To Pesticide, or Not to Pesticide

Pesticides, scary stuff. According to Dr. Fuhrman, “The EPA reports that the majority of pesticides now in use are probable or possible cancer causers.” Now, Dr. Fuhrman goes on to point out the magnification of this risk in farmer workers. Take a look:
Studies of farm workers who work with pesticides suggest a link between pesticide use and brain cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple myloma, leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the stomach, prostate, and testes.1
No doubt, farmer workers around pesticides are at risk and not only for cancer. In fact, this past September a study of nearly 20,000 farmers established a link between pesticides and asthma-risk. Reuters reported:
Pesticide exposure is a "potential risk factor for asthma and respiratory symptoms among farmers," lead author Dr. Jane A. Hoppin, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, told Reuters Health.


"Because grains and animals are more common exposures in agricultural settings, pesticides may be overlooked," Hoppin warned, adding: "Better education and training of farmers and pesticide handlers may help to reduce asthma risk."

Of the 19,704 farmers included in the study, 127 had self-reported (doctor diagnosed) allergic asthma and 314 had non-allergic asthma.
It gets worse. Pesticide use is being blamed for the “health disaster” afflicting the French Caribbean. This story also broke in September. Here’s some of the AP report:
The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique face a "health disaster" with soaring cancer and infertility rates because of the massive use of banned pesticides on banana plantations, a top cancer specialist warned Monday.


Martinique and Guadeloupe are currently facing "an extremely serious crisis linked to the massive use of pesticides for a great many years," Professor Dominique Belpomme said in a report obtained by AFP Monday.

On Tuesday Belpomme is to submit his findings to the French National Assembly, highlighting the dangers posed by the long-term use of chlordecone, also known as kepone, on banana crops.
Okay, maybe you understand the dangers, but the impact is always more profound when it hits close to home. Kristine Crane of Poked & Prodded wants to know if Iowa farming made her mother sick. Check it out:
When I was little I would sometimes ride with my parents out to farmland my family owned in the Iowa countryside. I remember the thrill of weaving through rows of corn that stood way taller than me.


What my mother remembers most is pulling up weeds. And when I asked her recently if she thought that anything in particular had caused her breast cancer, she said, “I always wondered if there was something on the weeds.”
Granted, Kristine’s mother wasn’t plowing the fields, but still, it makes you wonder. Now, here’s something that makes me wonder. Why is Africa spraying DDT—a pesticide long-know to be dangerous—in residential homes. You’ve got to see this video:

I understand that a ravaging disease like Malaria needs to be stop, but most industrialized nations know DDT comes with a heavy price. In case you didn’t learn about it in school, here’s more info on DDT via Wikipedia. Look:
Concerns about DDT's environmental effects grew out of direct personal observations, usually involving a marked reduction in bird life, later supplemented by scientific investigation. The first recorded group effort against the chemical involved several citizens, including one or more scientists, in Nassau County, New York. Their unsuccessful struggle to have DDT regulated was reported in the New York Times in 1957, and thereby came to the attention of the popular naturalist-author, Rachel Carson. New Yorker editor William Shawn urged her to write a piece on the subject, which developed into Silent Spring, her famous 1962 bestseller. espite the uproar surrounding Silent Spring, DDT remained in use…


…During the late 1960s, pressure grew within the United States to effect a ban on DDT. In January 1971, the U.S. District Court of Appeals ordered William Ruckelshaus, the EPA's first Administrator, to begin the de-registration procedure for DDT. Initially, after a six-month review process, Ruckelshaus rejected an outright ban, citing studies from the EPA's internal staff stating that DDT was not an imminent danger to human health and wildlife. However, the findings of these staff members were criticized, as they were performed mostly by economic entomologists inherited from the United States Department of Agriculture, whom many environmentalists felt were biased towards agribusiness and tended to minimize concerns about human health and wildlife.
It’s worrisome to see countries reviving the usage of DDT—especially spraying everything in the house with it—because as Dr. Fuhrman explains, DDT finds its way into our food supply and its link to cancer is veru profound. More form Dr. Fuhrman:
It has been shown that women with higher levels of pesticides in their bloodstream have a higher risk of breast cancer.2 However, the pesticide shown in these studies to be connected to cancer was DDT, which is no longer used in food production and was banned by the U.S. government in 1972. The problem is that DDT is still in the environment and finds its way back into our food supply, predominately via shellfish and fish consumption.
As for pesticides, I think America should be leading the push for responsible usage or no usage at all. If nothing else, we should be encouraging our citizens and farmers—and other nations that may be watching—to learn from our mistakes.

1. Sanderson WT, Talaska G, Zaebest D, et al. Pesticide prioritization for a brain cancer case-control study. Environ Res 1997;74(2):133-144. Zahm SH, Blair A. Cancer among migrant and seasonal farmworkers: an epidemiologic review and research agenda. Am J Ind Med 1993;24(6):753-766.

2. Wolff MS, Toniolo PG, Lee EW, et al. Blood levels of organochlorine residues and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1993;85(8):648-652.

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