Know Your Food
Pesticides that end up in our food and our water will also end up in our bodies and if not excreted properly, lead to bio-accumulation. There are several studies in India which sought to assess the pesticides flowing in our blood, in breast milk, in our tissues etc. It is important to remember that the toxins are transferred across the placenta in an unborn child and passed on through the breast milk in a newborn. It is indeed sad that the main nourishment pathways that the infant is supposed to get actually carry toxins!
It is said that the body burden of Indians with regard to pesticides is quite high. We give below findings of some of the studies that sought to capture the body burden of Indians.

Bhatnagar VK, Kashyap R, Saiyed HN: Residues of organochlorine pesticides in human blood in Ahmedabad, India - Asian J. of Chemistry 2006, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1583-1585

Three studies on the estimation of residues of organochlorine pesticides in the general population of Ahmedabad at different intervals were carried out. Observed trend for these contaminants is descending which may be due to restrictions imposed on the use of these chemicals. However, these levels are still higher than the studies originating from other developing countries.

Kallidass Subramaniam and RD. Jebakumar Solomon: Organochlorine pesticides BHC and DDE in human blood in and around Madurai, India - Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, 2006 / 21 (2) 169-172

In this study blood samples are taken from two groups of people, one that has direct exposure to pesticides (agriculturists & public health workers) the second group, which has indirect exposure to pesticides through food chain. The objective of our investigation is to analyze the blood of the patients with minimum health complaints and skin diseases for the residue of the banned organochlorine pesticides DDE and BHC using Gas Chromatography. High concentrations of both BHC & DDE were observed in the serum samples of the people who had direct exposure to the pesticides, namely agriculturalists and public health workers with few exceptions. The pesticide residue concentration in serum ranges from 0.006 to 0.130 ppm for BHC and 0.002 to 0.033 ppm for DDE. Significance of this study reveals that the presence of these banned pesticides in human serum.

Sanghi R, Pillai MK, Jayalekshmi TR, Nair A: OrganoChlorine and OrganoPhosphorus pesticide residues in breast milk from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India - Hum Exp Toxicol 2003 Feb: 22(2):73-6

HCH isomers, endosulfan, malathion, chlorpyrifos, and methyl-parathion were monitored in human milk samples from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The endosulfan concentrations were highest and exceeded the sigma-HCH, chlorpyrifos, and malathion concentrations by 3.5-, 1.5-, and 8.4-fold, respectively. Through breast milk, infants consumed 8.6 times more endosulfan and 4.1 times more malathion than the average daily intake levels recommended by the World Health Organization. A correlation analysis (r values) between mothers' age and the content of the chemicals accumulated in breast milk indicated a substantial degree of correlation for malathion (r = 0.5). The other chemicals showed low to negligible correlation with donor age.

Mathur H B, Agarwal H C, Sapna Johnson, Saikia N: Analysis of pesticide residues in blood samples from villages of Punjab – Centre for Science & Environment's report (CSE/PML/PR-21/2005), March 2005

