I just participated in an excellent webinar on pesticides and cognitive deficits in children run by the Pesticide Action Network of North America. If you are not familiar with this organization, they provide an abundance of high-quality, well documented information on the subject. One of the best reports for a general audience out there is A Generation in Jeopardy: How Pesticides are Undermining our Children’s Health and Intelligence, available for free at http://www.panna.org/publication/generation-in-jeopardy.
Much of the webinar, which featured Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, and PANNA activists, repeated information already posted on this blog and elsewhere. Pesticides and other environmental chemicals are responsible for dramatic increases in childhood cancer, autism, ADHD, and lowered IQs. But a few things stood out. One item is a new study (Shelton, 2014) again linking organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos to autism. Children who lived in closer proximity to sprayed fields had significantly higher rates (OR 1.6) of autism. But as Dr. Lamphear said, the cause for this and other maladies is likely multifactorial. Another figure, which I have not seen before, is the efficiency rate for preventing cognitive deficits caused by pesticide exposure: for every one dollar spent in prevention, a benefit in the amount of $17-220 is gained, in health care costs alone. That, of course, is aside from emotional and social burdens such deficits create. For reference, the gold standard for prevention in public health, vaccines, results in $60 of reduced health care costs for every dollar spent. Notably, Kristin Schaefer, PAN activist, pointed out that all regulation of pesticides evolved from laws to prevent farmers from being cheated by hucksters, in 1910. The laws are still designed only for registration and accurate labeling; they are not now and were not then meant to protect human health and the environment. Finally, I would like to quote the verdict of Dr. Lamphear in assessing the entire lack of regulation of pesticides for protection of health in the U.S. He identified the root of the problem as “sociopath” corporations, who cannot be expected to self regulate and who are now “majority shareholders in our country.” He pointed out that even though he is one of the top experts in the field, he is still not able to protect his own children from contamination. Only government regulation can do that. On a more positive note, he thinks that young people get it; perhaps we just need to “let the old guys die.” While I am all for that, I would say we cannot wait so long. New babies are born every day, every single one of them coming into this world already contaminated with scores of carcinogens, mutagens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors, their intelligence already permanently damaged and their body burdens high.
If you are willing to speak up and do something about the deplorable poisoning of our children in this country, please visit PANNA’s action center: http://www.panna.org/get-involved/action-center