Pesticide Exposure Leads to Lower IQs in Children

A survey of three studies demonstrates consistently that exposure to certain pesticides used in farming diminishes mental development.

A trio of studies on the effects of organophosphate pesticides on mental development showed one consistent finding: exposure increases the chance of lower IQs and impaired mental development.

These bug killers, which can cross the human placenta, work by inhibiting brain-signaling compounds. Although the pesticides’ residential use was phased out in 2000, spraying on farm fields remains legal.

The three new studies began in the late 1990s and followed children through age 7. Pesticide exposures stem from farm work in more than 300 low-income Mexican-American families in California, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and their colleagues report. In two comparably sized New York City populations, exposures likely trace to bug spraying of homes or eating treated produce.

[…]

Findings from all three studies appear online April 21 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“There was an amazing degree of consistency in the findings across all three studies,” notes Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. And that’s concerning, he says, because a drop of seven IQ points “is a big deal. In fact, half of seven IQ points would be a big deal, especially when you see this across a population.”

No comment here – this just makes me sick to my stomach. In far too many ways, our modern world resembles an uncontrolled lab experiment. I am very much in favor of the prospect of using technology to improve our way of life, but I wish we would slow down and start looking more deeply into the potential consequences of things before they’re unleashed into the world.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Environment, Health
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Kate says:

    Do you have even the slightest inkling of how many children would be starving today without them?




    0



    0
  2. hey norm says:

    well at least this explains why so many folks from the farm belt are tea partiers. didn’t michele bachmann grow up on a farm? no – wait – she just accepts farm subsidies in order to fund her fight against socialism. my bad.
    anyway – i’m sure we will be hearing how this is flawed science from several psuedoscientists who are funded by pesticide producers but are not influenced by that funding in any way.




    0



    0
  3. Gustopher says:

    Alternate theory: it is so obvious that pesticides are bad for you that only stupid people expose their children to them, and stupid people tend to have stupid kids.




    0



    0
  4. Davebo says:

    Do you have even the slightest inkling of how many children would be starving today without them?

    American children? I’d say no more than were starving 10 years ago.

    Do you have even the slightest inkling of how many millions of metric tons of wheat are exported from the US annually?

    In the end, it’s a trade off between production and product safety. And we know how that trade off ends 99% of the time.




    0



    0
  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Kate,

    Do you have even the slightest inkling of how many children would be starving today without them?

    There are other means of controlling pests besides organophosphates; means that don’t post health risks.




    0



    0
  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Hmm. One of the organophosphate insecticides is malathion. That’s pretty commonly used by city governments for mosquito abatement. It’s used here in Illinois, for example.




    0



    0
  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    Alternate theory: it is so obvious that pesticides are bad for you that only stupid people expose their children to them, and stupid people tend to have stupid kids.

    I think you are exposed to pesticides on a much larger scale than you can imagine. The exposure to pesticides is not limited to the farmers’ families that in habit the land.




    0



    0
  8. Neil Hudelson says:

    Do you have even the slightest inkling of how many children would be starving today without them?

    I’m quite familiar with yield rates and the percentage of grain to food conversion. I’m curious if you actually know.

    So tell me, how many children would be starving today without them?




    0



    0
  9. PD Shaw says:

    There’s something odd about two of the three studies concentrating on low-income blacks and hispanics. I think that requires a cautionary note analogous to the studies on the effect of breastfeeding on child’s I.Q., studies that have sown comparable gains in I.Q., but have been questioned by other studies pointing to a failure to adequately control for socio-economic differences.




    0



    0
  10. Drew says:

    Well, if it makes your stomach sick go expose yourself to one of the other horrors of modern technology: Prilosec.

    These studies are always annoying, because they are mindless. “…exposure increases the chance of lower IQs and impaired mental development.”

    Chances? Any discussion of odds, incidence or cost benefit? Any countervailing evidence? I suspect those in Africa with those pictures of bloated bellies would take the chance. Here in prosperous America, we can muse about such things.

