Chemical Soup: Pesticide Adjuvants and Low Chemical Exposures Proving Dangerous

July 13, 2015 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Chemical Soup: Pesticide Adjuvants and Low Chemical Exposures Proving Dangerous
Vaccinations and pesticides have something in common. They both use adjuvants or “inert” ingredients to enhance the performance of the product it is attached to. Vaccine adjuvants have been thought to be harmless for decades but science is finding that is far from true. The same thing is being identified for pesticides and their adjuvants. Researchers are bringing to light how toxic pesticide adjuvants and chronic low level chemical exposures are. It is not pretty and is downright egregious.

Pesticides and Adjuvants

Pesticides are a mixture called formulations. The formulations contain adjuvants and the declared active ingredient. For example, Roundup is the formulation and glyphosate is the declared active ingredient. A pesticide adjuvant is broadly defined as any non-pesticide material added to a pesticide product or pesticide spray mixture to enhance the pesticide’s performance. Adjuvants are cell penetrants. They are designed to penetrate past cell walls bringing the active ingredient with them like a “destructive, infiltrator type superman” additive attached to the pesticide. The end result is that they create a higher level of toxicity than just the active ingredient alone.

Pesticides may include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, or other agents that control or eliminate unwanted pests. The manufacture keeps adjuvants listings and information confidential with package information identifying them as inert ingredients. Product testing historically is done on the active ingredient. Toxicity testing for the cell penetrating adjuvants has generally not been focused on, especially in combination, until recently. These inert ingredients have been chronically marketed as completely safe, posing no threat to health.

Real Threat Identified

Research in 2013 explored this adjuvant concept and has opened the doors to a better understanding. The information discovered is nothing short of shocking as a result of identifying serious toxic consequences. Here are some of their findings. Scientists put human cells (liver, embryonic, and placenta) in a petri dish/test tube and exposed them for 24 hours to trace amount to one of the major adjuvants, POE-15 used in glyphosate (Roundup), to glyphosate alone, and a total formulation without glyphosate (Roundup without glyphosate). They measured how mitochondria, cell membranes, and some other enzyme activities responded to the different exposure types.

They found that the exposure to POE-15 and the total formulation was far more toxic than the glyphosate exposure by itself. POE-15 was the most toxic of all causing tissue necrosis or death by affecting cellular respiration (mitochondria damage) and cell membrane integrity at a dose of 1 and 3 parts per million. This is a common environmental and occupational exposure. Glyphosate did not lead to this type of disruption bur rather led to endocrine hormone disruption (estrogen, testosterone, androgens). The adjuvants which are considered safe and inert instead caused rather serious damage and toxicity to these human cells, prompting the study’s authors to recommend reassessing pesticide formulation as mixtures and a threat to public health.

Chronic Low Level Exposure

The preceding research was expanded upon by some of the same scientists with even more startling findings a year later. They found that activated adjuvants were up to 10,000 times more toxic than glyphosate alone. Toxicity occurred with levels of 0.1 parts per billion. Yes, you read that correctly. A tiny fraction of exposure created long-term cellular toxicity. This is far below common daily environmental exposure.

The researchers tested nine major pesticides used worldwide for agricultural or domestic settings. Their results found that in all formulations, the “inert” ingredients were detrimental to cells and far more toxic than the active ingredient. Fungicides (mold inhibitors) were the most toxic of all pesticides. They caused toxic cellular responses to the mitochondria and cell membranes at doses 300-600 times lower than typical agricultural dilutions. Eight out of nine formulations were on average several hundred times more toxic than their active ingredients. The power of the inert ingredients is like a massive army of destructive, infiltrator type supermen engaged in stealth destruction but hidden through a cloaking device as “inert” ingredients.

Short and Long-Term Effects

The scientists studied short-term and long-term exposure and its toxic effects. What they found is that time amplifies the toxicity. Short-term exposures with the active ingredient like Roundup and its adjuvants demonstrated toxic cellular effects at a dose of 63 parts per million after 24 hours. Even more alarming is the evidence found in animal studies that showed that 0.1 parts per billion of long-term exposure (two years) was sufficient to provoke pathology.

Long-term regulatory testing on adjuvants does not occur because the ingredients are generally declared inactive. To their surprise, scientists showed overall amplified toxicity to cell membranes and mitochondria occurred up to 1,000 times in 100 percent of the cases tested. They found that the inclusion of adjuvants is what makes the pesticides work so well. They penetrate into the cell; it is prevented from breakdown, causing it to stay in the cell much longer, and enhancing pesticide activity. This is akin to an army of hidden termites in a structure that looks great on the outside but is turning rotten on the inside.