In 20 blood samples collected from 4 villages in Punjab analysed for14 organochlorines and 14 organophosphorus pesticides – 11 of the 14 organochlorine pesticides were detected - α β γ isomers of HCH were detected in 95%, 35% and 100% respectively, aldrin (80%), heptachlor (5%), chlordane (70%), DDD (55%), DDE (95%), DDT (50%), β endosulfan (24%) and α –endosulfan (5%) of the samples analysed. Among organo-phosphorus pesticides only 4 of 14 pesticides were detected – Monocrotophos (75%), Phosphamidon (70%), Chlorpyrifos (85%) and Malathion (70%) of the samples analysed indicating regular and widespread exposure to these pesticides. Total number of pesticides detected in blood samples from Punjab (15 of 28 analysed) which indicates that each person is exposed to and carries a body burden of multiple pesticides which might be due to a combination of direct and indirect exposure to these pesticides. Major contribution to total pesticide concentration in blood samples from Punjab is of organophosphorus pesticides.
Vibha Mathur, Placheril J. John, Inderpal Soni and Pradeep Bhatnagar: Blood Levels of Organochlorine Pesticide Residues and Risk of Reproductive Tract Cancer Among Women from Jaipur, India - Hormonal Carcinogenesis V Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2008, Volume 617, Part 12, 387-394
Residues of organochlorine pesticides are integral part of our environment. Because of their strong lipophilic and non-biodegradable nature, organisms at higher trophic levels in the food chain tend to accumulate them. The aim of the present study was to assess the influence of organochlorine pesticides upon the occurrence of reproductive tract cancers in women from Jaipur, India. Blood samples were collected from 150 females. In that group, 100 females suffered from reproductive tract cancers like cervical, uterine, vaginal and ovarian cancers, while the rest did not suffer from cancers or any other major disease and were treated as control group. The collected blood samples were subjected to pesticide extraction and analyzed with the help of gas chromatography. The pesticides detected were benzene hexa chlororide and its isomers, dieldrin, heptachlor, dichloro diphenyl trichloro ethane and its metabolites. The data obtained indicate that the organochlorine pesticide residue levels were significantly higher in all the cancer patients as compared with the control group.
Ashok Kumar, Anju Baroth, Inderpal Soni, Pradeep Bhatnagar and P. J. John: Organochlorine Pesticide Residues in Milk and Blood of Women from Anupgarh, Rajasthan, India - Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, Volume 116, Numbers 1-3, 1-7, 2006
Anupgarh is the most fertile area of Rajasthan state where a variety of seasonal crops are grown. The availability of three manmade canals has enhanced the agricultural activities in this area. The farmers use huge amounts of pesticides to increase the crop productivity. Exposure of humans to these hazardous chemicals occurs directly in the fields and indirectly due to consumption of contaminated diet, or by inhalation or by dermal contact. The organochlorine pesticides are reported to be lipophilic and their presence in human milk and blood has been documented in different parts of the world. Blood and milk samples were collected from lactating women who were divided into four groups on the basis of different living standards viz residence area, dietary habits, working conditions and addiction to tobacco. The level of total organochlorine pesticides in blood ranged from 3.319mg/L — 6.253mg/L while in milk samples it ranged from 3.209 — 4.608 mg/L. The results are in concurrence with the reports from other countries.
Rahul Pathak, Sanvidhan G. Suke, Rafat S. Ahmed, A. K. Tripathi, Kiran Guleria, C. S. Sharma, S. D. Makhijani, Meenu Mishra and B. D. Banerjee: Endosulfan and Other Organochlorine Pesticide Residues in Maternal and Cord Blood in North Indian Population - Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Volume 81, Number 2, 216-219, 2008
Humans are exposed to various environmental chemicals such as organochlorine pesticide residues, heavy metals, polychlorinatedbiphenyls (PCBs) etc. There is paucity of data regarding the present blood levels of organochlorine residues in North Indian population with reference to reproductive health. The present study was designed to analyze the levels of organochlorine pesticide residues in maternal and cord blood samples of normal healthy women with full term pregnancy to gain insight into the current status of pesticide burden in newborns. Hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) contributed maximum towards the total organochlorine residues present in maternal and cord blood followed by endosulfan, pp' DDE and pp'DDT being the least. This is also the first report indicating endosulfan levels in this population. Our data indicates a transfer rate of 60–70% of these pesticides from mothers to newborns and this high rate of transfer of pesticides is of great concern as it may adversely affect the growth and development of newborn.
V. Dhananjayan, B. Ravichandran and H. R. Rajmohan: Organochlorine Pesticide Residues in Blood Samples of Agriculture and Sheep Wool Workers in Bangalore (Rural), India - Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 2012 (DOI: 10.1007/s00128-012-0546-6)
To describe exposure level of organochlorine pesticides (OCP) among workers occupationally engaged in agriculture and sheep wool associated jobs, the present study was carried out in rural neighborhood of Bangalore city, India. Thirty participants were interviewed and obtained informed consent before blood sample collection. The maximum concentrations of OCP were detected in blood samples of agriculture workers than sheep wool workers. Among the metabolites of HCH and DDT, lindane (γ–HCH) and p,p'-DDE were the most contributed to the total OCP. There were no differences in pesticide residues found between sex and work groups. It was observed that about 30% of samples exceeded the tolerance limits of 10 µg/L prescribed for HCH under the prevention of food adulteration act. Therefore, the present study recommends continuous monitoring with larger sample size.

Rau ATK, Anita Coutinho, Shreedhar Avabratha K, Aarathi R Rau and Raj P Warrier: Pesticide (Endosulfan) Levels in the Bone Marrow of Children with Hematological Malignancies – Indian Pediatrics, Vol. 49, Feb 2012

This study was taken up to confirm the presence of Pesticide (Endosulfan) residues in the bone marrow (BM) of children with acute hematological malignancies and compare them with controls and to ascertain if children with Endosulfan in their marrow reside in areas sprayed with Endosulfan. A case control approach with 26 patients with proven hematological malignancy and 26 age matched controls suffering from benign hematological disease. Of the study and control groups, 84.7% and 73.1%, respectively were from exposed areas. The major (88.4%) illness in the study group was ALL, while ITP (50%) occurred most frequently in the control group. Six out of 26 study cases tested positive for endosulfan in the BM, against 1 out of 26 controls (P = 0.042). The Odds ratio was 7.5. All children who had endosulfan in the bone marrow originated from areas, where endosulfan is still being used. Conclusions: Children with hematological malignancy had raised levels of endosulfan in the bone marrow compared to those without. All the children with raised bone marrow Endosulfan levels were found to be from areas exposed to the pesticide.

Siddiqui M, Srivastava S, Srivastava S, Mehrotra P, Mathur N and Tandon I: Persistent chlorinated pesticides and intra-uterine foetal growth retardation: a possible association - International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, Volume 76, Number 1, 75-80, 2002

Objective. To examine the association between DDT (dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane) and HCH (hexachlorocyclohexane) exposure and intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR, <10th percentile of birth weight for gestational age). Results: There were statistically significant associations (P<0.05) between maternal blood levels of !-HCH (OR=1.22; 95% CI: 1.02-1.46), %-HCH (OR=1.38; 95%CI: 1.05-1.80), '-HCH (OR=1.61; 95% CI: 1.01-2.54), total HCH (OR=1.07; 95% CI: 1.01-1.13) and p,p'-DDE (OR=1.21; 95%CI:1.03-1.42) and IUGR after adjustment for potential confounders. Also, significant association (P<0.05) between cord blood levels of %-HCH (OR=1.14; 95% CI: 1.00-1.31), '-HCH (OR=1.31; 95% CI: 1.00-1.75), total HCH (OR=1.07; 95% CI: 1.00-1.14) and IUGR were found after adjustment for potential confounders. A significant negative correlation between body weight of newborn babies and p,p'-DDE in maternal blood (r= -0.25; P<0.05) and '-HCH and p,p'-DDE in the cord blood (r= -0.27 and -0.26; P<0.05) was noticed after gestational age had been accounted for. Conclusion. Exposure of pregnant women to organochlorine pesticides may increase the risk of IUGR, which is a contributing factor for infant mortality in India.