Backyard chickens are all the rage, but there are some situations that can arise making their eggs less desirable to eat. Finding persistent banned pesticide DDT breaking down in your soil and inside your backyard eggs would be an example of that. So how do you go about finding out if your land is contaminated with toxic persistent pesticides AND if those pesticides are getting into your backyard eggs? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best & worst cookware, best & worst organic mattresses, and best & worst air purifiers, now join us for a story about how finding DDT in your soil can lead to toxic backyard eggs and how you can find out if you have a problem.
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
Table of Contents
Pesticide Hair Test Led to Testing my Soil & Then Backyard Chicken Eggs
This year I participated in a study looking at Americans and the types of pesticides we are exposed to. I sent a sample of my hair to a laboratory and got results back months later and I was dumbfounded. They found a pesticide in my hair that is so toxic, it’s banned in most countries around the world.
Leah Segedie’s Hair Sample DDT Results:
- 4,4′-DDD–not detected
- 4,4′-DDE– 4.5 ppb (high range according to lab)
- 4,4′-DDT–not detected
What do these results mean? Well, it means that I’m being exposed to DDT, but not DDT exactly, it’s DDE, which is what DDT breaks down into over decades in the soil.
The problem is DDT was banned in 1972 and we are in 2020. Although it seems far fetched a toxic chemical that old could be accumulating in my body, it seems like I’m not the only one.
According to an older study that looked at 240 women across the United States for DDE, they found that women living in the western United States had higher levels of DDE (mean = 11.0 ppb), than women in the Northeast & Midwest and other parts of the country. Even though this study is a couple of decades old, it gives you a snapshot of exposure and who is at risk.
DDT would still be in their soil because it takes over 100 years to break down.
Well, I live in Southern California just above Los Angeles in an area that used to have walnut & citrus groves in the early 1900’s. So much fertilizer was used back then that we have perchlorate groundwater contamination.
As Los Angeles grew, farmers moved further out and agricultural land turned into the housing tracks you have today. Tons of communities in the Western United States started that way.
DDT in Garden Crops & Backyard Eggs
As it was clear that I’m being exposed to DDT breaking down in the soil, I wanted to discover whether my garden vegetables, fruit trees, and backyard eggs were contributing to that. So I sent several crops off, some of which are known to uptake DDT, to the lab to get tested and I was full of shock and awe after.
- Cucumbers: Non-Detect
- Figs: Non-Detect
- Zucchini: Non-Detect
- Green beans: Non-Detect
- Backyard Eggs: BINGO—DDE
Although vegetables like zucchini and cucumbers are known to uptake DDE in the soil, my garden crops planted directly in the ground were not doing that.
But they did find DDE inside my backyard eggs, which could have had a bioaccumulative effect on my body because I’m at the very top of the food chain, like a polar bear or bird of prey.
The nasty truth was I had been feeding my family DDE over the last 6 years with those delicious backyard eggs and had no idea.
How DDT Can Get Into Your Backyard Chicken Eggs
DDT is a persistent chemical and persistent chemicals love to travel inside fat and oils, especially in animals further up the food chain. When animals are exposed to DDT, it gets built up in fat storage over time so when you consume their fat, you would be consuming DDT and it’s breakdown chemicals like DDE.
So as animals like chickens are exposed to DDT in the soil, the fat on their body AND the eggs they deliver could be contaminated. This is how you can find DDE in backyard chicken eggs that originated from farming practices close to 70 years ago.
Results of Backyard Eggs:
- Chlorpyrifos < 0.010 ppb
- DDD-pp+DDT-op < 0.010 ppb
- DDE-p,p 0.069 ppb
- DDT (Sum) * 0.077 ppb
- DDT-p,p < 0.010 ppb
DDT Was Banned 50 Years Ago But Continues to Plague the Health of Americans Today
Toxic persistent pesticides like DDT are persistent in the environment and don’t go away easily. Today we are well aware of that, but the farmers who used DDT back then did not.
DDT was first created in 1874 but wasn’t commercialized till 1939 when Swiss biochemist Paul Herman Muller discovered it’s potency as an insecticide. In 1948, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for that discovery.
DDT was immediately used to combat insect-borne diseases like malaria, typhus, yellow fever, & bubonic plague especially during World War II by American troops who were in Italy and tropical regions like the South Pacific.
After World War II, the use of DDT expanded to farmers who wanted to kill pests in the field and as vector control for mosquitos and other such pests.
It wasn’t until Scientist Rachel Carson wrote the book “Silent Spring” about the reckless use of DDT and it’s harm on wildlife populations that Americans started to change. She collected scientific stories of tragic wildlife death and destruction in her book which became an international bestseller and started the modern environmental movement.
