|Vol. 4, No. 4, 1998 Page 4|
A recent report linking pesticides to cognitive and behavioral problems in children (see related article, Crime Times, 1998, Vol. 4, No. 3, Page 1 & 4) supports the concerns of researcher and Crime Times board member, Bernard Weiss.
"Pesticides are chemicals deliberately designed to sabotage biological mechanisms," Weiss notes in a recent paper, "and insecticides are powerful neurotoxicants. Some have achieved total global distribution in human tissues." Yet information about these chemicals' long-term effects, he charges, is "astonishingly primitive."
According to Weiss, the current body of research, although small, strongly suggests that pesticides can have deleterious effects on the brain. Among the studies he cites:
Weiss notes that many organochlorine compounds are "endocrine disruptors," chemicals which can alter levels of endocrine hormones or otherwise interfere with the functions of the endocrine system. He points out that developmental endocrine disorders often cause behavioral or intellectual problems.
According to Weiss, as many as 45,000 pesticide poisonings occur every year in the United States, and "the EPA estimates that over 100,000 children directly ingest pesticides each year." Moreover, he says, the wide-scale use of many pesticides such as chlordane "has translated into universal exposure."
Given that these chemicals are known neurotoxins, he concludes, "our knowledge of how these chemicals might modify the course of brain development is disturbingly sparse."
"Pesticides as a source of developmental disabilities," Bernard Weiss, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, Vol. 3, 1997, pp. 246-256. Address: Bernard Weiss, Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642.