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Is eating organic more expensive? In the long-run the answer would be NO. Synthetic pesticides or fertilizers used on vegetables and fruits affects our health. Pesticides have demonstrably elevated rates of asthma, leukemia, and prostate cancer.

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From Red Bluff Daily News:

Pesticide drift from a commercial strawberry field in the Bend area has a group of residents actively concerned about how the chemicals used will affect their health.

When Sam Sleezer, 37, and his father-in-law Manuel Silveira, 65, installed new scientific devices to measure air quality on their neighboring properties in the Bend area, they hoped that they would find their concerns were unwarranted.

I’m not against farming, Silveira said.

However, results came back that levels of a toxic chemical found were far above safe levels beyond the time frame that it was supposed to be in the air.

The two men brought their concerns to the state capitol March 20 as discussion in the Department of Pesticide Regulation reached a climax over the use of methyl iodide that was approved under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The following day, the manufacturer for methyl iodide pulled the product and decided to no longer distribute it for use in the U.S.

However, similar chemicals, such as methyl bromide and chloropicrin are still in use and part of the compound applied in the Bend strawberry fields.

Concerned about his children, Sam and Manny, ages 3 and 5, who play just feet from the 50-plus acre field, Sleezer is considering moving if the county continues to allow the company to use dangerous chemicals.

Another neighbor already moved because of concerns, he said. There are still 17 children total that live all around the same field.

County officials say that Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., the owners of the field next to the Silveira and Sleezer properties, is within the legal limits and they have no good reason to deny the company a permit to fumigate.

County Agricultural Commissioner Rick Gurrola, who has the authority to approve or deny the grower’s pesticide use permit, based his decision on scientific data and evaluation from a legal standpoint, he said.

There’s risk with all chemicals, Gurrola said.

There’s risk with gasoline.

However, California is one of the most heavily regulated states and many chemicals banned here are used in other states, he said.

The chemicals used by Driscoll are within regulation.

The scientific data collected by the residents is flawed, Gurrola said.

Data was collected incorrectly and they are using uncertified equipment or techniques.

Sleezer and Silveira, who helped form Healthy Tehama Farms, a group of at least 20 individuals who are working to protect the community from dangerous exposure to fumigants, got a grant for $3,000 to perform the air quality tests.

The equipment, Drift Catchers invented by the Pesticide Action Network, collects air samples in small tubes that can be analyzed later for pesticide levels.

After analysis was completed at University of California at Davis, the report showed that over the eight-day study, during and after the fumigants were applied, Nov. 4-11, 2011, concentrations of chloropicrin, a known carcinogen, were on average twice as high as the acceptable levels determined by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The results imply that lifetime exposure at those levels would cause 151 excess cases of cancer per 1 million people on average.

Silveira bought his property from a man who suffered from thyroid cancer, and with a quick glance across the field, he could name several other neighbors who had incidents of cancer as well.

He and Sleezer had heard complaints about sore throats, burning eyes and other illnesses when the fumigants were used, but nobody could prove it was from the pesticides.

Sleezer, a former soldier, remembered checking the mail in a community locked box next to the strawberry field when he suddenly felt as if he was back inside a gas chamber, he said. He and his wife felt their eyes and throats burning.

Some of the families are given a stipend and asked to stay away for three days when the fumigants are applied.

Sleezer, who works as a child guardian for supervised family visitations, keeps free-range specialty chickens as a hobby.

After a time away, he returned home to a nightmare, he said.

I came home and 28 chickens were strewn all over the yard dead, Sleezer said.

Clearing them out before his sons could see them, he saved some of the animal carcasses to try to find out what killed them.

After some testing, he still doesn’t know why they died, but the timing of the pesticide use was odd, he said.

Healthy Tehama Farms and the Pesticide Action Network have asked three times for the county to deny a permit to Driscoll Strawberry Associates without success.

More.

From PBS’s Need to Know (2010):

Does eating organic really make a difference? A new study says it does.

The study, published in the May 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics, revealed that children exposed to toxic pesticides known as organophosphates are at increased risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders in children, with diagnoses increasing 3 percent a year between 1997 and 2006, and totaling 4.5 million children. Symptoms include difficulties paying attention and controlling impulsive behavior, and they can be caused by genetics as well as exposures to environmental toxins.