    Look, nobody in their right mind would advocate a serious negative public health practice. But just floating a concept without a serious cost/benefit is just self congratulatory bloviating.

    Alex – is the risk real, or potential? How big? What are the alternatives? What are the costs of the alternatives? Is the risk really avoidable? I don’t know. But can we have an informed debate, or is it just hand wringing? And how ’bout those gd cigars you smoke? You are a father now. People need you around, dude. Hell, I want you around……..so I can pick on your essays. (just kidding, just kidding)

    Last time I looked we killed tens of thousands in traffic accidents each year. Seems a worse problem than a hypothetical 7 IQ points. Should we outlaw driving?

    I love ya man, but spare us the stomach thing and bring some perspective or alternatives.




    0



    0
  11. Franklin says:

    Last time I looked we killed tens of thousands in traffic accidents each year.

    90% of which are caused by low-IQ drivers on cellphones.

    /sort of kidding




    0



    0
  12. Alex Knapp says:

    Drew,

    I don’t mind running a cost-benefit analysis. I would, however, prefer that the risks are known, and the cost-benefit analyses run, BEFORE we find out people are getting hurt. That way, what risks there are can be mitigated.

    That said, there are non-toxic pesticides out there that aren’t expensive. But even if they aren’t quite as cheap and it turns out I have to pay a extra so that kids don’t get brain damage, I’m okay with that.




    0



    0
  13. john personna says:

    My serious answer to Kate would be that, yes pesticides are good(*), but over-use and mis-use are probably the biggest factors in human exposure.

    In fact, best farming practices should often reduce human exposure. I mean, farmers aren’t paying to spray your kids. It’s for the fields.

    But, sometimes economies of scale lead to IMO bad practices, say aerial spraying adjacent to homes or a highway. Or, spaying at night when wind is 0 mph might be too complicated.

    * – as an ex-chemist I also have to note that they are not at all equal either. the world of pesticide chemistry is not as simple as “‘organic’ or non”. extra quotes on ‘organic’ for popular misuse of the term.




    0



    0
  14. john personna says:

    (We should have common cause with the farmers to use the right pesticides, as little of them as possible (they are expensive for the farmers), and with minimum human exposure.)




    0



    0
  15. Steve Verdon says:

    I would, however, prefer that the risks are known, and the cost-benefit analyses run, BEFORE we find out people are getting hurt.

    And how would you do that?

    We wouldn’t have this result if the pesticide had not been used. I suppose we could use studies on other animals such a rats or something similar, but even there you may not notice the adverse effects till later.




    0



    0
  16. Wayne says:

    I have little doubt that “Children exposed in the womb to “substantial levels” of neurotoxic pesticides”, substantial levels of drugs or substantial levels of other chemicals would have harmful affect on a fetus mental development.

    However I agree with PD Shaw that something smells (not the pesticides) about these studies. Wired seemed to be one of those Greeney type of publication. So that should be taken into account. I haven’t has a chance to look very deep into the study but did pulled these two tidbits out of another publication.

    “But Donna Seger, MD, of Vanderbilt University, cautioned against inferring a cause-and-effect relationship between pesticide exposure and children’s cognitive ability based on these studies”
    And
    “The current studies demonstrate that lower cognitive scores occur in low-income populations, wrote Seger, who is medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center, but “they do not demonstrate in any way that pesticides caused the lower scores.””

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/EnvironmentalHealth/26048?pfc=101&spc=224




    0



    0
  17. tom p says:

    is the risk real, or potential? How big? What are the alternatives? What are the costs of the alternatives? Is the risk really avoidable? I don’t know. But can we have an informed debate,

    ???????

    I can’t beleive you just said that Drew. You are (usually) smarter than to admitting you are ill-informed in one breath and yet demand an informed debate…. In the same breath?

    I got whiplash just reading that.




    0



    0
  18. tom p says:

    And for my ownself, I blame the over-regulation of the market by an innovation stifling Gov’t.




