Beyond Cancer: Subtle Effects

Should you feel safe if a new pesticide has a “non carcinogenic” label? Maybe, if the new pesticide was tested by EPA. But, as you know if you have read other articles on this site, there are several other health-damaging effects of pesticides and industrial chemicals. Your immune system can be weakened; the activity of your hormones can be disrupted, and the nervous system of the fetus can be damaged during pregnancy.

The linkage between such non-cancerous diseases and toxic chemicals is subtle. Non-infectious diseases result from the complex interaction of three factors: genes, toxic chemicals, and life style (e.g., obesity, stress, minimal exercise, and drugs). A person’s genes can protect them from some toxics, for example, some (very few!) life-long smokers do not get lung cancer. A person’s genes can also make them sensitive to a foreign toxic substance, for example some women who drink alcohol during early pregnancy bear children with fetal-alcohol syndrome, whereas many pregnant women are unaffected and bear normal children.

Consider a few serious and mysterious diseases that are much in the news: autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and type 2 diabetes. The first occurs early in childhood, the second two occur late in life and are dreaded by seniors, and the last typically occurs in mid life during a person’s most productive years. Are these diseases linked to toxic chemicals? Very likely! Google was searched in the biology and medical literature over the past five years: for “Parkinson’s and pesticides” there were 2,200 articles; for “autism and pesticides” there were 552 articles; for “Alzheimer’s and pesticides” there were 1560  articles; for “type 2 diabetes and pesticides” there were 3,760 articles. What do these results mean? Simply that these are very active fields of investigation, and that there are probably connections between these diseases and contamination by pesticides.  An article by the Beyond Pesticides organization (July 5, 2011) states that there is a growing body of evidence that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) might lead to diabetes. Researchers found that people who had high blood levels of polychlorinated biphenyls were nine times as likely to get diabetes as those with very low levels of the pollutant in their blood. Medical science continues to investigate the causes of autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The Beyond Pesticides article has an especially important summarizing statement. The study illustrates how the health impacts of pesticides are often subtle and delayed, and pesticides once considered to pose “acceptable” risks are continuing to affect public health.

Why do epidemiologists (persons who study statistical relationships of diseases in populations) find it so difficult to pin down the linkage between diseases and toxic chemicals? Because the effect – disease – depends upon largely unknown factors: what toxics persons were exposed to, how much entered their bodies, how long the toxics have been present in their bodies, synergetic effects between multiple toxics, and people’s life styles, now and in the past.

Evidence of the health-damaging effects of environmental toxics continues to grow. If you do not want to end up a disease statistic, do everything you possibly can to keep pesticides and household toxics out of your body.


About donlouis

The author has long had a keen interest in staying healthy and fit, and in doing whatever I can to keep the natural environment unpolluted and a healthy space for people and all animals. As a former Board Member of a municipal water district, I regularly had to deal with the issue of water quality. I first became aware of radiation hazards from toxic materials while working on uranium for nuclear reactors. During the 1960s I was tuned into the global hazard from Strontium 90 raining down from atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs. While working in the chemical industry in later years I became aware of the many forms of chemical contaminants entering the environment every day, and resolved to do something about it. I am able to make sense out of the voluminous descriptions of common toxic chemical because of my training in chemistry, with a Ph.D. degree and several decades of research and development work in the chemical industry. My training and experience enables me to present to readers reliable and current information on the topic of chemical hazards in the environment, and their threats to human health. All my life I have loved hiking and camping in nature. Skiing, river kayaking, and tennis have been my favorite physical activities. Nature photography is my artistic passion.
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