The study’s research team, led by Maryse Bouchard, a researcher at the University of Montreal, analyzed urine samples from 1,139 children ages 8 to 15. Children with higher urinary levels of dialkyl phosphate metabolites (DAP), which are markers of organophosphate exposure, were more likely to be diagnosed as having ADHD. With each tenfold increase in DAP, the odds of having ADHD rose by more than half.

“What was surprising was that we saw there was an increased risk of ADHD even at low levels of exposure,” Bouchard said in a recent phone interview. “We saw that children with above-average levels of exposure had twice the risk of ADHD as those with undetectable levels.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), organophosphate pesticides were first used as nerve agents in World War II. Today, they are the most widely used insecticides available, with more than 40 types registered for use. In 2001, approximately 73 million pounds of organophosphates were used in the U.S. The EPA states that all organophosphates “run the risk of acute and subacute toxicity” and “pose significant health risks to people who are exposed to them through their work.”

But CropLife America, which represents pesticide manufacturers, said in response to the study that “more research is needed” to ascertain if there is a direct link between pesticide exposure and ADHD: “The class of crop protection compound that is the subject of this study has been approved and registered by the U.S. EPA, and when used according to the label, the EPA has determined it to be safe.”

Organophosphates have already been proven to have adverse health effects in infants and children, Bouchard and her research team reported, including behavioral problems, developmental delays and poorer short-term memory. According to the National Academy of Sciences, infants and children receive most of their exposures to pesticides through diet. Because of their lower body weight and developing brains, they are more susceptible to pesticide toxicity than adults. A 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program found detectable levels of the organophosphate insecticide malathion in 28 percent of frozen blueberry samples, 25 percent of fresh strawberry samples and 19 percent of celery samples.

The Union of Concerned Scientists writes that the growth of industrial agriculture, which views the farm as a factory, has led to a rise in pesticide use. According to the group, a key feature of industrial agriculture is cultivating a single crop, or monoculture, which depletes the soil and invites pests, resulting in an increased need for more herbicides and pesticides. The U.S. grows all of its major commodity crops in monoculture, a practice bolstered by government subsidies and agribusinesses that manufacture seeds, pesticides and fertilizers.

“This is the first study on the subject so we can’t be definitive, but I think it’s fair for parents to want to be prudent and reduce exposure to pesticides,” said Bouchard. She recommended not using pesticides in or outside of the home and washing all fruits and vegetables carefully, even with a little soap, to get rid of pesticide residues in produce like apples or bell peppers.

But even the organic label isn’t a guarantee. “Buying organic is a good idea, but I know it’s hard for a lot of families because it’s so expensive,” Bouchard said. As an alternative, she suggested buying fruits and vegetables at a farmers’ market. “Even if it’s not labeled organic, the produce from a small producer will contain less pesticides, since they don’t do monocultures.”

Related: Read the study

Image from Flickr.

From

Dr. Landrigan discusses why the Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) was created at Mount Sinai. Scientific evidence is strong and continuing to build that hazardous exposures in the modern environment are important causes of these diseases. Indoor and outdoor air pollution are now established as causes of asthma. Childhood cancer is linked to solvents, pesticides, and radiation. Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences has determined that environmental factors contribute to 28% of developmental disorders in children.

The Mission of the CEHC is to address this challenge — to protect children from toxic chemicals in their air, their water, and their food by spearheading efforts to track the root environmental causes of disease. The Center’s research builds on over three decades of work by its director Dr. Philip Landrigan, a renowned pediatrician and epidemiologist who has devoted his career to protecting children against environmental threats to health.

To view Mount Sinai’s Children’s Health Campaign containing tips, facts, videos, articles and more on important children’s health issues such as diabetes, autism, asthma, allergies and nutrition, click here.

To view the Children’s Environmental Health Center, click here.

From Bay Citizen:

Organic-produce buyers who think they are striking a blow against a chemical-heavy industrial food system may be surprised when it comes to one of California’s signature fruits: those “organic” strawberries that overflow from baskets at local farmers’ markets are not nearly as organic as they may think.

In a letter sent to the United States Department of Agriculture last month, an advocacy group in San Francisco and a triad of local growers demanded an end to what they say are vague federal regulations that allow millions of pounds of toxic chemicals to be used to grow plants that eventually produce strawberries labeled as organic.

