May 1, 2014
Organic Coffee

The pesticides used in coffee are a combination of organochlorines and organophosphates; the former of the two being the most harmful. An organochlorine routinely used to spray coffee crops is Endosulfan (a relative of the infamous DDT), which is on the the US National Priorities List. It was banned from use in the US in 2010, but routinely shows up in water, fish, and human breast milk. Fat soluble chemicals stick around longer because they can be stored long term in fat tissue, and cannot be dissolved with water. This follows the same reasoning that fat soluble vitamins are much more likely to result in toxicity compared with the water soluble ones.

It is important to note that many of the chemicals eventually banned in the US are still being utilized in developing countries, from which most coffee is imported. In many cases, no standards have been established in these countries with regard to toxicity… which leads to workers being exposed to dangerous levels of the chemicals, and oftentimes irreversible water/ soil/ air pollution results in similarly irreversible health conditions.

These pesticides have been linked with:

• Nerve damage (causing irreversible, prolonged muscle excitation/ contraction)

• Endocrine disorders – by influencing important sex hormones like prolactin, luteinizing hormone, and thyroid stimulating hormone.

• Respiratory issues (from asthma to paralysis of respiratory muscles) and cancer in chronically exposed farm workers.

• Liver damage.

• Cell mutations that can lead to cancer in fish, mammals… and this is a surprising one… bacteria (who are notorious for their ability to adapt and multiply under the most unfriendly of circumstances)!

• Lowered levels of glutathione (a major antioxidant)

• Reproductive consequences

• Mitochondrial dysfunction, resulting in altered ability to produce cellular energy

Environmental consequences:

• Long-term water (river and ocean), air (atmospheric and indoor), soil pollution

• Toxic to fish, plankton, and especially crustaceans = toxic to humans that consume seafood!

To roast or not to roast?

In a study by the NIH, coffee beans were tested to determine whether roasting had an effect on pesticide levels. The beans were spiked with organochlorines, and residues were measured both before and after roasting. The study revealed that roasting eliminates a significant amount (about 90%) of the residues. Note that even minimal amounts of these pesticides can be toxic to ocean fish, and impact not only the health of the consumer and the farmer, but also our fragile ecosystem.

In choosing to buy organic…

You are not only taking charge of your personal health, but also:

Helping developing countries create jobs that don’t negatively impact farmers’ health

Helping to foster a sustainable industry and Earth!

And perhaps most importantly… creating good Karma all around!

Written by L.A.-based nutritionist, Vivian Kanchian Contributing writer for For private consultations, email: