New Study: Pesticide Linked To Reproductive Harm Found In Majority Of Americans Tested

February 19, 2024

The ubiquity of this little-studied pesticide in people raises alarm bells about how it could potentially cause harm without anyone even knowing they’ve consumed it.

Dr. Alexis Temkin, senior toxicologist at the EWG and lead author of a new study that showed a rise in the presence of a pesticide (chlormequat) in Americans tested.

What To Know: According to a recent study by the Environmental Working Group, 80% of American participants tested positive for chlormequat. This food additive has been found in oat-based foods, such as Cheerios and Quaker Oats, and has been linked to delayed puberty, reduced fertility and harm to developing fetuses in animals.

The EPA does not allow the chemical to be used on food crops grown in the U.S. However, the FDA permitted the pesticide in 2018 on imported crops as it“…acts to decrease stem height, thereby reducing the likelihood of crops bending over, which can make harvesting difficult,” according to the study. Most oat imports come from Canada.

The European Union and the United Kingdom also permit use of chlormequat on crops.

The Results: From 2017 to 2023, the Environmental Working Group found the chemical in 77 out of 96 tested urines, with higher detections in the samples from 2023. Meaning, “…consumer exposure to chlormequat could be on the rise.” The chemical was also found in 92% of non-organic oat-based foods bought in May 2023.

The Impacts: Studies done on animals indicate that chlormequat can damage fetal growth and reproductive systems. The EWG says, “Although these studies focus only on the chemical’s potential effects on animals, they raise questions about whether it could also harm humans.”

Read More:

Read the REPORT here (Environmental Working Group)

Read the STUDY here (Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology)

by Sarah Pinkerton, based in Paris