DDT was later banned in 1972.
Because of this bioaccumulation, DDT remains in the food chain and will for over a hundred years. It moves up the food chain and bioaccumulates in species on top like predatory birds and humans.
When DDT was banned in 1972, predatory birds like eagles, hawks, pelicans, condors, and other meat-eating birds started coming back after a huge dip in reproduction because of DDT exposure.
Health Impacts of DDT & DDE
Officially the health impacts of low amounts of DDT & DDE are unknown. They do know, however, know what the health impacts are of a higher dose. Considering that DDT & DDE will build up in your system over time, it’s important to take small doses seriously. DDT and DDE have been linked to various health conditions:
- Breast cancer and other cancers
- Increased risk of obesity, especially in later generations
- Male infertility
- Developmental delay
- Miscarriages & low birth weight
- Nervous system & liver damage
Does USDA Organic Regulations Mandate Farmers Test Their Soil for DDT?
We reached out the Organic Trade Association with questions regarding how and when organic farmers test their soil for DDT. As of this post being published, we did not hear back from them. So we looked into the answer ourselves and found that answer to be a solid NO.
USDA Organic farmers are not required to test their soil for DDT before certified.
That’s a bummer because they DO require farmers to check for DDT in other countries like New Zealand.
What are the Feds & NGOs Doing About DDT in the Soil?
I searched high and low for organizations that are measuring DDT in soil and pressuring food companies to fix this issue and I came up with very little.
The Feds are monitoring all sorts of chemicals in our blood and urine. But unfortunately, knowledge of this hasn’t turned into sound policy and protections for the public.
It’s almost as if they are hoping no one notices and it just goes away. John Wargo, a professor of environmental risk analysis and policy at Yale University had this to say:
“As a nation, we’re flying blind on this issue. The Environmental Protection Agency is so overwhelmed by new chemicals and managing the changing science on existing chemicals that are licensed that they’re interpreting the ban (on legacy pesticides) as having solved the problem. That’s shortsighted. We’re not even asking questions, we’re not doing the testing, and the result is people are being exposed without their knowledge and certainly without their consent.”
That does not build my confidence in the system, so I’ve decided to start testing organic animal-based products for DDT.
How to Test Your Hair, Soil & Eggs for Pesticide Residue
Before you go testing eggs and soil, I’d get your hair tested for pesticides. The reason for that is those results will give you actionable information immediately and you’ll have several of the most common pesticides analyzed in your hair at once.
Another thing to understand about the type of test this is. This hair test looks at 2+ months of cumulative exposure–things that built up in your hair. Whereas urine tests only really capture the last 2-3 days of what you did and only what your body is eliminating. This is why I like hair tests more.
These are the basic tests. More extensive ones are available, but this is what I would recommend.
- Home Pesticide Test (w/o glyphosate) $199–includes basic chemicals used for pesticides around the home: 4,4′-DDD, 4,4′-DDE, 4,4′-DDT, Acetamiprid, Aldrin, Allethrin, Alpha Hexachlorocyclohexane, Beta hexachlorocyclohexane, Alpha Chlordane, Gamma Chlordane, Cypermethrine, Deltamethrin, Dieldrin, Alpha Endosulfan, Beta Endosulfan, Endosulfan sulfate, Endrin, Fipronil, Fipronil sulfone, Lindane, Heptachlor, Heptachlor epoxide cis, Heptachlor epoxide trans, Hexachlorobutadiene, Imidacloprid, Mirex, Permethrin, Piperonyl butoxide, Tetramethrin, Transfluthrin.
- Glyphosate in Hair Pesticide Test $149–Includes Glyphosate, AMPA, Glufosinate. I would also recommend getting the glyphosate test especially if you live in the Midwest by farming communities or next to a golf course or other greenbelts maintained by spraying herbicides. Glyphosate is always a separate test because it is a different type of pesticide and requires different equipment.
If you want to go about testing your soil, my favorite lab for testing is AGQ Labs in Oxnard, California. You can start with “400+ pesticide panel” and if you only want a DDT profile, ask for that instead. They also have the ability to test your backyard eggs and your garden crops.
Organic Egg Brands With and Without DDT–LABS
Because I very quickly realized that the USDA organic seal was not going to protect my family from DDT in eggs, butter, cheese & milk, I decided to start testing brands myself. No one else is doing this but the Center for Disease Control and they aren’t telling you who they tested.
The pastured organic egg brand that I’ve been using has tested clean. Click here to discover what brand of organic pastured eggs has no detectable DDT.
(And I’ll update this link with more and more organic brands as I’ve tested.
I’ve already begun testing organic eggs, milk, yogurt, butter & cheese and will continue to report on my findings on Mamavation. Stay tuned!