November 29th, 2017
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Exposure to pesticides, herbicides and insecticides has dramatically increased since the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Urine output of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, shot up by more than 1,200 percent between 1993 and 2016.1 Unfortunately, glyphosate is not the only chemical of concern.
Chlorpyrifos (sold under the trade name Lorsban) — an organophosphate insecticide known to disrupt brain development and cause brain damage, neurological abnormalities, reduced IQ and aggressiveness in children — is another.2 ,3 In adults, the chemical has been linked to Parkinson’s disease4,5 and lung cancer.6
Chlorpyrifos has been in use since 1965, and is commonly used on staple crops such as wheat and corn, as well as fruits and vegetables, including nonorganic citrus, apples, cherries, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower and dozens of others. Since the chemical has a half-life of several months and can remain on sprayed foods for up to several weeks,7 nonorganic foods are a major source of exposure.
Importantly, nonorganic, non-grass fed meats are likely to be loaded with this chemical, since conventional feed consists primarily of genetically and/or conventionally raised grains such as corn. This is yet another reason to make sure you feed your family grass fed meats and animal products, especially your young children. Chlorpyrifos is also a commonly found water contaminant, and has even been found in indoor air.8
Children experience greater exposure to chemicals pound-for-pound than adults, and have an immature and porous blood-brain barrier that allows greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brain. Needless to say, the results can be devastating and, indeed, many agricultural and industrial chemicals have been found to affect children’s brain function and development specifically.
Decadelong Effort to Ban Chlorpyrifos Fall Through
Permissible uses of chlorpyrifos was limited in the year 2000, at which time the chemical was banned for use in homes, schools, day care facilities, parks, hospitals, nursing homes and malls. However, agricultural use remained, and it can still be used on golf courses and road medians.
Scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually pushed for a complete ban on chlorpyrifos, as its dangers are well-documented, and the chemical is in fact classified as a neurotoxin, as it disrupts communication between brain cells. Research shows that living within 1 mile of chlorpyrifos-treated fields increases a woman’s risk of having an autistic child by 300 percent.9,10
A petition to ban chlorpyrifos on food was filed over a decade ago, and the lack of response from the EPA finally led to a federal court ordering the EPA to issue a decision.11 Forced to act, Scott Pruitt, President Trump-appointed head of the EPA,12 issued an order denying the petition to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos on food in March 2017.13,14 As noted by NPR:15
“That’s despite the agency’s earlier conclusion, reached during the Obama administration, that this pesticide could pose risks to consumers. It’s a signal that toxic chemicals will face less restrictive regulation by the Trump administration. In its decision, the EPA didn’t exactly repudiate its earlier scientific findings. But the agency did say that there’s still a lot of scientific uncertainty about the risks of chlorpyrifos …
“Patti Goldman, from the environmental group Earth Justice, calls the decision ‘unconscionable,’ and says that her group will fight it in court … ‘Based on the harm that this pesticide causes, the EPA cannot, consistent with the law, allow it in our food.'”
87 Percent of Newborns Have Chlorpyrifos in Their Cord Blood
Considering Pruitt’s history of championing industry interests and the evidence showing other EPA officials have has taken an active role in protecting chemical giants against rulings that would impact their bottom line, his decision to keep chlorpyrifos on the market does raise suspicions. As noted by USA Today,16 Pruitt “filed more than a dozen lawsuits seeking to overturn some of the same regulations he is now charged with enforcing.”
Evidence also suggests Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, pressured government agencies to ignore incriminating studies (see next section). The EPA’s earlier conclusion that chlorpyrifos posed a risk to consumers was largely based on research17 showing that exposure to the chemical caused measurable differences in brain function. In one study, compared to children whose exposure to the chemical was negligible, children with high levels of exposure had lower IQ at age 7.18
Research19 published in 2014 showed that pregnant women exposed to chlorpyrifos during their second trimester had a 60 percent higher risk of giving birth to an autistic child. Studies have also shown that genetic differences can make some people far more vulnerable to chlorpyrifos than others.