    0



    0
  19. PD Shaw says:

    “I think you are exposed to pesticides on a much larger scale than you can imagine. The exposure to pesticides is not limited to the farmers’ families that in habit the land.”

    I think that’s true, but the study showing the 7 point I.Q. differential was observed from women exposed to pesticides “from farm work in more than 300 low-income Mexican-American families in California.” Doesn’t that suggest that the effect is from field workers touching plants treated with pesticides and perhaps inadvertently ingesting some of it?




    0



    0
  20. john personna says:

    For doubters, think for a moment about what a pesticide is. It is a chemical, that kills.

    Ideally you’d find some chemical that killed some target insect (or with fungicides some fungi) without harming humans … but our body chemistries are not wholly removed.

    That is after all, why we are trying to eat the same crops 😉




    0



    0
  21. PD Shaw says:

    jp, as a toxicologist might say, everything is dangerous in the right amount.




    0



    0
  22. john personna says:

    sure pd, but to prolong the analysis, pesticides are also designed to be dangerous in small amounts.

    no farmer wants to spray a ton to the acre (before dilution)

    actually I suppose that might be one of the cost in natural methods. It probably does take more pounds of nicotine or whatever, per acre.




    0



    0
  23. PD Shaw says:

    My point was rather that these studies analyze the most extreme exposures: (1) the most sensitive populations — pre-natal babies (2) coming into direct contact with the chemical, either by the pregnant mother accidentally ingesting it while picking produce, or inhaling pesticides sprayed in a closed apartment. And according to the third study, the sensitivity to the substance appears to be based upon a gene variant present in only one-third of Americans.




    0



    0
  24. john personna says:

    I’m not proposing that we “over-mine the data.” Quite the reverse. I’m saying we can feel safe with some basic take-aways.

    Of course pesticides injure. That’s what they do. Nonetheless, they really are required in many situations.

    So … use no stronger than necessary, no more than necessary, and minimize human exposure.

    And of course more power to farmers who make “organic” work, through crop choice, local environment, or special skill.




    0



    0
  25. Wiley Stoner says:

    Yes there are ways to control pests without pesticide. I suggest giving liberals jobs searching through our field looking for the little creatures. 5 cents for each one caught. You, Alex can start in Iowa and work your way west. You brainless idiots did the same sort of BS concerning DDT and million have died due to malaria. Liberal are all for population control. They either want to starve us, or exterminate us in camps. Cowards, why don’t you come out and fight?




    0



    0
  26. john personna says:

    Wiley, you call other people idiots while arguing that pesticide use is a yes-no question.

    Seriously?




    0



    0
  27. Neil Hudelson says:

    PD,

    You are absolutely correct on the degree of exposure. I wasn’t really arguing against that, so much as the notion of chemicals used on a farm stay on a farm, or the threat of dangerous pesticides (whatever they may be) don’t necessarily stop at fields’ edge. I run into this notion a lot–and not just about pesticides but about agriculture in general. Also to be fair, I may have been reading too much into Gustopher’s comment.




    0



    0
  28. Ben Wolf says:

    The problem is the enormous quantities of pesticides used by American farmers. Because it has been used so indiscriminately the most common pests have developed broad resistance to multiple poisons. Our response has been to increase the amount of pesticides used by an order of magnitude since the start of he Green Revolution, which has accelerated the evolution of resistant pests even further.

    Monsanto has poured most of its GM efforts into crops that can survive ever greater quantities of pesticides, which are now so concentrated they often literally burn the life out of the soil.

    By the way, pesticides arenuptaken by the crops’ roots, so the stuff permeates your non-organic produce inside and out.




    0



    0
  29. Franklin says:

    Alex – is the risk real, or potential? How big? What are the alternatives? What are the costs of the alternatives? Is the risk really avoidable? I don’t know. But can we have an informed debate, or is it just hand wringing?

    Drew, we’re all glad you’re intellectually curious enough to want to know the answers here. So who’s going to provide them? (Hint: it won’t be the free market.)




