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Agricultural Pesticide Found in 80 Percent of Americans Tested

spraying toxic pesticide on crops

A new study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology reported the detection of chlormequat chloride—an agricultural pesticide known to have developmental and reproductive toxicity—in the U.S. population and food supplies. Chlormequat was detected in 80 percent of urine samples tested.1

Currently in the United States, chlormequat is only permitted for use on ornamental plants; however, a 2018 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permitted the import of foods such as grains, treated with chlormequat. In the European Union (E.U.), the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Canada, chlormequat chloride is approved for use on food crops such as wheat, oats, and barley. Chlormequat decreases the stem height of crops to prevent them from bending over, which can often make harvesting difficult. In the U.K. and E.U. chlormequat is often the most detected pesticide residue in grains and cereals.2

Four Out of Five Americans Test Positive for Chlormequat

The researchers who conducted the study collected urine samples collected from three geographical regions in the U.S. between 2017 and 2023 to test for the presence and concentration of chlormequat. The results showed the presence of the chemical in 77 out of 96 urine samples. The tests found higher levels and more frequent detections of chlormequat in the 2023 samples when compared to to samples from 2017 through 2022, which researchers suggest that human exposure to chlormequat could be increasing over time. Chlormequat only stays in the body for 24 hours indicating that the high levels found in the test population suggest “regular exposure”.3

The number of participants with concentrations of chlormequat in their urine increased by more than 20 percent during that time frame from 69 percent in 2017 to 90 percent in 2023.4

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) said that chlormequat chloride is a highly toxic agricultural chemical linked to fertility problems and birth issues in animals and could potentially have similar effects on human beings. According to the EWG, chlormequat exposure in rats resulted in reduced sperm motility, decreased male testosterone levels, delayed onset of puberty and decreased weights of male reproductive organs.5

Conventional Oat and Wheat Based Products Had Higher Levels of Chlormequat Than Deemed Safe

In 2022 and 2023, WRG researchers used oat (25 conventional and eight organic) and wheat-based (nine conventional) food samples purchased at U.S. grocery stores in the Washington, DC metropolitan area to get tested for chlormequat by Anresco Laboratories, LLC of San Francisco, California.6

The Quaker Oats Company’s Old Fashioned Oats had the highest concentration of chlormequat at 291 parts per billion (ppb). The next highest samples, which were all above 100 ppb included two more Quaker products namely Honey Nut Oatmeal Squares and Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal, as well as Walmart Great Value Oats Honey Granola and General Mills Cheerios. The only conventional product with no detectable level of chlormequat was Kellogg’s Special K Fruit and Yogurt.7

The EWG recommends buying and consuming organic oat products to reduce exposure to chlormequat.8


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