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Once again the USA lags behind other countries - this time in banning harmful pesticides. Dr. Nathan Donley at the Center for Biological Diversity in Oregon compared the world's 4 top agricultural producers (USA, Brazil, China, and European Union) in the use of 500 pesticides, and whether they allow or ban pesticides that have the most potential for harm to humans and the environment. He found that the US allows the use of 85 agricultural pesticides that are banned by at least one other nation. [Specifically: the US allows 72 agricultural pesticides that are banned or being phased out in the EU, 17 in Brazil, and 11 in China.]

This means that "Of the pesticides used in USA agriculture in 2016, 322 million pounds were of pesticides banned in the EU, 26 million pounds were of pesticides banned in Brazil, and 40 million pounds were of pesticides banned in China. Pesticides banned in the EU account for more than a quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in the USA." Yikes! These are the most harmful of the bunch and yet they're being used and contaminating our environment, our food, and us. Yes, pesticides are in almost all of us, and there a number of ways they get into us - whether inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested (e.g. in our food or water).

And look at the amount of all pesticides used annually in these 4 top agricultural producers and exporters. In 2016 the USA used 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides, China used 3.9 billion pounds, Brazil used 831 million pounds, and the EU used 827 million pounds. It's a lot!

A disturbing finding was that currently the USA exclusively  uses voluntary cancellation of pesticides - which are initiated by the pesticide industry, while the EU, China, and Brazil mainly have bans that are initiated by their regulatory industries. It's no wonder that dangerous pesticides aren't being banned in the United States. And the one pesticide that was recently scheduled to be banned (chlorpyrifos) wasn't, because an industry-friendly administration took control of the EPA before the ban was enacted.

The study itself is easy to relatively easy to read: The USA lags behind other agricultural nations in banning harmful pesticides

Or here is a nice write-up from Beyond Pesticides: 85 Pesticides Banned Around the World Account For A Quarter of U.S. Use  ...continue reading "The U.S. Lags Behind Other Nations In Banning Harmful Pesticides"

Did you know that over 90% of all Americans have pesticide residues in their bodies? How do we know this? From studies and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which does biomonitoring of large groups of Americans in order to measure pesticides (and other toxic environmental chemicals) in their bodies. Biomonitoring tells us the "body burden" of toxic chemicals, usually by measuring them in our blood and urine, but also in hair, breast milk and meconium (an infant's first feces gives a measure of prenatal exposure to pesticides). Biomonitoring studies have detected hundreds of different chemicals (including many pesticides) in people, and shown that every single person has a mixture of many contaminants in their body.

The bad news is that we don't really know what all these chronic low level mixtures of pesticides are doing to us. Studies are finding health problems (e.g. various cancers, endocrine disruption, neurological and reproductive problems, even semen quality) with pesticide exposures - especially during pregnancy (the developing fetus), and during childhood. We're talking about pesticide exposures of ordinary people, living ordinary lives, in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

How do pesticides get into us? Pesticides get into us from inhalation, through the skin, and through ingestion (foods, water). Studies find that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are good ways to ingest pesticides, and with more of these foods eaten, the higher the pesticide residue levels in the body. Unfortunately, as more and more pesticides such as fungicides, glyphosate and 2,4-D are used on crops, our exposures and levels of these pesticides in our bodies are increasing.

When our homes, our gardens, and lawns are treated with pesticides, we also get exposed to pesticides. We track them from the outside, and children (and pets) play in them on treated lawns. We are exposed to pesticide "drift" from neighboring properties. Pesticides used inside the house stay in the house dust (they don't break down easily in homes). Pesticides are even found in rain and fog. Scary, isn't it?

Can we lower the levels of pesticides in our bodies? Absolutely yes. Eat as many organic foods as possible - the levels of pesticide residues in the body (as measured in the blood and urine) will go down rapidly. Study after study shows this. A study even found an association with eating organic foods and a lower cancer rateDon't use pesticides on lawns. Think of weeds as "native grasses" and clover as beneficial. When dealing with indoor pest problems, use least-toxic Integrated Pest Management.

