Should You Worry About Pesticides in Your Food?
That depends on whether you think dementia adds to your 50-something charm!
Exposure to pesticides could permanently affect the nervous system, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life, researchers say.
New findings support a probable link between toxic chemicals and Alzheimer’s disease.
Two sliced brain diagrams shown for comparison. Left: normal brain. Right: brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. Source: The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR). Click Image to enlarge.
“While no cause for Alzheimer’s disease has been found, [non-inherited] cases are likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors,” said Kathleen M Hayden, PhD, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
Hayden’s research shows that pesticides could affect the rate of flow of acetylcholine, a chemical that’s important for memory.
PET brain Scans. Left: Normal Brain. Right: Alzheimer’s Disease Brain. Source: The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR). Click Image to enlarge.
More than 18,000 pesticides are licensed in the U.S., and about 1 million tons (2 billion pounds) are applied to fruit and crops each year, Hayden said.
“There are 5.3 million Americans [1.7 percent of the US population] living with Alzheimer’s disease, which disrupts memory, learning, and other mental functions. By 2010, there will be nearly half a million new cases each year and by 2050, there will be nearly a million new cases annually, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.” WebMed reported.
“The World Alzheimer’s Report 2009 estimates that 35 million people will have dementia worldwide by 2010. That is less than one half of one percent (0.5%) of the world population.” ANZ Blog reported.
In a new study that involved 4,000 participants, researchers found that the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease increased by 53% among people who worked with pesticides, having adjusted for other factors including age, gender, education and a gene known to raise Alzheimer’s risk.
Neurofibrillary Tangles. Image shows how microtubules desintegrate with Alzheimer’s disease. Source: The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR). Click Image to enlarge.
ANZ Blog said:
Pesticide Exposure Linked to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s Disease
Two new studies provide additional evidence “pointing to a link between pesticide exposure and the risk for neurological disorders.” Medscape reported.
“One study linked high levels of an organochlorine pesticide called beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH) to an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease (PD), while another showed an association between agricultural pesticide exposure and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).”
Persistent organochlorine pesticides
“[P]ersistent organochlorine pesticides (including DDT, dieldrin) were used widely in New Zealand. The main areas of use were agriculture, horticulture, timber treatment and public health (Table 1). Smaller amounts were also used for amenity purposes and in households.” New Zealand Government says.
“Organochlorine contamination: Some of the 60,000 or so synthetic organochlorines that have been formulated since about 1940 are highly persistent or long-lived (e.g. DDT, DDE, PCBs, PCP, HCBs, dioxins, chlordane, lindane, aldrin, dieldrin).” —Truth about New Zealand
Why Do Some Countries Score Much Higher on Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s Cases?
In short, two reasons: First, previous applications of now banned persistent organochlorine pesticides (including DDT, dieldrin); Second, the volume of pesticides applied.
ANZ believes there’s a direct relationship between the volumes of pesticides applied in a given country and numbers of dementia cases nationwide.
“New Zealand has ‘about a dozen’ pesticide manufacturing sites. No information is publicly available about the scale and extent of land contamination associated with these sites with the exception of ‘a disused site in the small coastal town of Mapua , on the Waimea inlet near Nelson. Various pesticides and agricultural chemicals were manufactured and formulated there from 1945 to 1988 by the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company.’”
“DDT was mixed with fertiliser and applied to pasture in a bid to control grass grubs and porina caterpillars. It was also used on lawns and market gardens, parks and sports fields. Its use …was finally banned in 1989. DDT has a half-life of 10 years in dry soils, but its main residue, DDE, is far more persistent, showing little change in soil levels over 20 years.”—Truth about New Zealand
The US study, “1 of the largest of its kind to date and perhaps the first to link a particular pesticide with PD, found that 9 of the 16 pesticides tested were present in study subjects. The pesticide found most often was p.pDDE. It was detected in 100% of the AD patients, 72% of the PD patients, and 86% of the controls.” Medscape report said.
How does that translate into your family’s food safety?
Safe Food Campaign List of “The Dirty Dozen” food is reproduced below:
Safe Food Campaign research
Safe Food Campaign researcher Alison White has listed the top 12 foods in New Zealand that are most likely to contain pesticide residues.
White’s list of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ food is based on data complied by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and includes Bread, dairy products and fruit, both fresh and canned.
They have ranked the food according to the most pesticide residues, number of pesticides detected in total samples and the percentage contaminated with pesticides.
What about other food that are not on the list, but are contaminated nonetheless?
The ‘dirty dozen’ crops and farm produce that are listed on the table were closely followed by cucumber, nectarines, lettuce, tomatoes, wine and pears, according to safe food Campaign research.
How could that affect your kids’ health?
In Birth to Alzheimer’s in 12 products, quoting Food Safety researcher Alison White, ANZ says:
According to a 2006 study, “children who were exposed prenatally to the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, as measured in the umbilical cord, were significantly more likely to have poorer mental and motor development by three years of age and increased risk for behaviour problems.” New Zealand uses Chlorpyrifos on almost all grain, fruit and vegetables. Apples, apricots, celery, grapes, mandarins, oranges, pears, peaches, raisins, sultanas, tomatoes, as well as bread and wine, among others, were recently found to contain the toxic chemical.
“We do not know enough about the effects of these chemicals in our food. However, there are various serious long term effects associated with particular pesticides that are found in our food, including endocrine or hormonal disruption, cancer, immune system suppression, nervous system damage, genetic damage and birth defects. We also know that various pesticides used to grow food have damaging effects on wildlife and the ecosystem.”
The highly toxic chlorothalonil, a fungicide, believed to be a human carcinogen, is found in Celery. The deadly chemical “in laboratory studies has caused DNA damage and embryo loss.” The EPA in the US intends to study Chlorothalonil as a potential endocrine disruptor. “This pesticide has also been found in groundwater, sea water and air and is toxic to many species, including earthworms.”
Celery also contain mancozeb, yet another fungicide, which breaks down to ethylene thiourea and causes cancer, endocrine disruption, goitre and birth defects, the report said.
[Moderator's Note: The parties involved seem to have intentionally left out any mention of the kiwifruit, possibly the most toxic of all NZ produce.]