    0



    0
  30. john personna says:

    “Hint: it won’t be the free market.”

    Well we can count on Monsanto to provide one half of the conversation. They’d like the farmers to buy as much as possible.




    0



    0
  31. john personna says:

    (I’m not totally up to date on this, but there was some concern at one point that the Department of Agriculture Laboratories should take the “low use” position. You know, they’d help the farmer with the other side of the equation. How to use less, more effectively.)




    0



    0
  32. I think all a couple of people are trying to say is that while there are undoubtedly consequences to using these pesticides, there are consequences to not using them as well. Yes, there may be some alternatives, but I’m guessing they either cost more or aren’t as effective, or both. And before anyone gets too excited about trading dollars for kids health, I’ll just note that we make these kind of tradeoffs all the time, everytime we fill up the car, or don’t start building a lot more nuclear plants immediately, for instance.

    Outrage is easy. Too easy. Solutions are hard.




    0



    0
  33. Wayne says:

    The deal is you shouldn’t draw too much from these studies. The cause and effect relationship is far from established.

    The fact that lower IQ people would be more likely to do unskilled manual labor that would therefore results in more contact with pesticides is not surprising even within any particular migrant field group. However keep in mind that it doesn’t mean that someone who does manual labor has a low IQ. Skilled labor is very different from unskilled labor. Being a successful farmer takes skills.

    Once again the choices of test subjects in these studies make one wonder.




    0



    0
  34. PD Shaw says:

    For the most part the EPA recertifed organophosphate as beneath Agency concern when properly handled. (The EPA was required to re-examine them under a ’96 law and it took ten years to complete) I don’t think this a public versus private dispute, it’s about uncertain science.




    0



    0
  35. PD Shaw says:

    It didn’t even occur to me until now that the study predates the results of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. That’s what I meant about difficult science, to get this type of long-term study on the prenatal effects of a substance on I.Q., you have to take a long time to reach your conclusions. In the meantime, the regulatory framework changed; these studies may be entirely useless through no design flaw of their own. Unless the point is that when these pesticides are used in an inappropriate manner, bad things might happen.




    0



    0
  36. PD Shaw says:

    Here’s a summary page of EPA evaluation of organophosphates. Some were discontinued and most were re-registered.




    0



    0
  37. Steve Verdon says:

    For doubters, think for a moment about what a pesticide is. It is a chemical, that kills.

    So is water in sufficient quantities. The dose makes the poison. Basic rule of toxicology.




    0



    0
  38. An Interested Party says:

    Outrage is easy. Too easy. Solutions are hard.

    Teabaggers, among others of their ilk, would be well advised to remember this…




    0



    0
  39. Steve Verdon says:

    My point was rather that these studies analyze the most extreme exposures: (1) the most sensitive populations — pre-natal babies (2) coming into direct contact with the chemical, either by the pregnant mother accidentally ingesting it while picking produce, or inhaling pesticides sprayed in a closed apartment. And according to the third study, the sensitivity to the substance appears to be based upon a gene variant present in only one-third of Americans.

    And to carry it further the solution might be that pregnant mothers avoid these situations vs. banning the pesticide outright.

    Monsanto has poured most of its GM efforts into crops that can survive ever greater quantities of pesticides, which are now so concentrated they often literally burn the life out of the soil.

    I find this doubtful as then nothing would grow there not even crops genetically modified to be pesticide resistant. Even such plants need nutrients.




    0



    0
  40. Janis Gore says:

    We live in the Mississipppi Delta, about 250 miles from where the great river drains into the Gulf.

    Louisiana is losing wetlands day by day.

    Our main local contaminent is agricultural.




    0



    0
  41. Janis Gore says:

    The reports that I have seen mainly attribute that to fertilizers, not pesticides.




    0



    0
  42. Janis Gore says:

    Mr. Shaw is on point here.




