(Naturalhealth365) Organophosphate pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos and diazinon, have been shown to have neurotoxic effects. Although some types of organophosphate insecticides have been banned for residential use, the fact remains that a stunning 33 million pounds were used in the United States in 2007 – with some organophosphates still being used agriculturally.
To make matter even worse, according to recently-published studies, these toxins have left a lasting – and alarming – legacy. Researchers say that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides can harm the most precious resource of all – our country’s children.
Critical WARNING about pesticides: Exposure to organophosphates can lower the IQ of our children
The three independent studies, conducted in California and New York, focused on children from drastically different backgrounds. But all had remarkably similar – and disturbing – results. All three showed that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides, whether used on crops in the fields or to control cockroaches in apartments, can cause long-term effects on the brain health of children – a “bombshell” finding.
All three studies concluded that exposure can affect reading and math skills, cause behavioral problems and lower children’s IQs by up to 7 points!
The pair of New York studies – led by researchers at Columbia University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine – evaluated more than 660 children aged 6 to 9 years old. The children lived in the South Bronx, Harlem and other inner-city neighborhoods, and had been born to mothers exposed to chlorpyrifos.
The team reported that for every increment of prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure, the IQs of the children studied dropped by 1.4 percent, while working memory declined by 2.8 percent. In other words, the association was linear, with greater exposure to pesticides leading to greater effects on cognition.
Study co-author Virginia Rauh, Deputy Director of the Center for Children’s Health at Columbia University, noted that the studies provided “consistent evidence of the pesticides’ effects on cognitive skills and short-term memory.” The drop in IQ scores, Rauh said, is “not trivial” – and can be enough to cause problems in reading and math skills.
California results mirrored those of New York research
The California study, conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and published in Environmental Health Perspectives, focused on over 300 children living in agricultural communities in Monterey County.
Researchers had been enrolling pregnant women in the study since 1999, measuring organophosphate metabolites in their bodies in order to gauge exposure. The families lived and worked near areas in which organophosphates were sprayed on crops, and “wind drift” was believed to play a large part in risk of exposure.
During pregnancy and after the children were born, the families made regular visits to a research center, where they answered questionnaires and underwent various tests, including the Weschler Intelligence Scale for children.
The researchers discovered that every 10-fold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 – point drop in overall IQ scores.
As with the New York studies, the children’s abilities declined in proportion to their mothers’ level of exposure during pregnancy.
Children with the highest levels of exposure scored 7 points lower on standardized IQ tests than children with the lowest levels. These findings held even after researchers adjusted for factors such as maternal education, family income and exposure to other pollutants.
Lead investigator Brenda Eskenazi, a professor of epidemiology at UC Berkeley, remarked that this reduction in IQ could lead to more children needing special services in school – and more being shifted into the “lower end of the spectrum of learning.”
The children will continue to be followed as they attend school, and will continue to undergo brain-imaging studies, blood analysis and intellectual testing. But, no doubt, we (as a society) are heading in a dangerous direction.
Originally developed as chemical weapons: Organophosphates are neurotoxins
Scientists have found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides physically changes the development of areas of the brain that control language, short-term memory, behavior and emotion.
By impairing development of the prefrontal cortex, organophosphate exposure can lead to ADHD and later-life learning and behavior problems, including criminal behaviors.
Despite the fact that organophosphates were initially developed as nerve agents, they were still believed to be “safer” alternatives to organochloride pesticides such as DDT, and their use soared in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1990s, they were among the most widely used insecticides in the world.
Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned the organophosphates chlorpyrifos, diazanon and methyl parathion for residential use, these bans don’t affect agricultural use at all. In fact, more than 30 organophosphates are currently registered for use in the United States, and many are applied to conventionally grown citrus fruits, grapes, nuts, broccoli, strawberries and blueberries.
Of course, you can minimize much of the harm from organophosphates by simply adhering to an organic diet.
European Parliament report: Organic foods help prevent harm to children’s brains from pesticides
According to a report from the European Parliament, the immediate – and obvious – benefit of organic food is that it minimizes exposure to toxins and avoids the pesticide exposure that can damage early-life brain development.
Report co-author Phillipe Grandjean, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, states that organic foods can help protect against the damaging effects on children’s brains of some pesticides.
Neurotoxic organophosphates are not used on organic foods, which in general have far lower amounts of pesticide residue than conventionally-grown foods. And, unsurprisingly enough, people who adhere to organic diets have lower levels of organophosphates in their bodies.
The report highlights other benefits of organic farming as well.
Noting that more antibiotics are currently used in agriculture than in medicine, Prof. Grandjean pointed out that organic farming may also help decrease the prevalence of antibiotic resistance (described as a global health crisis by the World Health Organization). According to U.S. standards, no animal that has received antibiotic treatment can be labeled as “organic.”
Another “plus” for organically grown produce is that it has lower amounts of cadmium. Currently used on conventionally grown leafy vegetables, potatoes, peanuts and grains, cadmium is classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. It has been found to be toxic to kidneys, livers, lungs, and – like organophosphates – children’s developing brains.
It is truly tragic that children are bearing the brunt of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Every effort must be made to eliminate the harm being done – and to ensure that an outrage like this does not happen again.
Sources for this article include:
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