Schedule your free consultation today.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

All fields are required



(833) 330-3663

Popular Cereal Brands Contain Chlormequat, A Pesticide Linked to Infertility

Posted in Our Blog on February 20, 2024

A new study published by the Environmental Working Group in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology reveals that several popular cereal brands contain chlormequat – a growth regulating chemical, linked to infertility in animals.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates its use domestically, but international imports have a loophole. This leaves consumers vulnerable to the reproductive complications potentially caused by this product.

Study shows that most consumers have the potentially harmful chemical in their body.

Study Found Chlormequat in Urine Samples

This study was conducted by the Environmental Working Group, a U.S. based, non-profit activist group specializing in environmental concerns. They acquired urine samples taken from both 2017 and 2023. Based on analysis using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), chemical components in urine were identified.

This type of testing identifies chemicals present and can determine relative amounts based on sample size.

Chlormequat was detected in 80% of the urine samples tested. With samples obtained both prior to 2018 and after, certain statistical information could be extrapolated.

The study revealed increased levels in the later years of collected samples, indicating an upward trend of food products containing the potentially harmful chemical.

Chlormequat Found in Oat-Based Cereals

If chlormequat is found in human urine samples, the next logical step is to see how many of the mainstream grain products on the shelves contain the chemical.

Oats and other grains are the targeted crops, so researchers asked the question, do popular cereal brands contain chlormequat?

Samples of various oat-based cereals sold in May 2023, including household favorites such as Quaker Oats and Cheerios, were also tested. A significant 92% of those oat-based food samples contained the fertility-affecting chemical, despite the current domestic restrictions on its use.

Chlormequat was also found in some of the wheat-based cereals sampled, though not in as large of a marketshare.

Chlormequat Damages Reproductive Systems in All Age Groups Based on Animal Studies

While studies dating back to 2006 show the impact chlormequat has on the mammalian reproductive system, observations have been made decades earlier. As early as the 1980’s farmers have seen a difference.

According to the background information in the study, “the impacts of chlormequat exposure on reproductive toxicity and fertility were first described by Danish pig farmers who observed reproductive declines in pigs raised on chlormequat treated grains.”

Additional studies on pigs and mice were later conducted with similar observations. Female pigs fed grain treated with chlormequat showed irregular oestrus cycling and had difficulty mating compared to control groups fed a chlormequat-free diet.

Studies in mice showed that male mice consuming chlormequat-treated food or drinking water spiked with the chemical during development expressed decreased fertilization capacity of sperm, resulting in fertility deficiencies.

Later studies involving rats showed delayed onset of puberty, reduced sperm motility, and decreased testosterone levels when exposed during sensitive windows of development, including during pregnancy and early adolescence. Fetal development was also delayed.

With fertility and developmental effects in pigs, mice, and rats, it makes you wonder.

Can it also cause harm to humans?

No studies have been done on humans at this time. However, other mammalian studies show overwhelming evidence of reproductive issues after exposure.

EPA Outlaws Chlormequat on Domestically Grown Food Crops Despite Imported Crops Permission

Current EPA regulations only allow chlormequat to be used on ornamental plants. Chlormequat is not permitted for use on food crops grown in the United States, however it has been allowed since 2018 on imported foods that are sold in the United States under certain “allowable limits.” These limits were increased again in 2020 to raise the allowable limit.

Other countries, such as those in the European Union, the United Kingdom, and even Canada are permitted to use the chemical on cereal crops, and those foods are permitted import into the United States and allowed into commerce. Crops such as wheat, oats, and barley are approved for import, despite the use of the fertility-affecting chemical as a crop growth regulator.

As a consumer, this is confusing to me. If the product is not suitable for use by American farmers, why are imported products held to lower standards? Evidently the response to this concern is to lower American standards as well.

New regulatory proposals would allow the use of chlormequat on barley, oak, triticale, and wheat grown in the U.S.  This would also allow for chlormequat residues in milk, meat, dairy, and eggs. A move not supported by the Environmental Working Group, and likely the reason this study was formulated.

What is Chlormequat?

Chlormequat is a chemical defined by the EPA as a pesticide, that is used as a growth regulator for commercial production of certain crops, such as cereal grains. First registered in the U.S. in 1962, chlormequat had been widely used in the United States and other countries.

The chemical helps to slow crop growth to promote shorter, but thicker and heartier stalks and is primarily used on ornamental plants and cereal grains. Shorter stalks are less likely to bend over. This makes it easier to harvest the grains.

Is Organic a Better Option?

Generally, organic products are a safer bet. Though it isn’t guaranteed free from adulteration. Of the seven organic cereal grain samples obtained, one sample was found to contain chlormequat. Albeit low levels of the chemical.

“Until the government fully protects consumers, you can reduce your exposure to chlormequat by choosing products made with organic oats, which are grown without synthetic pesticides such as chlormequat,” says the Environmental Working Group.

It is less likely that organic cereal brands contain chlormequat.

Want to Know More About Food Concerns in the News?

If you’d like to know more about food concerns in the news, similar to how popular cereal brands contain chlormequat? Check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more!

Have you experienced infertility as a result of chlormequat in cereal grains, and have been treated for this concern. You may have a legal case. Contact the trusted Food Case Lawyers at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC for a free consultation. Call (833) 330-3663 or click here to email.

Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (Contributing Writer, non-lawyer)