The tragedy of two little girls dying from pesticide poisoning in Jerusalem, while their older brothers fight for their lives highlights the immediate daners of pesticides. This tragic incident has finally succeeded in bringing to the forefront the seriousness of overuse of pesticides in a country whose best loved vegetables carry heavy pesticide loads.
Health issues from pesticides on crops and in the home is nothing new. Whether or not these toxic chemicals are directly sprayed on food, they eventually reach our underground water supplies and are present in the air we breathe as well.
The end result of exposure to various types of pesticides, especially DDT, is now being ascertained in studies made by medical authorities in the USA which found correlations between people who had been exposed to the pesticide DDT having greater chance to be afflicted with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in life.
Studies carried out by Jason Richardson, from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey found that although the debilitating mental condition known as Alzheimer’s disease is linked genealogical and lifestyle factors, being exposed to pesticides like DDT may also be contributing to mental deterioration later in life.
Altzheimer’s patients had 4 times the amount of DDT vs control
“DDE can last in the body for a number of years,” said lead author Jason Richardson of Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “When you are looking at DDE levels, it is basically a snapshot of a person’s lifetime exposure to DDT as well as DDE in the environment.”
The findings were published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
Richardson said that while he expected to see a correlation between Alzheimer’s and DDE levels, he did not expect it to be so dramatic. The average amount of DDE in the serum of the 86 people in the Alzheimer’s group was four times greater than the average amount in the control group of 79.
The studies found that those people who were exposed to DDT and related pesticides had much higher levels of a substance called DDE, which is a broken down form of DDT.
“More than likely you’re looking at complex gene-environment interactions. What we found really gives us a starting off point. Now we can use that information to try to understand who is at risk, when and ultimately, why,” said Richardson.
“This is one of the first studies identifying a strong environmental risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” says co-author Allan Levey, MD, PhD at Emory University School of Medicine. “The magnitude of the effect is strikingly large — it is comparable in size to the most common genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s.”
Another researcher, Kathleen Hayden of North Carolina’s Duke University says that researchers would want to follow people prospectively to see whether or not they later become afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
“DDT exposure is not destiny that you’re definitely going to get Alzheimer’s disease. These are things that might increase your risk,” Hayden adds.
The use of DDT was banned in the USA during the 1970’s; but is still in use today in many parts of the world.
People known as “baby boomers” in the USA who were exposed in their youth to DDT and other strong pesticides are now reaching their 70’s and this may account for the rise in mind related illnesses.
In Israel, many immigrants during the 1950’s were literally hosed down with DDT by health works when arriving, due to fears that these people carried lice and other forms of vermin in their hair and on their bodies.
By far, the heavy use of pesticides like DDT being sprayed on crops in some countries is an issue that requires public attention as to what affect these pesticides have on humans.
From the tragedy of the deaths of two little girls, aged 1 1/2 and 4 from pesticide poisoning, the effects on humans of pesticides can be very sad indeed. The take home message is support organic agriculture, and even better yet buy products that support organic regenerative agriculture. And if possible, grow your own food. Start with a Victory Garden.
More on pesticides, including those in food: