Teen brain health under attack: Study unveils disturbing effects of herbicides on teens

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pesticides-harm-teen-brain-health(NaturalHealth365)  Could the world’s most notorious and widespread use of herbicides be harming the brain health of the next generation?  The answer would surprise most people.

For example, a new study suggests that exposure to substances like glyphosate – the most widely-used weed killer globally, with nearly 300 million pounds of the stuff applied to U.S. crops annually – is linked to poorer cognition and brain function in teens.

Exposure to glyphosate harms attention, language, and other key cognitive functions in teenagers, suggests ALARMING new research

The study, “Urinary Glyphosate, 2,4-D and DEET Biomarkers in Relation to Neurobehavioral Performance in Ecuadorian Adolescents in the ESPINA Cohort,” was published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives.  According to Children’s Health Defense, the ESPINA cohort is an ongoing prospective study that aims to evaluate the developmental effects of secondary pesticide exposure among children, adolescents, and adults.

The study’s co-authors, mostly hailing from the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California San Diego, analyzed urine samples of 519 teenagers between the ages of 11 and 17 who lived in agricultural communities in Ecuador.  The researchers were specifically looking for the following substances within the teens’ urine samples:

  • Glyphosate
  • 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (also known as 2,4-D, another type of widely used herbicide)
  • [3-(diethylcarbamoyl)benzoic acid (DCBA), a metabolite of the insect repellent N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET)
  • 3-(ethylcarbamoyl)benzoic acid (ECBA), also a metabolite of DEET

It’s disheartening but perhaps not surprising to know that glyphosate was detected in the urine of nearly all (98.3 percent) of the teen participants. 2,4-D and DCBA were found in about two-thirds (66.2 percent and 63.3 percent, respectively) of participants, and ECBA was found in about a third (33.4 percent) of participants.

The authors compared this information to how the teenagers performed on various neurobehavioral tests assessing five cognitive domains: attention/inhibitory control, memory/learning, language, visuospatial processing, and social perception.

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After adjusting their results for demographic and anthropometric characteristics, including sexual maturation, the authors landed on a variety of concerning conclusions:

  • All five neurobehavioral domains were negatively associated with exposure to the herbicide 2,4-D, although only statistically significant associations were observed with attention/inhibition, language, and memory/learning.  In other words – greater concentrations of 2,4-D in the urine were associated with poorer performance on those essential cognitive functions.
  • Glyphosate exposure had a “statistically significant negative association only with social perception” (e.g., the ability to recognize the emotions of others)
  • DEET metabolites, on the other hand, were not found to be associated with neurobehavioral performance

The researchers concluded that higher urinary concentrations of 2,4-D and glyphosate “were associated with lower scores in attention and inhibitory control, language, visuospatial processing, memory and learning.”

How much do these agricultural companies really know about the long-term effects of these harmful chemicals – and do they genuinely CARE?

Just imagine the implications of these findings (which the authors acknowledge require further replication among pediatric and adult populations).

As it stands now, about 1 in 6 U.S. kids between the ages of 6 and 17 has a treatable mental health disorder, including depression, anxiety problems, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a 2019 paper published in JAMA Pediatrics.

And with so much more to be learned about the long-term impact of repeated, cumulative exposure to herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) – the latter of which has even been linked to childhood obesity and liver damage – it is truly worrisome to think about the consequences that our future generations may have to endure as a result of the myopic and profit-driven actions of today’s agricultural companies.

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