August 2021

· 5 min read

Can Pesticides Get Into Your Sports Supplements?

You may have heard warnings that some sports supplements can contain pesticides. Our expert explores how that happens and how to protect yourself.
Close up of man pouring capsules from jar to hand - Beware of Pesticides in Your Sports Supplements| NSF International

As concerns about our health grow, athletes and workout warriors are increasingly taking supplements to boost immunity and sports performance. You may have heard that some sports supplements can contain impurities such as pesticides. You also may be wondering how pesticides used to produce bounties of vegetables and other crops we are getting out of the garden onto pharmacy shelves.

Pesticides include herbicides that combat weeds, insecticides that repel bugs and fungicides that keep plants from getting sick. Although they help protect crops, pesticides can also harm us and our environment. They can cause long-term danger to the health of young children, people with chronic health problems and other vulnerable populations, says John Travis, Technical Leader for NSF International’s Certified for Sport® program.

Here John answers the top five questions about pesticides to better protect yourself from putting more than just your favorite supplement into your body.

  1. 1

    What Is the Risk?

    The risk to your health can be determined by the type of pesticide and the level of exposure. Very low exposure levels are typically not a health risk. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Plant Protection Authorisation set maximum levels that are specific to the treated plant, which ensures that any pesticide residual that may be present is at a safe level of exposure. Products that are tested and certified under programs like Certified for Sport® are verified not to contain unsafe levels of pesticides.

  2. 2

    What Does Exposure Mean?

    Exposure means how much you take in of a contaminant with each pill or powder. This can be based on the amount you use per day.

  3. 3

    What Is My Level of Exposure?

    When you take the recommended serving size on the bottle or package, the amount of potential pesticides that our bodies can actually take in is very low.

  4. 4

    How Do Pesticides Get Into Supplements

    Pesticides may be found in plant-based supplements depending on their use during planting, growth or harvest. Pesticide drift from nearby fields and cross-contamination during harvest are a few ways how small amounts of pesticides can may remain in or on the plant and can be introduced into a dietary supplement.

  5. 5

    How Can I Protect Myself?

    The best way to protect yourself from contaminants in your performance and workout supplements is to purchase products that have been tested to confirm that any residual pesticide levels that may be present are at a safe level. One example is NSF’s Certified for Sport® program which sets maximum allowable levels for contaminants such as pesticides and tests products to verify safe levels of exposure.

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