Pesticides in Milk Causing Brain Damage - Support Raw and Grass-Fed Dairy

drinking raw milk

Story at-a-glance -

  • Residues of the insecticide heptachlor were found in 90 percent of heavy milk drinkers’ brains compared to 63 percent for those who consumed no milk
  • Those who drank more than two cups of milk per day had 40 percent fewer brain cells in the mid-brain than those who drank less milk
  • Milk intake is associated with SN neuron loss in the brain, a hallmark of Parkinson’s

By Dr. Mercola

Both pesticides and dairy products have been linked to Parkinson’s disease in the past, and a new study suggests the combination of products – pesticides in your milk – could also play a role.

The study tracked nearly 450 men from Honolulu, Hawaii, an area where high levels of the insecticide heptachlor were used on pineapple fields during the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.1 Very high levels of the insecticide were found in milk in Hawaii during the ‘80s as a result.

The study revealed a strong association between heptachlor residue and the loss of brain cells, especially among heavy milk drinkers. Among those who drank the most milk, residues of heptachlor were found in 90 percent of brains compared to 63 percent for those who consumed no milk.

Further, those who drank more than two cups of milk per day during the ‘60s had 40 percent fewer brain cells in the midbrain substantia nigra (SN) area of the brain upon their death than those who drank less milk. Diminished substantia nigra is often seen in Parkinson’s disease.

The study showed that milk intake is associated with SN neuron loss in the brain, a hallmark of Parkinson’s.

And while the milk in the study wasn’t directly tested to determine if it was contaminated, heptachlor was known to be found at excessively high levels in the Hawaiian milk supply during the time of the study’s milk-intake data collection.

What Else Might Be Lurking in Your Milk?

In 2011, Spanish and Moroccan researchers used a highly sensitive test to determine what types of medications could be found in a variety of milk (cow, goat, and human breast milk).

They hit the chemical jackpot. Medications used to treat diseases in both humans and animals were revealed. Among the drugs and hormones detected were:2

Anti-inflammatories (niflumic acid, mefenamic acid, ketoprofen, diclofenac, phenylbutazone, naproxen, flunixin, and diclofenac) Antibiotics (florfenicol) Natural hormones (estrone)
Sex hormones (17-beta-estradiol) Steroid hormones (17-alpha-ethinylestradiol) Anti-malaria drugs (pyrimethamine)
Anti-fungal drugs (triclosan)    

While all types of milk tested contained chemicals, cow's milk contained the highest levels. Some of these drugs and hormones were given to the cows directly, while others were likely ingested from the cattle food or contamination on the farm.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authority to require milk be tested if evidence exists that drug residues may be in the milk supply.

However, although the FDA has stopped some dairy farms from selling their cattle for meat after drug residue violations, this prohibition doesn’t typically extend to the milk.3

This is ironic, since the FDA and other government agencies seem to have no problem going after raw milk farmers, even when there is no evidence of contamination whatsoever.

Farmers Continue to Be Harassed for Selling Safe Raw Milk

Michael Schmidt, a raw milk farmer in Canada, has been battling with the government for decades in order to provide safe raw milk to area residents.

He has been harassed with threats, surveillance, intimidation, and raids, even though no one has ever gotten sick from drinking the raw milk products he provides.

Since it is illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, those who wanted to enjoy Schmidt’s raw milk products formed the Glencolton farm share, in which each owned a piece of a cow and could therefore legally enjoy its milk.

The government eradicated this loophole, however, so the shareholders moved to own the farm instead of just the cow. The government still intervened, forcing the members to “operate with caution” out of fear that they might be raided while trying to pick up a gallon of milk.

Although members have tried to set up meetings with government officials to outline their concerns and reach an agreeable conclusion, the government has not been interested.4

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Surveillance Cameras Take the Raw Milk Wars to the Next Level

The case is getting even more outrageous, as the Ministry of Natural Resources reportedly set up surveillance cameras on public property without residents’ permission.

Schmidt and others believe the cameras’ purpose is to monitor Glencolton farm’s raw milk production, although area police wouldn’t disclose who owned the cameras or why they were there.

Schmidt and other residents removed the cameras and now he’s being charged with theft. As reported by Collective Evolution:5

Neighbors of Schmidt took it upon themselves to take down the cameras and work to discover who placed them there (and why). They found over 80,000 images and video on SD cards of citizens jogging, walking dogs, and moving through day-to-day life.

They called the police to find out whose cameras they were but were unsatisfied when police refused to disclose their ownership and instead demanded the cameras be handed over.

Schdmit refused and cited an infraction to privacy, transparency, and justice as his main reason for not giving them up. Now, he is being charged with theft under $5k for not sitting by while the government invades the privacy of his community.

… All Schmidt and his advocates ask for is their right to choose what they put into their bodies … This group of people is fighting for way more than the right to drink raw milk.

In a way, they are a microcosm of the greater threat to our privacy and rights, and the more we go along with whatever the state says without question, the more we give up our individual sovereignty.”

Australians Rally for Raw Milk

In Australia, it’s illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption, so it may instead be labeled as “bath” milk that’s sold for cosmetic purposes. In December 2014, a 3-year-old boy from Victoria reportedly died after drinking raw milk labeled as “bath” milk, but the coroner’s report into the death has not been released.

After the death, the government introduced a requirement that a bittering agent be added to all “bath” milk to prevent anyone from drinking it.

Mark McAfee, the founder of Organic Pastures Dairy, and one of the leaders in the raw milk movement, spoke at an event in Melbourne hosted by the Australian Raw Milk Movement.

