Chlordane found in foods decades after pesticide use

Study examines effects on crops grown in contaminated soil

Pesticide use from a more toxic past is hitting close to home. A new report says buyers of fresh produce may get something unexpected: chlordane, a now-banned hazardous chemical introduced more than five decades ago.

The finding is reported in the May 15 print edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The report shows that although food contains small amounts of chlordane, the compound accumulates in the human body and can lead to digestive and nervous system disorders.

All 12 of the vegetables included in the study absorbed some of the compound, according to Mary Jane Incorvia Mattina, Ph.D., lead researcher of the report. Edible portions of carrots, potatoes, beets, spinach, lettuce, dandelion and zucchini absorbed the largest amounts of chlordane. Lesser amounts were found in the edible portion of beans and eggplant. Tomatoes, peppers and corn took in some chlordane at the roots, but did not transfer it to the edible portion of the vegetables. Fruits do not seem to be similarly affected, according to previous research.

You can substantially reduce the chances of consuming chlordane -- a colorless, tasteless compound still affecting foods grown where it was used -- by washing food in water before eating it, said Mattina, head of the department of analytical chemistry at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, Conn.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned chlordane, used to control termites and other insects, in 1988. But because it was so widely used, nearly all farms -- including organic farms -- are affected. It is impossible to tell whether produce is contaminated just by looking at it.

The report is the first study of plant absorption of aged chlordane, part of a family of chemicals called persistent organic pollutants. Technical

Contact: Beverly Hassell
American Chemical Society

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