A nice discussion of this is in a recent article by journalist Liza Gross. Excerpts from The Nation: More Than 90 Percent of Americans Have Pesticides or Their Byproducts in Their Bodies

...continue reading "Almost All Americans Have Pesticide Residues In Their Bodies"

Are all foods contaminated by the herbicide glyphosate? The weed-killer glyphosate, which is in Roundup, keeps turning up in foods - basically in every food studied. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and its use keeps increasing - which means we are increasingly exposed to more glyphosate residues in foods. What does this mean for our health? Along with other health effects (e.g. endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, alters the gut microbiome), there is increasing evidence that glyphosate herbicides are carcinogenic (cancer causing) - especially linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Studies detect glyphosate in most adults in the US, including pregnant women. Since glyphosate herbicides are so widely and heavily used by farmers (greater than 88.6 pounds per square mile in the US midwest!!, according to the USGS), then it is difficult to avoid glyphosate residue in foods. The US government is not helping the situation - they have been refusing to test for glyphosate in foods for years, and they have twice raised the allowable glyphosate residue levels in foods when asked to do so by Monsanto (the manufacturer of Roundup). The only way to avoid glyphosate is to eat organic foods - it is not allowed in organic food production. 

A recent Canadian government study looked at whether glyphosate was found in 200 honey samples from western Canada. Glyphosate was detected in 197 of the 200 samples! Even though beekeepers do not use glyphosate in beekeeping, the bees were picking it up in their search for nectar and bringing it back to the hives. Which means whenever one eats the honey, that person is also getting some glyphosate residues. A little here, a little there... we're getting  some everywhere...

Excerpts from an article by journalist Carey Gillam for Environmental Health News:

Weed killer residues found in 98 percent of Canadian honey samples

Study is the latest evidence that glyphosate herbicides are so pervasive that residues can be found in foods not produced by farmers using glyphosate. As U.S. regulators continue to dance around the issue of testing foods for residues of glyphosate weed killers, government scientists in Canada have found the pesticide in 197 of 200 samples of honey they examined.

The authors of the study, all of whom work for Agri-Food Laboratories at the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said the prevalence of glyphosate residues in honey samples - 98.5 percent - was higher than what was reported in several similar studies done over the last five years in other countries.  ...continue reading "Pesticide Residues In Honey"

Glyphosate (found in Roundup and Ranger Pro) is the most heavily used herbicide (weed-killer) in the world, and its use has been steadily increasing in the past decade. The debate over whether the pesticide is carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or not has been going on for a while. This week University of Washington researchers published a study that analyzed earlier studies about glyphosate herbicides (such as Roundup). They found that persons with higher exposure to glyphosate have a 41% increased chance of getting cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This is huge. Of course, the manufacturer of Roundup (Monsanto and its owner Bayer) is going nuts trying to discredit the study, but the scientific evidence is clear.

Unfortunately many foods contain residues of glyphosate, the amounts found in foods are increasing, and as a consequence most of us (even pregnant women) have detectable levels of glyphosate in our bodies.  How to lower your exposure to Roundup or other glyphosate based herbicides? Don't use Roundup or other glyphosate-based herbicides in your yard or property. Try to eat as much organic food as possible. Glyphosate is NOT allowed to be used in organic farming. Glyphosate residues are increasingly found in conventionally grown foods and in increasing amounts because so many crops grown are now "Roundup Ready" (can withstand the herbicide), and also due to preharvest (right before harvest) application of the herbicide on regular crops. By the way, the US government is resisting testing for glyphosate residues in foods because of their insistence that it is "safe", so why test? (due to industry influence...)

The researchers of this study also mention research showing that glyphosate alters the gut microbiome, and that it may act as an endocrine disrupting chemical. In other words, there are a number of health concerns with glyphosate herbicides.

Excerpts from investigative journalist Carey Gillam's article in The Guardian: Weedkiller 'raises risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41%' 

...continue reading "Study Finds That Popular Weedkiller Raises Risk of Cancer"

The following is a really nice article about endocrine disruptors (chemicals that can interfere with the body's hormonal system). Journalist Hillary Brueck writes about where they are found (all around us!), some of the many negative health effects, and about NYU physician and researcher Dr. Leonardo Trasande and his new book: "Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future ... and What We Can Do About It." Also, some things we can do to lower our exposure to endocrine disruptors.

