Archeological evidence confirms that the roots of traditional Chinese medicine can be traced back to millions of years ago. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been said to help with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The evidence supporting these claims are not conclusive enough for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to deem them completely safe nor effective, but herbal remedies have been a long standing staple in Chinese culture.
However, many of the herbs have had trace evidence of hazardous pesticides. An independent environmental group known as Greenpeace, issued a study finding that 65 samples of traditional Chinese herbal products from nine retail chains in nine different cities across China had traces of pesticides.
"These herbs are of doubtful quality and not safe to consume," said Jing Wang, a project leader from Greenpeace.
Their research found that 74 percent of the samples tested positive for pesticides, while 50 percent of the samples contained traces of three or more pesticides.
“Food safety incidents caused by pesticides are all too common now in China, including recent cases involving contaminated cowpeas, chives, and ginger,” according to the report by Greenpeace.
A few known herbs tested were wolfberries, angelica, honeysuckle, Sanqi flowers, and chrysanthemum.
“Some of the pesticides found by Greenpeace are listed as ‘highly hazardous’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), while others had residue levels that would breach European food safety standards,” reported Radio Free Asia. According to Greenpeace, China uses more pesticides than any other country in the world
While there are few to no concrete studies linking these pesticides to certain diseases, many environmental groups believe that there are strong correlations.
But the existing research is alarming. In 2004, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Agriculture Health Study reported increased childhood cancer risk associated with occupational exposure of the parents to pesticides. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives linked parental use of pesticides with an increased risk of brain cancer in children. “Parental exposures may act before the child’s conception, during gestation, or after birth to increase the risk of cancer,” the study said.
Greenpeace in Asia hopes to stop the use of these harmful pesticides on these important Chinese herbs. Their focus is for green development in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea.