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Study uncovers cocktail of 'toxic' chemicals in wines: 'Should be of grave concern'

Research from the UK government found that wines with multiple pesticide residues had risen from 14% in 2016 to 50% in 2022.

Research from the UK government found that wines with multiple pesticide residues had risen from 14% in 2016 to 50% in 2022.

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Wine lovers might sometimes enjoy a blend, which involves mixing different wine grapes, sometimes from different locations, to create something new. 

However, one type of blend will not be coveted by oenophiles.

What's happening?

The Pesticide Action Network has warned that pesticide cocktails are becoming an increasingly prominent feature of British wines. Since 2016, PAN UK estimates the presence of herbicides in wines has increased threefold. 

As the Ecologist detailed, PAN UK analyzed 72 wine samples and found residues of 19 pesticides, including nine that were known carcinogens. 

Furthermore, research from the UK government found that wines with multiple pesticide residues had risen from 14% in 2016 to 50% in 2022. 

"This massive rise in 'pesticide cocktails' should be of grave concern because we know that chemicals can become more harmful when combined, and yet we continue to set safety limits for just one chemical at a time," said PAN UK policy officer Nick Mole.

"Wine lovers shouldn't have to risk exposure to an array of hazardous pesticides when they fancy a tipple. The organic wine sector is flourishing, proving that it is entirely possible to produce wine without relying on toxic chemicals."

Why is pesticide exposure concerning?

First and foremost, the presence of harmful chemicals in wine is a risk to human health. Substances linked to cancer are not what you'd want to be ingesting with a glass of red or white.

But it's not just those drinking wine who are at risk. People living or working in wine-producing areas are also exposed to toxic pesticides. 

For example, PAN UK pointed out that a study in France found that children living near vineyards had a higher risk of leukemia. Meanwhile, separate research in France found that exposure to pesticides used in vineyards increases the likelihood of developing Parkinson's disease. 

But pesticides can also cause environmental damage. While farmers want to stop insects from eating crops — decreasing yields and affecting income — these chemicals could affect other plant growth. Trees and greenery are so important in removing planet-warming gases from the air, and they also support pollinators, which are vital for the food supply network.

These chemicals can also find their way to water sources following storm run-off or simply by being blown by the wind during spraying. There, they can kill aquatic animals and plant life. 

What can be done to avoid pesticide use?

Organic wine should always be a safer bet to have less chemical pesticide exposure. As Whole Foods puts it, "Wines that are labeled organic must be made with 95% organically produced ingredients, most notably organic grapes grown without the use of toxic persistent pesticides."

While solutions are being sought to remove the presence of pesticides in large-scale agricultural activities, keeping them out of the garden at home is also important.

There are natural solutions to stop bugs from devouring plants, such as trap crops like nasturtiums or organic deterrents like onions

Opting for natural methods will not only allow your plants to thrive but also reduce the risks associated with pesticide chemicals.

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