Published: April 9, 2024

Category: Pesticides

Exposure increasing as EPA raised allowance level in 2023

The pesticide chlormequat, linked to reproductive and developmental harm in animals, is present in popular oats and oat products including Quaker Oats and Cheerios. In urine samples of 96 people collected between 2017 and 2023, 80 percent of them showed traces of the chemical. In May 2023, chlormequat was found in 92 percent of oat-based foods.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) peer-reviewed study was published in in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Animal studies have shown reduced fertilityharm to the reproductive system, and altered fetal growth when subjects were exposed to chlormequat.

The chemical was allowed on oats in 2018, when the Trump EPA approved it on imported oats. The Biden administration increased the allowance level, and in 2023 approved its use for barley, oat, triticale, and wheat grown in the U.S. 2023 samples show higher, more frequent detection of chlormequat than that from 2017-2022, indicating exposure is likely increasing.

EWG tested 20 oat-based foods in 2023—7 organic and 13 non-organic, and also 9 wheat products. Detectable chlormequat residue was present in 92 percent of non-organic oat foods and most of the wheat samples. One of the 7 organic samples had low levels of the chemical.

Source: Environmental Working Group

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GMO Insights April 2024