“Seeds and plant stock widely used in organic agriculture are grown with prohibited materials that violate existing regulations and that jeopardize the credibility of the organic label,” the letter reads. Signed by three growers and the Pesticide Action Network, it added that officials with the National Organic Program at the department “must act with some urgency” to support production of a berry that is sustainable from start to finish.

Berries — including blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries — present a unique challenge to growers of organic crops. They all go through at least one rotation as non-fruiting nursery plants, and during that stage are fumigated with chemicals including methyl bromide, a soil sterilizer and pesticide known to be depleting the ozone layer.

The letter singles out strawberries, a particularly pest-prone crop and the jewel of California’s fruit basket. The state pumps out crates of the berries by the millions, shipping them across the country and internationally. It also produces the majority of the world’s strawberry nursery plants.

What it lacks is a single organic nursery.

In 1984, California produced the nation’s first commercially farmed organic strawberry, sold out of the back of a truck in Santa Cruz. The owner of that truck, Jim Cochran, who now manages a 20-acre organic berry farm, Swanton Berry Farm, in Davenport on the coast north of Santa Cruz, is one of the letter’s signers.

National regulations require that organic produce be grown for three years without synthetic pesticides. Strawberries in California are grown over a five-year cycle, often starting as nursery plants in the fields of Southern California before being transplanted to the sandy soils of Northern California.Before they begin bearing fruit, virtually all plants — whether they will go on to produce conventional berries or organic ones — are treated with fumigants and other synthetic pesticides.

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From The Corporation.

From California Watch:

California’s former top pesticide regulatory official dismissed safety guidelines suggested by her own staff scientists on the grounds that they were “excessive” and too onerous for the pesticide manufacturer, recently released internal documents show.

In response, the scientists lodged a formal protest, calling the official’s actions “not scientifically credible,” according to the documents released by court order last week.

The documents amount to a “smoking gun,” says Paul Blanc, a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at UC San Francisco. Last year, Blanc helped advise the staff scientists on their evaluation of the pesticide, methyl iodide.

“The decision by the regulatory superiors was not science-based,” Blanc said.

In one of the documents, Mary-Ann Warmerdam, who led the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation until this year, weighs a recommendation from her staff that farm workers be exposed to no more than a trace amount of methyl iodide per day. The recommendation – intended to protect farm workers from cancer and miscarriage – is “excessive and difficult to enforce,” Warmerdam wrote in April 2010, about two weeks before the department made its recommendation that California approve methyl iodide. If the restrictions on methyl iodide were approved, she wrote, the pesticide manufacturer might find the recommendations “unacceptable, due to economic viability.”

“(Warmerdam’s) method was to consult with the pesticide manufacturer and determine what was acceptable to them, and then decide on what an acceptable level of exposure was,” said Susan Kegley, a consulting scientist for the Pesticide Action Network, a group suing the state.

Department spokeswoman Lea Brooks declined to comment on the documents, citing the pending litigation. “It is inappropriate to try this case in the media,” Brooks said.

Warmerdam resigned from the department in January. Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to appoint a successor.

Methyl iodide was approved in December 2010, at the tail end of the Schwarzenegger administration. It’s a chemical fumigant used primarily by strawberry growers. A coalition of environmental and farm-worker groups has sued the state to try to ban the chemical.

As part of the suit, the groups asked the Department of Pesticide Regulation to release documents explaining how the agency decided to approve the chemical. The plaintiffs wanted to know how the agency had settled on exposure levels more than 100 times higher than what scientists within the agency believed were safe.

When pressed for documents that might reveal the agency’s rationale, Warmerdam declined to release them, citing the “deliberative process” exemption, which allows government agencies to keep the thought process behind a decision private. A public records act request filed by California Watch and KQED QUEST elicited the same response.

Earlier this month, a judge disagreed, ordering the department to release the documents, which plaintiffs shared with reporters on Thursday.

“DPR has an obligation to explain to the public the basis for its decision,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who is representing the plaintiffs. “The public has every right to know that DPR approved methyl iodide over the objections of its own staff scientists.”

That rift between scientists and regulators first became public last year, in an e-mail exchange unearthed by KQED QUEST and California Watch’s Public Records Act request. In the e-mails, two staff toxicologists – Lori Lim and Ruby Reed – said they had not been part of the decision to approve methyl iodide, and they stood by their original work.

