New tests conducted by British scientists have found that many agricultural pesticides – including some commonly found in food – disrupt male hormones, Marla Cone of Environmental Health News reports today. The University of London researchers tested 37 pesticides—most of them fungicides that are applied to fruit and vegetable crops—and found that 30 of them blocked or mimicked male hormones.
Sixteen of the 30 pesticides had no known hormonal activity until now, according to the study, published online last Thursday in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The organophosphate insecticide fenitrothion—used on orchard fruits, grains, rice, vegetables and other crops—was the most potent androgen blocker. Others with hormonal activity include fludioxonil, fenhexamid, dimethomorph and imazalil, which are all fungicides. (Because fungicides are often applied close to harvest, they’re most likely to show up in our food.)
EHN reports that the findings come as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency faces pesticide industry opposition for expanding its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which requires testing about 200 chemicals found in food and drinking water to see if they interfere with estrogen, androgens or thyroid hormones—critical to healthy male reproductive systems. None of the 16 pesticides that were discovered to affect hormonal activity is included in the EPA’s screening program. The researchers noted “a clear disparity” between today's most widely used pesticides and the current knowledge of their risks, “with the majority of the published literature focused on pesticides that are no longer registered for use in developed countries.”
“Our results indicate that systematic testing for anti-androgenic activity of currently used pesticides is urgently required,” wrote the scientists from University of London’s Centre for Toxicology, led by Professor Andreas Kortenkamp. The British researchers said further testing of fenitrothion, fludioxonil, fenhexamid, and dimethomorph—used on strawberries, lettuce, grapes and other fruits and vegetables—is “a matter of urgency.”
Wash it well. Or better yet, buy organic or grow your own.