By the way, once again Europe is ahead of the US in dealing with this problem. Excerpts from Business Insider: A toxic-chemicals expert is sounding the alarm about 4 cancer-linked chemicals that could be making us sicker and fatter

Through the course of a single day, your hands, mouth, and body come in contact with countless pieces of paper, plastic, fabric, and furniture. You probably don't think about the chemicals these substances might harbor, or consider that they have a drug-like effect on health. But some do. They can make metabolisms slow down, subtly lower IQs, contribute to ADHD in children, and mess with sperm counts in men.

They're called "endocrine disruptors," and they're around us all the time. The chemicals change how our bodies work by shifting the way hormones operate, according to Leo Trasande, a pediatrician and public-health researcher at NYU Langone Health. "Hormones are the basic signaling molecules in our body that take on so many actions for practically every organ system," Trasande told Business Insider. "And endocrine disruptors are synthetic chemicals that scramble those signals, contributing to disease and disability."

In his new book, "Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future ... and What We Can Do About It," Trasande lays out the four big categories of endocrine disruptors he's most concerned about, based on evidence from scientific studies and observations in his patients. They are: Bisphenols, like BPA, which are often found in the linings of aluminum-canned food and drinks and on cash-register receipts. Brominated flame retardants that are in some carpets, furniture, and clothing. Synthetic pesticides on food. "Plasticizer chemicals" called phthalates that show up in plastic food packaging, lotions, and cosmetics.  ...continue reading "New Book Warning Us About Endocrine Disruptors"

Bug bombs don't work in reducing cockroach infestations. At all. A study comparing bug bombs vs gel baits found that while big bombs didn't reduce German cockroach numbers, the baits did. And on top of that, even when used correctly (according to directions) the bug bombs resulted in a lot of pesticide residue throughout the residences - at 6 hours after being used, and one month later. The technical name for bug bombs is total release foggers. Different brands of bug bombs, with different pesticides,  were used in the study - two different kinds of Hot-Shot No-Mess Foggers and two different kinds of Raid foggers. The gel baits used were Combat Insect Control Systems and Maxforce Gel Bait.

The North Carolina State Univ. researchers pointed out that one major problem with bug bombs is that cockroaches have built up resistance to the pesticides used. Another problem is that their use in residences results in pesticide residues, even one month later. That means that people living there will breathe in or ingest the pesticide residues. Which can lead to health problems.

On the other hand, there was no pesticide residue from the baits in the residences. And they reduced numbers of cockroaches. Using baits for cockroach control is a wonderful example of Integrated Pest Management - a least-toxic way of dealing with pests using various methods (e.g. baits, traps, fixing holes, vacuuming pests). Even though they were not used in the study, one should also consider bait gels containing boric acid.

From Beyond Pesticides: Bug Bombs Don't  Work - At All, According to Study

Bug bombs are completely ineffective at reducing German cockroach infestations, according to new research published in the journal BMC Public Health.  Not only are they ineffective, research indicates that these products are putting people at unnecessary risk.  “In a cost-benefit analysis, you’re getting all costs and no benefits,” said Zachary DeVries, PhD, co-author of the study. “Bug bombs are not killing cockroaches; they’re putting pesticides in places where the cockroaches aren’t; they’re not putting pesticides in places where cockroaches are and they’re increasing pesticide levels in the home.” ...continue reading "Bug Bombs Don’t Reduce Cockroach Numbers"

Does the pesticide glyphosate cause cancer or not? The latest in the controversy surrounding glyphosate (in Roundup), which is the most commonly used herbicide (weed-killer) in the world, is a journal article written by Dr. Charles Benbrook. He looked at why 2 government agencies came out with conflicting views regarding glyphosate - the EPA said glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans”, while the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considers glyphosate as  “probably carcinogenic to humans". Benbrook points out a number of problems with the EPA designation. Uh oh.

It appears that the studies the EPA looked at were not as up to date (they ignored at least 27 recent studies), they relied heavily on the manufacturer's own studies (bias!!! after all, the manufacturer wants to sell the pesticide) rather than studies done by independent researchers, and the EPA ignored work that shows that the product Roundup (with its extra ingredients) is more toxic than glyphosate alone. But guess what - in the real world people are exposed to Roundup, not just to pure glyphosate.