“We had to read between the lines to figure out how the target levels were calculated,” they wrote. Both Lim and Reed have since resigned from the department.

The new documents show staff scientists sending their complaints up the department’s chain of command.

“I am puzzled by the numbers,” staff scientist Jay Schreider wrote in a memo to the state’s top toxicologist, Gary Patterson. Approving methyl iodide was “management’s prerogative,” Schreider wrote. But he said managers should not imply that the scientists’ findings “are the basis for that decision, or that the apparent ‘mix and match’ approach provides a scientifically credible basis for the decision.”

In his order, Judge Frank Roesch of the Alameda County Superior Court found that the “great majority” of the department’s documents should never have been withheld in the first place. As for the rest, Roesch found “the interest in public disclosure clearly outweighs agency interest in non-disclosure.”

The documents reveal a rare point of agreement between the department’s scientists and its managers: that methyl iodide may cause brain damage in developing fetuses.

When California first began evaluating methyl iodide, it took the unusual step of bringing in an outside group of scientists, hired to work alongside department scientists, as an independent peer-review group. The scientists, including UCSF’s Blanc, worried that methyl iodide could drift up from strawberry fields and be inhaled by pregnant farm workers or children playing nearby, causing subtle effects such as IQ loss, which might never be detected or traced back to the chemical.

“Methyl iodide concentrates in the fetal brain to levels well above those in the mother,” they wrote in their assessment. “There is a high likelihood that methyl iodide is a developmental neurotoxin.”

The new documents show department managers also contending with the lack of data about methyl iodide’s potential effects on developing brains. In animal tests, they wrote, “several measures of neurological deficiency were measured. … Overall, there is a need for a more thorough investigation into developmental neurotoxicity in pre- and post-natal exposures to methyl iodide, because the existing data do not address these exposures.”

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(Image Creative Commons by Donnaphoto.)

From Montreal Gazette:

People with relatively high levels of certain pesticides in their blood may have an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes — particularly if they are overweight, a new study suggests.

The study, reported in the journal Diabetes Care, is not the first to link chemical pollutants to diabetes.

A number of studies have found a connection between diabetes risk and exposure to older pesticides known as organochlorines, PCBs and other chemicals that fall into the category of “persistent organic pollutants.”

Organochlorines are now banned or restricted in the U.S. and other developed countries, after research linked them to cancer and other potential health risks. PCBs, which were once used in everything from appliances to fluorescent lighting to insecticides, were banned in the 1970s.

However, as the name suggests, persistent organic pollutants remain in the environment for years and build up in animal and human body fat.

In the U.S., diet is the main potential source of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — with fatty foods, like dairy products and oily fish, topping the list.

Lab research has suggested that some persistent organic pollutants impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, which could help explain the link to Type 2 diabetes.

Some of the compounds also have been shown to promote obesity, which is itself a major risk factor for diabetes, noted Riikka Airaksinen of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, who led the new study.

For the study, Airaksinen’s team measured blood levels of several persistent organic pollutants in about 2,000 older adults.

Just over 15 per cent had Type 2 diabetes. The risk was higher, the researchers found, among people with the highest levels of organochlorine pesticides.

Those with levels in the top 10 per cent were about twice as likely to have diabetes as their counterparts in the bottom 10 per cent.

But the link appeared to be limited to people who were overweight or obese.

That, the researchers write, suggests that the pollutants and body fat “may have a synergistic effect on the risk of Type 2 diabetes.”

The results alone do not prove that organochlorine pesticides were the reason for the higher diabetes risk, Airaksinen told Reuters Health in an email.

The researchers accounted for participants’ age, sex, waist size and blood pressure levels. But they had no information on things like diet and exercise habits — which might help explain the pesticide-diabetes link.

But the overall body of research, according to Airaksinen, is pointing toward a cause-and-effect relationship.

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Spraying stops pests from eating crops, however it may also contribute to a host of diseases. Most recently it has been linked to Parkinson's disease

From The Daily Mail:

Scientists have shed new light on a link between Parkinson’s disease and two pesticides, which they hope will improve both prevention and treatment for the neurodegenerative disease.

At present fewer than five per cent of Parkinson’s cases are attributed to genetics while 95 per cent have unknown causes.

