Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:59 pm

Leading health experts are calling for a ban of common insecticides as they put children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders…

Researchers are calling for governments to phase out all common insecticides known as organophosphates because there is enough evidence that prenatal exposure puts children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Even low exposure levels linked to lower IQs

“There is compelling evidence that exposure of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides is associated with lower IQs and difficulties with learning, memory or attention in their children,” says lead author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Professor of Public Health Sciences, director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center and researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute.

“Although a single organophosphate – chlorpyrifos – has been in the national spotlight, our review implicates the entire class of these compounds,” adds Prof Hertz-Picciotto.

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“It should be no surprise that studies confirm that these chemicals alter brain development since they were originally designed to adversely affect the central nervous system.” – Prof Irva Hertz-Picciotto

It’s a chemical weapon of war on our food

Originally developed as nerve gases and weapons of war, organophosphates today are used to control insects at farms, golf courses, shopping malls and schools.

They kill pests by blocking nerve signalling.

People can come into contact with these chemicals through the food they eat, the water they drink and the air that they breathe.

Elevated risks even with low-level exposures

While existing limits on organophosphates have reduced exposures, the review authors say this isn’t enough.

Based on more than 30 epidemiologic studies and scores of experimental studies in animals and cell cultures, they believe that the evidence is clear: Exposure to organophosphates before birth, even at levels currently considered safe, is associated with poorer cognitive, behavioural and social development.

“It should be no surprise that studies confirm that these chemicals alter brain development since they were originally designed to adversely affect the central nervous system,” says Prof Hertz-Picciotto.

Why are we still use these insecticides?

Despite growing evidence of harm and recommendations from scientific advisors to and scientists within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, many organophosphates remain in use. This may be in part because low-level, ongoing exposures typically don’t cause visible, short-term clinical symptoms, leading to the incorrect assumption that these exposures are inconsequential, according to Prof Hertz-Picciotto.

“Acute poisoning is tragic, of course, however the studies we reviewed suggest that the effects of chronic, low-level exposures on brain functioning persist through childhood and into adolescence and may be lifelong, which also is tragic,” explains Prof Hertz-Picciotto.


Recommendations to protect children

In addition to conducting the scientific review, the authors offered recommendations for substantially reducing organophosphate exposures, including:

  • Removing organophosphates from agricultural and non-agricultural uses and products
  • Proactively monitoring sources of drinking water for organophosphate levels
  • Establishing a system for reporting pesticide use and illnesses

Until a ban can occur, the reviewers recommend:

  • Greater medical and nursing education on organophosphates to improve treatment for and patient education on avoiding exposures
  • Training for agricultural workers in their languages on proper handling and application of organophosphate pesticides
  • Increased use of less-toxic alternatives and a transition toward sustainable pest-control measures

Source: University of California – Davis Health via 

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