David Ewing Duncan

A View from David Ewing Duncan

Waiter, Is There a Fungicide in My Soup?

Scientists in Canada have developed dipstick that measures levels of pesticides in food and beverages.

  • November 6, 2009

The science of biomonitoring continues to develop new technologies to inform governments, industry and individuals about what chemicals get into the environment - and into us - that shouldn’t be there.

Most of these monitoring techniques are expensive and complicated, and can take hours or days to produce results. I know, because I have had labs test me for detectable levels of hundreds of chemical toxins–pesticides, metals, flame retardants, and more–for a story published in 2006.,

Now a team of chemists at McMaster University in Ontario have published a paper in Analytical Chemistry that describes 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.

As reported in R&D:

The scientists describe the development of 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.

As these tools for measuring human-produced toxins get easier and cheaper, the collection of data will hopefully provide a clearer picture of the true levels of these pollutants in the environment, and inside us. This also will speed up the effort to better understand how toxins interact with bodies and cells at a molecular level - including the interaction of genes and toxins that may or may not be contributing to a rise in certain diseases such as leukemia in children and brain cancer.
Are trace amounts of pesticides and other pollutants to blame? We still don’t know - but developments like this one will help us find out.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.