Now a team from the University of Missouri School of Medicine thinks toxins such as pesticides could play a part.

The scientists studied the molecular dysfunction that happens when proteins are exposed to enivironmental toxins such as rotenone and paraquat.

‘This study provides the evidence that oxidative stress, possibly due to sustained exposure to environmental toxins, may serve as a primary cause of Parkinson’s,’ said assistant professor Zezong Gu.

‘This helps us to unveil why many people, such as farmers exposed to pesticides, have an increased incidence of the disease.’

Scientists already knew that the disease was associated with oxidative stress, which is when electronically unstable atoms or molecules damage cells.

However, the latest study reveals how oxidative stress causes parkin, a protein responsible for regulating other proteins, to malfunction.

Assistant professor Gu and his team invented a new antibody that allowed them to detect how oxidative stress affected proteins when exposed to a variety of pesticides, including rotenone and paraquat.

They then demonstrated how oxidative stress caused parkin proteins to cluster together and malfunction, rather than performing normally by cleaning up damaged proteins.

‘This whole process progresses into Parkinson’s disease,’ Gu said.

‘We illustrated the molecular events that lead to the more common form of the disorder in the vast majority of cases with unknown causes.

‘Knowing this, we can find ways to correct, prevent and reduce the incidence of this disease.’

Roteone is used in the UK and the U.S however paraquat was banned in Europe in 2007.

The team hope to extend their investigation into preventive treatments and therapies through work at MU’s Center for Botanical Interaction Studies.

After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder.

The condition affects around one million people in the U.S and 120,000 in the UK.

The latest study was published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration.

From The Oklohoman:

California researchers who first established a link between two commonly used pesticides and Parkinson’s disease have found a third crop-enhancing chemical — ziram — that appears to raise the risk of developing the movement disorder. And they have found that people whose workplaces were close to fields sprayed with these chemicals — not just those who live nearby — are at higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, a team of researchers led by UCLA neurologist Dr. Beate Ritz found that exposures to the trio of pesticides were higher in workplaces located near sprayed fields than they were in residences. And the combination of exposure to all three pesticides appears to be cumulative, the team led by Ritz concluded.

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From Reuters:

Exposure to even moderate amounts of certain pesticides during pregnancy may affect infants’ birth size, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that among nearly 500 newborns whose umbilical cord blood was tested for pesticide residues, those with higher levels tended to be smaller at birth.

The chemicals in question include DDT and three other organochlorines — an older group of pesticides that are now banned or restricted in the U.S. and other developed countries, after research linked them to cancer and other potential health risks.

However, the pesticides persist in the environment for years. In the U.S., diet is the main potential source of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — with fatty foods, like dairy products and oily fish, topping the list.

In the new study, researchers found that for each 10-fold increase in any of the four pesticides in newborns’ cord blood, birth weight dipped by roughly 2 to 4 ounces.

Higher levels of DDT were also linked to a decrease in head circumference, while another pesticide — hexachlorobenzene (HCB), once used as a fungicide — was tied to a shorter birth length.

The findings, reported in the journal Pediatrics, do not prove that the pesticides themselves hindered fetal growth.

One problem, the researchers say, is that people are exposed to a “huge variety of chemicals” — in the environment, household products and food, for example.

So higher pesticide levels could simply be a marker of higher chemical exposures in general.

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From USA Today:

Apples are at the top of the list of produce most contaminated with pesticides in a report published today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public health advocacy group.

Its seventh annual report analyzed government data on 53 fruits and vegetables, identifying which have the most and least pesticides after washing and peeling. For produce found to be highest in pesticides, the group recommends buying organic.

Apples moved up three spots from last year, replacing celery at the top of the most-contaminated list; 92% of apples contained two or more pesticides.

“We think what’s happening to apples is more pesticides and fungicides are being applied after the harvest so the fruit can have a longer shelf life,” says EWG analyst Sonya Lunder. “Pesticides might be in small amounts, but we don’t know what the subtle, long-term effects of many of these pesticides are yet.”

The worst offenders also include strawberries (No. 3) and imported grapes (No. 7). Onions top the “clean” list, found to be lowest in pesticides.

By choosing five servings of fruit and vegetables a day from the clean list, most people can lower the volume of pesticides they consume daily by 92%, the report says.

