Chemical Fungicide Linked to Obesity at Extremely Low Dose Exposure

Chemical spraying

New research published in the recent issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, points to serious human health risks from low-level exposure to common agricultural chemicals.

The study, coming out of the University of California, Irvine, looked at the fungicide triflumizole (TFZ), which is routinely used on a variety of crops including apples, cherries, berries, melons and leafy greens as well as a number of ornamental plants. While exact numbers on agricultural chemical usage are difficult to measure, an estimated 56,000 pounds of TFZ were used just in California in 2009, according to data collected by the Pesticide Action Network.

According to the study, the chemical TFZ acts as an obesogen by triggering the growth of fat cells. The effects of TFZ can begin with prenatal exposure that can lead to a range of metabolic disorders among children and even into adulthood. The research team found that the test subjects (mice) experienced the effects at doses estimated to be 400 times lower than current NOAEL threshold levels (meaning no observable adverse effect levels).  It’s the standard typically relied upon by regulatory agencies in determining safety standards. The study authors noted that similar effect were also likely to occur in humans.

The research corroborates another study released earlier this year that found a connection between certain endocrine disrupting chemicals and the development of major health issues that may not occur at higher doses. The study found increased risk for reproductive issues, cognitive and neurological function as well as immune and thyroid issues.

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Image: USDAgov

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.