Increasing numbers of studies are finding health effects (cancer, kidney problems, endocrine disruption, etc) from exposure to glyphosate, and it turns out we're exposed to it daily in the foods we eat (here, here). And yes, studies show that most of us have glyphosate residues in us (it can be measured in our urine). What is it doing to us to constantly eat foods with low doses of glyphosate residues? What about pregnant women and their unborn babies?

The investigative journalist Carey Gillam has been extensively following and writing for years about the controversies, the corruption, the unethical behavior of big-business (especially Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup), the close ties with Monsanto at the FDA, the refusal of US government agencies to test for glyphosate residues in our food, and the cover-ups surrounding Roundup (glyphosate). In 2017 her incredibly thorough and well-researched book about Roundup was published: Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science. Carey Gillum is also the author of the following article from Environmental Health News:

New analysis raises questions about EPA’s classification on glyphosate weed killer

A little more than a month ahead of a first-ever federal trial over the issue of whether or not Monsanto's popular weed killers can cause cancer, a new analysis raises troubling questions about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) handling of pertinent science on glyphosate safety ...continue reading "Researcher Says EPA Disregarded Evidence About Glyphosate and Cancer"

Something to think about: a group of international researchers found a correlation in Brazil between colon cancer and pesticides. Brazil is one of the largest pesticide users in the world, and annual pesticide use is still increasing - along with increases in colon cancer and colon cancer deaths, especially in agricultural areas. While the study was correlational (didn't prove that pesticides caused the cancer) - what supports the findings is that some other studies in both humans and rodents found that pesticides increase the risk of colon cancer. Many pesticides are considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

The researchers pointed out that pesticides are contaminating water and food in Brazil, pesticide residues have been found in breast milk, pesticide residues in cow's milk exceed safety standards in some regions of Brazil, and 20% of food samples analyzed by one government agency between 2013 and 2015 were found to be unsafe for humans to eat due to high pesticide residue levels. One reason for recent  big increases in pesticide used is from genetically modified crops - so that they are resistant to pesticides (herbicides) applied.

Does all this sound familiar? It should - many of the same problems are occurring in the US, with pesticides found in water and food samples, in house dust, with steep increases in certain pesticides used due to their use on crops that are genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides (esp. glyphosate, 2,4-D), and pesticides are found in people (can be measured in blood, urine) - with levels of certain pesticides increasing (e.g. glyphosate). Think of how casually people use pesticides - on their lawns, gardens, and in their homes. The bottom line is: what are we doing to ourselves with chronic low-level pesticide exposures? And it's not just one pesticide, it's many (so we're actually exposed to mixtures). [See posts on pesticides.]

Excerpts from Beyond Pesticides: Brazilian Researchers Link Rise In Colon Cancer To Increase In Pesticide Use    ...continue reading "Pesticides and Colon Cancer?"

A recently published study was good news for those who eat organic foods. The large French study (about 69,000 people) found a  significantly lower risk of getting cancer (25% lower) in people who ate a lot of organic food - when compared to people who rarely or never ate organic food. The participants in the study were followed for an average of 4.6 years. Cancers with the greatest decreased risk were breast cancer (especially in postmenopausal women) and all lymphomas, especially non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The researchers summarized the findings as:  "In a population-based cohort study of 68 ,946 French adults, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer was observed among high consumers of organic food." and "...if the findings are confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer." This could be an easy way to cut cancer risk! (Other organic food benefits.)

Of course the pesticide and conventional agriculture industry went nuts attacking the study - this finding goes against their message that pesticides are fine and necessary, don't worry about pesticide residues in food, and that antibiotics and other medicines are safe when given routinely to animals. Unfortunately, research finds that a number of pesticides used in conventional farming are considered carcinogenic (cancer causing), and pesticide residues are found in conventionally grown foods. Eating conventional foods every day results in chronic low-dose pesticide residue exposure. The researchers suspect the pesticide residues in foods is the reason for the higher cancer risk. [Note: those pesticides are not allowed to be used in organic farming.]