    0



    0
  43. PD Shaw says:

    Ms. Gore, I think about 25% of Louisiana wetland loss gets racked up to Midwestern fertilizers.

    I got you pegged as living near St. Francesville. I visited there once and thought it was a real hidden gem and would like to visit again some time. I went to school in New Orleans.




    0



    0
  44. john personna says:

    “So is water in sufficient quantities. The dose makes the poison. Basic rule of toxicology.”

    You know, this is about the dumbest thing you can say to impress a chemist.




    0



    0
  45. john personna says:

    “‘Monsanto has poured most of its GM efforts into crops that can survive ever greater quantities of pesticides …’

    I find this doubtful as then nothing would grow there not even crops genetically modified to be pesticide resistant. ”

    2 for 2.

    Roundup resistance was indeed a primary GE effort. And, it was a pretty shortsighted effort, as Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds




    0



    0
  46. Janis Gore says:

    Up the road about 30 Minutes, Mr. Shaw. I live directly across the river from Natchez, MS, in Vidalia.




    0



    0
  47. Janis Gore says:

    Roundup is broadleaf weed-killer, JP.




    0



    0
  48. john personna says:

    Ah yes Janis, a different “cide”, a “herbicide”




    0



    0
  49. john personna says:

    For the kids in the audience ;-), “cide” comes from the latin root “cid”, which means “kill” or “annhilate”




    0



    0
  50. john personna says:

    (Maybe Steve V needed that Latin lesson too. It does capture the difference between water, a cradle of life molecule if there ever was one, and more dangerous sorts.)




    0



    0
  51. Janis Gore says:

    How, though, are we to feed the country without “stuff”? Pyrethrins, from, chrysanthemums are safe for the parrots, or so I’m told.




    0



    0
  52. john personna says:

    Has anyone up above suggested that we do without? I saw some jumping at shadows about “bans,” but I certainly I haven’t suggested that. I said:

    “So … use no stronger than necessary, no more than necessary, and minimize human exposure.”

    (if I were to pick out an extreme position from the other side that I don’t like, it’s that some act like our human biochemistry is totally removed from that of the “cide” targets. Of course that’s not true. Many of our molecules and molecular pathways are shared. That is, as I might have mentioned, why we want to eat so many crops ourselves.

    It’s safe to guess that “cides” are dangerous because we are not unique and unrelated to other life on earth.)




    0



    0
  53. john personna says:

    As an aside, chemists don’t tend to put a big weight on the “organic” boundary. Lots of artificial chemicals are safer than other natural chemicals. I’d rather drink diet coke than pyrethrins ….

    interesting thing on that web page too:

    A 2011 study found a significant association between piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a common additive in pyrethroid formulations, measured in personal air collected during the third trimester of pregnancy, and delayed mental development at 36 months. Children who were more highly exposed in personal air samples (≥4.34 ng/m3) scored 3.9 points lower on the Mental Developmental Index than those with lower exposures. The lead researcher stated, “This drop in IQ points is similar to that observed in lead exposure. While perhaps not impacting an individual’s overall function, it is educationally meaningful and could shift the distribution of children in the society who would be in need of early intervention services.”[10]




    0



    0
  54. Janis Gore says:

    I’m not arguing with you, JP. The question is where do we go from here? And no, I’m too close to town to raise me own chickens.




    0



    0
  55. john personna says:

    I hope the national labs are working on the best ways to grow food with a low “cide” footprint.

    That is MUCH better than leaving farmers to read chemical company fliers.




    0



    0
  56. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t know how pesticides are applied to SoCal produce, but the use of GPS technology to spray row crops in the Midwest has been a pretty impressive development. The plane can get a proper distribution over the field, using the computer to help account for drift. Afterwards, the sprayer can printout the distribution path superimposed over satellite imagery, so he can hand it to the farmer. Pesticides are very expensive, so the technology appears to have been driven by market-based considerations. The farmers want to know that the pesticide was sprayed on the field, not off the field, with an even distribution, not too much, nor too little.




