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Pesticide Linked to Reproductive Issues Found in Cheerios, Quaker Oats, and Other oat-based foods.



Again we are reminded that wealth comes before health, this time due to a pesticide called Chlormequat chloride, which is approved and being used in food crops in the UK, EU, and Canada and its use is now on the rise in the U.S. This is despite the findings in animal studies that the chemical lowers fertility and testosterone, disrupts the reproductive process and can even harm the developing fetus!


Despite the findings of the toxicological studies on this little-heard-of pesticide, chlormequat chloride has been approved for use in food crops in the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada, and although it is only approved for ornamental plants in the United States it is now showing up in the overwhelming majority of oat-based foods sold in the U.S.including popular cereal brands Quaker Oats and Cheerios.


A study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, in Nature.com, explains that Chlormequat chloride is an agricultural chemical first registered in the U.S. in 1962 as a plant growth regulator. It acts to decrease stem height, thereby reducing the likelihood of crops bending over, which can make harvesting difficult.


Animal Studies


However, even in the early 1980s Danish pig farmers first described the impacts of chlormequat exposure on reproductive toxicity and fertility and they observed reproductive declines in pigs raised on chlormequat treated grains. This led to an investigation in controlled laboratory experiments on pigs and mice.


Female pigs fed chlormequat-treated grain were found to exhibit disrupted oestrus cycling and difficulty mating compared to animals on a control chlormequat-free diet [Source].


Male mice exposed to chlormequat via diet or drinking water during development exhibited decreased fertilization capacity of sperm in vitro [Source].


More recent reproductive toxicity studies have shown delayed onset of puberty, reduced sperm motility, decreased weights of male reproductive organs, and decreased testosterone levels in rats exposed during sensitive windows of development, including during pregnancy and early life [Source, Source, Source].


Additionally, developmental toxicity studies have also suggested that chlormequat exposure during pregnancy can dysregulate fetal growth and metabolism [Source].


Studies in pigs indicate that chlormequat can also be detected in serum, as well as transferred into milk, but these matrices have not been investigated in humans or other laboratory animal models, although the potential presence of chemicals associated with reproductive harm in serum and milk has important implications for exposures during pregnancy and to infants [Source].


Despite the findings, the chemical is still approved on food crops.


Chlormequat is Approved in UK EU and Sweden.


Although currently only allowed for use on ornamental plants in the U.S., chlormequat has still been approved for use in the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada, for use on food crops and is often the most detected pesticide residue in grains and cereals in the UK and European Union [SourceSource].


The chemical is prevalent in commonly consumed foods in Europe, however, only a relatively small number of biomonitoring studies assessing human exposure to chlormequat exist.


However, general population samples from the United Kingdom and Sweden detected chlormequat in urine samples of nearly 100 percent of study participants. which were at frequencies and concentrations considerably higher than for metabolites of other pesticides. [Source, Source, Source, Source].


On the Rise in the U.S.


Now as a result of a 2018 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published acceptable food tolerance levels for chlormequat chloride, it is in imported oat, wheat, barley, and some animal products, permitted the import of chlormequat into the U.S. food supply [Source].



The Epoch Times reported in an article titled Americans Exposed to Fertility Lowering Chemicals in Cheerios Quaker oats-that the peer-reviewed study, looked at urine samples from American citizens to determine their exposure to chlormequat chloride—a plant growth chemical. Researchers detected chlormequat in 80 percent of urine samples collected between 2017 and 2023, with “a significant increase in concentrations for samples from 2023.”


The chemical was detected in “92 percent of oat-based foods purchased in May 2023, including Quaker Oats and Cheerios,” said the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which conducted the study.


Out of 25 conventional oat products tested, 23 had “detectable levels” of chlormequat. One in eight organic oat products had the chemical, while two in nine wheat products had low concentrations of chlormequat.


Researchers collected 96 urine samples, out of which 77 showed the presence of chlormequat. The numbers suggest that the subjects likely underwent “continuous exposure” to the chemical since chlormequat leaves the body about 24 hours after ingestion.


The frequency of the chemical in samples was observed to rise with time. In 2017, 69 percent of samples had chlormequat, which jumped to 74 percent in 2018-2022 and then to 90 percent in 2023.


The Epoch Times, argues that the higher chemical concentration in 2023 samples “may reflect the likely recent introduction of chlormequat into the U.S. food supply due to EPA regulatory action changes involving chlormequat.” and that such changes include “establishing limits on chlormequat in food in 2018 and raising those limits for oats in 2020,” it said.


“These actions permitted import and sale of agricultural products that had been treated with chlormequat, for example, from Canada.”


Following a 2019 application submitted by chlormequat manufacturer Taminco, the Biden EPA proposed in April last year to allow the use of chlormequat on oats, barley, wheat, and triticale grown in the United States for the first time. EWG said it “opposes the plan.”


The study suggested that if domestic use of chlormequat were approved, “chlormequat levels would likely continue to increase in oats, wheat, and other grain foods, leading to higher levels of exposure for the U.S. general population.”


“Additionally, the regulatory thresholds do not consider the adverse effects of mixtures of chemicals that may impact the reproductive system, which have been shown to cause additive or synergistic effects at doses lower than for individual chemical exposures.”


These factors raise “concerns about the potential health effects associated with current exposure levels, especially for individuals on the higher end of exposure in general populations of Europe and the U.S.”


Speaking to The New York Post, Olga Naidenko, EWG’s vice president of science investigations, recommended shoppers “buy organic oat products since these oats are grown without the use of toxic pesticides such as chlormequat and glyphosate.”


‘Alarm Bells’


Epoch Times also reported that in an interview with Newsweek, Alexis M. Temkin, lead author of the EWG study, said that the prevalence of chlormequat in people’s food and urine “raises alarm bells.” He called for further investigation into the matter and said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “should be testing grains for chlormequat as part of annual pesticide monitoring.” The EPA “needs to fully consider the potential risks to children’s health from chlormequat exposure and reconsider their recent decisions to allow chlormequat to be present in children’s foods.”


EPA announced the proposal to use chlormequat in domestic crop agriculture last April. Since then, several organizations like EWG have opposed the move.


In May 2023, Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) said that it collected over 10,000 signatures calling on the agency to reject the proposal. “All this chemical is used for is to make the stems of small grains a little bit stronger, so fewer of them bend or break. A slightly bigger harvest isn’t worth the risk to our health,” it said in comments to the EPA.

“Research shows that chlormequat chloride disrupts fetal growth and harms the reproductive system. We shouldn’t allow its use on food crops unless and until it’s proven completely safe—especially since we know we can farm without it. “



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