Moreover, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlorpyrifos is metabolized in the human body into 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCPy),20 which is even more toxic than the original insecticide. Disturbingly, California’s biomonitoring program found TCPy in 82 percent of Californians sampled in 2012, including pregnant women.21
Another 2012 study,22 which measured chlorpyrifos levels in maternal and cord plasma of women and children living in an agricultural community, found measurable levels in 70.5 percent of maternal blood samples and 87.5 percent of cord blood samples. According to the authors:
“Blood organophosphate pesticide levels of study participants were similar in mothers and newborns and slightly higher than those reported in other populations. However, compared to their mothers, newborns have much lower quantities of the detoxifying PON1 enzyme suggesting that infants may be especially vulnerable to organophosphate pesticide exposures.”
Dow Chemical Requested Evidence To Be ‘Set Aside’
Government-funded studies also reveal that chlorpyrifos poses serious risks to 97 percent of endangered animals in the U.S.23,24 This alone ought to be cause enough to ban this chemical, but it appears industry pressure worked its usual magic.
On April 13, 2017, a legal team representing Dow Chemical and two other organophosphate manufacturers sent letters to the three agencies responsible for joint enforcement of the Endangered Species Act25,26 — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Department of Commerce — asking them to “set aside” these incriminating findings, as the companies believe they are flawed. As reported by USA Today:
“Over the past four years, federal scientists have compiled … more than 10,000 pages indicating the three pesticides under review — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied. Regulators at the three federal agencies … are close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used …
“The EPA’s recent biological evaluation of chlorpyrifos found the pesticide is ‘likely to adversely affect’ 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants accessed as part of its study, including critically endangered or threatened species of frogs, fish, birds and mammals … In a statement, the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos said its lawyers asked for the EPA’s biological assessment to be withdrawn because its ‘scientific basis was not reliable.'”
Pruitt claims he’s “trying to restore regulatory sanity to EPA’s work.” I would argue the definition of sanity is first not to abandon the EPA’s mandate to protect the public health and, further, not to give developmentally-crippling toxins a free pass and ignoring loads of unbiased research documenting its toxicity.
At present, the EPA is also in the process of reassessing atrazine, another pernicious and exceptionally toxic agricultural chemical. It remains to be seen whether the agency will finally take a firm stand against this pernicious toxin, or let it slide like chlorpyrifos and glyphosate.
Toxic Exposures Have Robbed Americans of 41 Million IQ Points
Problems with cognitive function that are not severe enough for diagnosis are becoming even more common than neurobehavioral development disorders. In 2012, David Bellinger, Ph.D., professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, published a study funded by the National Institutes of Health where he calculated the impact of toxic exposures on children’s IQ.27
He determined that based on a population of 25.5 million children, aged birth to 5, those born to mothers exposed to organophosphates, mercury or lead during pregnancy suffered a combined loss of 16.9 million IQ points. Researchers calculated a collective loss of 41 million IQ points in the U.S. from the same exposures.28 Conventional farmers are reluctant to stop using pesticides as this will put their crops at risk, and pesticide makers will not support a ban for obvious reasons.
But at what point do we say enough is enough? How many children have to be sacrificed for financial profits? Considering the lack of proactive measures from government and industry, it’s up to each and every one of us to be proactive in our own lives. One of the most effective ways to reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides is to buy certified organic foods, or better yet, foods certified biodynamic.
Environmental Toxins Kill 1.7 Million Children Annually, Worldwide
Untested chemicals should not be presumed safe.29 The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that environmental pollution, including but not limited to toxic exposures, kills 1.7 million children every year.30 The top five causes of death for children under 5 are related to their environment.
A recent report from CHEMTrust, a British charity working internationally to prevent man-made chemicals from triggering damage to wildlife or humans, found current chemical testing is not adequately picking up chemicals that cause developmental neurotoxicity.31 Their “No Brainer” report32 evaluated the impact of chemicals on the development of a child’s brain.
The report praised the European Food Safety Authority for work on risk assessment of pesticides and recommended their approach be expanded to include chemicals from other sources.33
They also recommended chemicals used for food contact material be routinely tested and screened for developmental neurotoxicity. The report also called for a taskforce to identify and develop better ways to screen chemicals before use. Without a doubt, the U.S. needs to follow suit and take a stronger stance against chemicals suspected of neurotoxicity.