It is commonly professed, that Roundup is safe and poses no adverse effects or threats. As we saw in an earlier article, it clearly disrupts gut microbiome and more. The scientists found that Roundup as a formulation was 125 times more toxic than glyphosate alone and was “by far the most toxic among herbicides and insecticides tested”.

Some concluding remarks by the authors were “overall, adjuvants in pesticides are thus far from inerts but cell membrane disruptors and induce in addition mitochondrial alterations” and …”this inconsistency between scientific fact and industrial claim (that Roundup is safe) may be attributed to huge economic interests, which have been found to falsify health risk assessments and delay health policy decisions.”

Pervasive Effects and Consequences

The breakdown with mitochondria and cell membranes is destructive to the core of healthy physiology. Mitochondria and cell membranes are ubiquitous in complex life forms. That’s why the pesticides work at killing off plants, molds, and insects, etc. Combine that with the effect that glyphosate and other similar chemicals are endocrine disrupting compounds. Scientists see the animal and human consequences as developmental and congenital disorders, cardiac, central nervous system difficulties, cartilage breakdown, altered sex hormone production, tumors, and immune dysfunction and more.

It’s not fully evident how far reaching the health concerns are as there is much to be learned in terms of adjuvant and formulations with disease processes, but there are trends and connections being made. A study published in September 2014 in Environmental Health was able to identify that rates of autism coincided with the use of glyphosate and other types of adjuvants other than those mentioned above. The study suggested that the increased trend of autism correlated with the increased trend of these chemicals and was not due to changing diagnostic criteria. Other chemicals and environmental exposures were able to be ruled out and not linked with the rise in autism.

Chronic Low Level Exposure and Cancer

On a different note, in the midst of a global cancer epidemic, a worldwide task force of 174 scientists from prestigious research and medical institutions from 28 countries around the world concluded that average daily exposure to mixtures of low dose chemicals may increase cancer risk. The extensive study was published in a special issue of Carcinogenesis June 23, 2015.

Chronic low dose chemical exposure is the norm. Plastics like BPA, pesticides including triclosan, flame retardants, adjuvants, heavy metals, and more are found everywhere. This elite group of scientists studied 85 chemicals commonly found in the environment with low dose exposure in a synergistic manner rather than isolated high dose acute exposure. At least 50 of the chemicals were linked with definite cancer mechanisms at very lose doses of environmental chemicals, found in common every day exposures.

Chemical Soup

“We found definite evidence that chemicals that are unavoidable in the environment can produce a wide range of low-dose effects that are directly related to carcinogenesis. So the way we've been testing chemical safety is really quite out-of-date," said William Goodson III, a senior scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. "Every day we are exposed to an environmental 'chemical soup' and we need testing to evaluate the effects of our ongoing exposure to the mixtures in this soup." Current conservative estimates suggest that one out of five cancers is due to environmental chemical exposures not related to personal lifestyle choices. This is an early estimate and is considered inconclusive.

Protection and Choices

What we have been led to believe or have falsely assumed as not a big deal is turning into a big deal in the chemical soup world we now live in. While it may sound like a broken record with the repeated theme of protecting mitochondria, gut microbiome support, nutritional fortification, and liver and cellular detoxification, these processes are fundamental to protecting and restoring health and integrity to the body. If they don’t work, thyroid, adrenals, leptin, blood sugar, obesity, heart disease, brain, autoimmune, joints, and any other tissue and process will ultimately be challenged. Choose foods that are non-GMO. Removing the exposures is just as important. Don’t just reach for the Roundup just because it is your garage and you haven’t had a known problem before. Stand up for healthier choices and vote with your dollars. The drop-off in the bee and butterfly populations is telling us something. Where are we on this spectrum?

Mitochondria need B-vitamins, acetyl-l-carnitine, lipoic acid, curcumin, resveratrol, magnesium, NAC, coenzyme Q10, PQQ, selenium, manganese, and more to work. Protect your gut microbiome with fermented foods and probiotics. Include glutamine and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine to help support the damaged intestinal lining that is provoked by glyphosate. Use silymarin, dandelion root extract, and NAC to help support detoxification. Get rid of the high calorie, low nutrient content foods in your diet. Replenish your body with organic or home-grown brightly colored heirloom produce and organic meats and ancient grains. Teach your children healthy habits. Our children and generations to come will suffer the brunt of the chemical soup effects, but you too will suffer the effects over time of the low dose chemical exposures because it is everywhere. Change your corner of the world and reach out to those who are unaware. The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step outside your door.

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