Ask Dr. Nandi: Unsafe levels of a weed killer chemical in oat cereals, oatmeal, and granola

(WXYZ) - If your family loves oatmeal, oat cereals, or granola for breakfast, beware, you may also be eating a hefty dose of a harmful weed-killing chemical.  Glyphosate has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organization.  And today the Environmental Working Group released their toxicology report – they found high levels of this herbicide in oat-based foods that could pose health risks, especially to children. 

How high are the levels?

The EWG took samples from 45 popular food products that were made with conventionally grown oats.  Only 2 had no detectable levels of glyphosate.   31 products contained a range of levels either at or above their safety benchmark of 160ppb.   The EWG also did sample tests on 16 organically grown oat foods.  They found 5 had detectable levels of glyphosate.  

Why do some organic products contain this chemical? 

Finding glyphosate in organic foods may surprise you because organic farming doesn’t allow the use of weed-killer.  But more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate is sprayed on crops all around the US.  It’s popular to use on oats, barley and wheat just before harvesting so that the crop dies and dries out faster than it normally would which means it can be harvested sooner.  And because it’s so popular, this chemical can easily get into nearby streams and soil which then ends up in organic fields. 

How might Glyphosate affect children? 

It’s very concerning for children because some of these products kids love.  Here are some examples that are high in glyphosate:

  • Quaker Dinosaur Eggs Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal
  • Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
  • Lucky Charms
  • And Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats 

You know the Environmental Protection Act did some calculations.  And they found 1 to 2-year-olds are likely to have the highest exposure – and it’s 230 times the EWG’s health benchmark.  Now there have been hundreds of scientific studies, but unfortunately, the health effects still remain uncertain.  However, there are scientists and organizations that feel the amount of glyphosate in our foods is not harmful.  But WHO does classify it as "probably carcinogenic to humans." And I’d like to point out that the EWG is looking at the overall lifetime exposure to toxic herbicides and the potential effects on our health. 

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