How to Protect Your Family From Toxic Pesticides
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on pesticide residues in food,34 in 2014, 41 percent of samples had no detectable pesticide residues. The following year, a mere 15 percent of all the food samples tested were free from pesticide residues. That just goes to show how rapidly and dramatically our pesticide exposure has increased.
Here’s a summary of commonsense recommendations that will help reduce your exposure to pesticides, and help you eliminate toxins you may already have been exposed to:
- As a general rule, your safest bet is to grow your own food, followed by buying certified organic or, better yet, biodynamic produce, and grass fed or pastured meats and animal products. See the listing below for sources where you can locate farm-fresh foods locally. If you cannot afford an all-organic/biodynamic diet, focus on buying grass fed and organic pastured meats first.
- Next, familiarize yourself with average pesticide loads and buy (or grow) organic varieties of produce known to carry the highest amounts of pesticides. You can find a quick rundown in the Consumer Reports video above.35 Another excellent source, which is updated annually, is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) shopper’s guide36 to pesticides in produce.
- Filtering your drinking water is also important. To remove pesticides, look for a filter certified by the NSF International to meet American National Standards Institute Standard 53 for volatile organic compounds reduction. This will ensure the filter is capable of significantly reducing pesticides.37 Most activated carbon filters will meet this requirement and get the job done.
- Carefully wash all nonorganic produce to remove surface pesticides. According to a recent study,38 the most effective cleaning method, by far, is to wash your produce using a mixture of tap water and baking soda. Soaking apples in a 1 percent baking soda solution for 12 to 15 minutes was found to remove 80 percent of the fungicide thiabendazole and 96 percent of the insecticide phosmet.
- Lastly, if you know you have been exposed to pesticides, eating fermented foods and/or using a low-EMF far infrared sauna can be helpful, especially if combined with an optimal supplemental detox regimen including binders to catch the toxins that are mobilized from the fats. The lactic acid bacteria formed during the fermentation of kimchi has been shown to help your body break down pesticides.
Where to Find Organic Farm-Fresh Foods
If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate wholesome farm-fresh foods in your area:
Demeter-USA.org provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands. This directory can also be found on BiodynamicFood.org.
The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “organic” production from authentic organic practices.
Recommended articles by Dr. Joseph Mercola:
- Anxiety Overtakes Depression as No. 1 Mental Health Problem
- How LED Lighting May Compromise Your Health
- Magic Mushrooms May Hold Key to Long-Term Relief from Anxiety and Depression
- Medical Errors: Still the Third Leading Cause of Death
- Photobiology: How Therapeutic Use of Full-Spectrum Light Can Improve Your Health
- Scientific Links Between Processed Foods and Depression
- How Sugar Harms Your Brain Health and Drives Alzheimer’s Epidemic
- The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Can a Hug a Day Keep Infection Away?
- The Magic Healing Power of Mushrooms
- 13 Mind-Body Techniques That Can Help Ease Pain and Depression
- Maternal Fluoride Exposure During Pregnancy Correlates to Lower IQ in Their Children
About the author:
Born and raised in the inner city of Chicago, IL, Dr. Joseph Mercola is an osteopathic physician trained in both traditional and natural medicine. Board-certified in family medicine, Dr. Mercola served as the chairman of the family medicine department at St. Alexius Medical Center for five years, and in 2012 was granted fellowship status by the American College of Nutrition (ACN).
While in practice in the late 80s, Dr. Mercola realized the drugs he was prescribing to chronically ill patients were not working. By the early 90s, he began exploring the world of natural medicine, and soon changed the way he practiced medicine.
In 1997 Dr. Mercola founded Mercola.com, which is now routinely among the top 10 health sites on the internet. His passion is to transform the traditional medical paradigm in the United States. “The existing medical establishment is responsible for killing and permanently injuring millions of Americans… You want practical health solutions without the hype, and that’s what I offer.”