He believes the time is right in Australia to begin the debate about consumption of raw milk products, and noted that the bittering agent requirement was “continuing the charade that bath milk is not consumed and people are taking a bath in it.”6

Milk from Grain-Fed Cows Likely Contains Glyphosate

Glyphosate is another pesticide that’s likely to be contaminating pasteurized milk, as many dairy farmers feed their cows genetically engineered (GE) corn in lieu of their natural diet, grass. Their cornfields, in turn, are sprayed with Roundup, of which glyphosate is the active ingredient. This is even true in states like Vermont, which was the first in the U.S. to require labeling on GE foods.

Raw milk from grass-fed cows is far less likely to be contaminated with glyphosate, even if it’s not organic, because the cows don’t eat corn. According to VTDigger in June 2015:7

“Most conventional Vermont dairy farmers this spring sprayed their fields with glyphosate, a weed killer that is gaining popularity among dairy farmers who grow corn to feed their cows.

On fields where weeds and grass are brown, many farmers have already sprayed the herbicide this year and will likely spray again. According to state data, nearly all of the corn grown in Vermont is genetically engineered to survive the application of pesticides.

Over the past decade, farmers who plant ‘Roundup Ready’ corn have increasingly turning to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, to kill a variety of weeds that take nutrients, water and sunlight away from corn, which can affect yields.

In 2013, Vermont farmers and chemical applicators purchased five times more glyphosate than they did a decade ago, according to new data requested from the Agency of Agriculture.”

It’s unclear just how much glyphosate may be in U.S. milk because the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t test for its residues in food.

This is concerning because in a study published in The Lancet, scientists convened by the World Health Organization found that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans."8 Past research has also found glyphosate residues “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.”9 

Glyphosate also causes extreme disruption of microbes’ function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over. In a study published in 2013, researchers even concluded that glyphosate is a xenoestrogen that is functionally similar to estradiol, the most potent human estrogen, and concentrations in the parts-per-trillion range had carcinogenic effects.10

Overall, glyphosate has a number of devastating biological effects, including the following, which is why it’s a chemical you certainly do not want in your milk:

Nutritional deficiencies, as glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop Disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are essential amino acids not produced in your body that must be supplied via your diet)
Increased toxin exposure (this includes high levels of glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself)Impairment of sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate deficiency
Systemic toxicity — a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for overgrowth of pathogensGut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut, and food allergies such as gluten intolerance)
Enhancement of damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins as a result of glyphosate shutting down the function of detoxifying enzymesCreation of ammonia (a byproduct created when certain microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead to brain inflammation associated with autism and Alzheimer's disease

Nutrition Group Tells the FDA: Raw Milk Cheese Is Safe

In August 2015, the FDA issued a request for comments on "potential intervention measures to reduce the risk of foodborne illness" from raw milk cheeses. More than 70 comments have been added, including a comprehensive comment from the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation who is also a cheesemaker, explained:11

"Unfortunately, the FDA is starting with an incorrect assumption, namely that more regulations would benefit consumers of raw milk cheeses … But the government's own data shows that there have been very, very few outbreaks from raw milk cheeses produced under the current regulations. Imposing additional testing or lengthening the aging period would simply drive many artisan producers out of business and reduce consumer choices."

Included in the Weston Price Foundation’s comments was an extensive review of the scientific literature related to raw milk cheeses, including their safety in comparison to pasteurized cheeses. According to Fallon Morell:12

The scientific studies show that the diverse community of microorganisms in raw milk cheese effectively limits the growth of pathogenic organisms, and thus post-process contamination is actually a greater risk in cheeses made from pasteurized milk."

Mark McAfee has on many occasions tried to set the record straight with U.S. authorities regarding the safety of raw milk products, including cheese, to no avail. Most of the outbreaks associated with raw milk cheese have been linked to illegal Mexican bath tub cheese that is not made from raw milk produced in the U.S. – and new regulatory requirements against illegal bathtub cheese would be “futile.”13

Support Raw, Grass-Fed Milk Products

Raw milk dairy products from organically raised pasture-fed cows rank among some of the healthiest foods you can consume. It’s far superior in terms of health benefits compared to pasteurized milk, and if statistics are any indication, it’s safer, too.

While many believe that milk must be pasteurized before it can be safely consumed, it’s worth remembering that raw milk was consumed for eons before the invention of pasteurization. It’s also important to realize that pasteurization is only really required for certain kinds of milk; specifically that from cows raised in crowded and unsanitary conditions, which is what you find in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

It really needs to be pasture-raised, NOT pasteurized. Organically raised cows that are allowed to roam free on pasture where they can graze for their natural food source produce very different milk. Their living conditions promote and maintain their health and optimize their milk in terms of the nutrients and beneficial bacteria it contains. A number of supportive legislative efforts are underway.

This includes the Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4307) and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4308), the latter of which would allow raw milk to be sold nationwide, across state lines. HR 4308 would also prevent the federal government from interfering with trade of raw dairy products between states where distribution or sale of raw milk is already legal. In 2014, Rep. Thomas Massie said:14

"As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers. Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk. The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety."

The fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. If the FDA and other government agencies are allowed to impose their view of "safe food" on consumers, raw milk won't be the only thing lost — all food could potentially be pasteurized, irradiated, and genetically engineered.

The effort to reclaim your right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! Getting your raw milk and other food from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality food. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website.

California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at As with all foods, the source matters, and this is just as true with raw milk as any other food. If you’re interested in raw milk, here are tips for finding high-quality raw milk sources.