UK – New research conducted by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) based in the UK indicates that many common fruits and vegetables harbor per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) pesticides.

The study scrutinized findings from the UK government’s residue testing initiative, uncovering ten distinct PFAS pesticides present in a variety of produce such as grapes, cherries, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, and even spices.

Strawberries emerged as the most affected, with 95% of the 120 samples tested in 2022 containing PFAS pesticides.

Additionally, 61% of 109 grape samples and 56% of 121 cherry samples were found to be tainted with these chemicals.

The examination was part of the government’s Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRIF) program, which annually assesses approximately 2,500 1kg food samples.

These samples were sourced from supermarkets and other food vendors across Britain, indicating that regular consumers originally purchased the tested items.

PFAS encompasses approximately 10,000 chemicals, dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ due to their enduring presence in the environment and their ability to accumulate in the blood, bones, and tissues of organisms. Their environmental degradation is estimated to range from a decade to over 1,000 years.

Although further UK research is necessary to ascertain the health implications of PFAS chemicals, studies from other nations have linked PFAS exposure to various severe health issues, including heightened cancer risk, reduced fertility, and compromised immune function.

Of particular concern is childhood exposure, which research has connected to developmental delays, low birth weight, and premature puberty.

The findings from PAN UK parallel recent discoveries indicating the presence of residues from 31 different PFAS pesticides in European fruits and vegetables between 2011 and 2021.

Similarly, strawberries emerged as the most probable EU-grown produce contaminated with ‘forever chemicals,’ reaching a peak of 37% in 2021. However, this figure pales in comparison to the UK findings, where PFAS residues were detected in over 90% of domestically grown strawberry samples.

Currently, there are 25 PFAS pesticides authorized for use in the UK, six of which are categorized as ‘Highly Hazardous.’

These include lambda-cyhalothrin, an insecticide toxic to both humans and bees. Data from Fera UK indicates that lambda-cyhalothrin was applied to 1.69 million hectares of UK land in 2022.

PAN UK is urging the government to prohibit these 25 PFAS pesticides and enhance support for farmers, many of whom may be unaware of the presence of these chemicals in the pesticides they use. The organization advocates for the adoption of safer and more sustainable farming practices.

Nick Mole, a policy officer at PAN UK, criticized the UK government’s delayed initiatives to address PFAS-related issues. He emphasized that PFAS pesticides are unnecessary for food production and expressed concerns about consumers being compelled to ingest these chemicals.

Mole stressed the imperative need to comprehend the health risks associated with PFAS ingestion and emphasized the urgency in eliminating them from the food chain, especially considering their presence in plastic food packaging, drinking water, and soil across the UK.

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