    0



    0
  57. Neil Hudelson says:

    PD,

    Around my parts of the woods, GPS has improved to the point where planes are essentially not used (the topography of this area contributes to that too). Perfectly planted rows of grain, thanks to GPS, can now be perfectly sprayed by a wheeled sprayer without damage to any crops. Lower amounts of pesticide and herbicide are used.

    Similar technologies have also reduced the need for synthetic fertilizer, and have significantly combated some of the most pernicious soil erosion.

    That said, even with the better technology and lower use of chemicals, herbicide resistant plants are becoming a major problem.

    Regarding pesticides: I’m not sure how it is other places, but the Harmonia axyridis or Asian Ladybug has been a very effective “organic” control method for aphids. Similar releases of types of mantis’s have been used to control for various pests. Unfortunately in the case of the ladybug we are now dealing with a large–albeit benign–infestation problem.




    0



    0
  58. anjin-san says:

    If you want to piss conservatives off, just question the wisdom of the indiscriminate use of poison. Works every time.




    0



    0
  59. john personna says:

    Hi PD. California is still a huge agricultural state, but most of that is up in the Central and down in the Imperial valleys. I’m pretty sure I’ve read of higher exposures there, among the smaller and poorer towns.

    And even as city folk I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of driving through farm country and smelling pesticides in the air. At that point are we not glad we don’t live there?




    0



    0
  60. PD Shaw says:

    Interesting info Neil. I know someone who runs an aerial spray service; he didn’t mention his terrestrial competition. I sort of figured that the direction we would be moving in was predator-drone type distribution, but what do I know? But I thought of this when john personna first mentioned upthread that the farmer already has an incentive to be efficient in pesticide use.

    I do believe the Asian ladybugs are a nuisance pet for a lot of suburban plants; I’ve not had this problem, but I’m sure there is a pesticide for them.




    0



    0
  61. PD Shaw says:

    jp, I’ve not smelled farm chemicals while driving; I have smelled manure, either from hog farms or from it being spread for fertilizer. Perhaps the topography and climate here, with a good breeze across the prairie and heavy rains, dissipates the chemicals or forces them to the ground.

    My worst experiences were in New Orleans with the mosquito abatement trucks. I would be ready to go out running and the air would be thick with chemicals and I’d reluctantly go back inside and pour a drink.




    0



    0
  62. Steve Verdon says:

    You know, this is about the dumbest thing you can say to impress a chemist.

    Then chemists are stupid since, as I’ve already pointed out, that the concept that “the does makes the poison” is a fundamental principle in toxicology…the study of toxins. And pointing out that pesticides are chemicals that kill is also stupid. As I’ve noted water can kill too. In fact people have died from drinking too much water.

    So on its face your statement is banal and does little to move the conversation forward.

    Now that being out of the way, the fact that water can be deadly does not mean we need to ban water. It is essential for life. Similarly we may not need to ban these pesticides. If it is exposure that is the problem then what types of exposure and who is at risk. If it is limited to pregnant mothers who are somehow ingesting the pesticide then can we significantly reduce or eliminate that? If so, then maybe that is the most reasonable policy.

    And yes, I know you didn’t call for a ban. I never said you did (it would be nice if you actually, you know respond to what I write vs. what is taking place inside your head). However Alex did write:

    There are other means of controlling pests besides organophosphates; means that don’t post health risks.

    While that is not an outright call for a ban it does strongly suggest discontinued use and switching to alternatives.

    2 for 2.

    Nice job with the selective editing ass. I wasn’t responding to the first part, but to the second part that the pesticides kill all life in the soil. Again you are arguing with the Steve in your head.




    0



    0
  63. john personna says:

    Steve, Steve, Steve.

    Talk about one you should have walked away from.

    Tell me. When farmers in India want to commit sui-cide, do they drink a cool glass of water, or a horrible slurp of pesti-cide?

    The “cides” line up, don’t they?

    Idiot.




