Chemical That May Cause Infertility Found in Cheerios, Quaker Oats

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80% of Americans tested were found to have been exposed to chlormequat, which has been linked to issues with puberty and reproduction, a study claims

Four out of five Americans are being exposed to a little-known chemical found in popular oat-based foods — including Cheerios and Quaker Oats — that is linked to reduced fertility, altered fetal growth and delayed puberty.

The Environmental Working Group published a study in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology on Thursday that found a staggering 80% of Americans tested positive for a harmful pesticide called chlormequat.

The “highly toxic agricultural chemical” is federally allowed to be used on oats and other grains imported to the US, according to the EWG.

When applied to oat and grain crops, chlormequat alters a plant’s growth, preventing it from bending over and thus making it easier to harvest, per the EWG.

Four out of five Americans, or roughly 80%, are being exposed to a little-known chemical called chlormequat that’s found in popular oat-based foods, including Cheerios, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Four out of five Americans, or roughly 80%, are being exposed to a little-known chemical called chlormequat that’s found in popular oat-based foods, including Cheerios, according to the Environmental Working Group.scandamerican – stock.adobe.com

“Just as troubling, we detected the chemical in 92% of oat-based foods purchased in May 2023, including Quaker Oats and Cheerios,” the nonprofit organization said in a report published alongside the group’s findings.

General Mills, which makes Cheerios, and PepsiCo, which makes Quaker Oats, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Another particularly concerning data point: After testing for the presence of chlormequat in urine collected from 96 people between 2017 and 2023, the EWG’s tests “found higher levels and more frequent detections of chlormequat in the 2023 samples … which suggests consumer exposure to chlormequat could be on the rise.”

The EWG warned that chlormequat exposure “could be on the rise,” though it’s been shown to damage animals’ reproductive health, as well as harm fetal development and delay puberty.
The EWG warned that chlormequat exposure “could be on the rise,” though it’s been shown to damage animals’ reproductive health, as well as harm fetal development and delay puberty.Klarion – stock.adobe.com

For reference, chlormequat was detected in 69% of study participants in 2017.

The number edged higher, to 74%, between 2018 and 2022, and spiked to 90% in 2023.

Since chlormequat typically leaves the body within 24 hours, such a high concentration of positive tests indicates that Americans are regularly being exposed to the pesticide, according to the EWG’s report earlier reported on by the Daily Mail.

Though research about chlormequat is ongoing, the EWG noted, studies have shown its potential effects on animals, which “raises questions about whether it could also harm humans,” the EWG said.

In animal studies, chlormequat has damaged reproductive systems and disrupted fetal growth in animals, “changing development of the head and bones and altering key metabolic processes.”

EWG also tested 20 more oat-based foods for chlormequat, plus seven organic, 13 non-organic, and nine wheat-based products, the EWG said, though it didn’t specify which brands’ foods it tested.

Detectable levels of the chemical in question were found on 92% of non-organic oat-based foods, while only two samples of wheat-based foods — both of them bread — had low levels of chlormequat.

Only one of the seven organic samples had low levels of chlormequat.

The activist group said it would continue studying chlormequat and its harmful effects, and called for answers from the federal government, including whether the Food and Drug Administration should mandate that US foods be tested for chlormequat.

However, the EWG noted, the US Environmental Protection Agency under President Biden’s administration proposed allowing the first-ever use of chlormequat on barley, oat, triticale and wheat grown in the US.

The EWG declared that it opposes the “dangerous” April 2023 decision — which came in response to a request by chlormequat manufacturer Taminco.

Since chlormequat typically leaves the body within 24 hours, such a high concentration of positive tests indicates that Americans are regularly being exposed to the pesticide, which is also found in Quaker Oats products, the EWG said.
Since chlormequat typically leaves the body within 24 hours, such a high concentration of positive tests indicates that Americans are regularly being exposed to the pesticide, which is also found in Quaker Oats products, the EWG said.Adriana – stock.adobe.com

The FDA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taminco couldn’t be reached for comment.

Until the government puts parameters around chlormequat and its use, the EWG urged consumers to opt for organic oats growth without synthetic pesticides like chlormequat when they want their oat fix.

“EWG recommendation for shoppers is to buy organic oat products since these oats are grown without the use of toxic pesticides such as chlormequat and glyphosate,” EWG’s vice president of science investigations, Olga Naidenko, told The Post.