Are There Pesticides in Your Soup? Dunk a Pollution Dipstick to Find Out.

By Brett Israel | November 6, 2009 5:32 pm

Pesticide-dipstick-webEnvironmental monitoring is often expensive, cumbersome, and time-intensive. Equipment that can run quick and easy tests for pollutants like pesticides in our food are almost nonexistent. However, researchers in Canada are working on a new biomonitoring technique using treated paper on a stick that can quickly identify trace amounts of pesticides in your chicken soup, or your first early morning cup of joe [Technology Review]. Could these dipsticks lead to DIY pollution monitoring one day? That may still be far off, but this technology could give researchers a reliable and cheap way to get a better picture of what pollutantseven at trace amountsare in the environment, and how they interact with our bodies.

In the study, published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, the researchers describe a new paper-based test strip that changes color shades depending on the amount of pesticide present. In laboratory studies using food and beverage samples intentionally contaminated with common pesticides, the test strips accurately identified minute amounts of pesticides. The test strips, which produced results in less than 5 minutes, could be particularly useful in developing countries or remote areas that may lack access to expensive testing equipment and electricity, they note [R&D Magazine]. If the dipsticks pan out, restaurant customers may one day have more to complain about than a stray hair in their soup.

Related Content:
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80beats: Leaf-Peepers Bearing Magnets Could Locate Pollution Hot Spots
DISCOVER: Testing Pesticides on Humans
DISCOVER: How to Tell If You’re Poisoning Yourself With Fish

Image: ACS

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
MORE ABOUT: pollution, toxins
  • Ian

    I wonder which brands of foods would come up positive.
    According to the environmental working group these produce have the most pesticide use when grown conventionally:
    •bell peppers
    •imported grapes

  • http://n/a Craig

    The effects of pollutants on DNA can be inherited for at least 2 generations. What a mother ingests while her female fetus is in-utero effects the eggs that the fetus is developing for her lifetime. So the children of the fetus will contain the polluted DNA of the grandmother’s bad choices. Hence, the cliche about things skipping a generation, like, I don’t know, insanity? And, that’s just a for-instance. Also, the biblical reference that the children will suffer for the sins of the mother. It seems some old-world superstitions may actually hold some water?

    Good luck convincing the ~80% of the population of 1st world countries who are incapable of Piaget’s Formal Operational Mode of Cognitive Development that pollution is irresponsible and should be stopped (outlawed in my opinion), because I’m pretty sure they’re addicted to their I.C.E. cars and trucks, plastics, and chemical run-offs , too. It’s almost like they have a religious fervor for their polluting products, weird. I wonder why the advertisers learn NLP and “product placement” techniques. It’s almost like they can’t sell a product, unless they convince people not to use their better judgment. Wait a minute, didn’t we create the FDA to stop snake-oil salesmen? Oh, right, lobbyists and special interests run the government, not our democratically elected representatives.

  • Art

    You’re the man, Craig!

    80% of the population is indeed stuck in a vacuous state of extrinsic belief. They are not only unable to think logically, but they are afraid to. They aren’t just too lazy to think for themselves, but also too lazy to truly analyze what others have told them THEY believe.

    Why is white rice less expensive than brown; refined sugar cheaper than Turbinado; and pretty much all processed junk food cheaper than its natural counterpart?

  • Erik

    Biomonitoring is the measurement of chemicals in body tissues, not soup. This can be truly useful information to help one determine if you have harmful levels of chemicals in your body. The problem is is can be difficult to interpret and the simple presence of chemicals in your body is not proof that any adverse harm will occur. Neither is a color shift on this test strip. The presence of trace amounts of anything is often unlikely to lead to adverse health effects. Forewarned is forearmed, I guess, but are we honestly as a society going to run around and test all our food before we eat it?

    Regarding the EWG list, I found this interesting:

    The answer to all of this is probably for all of us to grow more of our own food for our families.

  • Angie

    I know for sure (out of my own experience, as I tried both options), that you are far better off eating real vitamines (even those contained in the fruits mentioned on the “danger list”), rather than swallowing vitamine pills!

    As for pollution… name the city, you will find it in most places… polluted streets can be found even in 3rd world countries (surprisingly… or perhaps not… they are doing their best to live up to first world standards…) I am astonished (and not in a positive way) by people, who drive around proudly in huge vans, while everybody knows we are having this serious pollution issue going on. What amazes me is, that some of these people are otherwise responsible adults, but when it comes to environmental issues, most people still seem to think it´s a “weirdo issue” and so they have no obligation to even think about it.


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