Pesticides Linked to Brain Damage in Children
A new study published by toxicologists called for the ban of organophosphates (OP), a class of chemicals found in pesticides. The study found organophosphates are linked to brain damage in children and claimed that exposure to OPs are not safe at any levels, even low levels put children and newborns at risk.
Treehugger reported that OP was first manufactured as a human nerve gas agent in the 1930s, but they were converted for use in pesticides in the 1960s. Since then the use of pesticides containing OPs has spread to areas closer to schools, hospitals, recreational parks and shopping malls, among other places. Pet owners also bring OPs into their homes to treat flea and tick infestations in pets.
The research published in PLOS Medicine showed that fetuses and children are most at risk from OP exposure. The study revealed that fetuses develop critical neurological problems when pregnant women are exposed to organophosphates. The authors found that fetuses can suffer the effects of OP exposure if their mothers are exposed to OP pesticides.
“We found no evidence of a safe level of organophosphate pesticide exposure for children. Well before birth, organophosphate pesticides are disrupting the brain in its earliest stages, putting them on track for difficulties in learning, memory and attention, effects which may not appear until they reach school-age. Government officials around the world need to listen to science, not chemical lobbyists,” said one of the paper’s eight co-authors, Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
Some of the health complications that can arise from exposure to OP pesticides include:
- Impaired mental and motor skills
- Memory loss
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Lower IQ rates
- Acute poisoning
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was set to ban OP pesticides on crops during the Obama administration, but the ban was put on hold when the Trump administration came into office. A federal court ordered the EPA to execute the proposed ban, but the federal agency has appealed that decision.
The United Nations reported that up to 200,000 people die from acute pesticide poisonings every year, with most of the deaths occurring in poor countries. The UN added that another 110,000 people die every year from suicides using pesticides.
While governments debate plans to ban OP pesticides worldwide, the study made some suggestions to limit exposure to OP pesticides. These include:
- Stopping the application of pesticides in farms close to schools and residential areas
- Prohibiting the application of pesticides using aerial sprays
- Monitoring levels of chemical contents in watersheds to restrict pollution
- Setting up a federal pesticide reporting system for effective coordination
- Educating health professionals on the symptoms and treatment of pesticide poisoning
- Buying and consuming only organic farm crops after thorough washing