    0



    0
  64. john personna says:

    (If you want to move yourself off your dickish points, about water deaths and imaginary bans, go ahead, but don’t expect me to respect you for moving there after the water is poison BS.)




    0



    0
  65. Ben Wolf says:

    JP,

    Yeah, you’ve got to question the critical thinking skills of someone who doesn’t understand that pesticides are designed to poison by interfering with the ability of cells to function normally, and water isn’t.

    Keep in mind that ten of the twelve most virulently poisonous organic chemicals are pesticides. Tings that are designed to kill are usually more effective at it.




    0



    0
  66. john personna says:

    Or, here’s another way to look at it:

    What percentage of a healthy human body is water?

    What percentage of a healthy human body is pesticide?

    Doh! They must be different after all. One is a natural part of us. The other is a killer molecule targeted at our insect foes, but one we don’t ever really want to take up in our own bodies.




    0



    0
  67. john personna says:

    (same time as Ben, same thought)




    0



    0
  68. mantis says:

    Water is poison? Stop digging, Verdon.




    0



    0
  69. Ok, if you don’t like water as an example, how about oxygen? Simple oxygen, essential for all humans, but toxic at very high concentrations, especially under pressure. Or are you going to argue that too much oxygen won’t kill you either? Or that I am an idiot for bringing it up.




    0



    0
  70. mantis says:

    Or that I am an idiot for bringing it up.

    Yeah, that one.

    Something designed to be a poison is not the same thing as water or oxygen. Not in any way.




    0



    0
  71. PD Shaw says:

    The water analogy is frequently used by toxicologist in explaining their testimony. It may be seen as an exercise in framing to make somewhat the same point john personna made earlier. You can be distracted by the names of things; there is no empirical reason to necessarily trust organic or natural compounds versus artificial compounds with difficult names. It’s all a matter of quantity, exposure route and the vulnerability of the person.




    0



    0
  72. PD Shaw says:

    Oddly, the Bush administration was on the wrong side of the water analgoy. They were petitioned to investigate the need to regulate CO2. They responded that the environmental laws were never intended to concern themselves with something as natural as the air we exhale. The Bush administration was wrong; there is no inherent difference between carbon-dioxide and trichloroethene.




    0



    0
  73. mantis says:

    It’s all a matter of quantity, exposure route and the vulnerability of the person.

    Indeed. Sure, enough of anything can kill, but in normal, moderate amounts, oxygen and water are not only not harmful, but essential to survival. Poisons, even in very small amounts (depending on the poison) can cause great harm with no benefit to people ingesting them. To pretend they are all the same thing is ludicrous.

    And btw, I’m not the slightest bit anti-chemical or anti-pesticide. Without pesticides, many more people would have died of starvation over the past century. And yes, natural pesticides tend to be much more harmful than man-made ones. But if we’re going to discuss safety and pesticides, let’s not play games with silly talk about water drinking fatalities.




    0



    0
  74. mantis says:

    The Bush administration was wrong; there is no inherent difference between carbon-dioxide and trichloroethene.

    Sure there is. There may be no difference in a regulatory sense, but there’s a pretty big inherent chemical difference.




    0



    0
  75. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not pretending anything. The fact that water can be toxic is a standard premise in toxicology; it’s not intended to convince people to stop drinking water; it’s purpose is to stop thinking intuitively and begin thinking empirically. Here is the father of toxicology:

    “What is there that is not a poison? All things are poison and nothing without poison. Solely the dose determines that thing is not a poison.” (Paracelsus)




    0



    0
  76. john personna says:

    That is only teaching half the lesson, PD. It is an important part, that even things good in small quantities can be bad in large.

    But it isn’t the whole lesson, because some things are bad no matter how low the quantity. Instead of a “healthy” quantity of poison, we have an “undetectable” level of harm.

    It’s kind a like what caliber do you want to be shot with? You might not notice a sufficiently small bullet passing through you (say, a gamma ray!) but it can cause damage (cancer) for some fraction of the population.

