PFAS are present at ‘potentially dangerous’ levels in widely used chemicals sprayed on food crops destined for Americans’ plates
Some of the United States’ most widely used food pesticides are contaminated with “potentially dangerous” levels of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals”, new testing of the products finds.
The Environmental Protection Agency has previously been silent on PFAS in food pesticides, even as it found the chemicals in non-food crop products. The potential for millions of acres of contaminated food cropland demands swifter and stronger regulatory action, the paper’s authors say.
“I can’t imagine anything that could make these products any more dangerous than they already are, but apparently my imagination isn’t big enough,” said Nathan Donley, environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which co-authored the study. “The EPA has to take control of this situation and remove pesticide products that are contaminated with these extremely dangerous, persistent chemicals.”
The groups last Monday submitted the test results to the EPA and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, asking them to remove these products from use until contamination can be addressed.
PFAS are a class of about 15,000 chemicals often used to make thousands of consumer products across dozens of industries resist water, stains and heat. The chemicals are ubiquitous, and linked at low levels of exposure to cancer, thyroid disease, kidney dysfunction, birth defects, autoimmune disease and other serious health problems. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally degrade.
The testing found PFAS in three out of seven agricultural pesticides, including Intrepid 2F, which state of California data shows is the second most widely applied product behind Roundup. In 2021, the most recent year data is available, more than 1.7m pounds of it were applied to over 1.3m cumulative acres of California land. Use was highest in the Central Valley on crops such as almonds, grapes, peaches and pistachios.
By Tom Perkins