These metals can even cross the blood-brain barrier, where they can do the damage that leads to conditions such as dementia, Parkinson's disease and more.

Don't count on the U.S. government to protect you here. Very little of the food that enters the country is inspected for food contamination, and we have even less oversight of the land on which it's grown.

So don't be tempted by cheap imported produce, whether it's from China or anywhere else. Shop local, organic and fresh. Yes, you will pay more. But can your really put a price on your health?