What foods did the researchers ask about? They asked people about the consumption of 16 types of labeled organic food products: fruits; vegetables; soy-based products; dairy products; meat and fish; eggs; grains and legumes; bread and cereals; flour; vegetable oils and condiments; ready-to-eat meals; coffee, tea, and herbal tea; wine; biscuits, chocolate, sugar, and marmalade; other foods; and dietary supplements. In other words, all the foods we eat daily.

But what I found really interesting was a review of the study by Dr. Charles Benbrook (Visiting Scholar in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and a Visiting Professor at the Univ. of Newcastle in the UK). He correctly points out that the results are big news and a big deal. Excerpts from Environmental Health News:

Charles Benbrook: New study showing organic diets cut cancer risk is a big deal. Let’s treat it that way.      ...continue reading "Lower Cancer Risk By Eating Organic Food?"

Can pesticides be detected in your home? A Cornell University study found that every single home they studied in different areas of upstate New York had detectable pesticide residues in the homes. Every single one of the 132 rural homes. Pesticides are colorless and odorless, but they still may be in your home from applications in the home or around the home from long ago. Pesticides can also be tracked in by your shoes or bare feet, on fur and clothing, or come in on the air (drift from pesticides being applied nearby), even off-gassing from soil. They stay in the dust in homes, and are absorbed by soft materials (such as rugs and upholstery, and even stuffed toys). Pesticides stay around so long (some even years) inside homes because they are not broken down easily (as they can be outdoors in the sun and rain).

The researchers pointed out that Americans use over 1 billion pounds of pesticides each year. Pesticides have health risks, even at low doses - for example, higher risks of various cancers, birth defects, neurological and immunological problems. Pregnant women (developing babies) and children are especially vulnerable to pesticide effects. For example, children are playing and crawling around on the floor sticking objects and their hands into the mouth. Pets also have health risks from pesticides, such as cancer.

While the pesticide residue samples in this study were taken in 2001 to 2002, the findings should apply today because pesticide use has risen tremendously since then - both on farms and elsewhere. And they tested for pesticides that are still commonly used today - such as 2.4-D (a commonly used herbicide, e.g. weed & feed for lawns, and on crops genetically modified to resist 2,4-D). The researchers didn't test for all the possible pesticides commonly used - just 15 of them. Unfortunately they didn't test for glyphosate , which is in Roundup, and heavily used nowadays - in crops and elsewhere as an herbicide (weed killer).

Think about it - at least in in the northeast, more people are using lawn pesticide services to get that "perfect, carpet-looking lawn" (really a monoculture that is environmentally horrible -  to bees and butterflies, soil organisms, birds, and anyone walking on it). How many people do you know get monthly or annual pesticide treatments in or around their homes "just in case"? In every instance  people are getting exposed to pesticides - breathing them in, getting them on their shoes, feet, clothing, bodies. Besides this study, other studies have also found pesticides in household and daycare center dust. How do studies measure pesticides in people? Typically by measuring their levels in blood and urine.

So what can one do to lower the amount and number of pesticides in the home? 1) First of all, don't use pesticides casually or routinely in your him. Use non-toxic alternatives instead - this is called least toxic IPM (Integrated Pest Management), which emphasizes monitoring the problem, looking for what causes the pest problem (moisture getting into the house, holes in the wall, etc.) and then treating the cause. It uses alternatives to "just spraying a pesticide" such as baits, traps, vacuuming of pests!, caulking where needed, fixing wet areas. It means thinking like a pest and what attracts the pest (the cause), and using the most non-toxic way possible to correct the problem. 2) Very important: take off shoes when entering your home. 3) Wipe up dust and vacuum frequently in the home. Other contaminants are also in the dust, such as lead and fire retardant chemicals. 4) Use organic approaches to gardening and taking care of your lawn. [Click on category PESTICIDES for all posts on pesticides, including their health effects. All 2,4-D posts. All pregnancy and pesticide posts.]

The study by Laquatra et al in JSM Health Education & Primary Health Care: Common Pesticide Residues in Rural Homes of New York State

Excerpts from Beyond Pesticides discussion of this study in its Daily News Blog: Study of New York State Homes Finds Pesticides In Every Sample Tested ...continue reading "Can Pesticides Be Detected In Your Home?"