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From The Oklohoman:

California researchers who first established a link between two commonly used pesticides and Parkinson’s disease have found a third crop-enhancing chemical — ziram — that appears to raise the risk of developing the movement disorder. And they have found that people whose workplaces were close to fields sprayed with these chemicals — not just those who live nearby — are at higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, a team of researchers led by UCLA neurologist Dr. Beate Ritz found that exposures to the trio of pesticides were higher in workplaces located near sprayed fields than they were in residences. And the combination of exposure to all three pesticides appears to be cumulative, the team led by Ritz concluded.

More.

From The Telegraph:

Scientists at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, took dozens of samples from women.

Traces of the toxin were found 93 per cent of the pregnant mothers and in 80 per cent of the umbilical cords.

The research suggested the chemicals were entering the body through eating meat, milk and eggs from farm livestock which have been fed GM corn.

The findings appear to contradict the GM industry’s long-standing claim that any potentially harmful chemicals added to crops would pass safely through the body.

To date, most of the global research which has been used to demonstrate the safety of GM crops has been funded by the industry itself.

It is not known what, if any, harm the chemicals might cause but there has been speculation it could lead to allergies, miscarriage, abnormalities or even cancer.

One of the researchers told the scientific journal Reproductive Toxicology: “This is the first study to highlight the presence of pesticides associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, foetal and nonpregnant women’s blood.”

Pete Riley, the director of GM Freeze, a group opposed to GM farming, described the research as “very significant”.

The Agriculture Biotechnology Council, which speaks for the GM industry, has questioned the reliability and value of the research.

Dr Julian Little, its chairman, said: “Biotech crops are rigorously tested for safety prior to their use and over two trillion meals made with GM ingredients have been safely consumed around the world over the past 15 years without a single substantiated health issue.”

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From Yale 360 (by Elizabeth Grossman):

New York City’s low-income neighborhoods and California’s Salinas Valley, where 80 percent of the United States’ lettuce is grown, could hardly be more different. But scientists have discovered that children growing up in these communities — one characterized by the rattle of subway trains, the other by acres of produce and vast sunny skies — share a pre-natal exposure to pesticides that appears to be affecting their ability to learn and succeed in school.

Three studies undertaken independently, but published simultaneously last month, show that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides — sprayed on crops in the Salinas Valley and used in Harlem and the South Bronx to control cockroaches and other insects — can lower children’s IQ by an average of as much as 7 points. While this may not sound like a lot, it is more than enough to affect a child’s reading and math skills and cause behavioral problems with potentially long-lasting impacts, according to the studies.

“This is not trivial,” said Virginia Rauh, one of the study authors, speaking from Columbia University, where she is deputy director of the university’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health and professor of population and family health. What is particularly significant, she said, is that these studies involved so many children from such different communities, yet produced consistent evidence of the pesticides’ effects on cognitive skills and short-term memory.

Rauh said that the new studies were prompted by the long-standing awareness of the neurotoxicity of these pesticides on animals and the chemicals’ widespread use. Given science’s growing knowledge about the measurable effects of neurotoxic chemicals and elements, such as lead, on children’s cognition and behavior, the three recent studies were a logical next step in such research, Rauh explained.

The studies in New York and California were a continuation of research that has been ongoing for 12 years. Two of the studies, led by researchers at Columbia University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, looked at more than 660 children, ages six to nine, living in the South Bronx, Harlem, and other inner city neighborhoods. The New York mothers were exposed primarily indoors, as they lived in buildings where these pesticides were used in public areas and inside apartments. Previous studies of pregnant women in the same New York City neighborhoods had found organophosphate pesticides in all indoor air samples and in the majority of umbilical cord blood taken from these women when they gave birth.

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Learning more about the specific mechanisms by which individual chemicals act — and and the effects they trigger — can point the way to which insecticides should be banned. In their next studies, Rauh and her colleagues plan to follow the children in their study group as they progress through school, using brain-imaging studies, blood analysis, and continued intellectual testing. Engel’s group plans to examine additional genetic factors that may help explain susceptibility to organophosphates.

Two generations after the U.S. stopped widely using the pesticides that Rachel Carson wrote about in Silent Spring, scientists are just beginning to get a distinct picture of how replacement pesticides are affecting the health of children. “We now have additional safety regulations for pesticides,” says Lanphear, ”but that doesn’t mean they’re safe.”

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