(Natural News) Toxic pesticides don’t just contaminate the fruits and vegetables that you eat: Their residues also affect farm animals such as chickens, as well as the eggs produced by the animals. A Pakistani study discovered two particular pesticides in chicken eggs, the concentrations of which were high enough to pose health risks to humans who consume them.
This is bad news, given poultry products are a staple in most diets around the world. This is especially true in developing countries like Pakistan, where people prefer poultry due to its lower cost and better nutrient content.
Most of the pesticides that enter chickens come from chemically treated feed. But the chemicals are also directly applied to the animals to protect against pests, leading to their absorption through the skin or inhalation.
Many of these are organochlorines, a class of very persistent and toxic chemicals that concentrate in body fats. Organochlorines were banned in the 1980s for their adverse health risks. However, they are still widely used in Pakistan to control malaria.
Chickens excrete the residues of these pesticides in their eggs. The amount of the residue depends on the type of pesticide. It is therefore vital that eggs be regularly screened for the presence and concentration of any pesticides. (Related: Egg-xactly: Eating organic eggs does not increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.)
Looking for signs of pesticide residue in chicken eggs
Researchers from Punjab University undertook the study to find out the levels of pesticide residue in chicken eggs. They selected a single hen in each of six different poultry farms and another six poultry houses. They collected half a dozen eggs from each hen for a total of 72 samples.
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The eggs were analyzed within 24 hours of arriving at the laboratory. Pesticides were extracted from the samples using petroleum ether and then acetonitrile. After extensive preparations, the pesticide concentration was determined via high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), a reliable means of detecting pesticides in all kinds of matrices.
The researchers also conducted field surveys and interviews with farmers, poultry farm owners, and local residents. They sought to find out the types of pesticide used in agricultural areas, the amount applied, and the frequency of spraying. The three major organochlorine pesticides that they kept an eye out for were bifenthrin, difenoconazole, and imidacloprid.
Chicken eggs contaminated by dangerous levels of pesticides
According to the research team, all 72 eggs contained the pesticides bifenthrin and difenoconazole. The concentrations of the two pesticides differed from sample to sample. Imidacloprid was not found in any sample.
Bifenthrin is a pesticide that serves two purposes: Pest control in agricultural fields that grow cotton, fruit, and vegetable crops, and controlling mosquito populations that spread malaria.
Meanwhile, difenoconazole is a fungicide with a secondary role of pesticide. Concentrations of both pesticide residues in the samples were well past the maximum residue limits (0.05 milligrams per kilogram) established by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) guideline for them.
Bifenthrin levels were generally higher than difenoconazole. Concentrations of both pesticides were greater in samples taken from poultry farms than in eggs from poultry houses.
The high levels of the chemicals were determined to pose serious health risks to humans. Eating food contaminated by difenoconazole could lead to toxic effects involving carcinogens and neurotoxins that affect the reproductive system and the healthy growth of children, warned a 2011 study by the European Food Safety Authority.
High levels of bifenthrin, meanwhile, can cause allergies, asthma, bronchitis, dermatitis, stuffy nose, and sneezing.
When analyzed for the risk they posed to health, the difenoconazole levels in seven samples were considered to exceed the cut-off value. While bifenthrin’s value did not exceed the cut-off, its risk factor was still significant.
To find out if your food has been contaminated by toxic chemicals from pesticides, see CleanFoodWatch.com.