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Pesticides, chemicals, lead...
what I found when I analysed my hair

One can pay attention to one's diet and yet discover that one's body is contaminated by various pesticides and heavy metals. This is the experience of our journalist: she gives us here the results of her analyses and her resolutions to avoid these pollutions.

"You're not pregnant, by any chance? For ethical reasons, we do not test pregnant women." The tone is set during an initial telephone interview. I reassure my interviewer ("No no, well, I hope not"), who then explains to me how to carry out the test: "About fifty hairs, three centimetres long, cut at the level of the skull, to determine your different sources of exposure to pollutants over the last three months." Like José Bové, Nicolas Hulot or more recently the children of Marie Claire's journalists, I decided to have the pesticides, synthetic products and other endocrine disruptors present in my body analysed.

At the beginning, I was rather serene when I submitted the idea to the Reporterre editorial staff. Since September, I've been enrolled in an Amap, and I eat mostly organic and seasonal food. But no matter the parsnips, chard and fennels that I eat daily, my analyses are edifying. As Matthieu Davoli, who created the new toxseek test, capable of detecting nearly 1,800 organic pollutants and 40 heavy metals, sums up, "we all bathe in a chemical bath".

toxSeek hair sampling tube - Photo: © Juliette Duclos/Reporterre

Step 1: "Pesticides that are not investigated".

Result: contaminated by "only" eight molecules at important thresholds, I am rather a good student, I am told. "But even if you have a healthy life, you still find things that are worrying," says Matthieu Davoli before continuing: "You must eat a lot of meat or cheese, no?" Touched. If I've been a vegetarian for years, I continue to gorge myself on Comté cheese, especially when it's soaked in mustard. The test has indeed revealed the presence of three dewormers in my body, two at a "alert" level (aspinidol and desaspidin) and one at a "high" level (ascaridol). Now, let's get this clear. I have never had a worm or voluntarily ingested a deworming medication. It is explained to me then that "these are products used by the veterinary environment to treat animals, it is normal that you find some afterwards in your food".
Problem: these products would have frequent side effects on the health: "headaches, nausea, dizziness and discomfort abdominal".

If I am "lucky" not to have glyphosate at a worrying level, I also discover the existence of a certain methasulfocarb that has taken its place in my body, at the "alert". This fungicide, extremely harmful to fish, is considered "dangerous" for humans by the World Health Organization (WHO). "You regularly eat rice?" asks Matthieu Davoli. I nod my head, almost penny-pinching. Withdrawn from the market in Europe, the pesticide is still spread on rice in some Asian countries. "As it is not used in France or in the European Union, we can't find any trace of it in the databases", explains François Veillerette, from Générations Futures, before going on, with a bit of enthusiasm: "That's what makes this type of test so interesting. We discover new pesticides, which are not yet investigated!" Reassuring.

Last pollutant in "alert" level, dioctylphthalate (DNOP), a synthesis intermediate, used by the chemical and food industry to serve as plasticizer or fixing agent. The concern is that phthalates can be present a little everywhere in my home, as Reporterre reminded us, in my cosmetics, even in children's toys. It's an extremely widespread pollutant, we find it in trace amounts in everyone," confirms François Veillerette. It is more complicated to identify the sources of contamination. "But I'm going to have to take a very serious look at the issue because the consequences of phthalates can be frightening. Listed by the European Commission in Annex I of the 553 substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors, DNOP would thus be likely" to cause a disturbance of the endocrine system of humans and animals , and to have harmful effects on health by causing cancers, behavioural changes and abnormalities of reproduction".

good resolution

I ostensibly reduce my consumption of cheese and buy rice from the Camargue or Spain. Concerning dioctylphthalate, I avoid plastic food packaging and favour natural cosmetics.

toxSeek analysis report - Photo: © Juliette Duclos/Reporterre

Step 2: "Lead affects all animals".

"You've been to Brittany recently? asks Matthieu Davoli. Normally, it is rather the Bretons who have a high level of uranium." With my eyes in the air, I think back to my last weekend, a few weeks ago, in Morbihan. After some research, I discovered that a subsidiary of Areva had exploited uranium in about forty Breton mines until 1984. And that the sites would still be contaminated by these radioactive materials. But it was impossible to ensure with certainty that there was a correlation, since analyses had been detecting contamination for the past three months. "But in the long run, on certain heavy metals such as uranium, arsenic or nickel, we will be able to identify the risk zones where there is particular pollution", hopes François Veillerette.

Strontium is the second heavy metal in my body whose level is on alert. On</nw>" On</nw> observes it in high quantities in drowning victims, as it is naturally present in seawater, comments Matthieu Davoli. It is also found in cleaning products or certain foods, such as dairy products." Except that at high doses, strontium causes bone disorders. But François Veillerette me cleansing: "Everything the world has it. Here, it is the exposure over several months that is measured, there is no health warning to pull."

Last inorganic pollutant at exposure levels "alert": lead. Here again, it is not easy to identify potential sources. I take a first look at the water that flows from my tap. Guilty? Maybe. In 2017, the French Food Safety Agency (Anses) published an expert report indicating that the presence of lead was linked to old pipes. But I could just as easily blame the paintings in my building or the stained glass windows in the church next door. Or the hunters of the Oise. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) estimates that about 40,000 tonnes of lead are dispersed in ecosystems each year, of which "21,000 tonnes are used by hunters". According to ECHA, up to two million birds die each year from lead poisoning in Europe. "Lead affects all animals on which it has been studied, from migratory birds to humans (...) in particular on brain development or on the kidney." Well, that's all right then...

good resolution

To avoid lead, I let the water run before drinking, to avoid water that has stagnated in the pipes. As for strontium and uranium, it is still too early to make any assumptions. If in doubt, I might wait a little before going back to Morbihan.