    Or, look at the common canary in the coal mine, exposure to pregnant women and children. They are not completely different creatures than us older males. They are just more sensitive to harm. It is easier to identify a damaging dose.

    And as our warning, anything we do see happening with them we should be sure is happening in the broader population … just in subtler ways.




    0



    0
  77. john personna says:

    (No doubt low level pesticide exposure is broadly “survivable.” We all prove that every day, as we carry around our pesticide load. But, we carry around a cancer rate too. The origins of each of our cancers are too complicated to ferret out, but reducing exposures wherever possible seems a prudent strategy.)




    0



    0
  78. john personna says:

    (Paracelsus probably didn’t have statistical correlations in mind. If I recall correctly “Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk”, in his day “fate” determined cancer. Jacques Bernoulli came a hundred years later.)




    0



    0
  79. PD Shaw says:

    It’s not half the lesson, it’s the first lesson. Applying it here, we see that the pesticides have been shown to be safe when handled properly. So, if these studies are good, the first suggestion is that they weren’t handled properly. We may not have a toxicity issue, as much as a workplace safety issue in California (or in NYC apartments where landlords spray at their convenience), no doubt complicated by immigration issues, poor access to healthcare and other burdens of poverty.

    The EPA studies may not have had the advantage of more recent gene testing, but that leads in a very uncomfortable public policy direction. If x% of the population is sensitive to a substance and the rest are not, do you ban it? Do you ban them from occupations involving it? Do you require gene testing?

    The EPA studies may have also not be adequately valuing IQ. Seven points at the extremes is significant, but in the vast multiplicity of the human condition it’s a drop in the bucket.




    0



    0
  80. All pesticides and herbicides are toxic. So are some of you suggesting that the are all unsafe in any concentration? Do we have enough outrage for that?




    0



    0
  81. john personna says:

    Heh, PD is back at shaddow boxing “bans” that no one has suggested.

    Charles, I’m saying it is safe to say the “cides” should be viewed with great suspicion. They are going to have pronounced affects at high concentration, and the affect will tail off in smaller concentration, to some border of visibility.

    PD seems to be taking the hard line that undetectability equals safety.

    To quote Carl Sagan, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”




    0



    0
  82. john personna says:

    (I suspect that we carry a load in our bodies of chemicals that, individually, have absence of evidence, but in total produce these suspicious correlations with cancers, IQ, etc.)




    0



    0
  83. john personna says:

    It is really odd to suggest that there is a safe level for any genetic mutagen:

    Pesticides: Mutagenic and Carcinogenic Potential




    0



    0
  84. john personna says:

    An illustration that it’s hard finding this kind of link against the backdrop of modern life:

    During the performance of routine tasks farmers may come in contact with a variety of substances, including pesticides, solvents, oils and fuels, dusts, paints, welding fumes, zoonotic viruses, microbes, and fungi. Because some of these substances are known or suspected carcinogens, the epidemiologic literature regarding cancer risks concerning farmers has been reviewed. Farmers had consistent deficits for cancers of the colon, rectum, liver, and nose. The deficits for cancer of the lung and bladder were particularly striking, presumably due to less frequent use of tobacco among farmers than among people in many other occupational groups. Malignancies frequently showing excesses among farmers included Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the lip, stomach, prostate, skin (nonmelanotic), brain, and connective tissues. The etiologic factors that may contribute to these excesses in the agricultural environment have not been identified. Detailed, analytic epidemiologic studies that incorporate environmental and biochemical monitoring are needed to clarify these associations.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3912986/




    0



    0
  85. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not shadowboxing bans, I accept from most of the comments here that they don’t want to take an absolute ban on chemicals, but this last bit JP about concern for an “undetectable level of harm” means to me you’re right there. You want to shift the burden of proof on chemicals to prove there is no harm, a burden that can’t ever be met. As far as I’m concrned, you’ve crossed the Rubicon. How do I know the house I bought isn’t haunted; technology isn’t able to detect it yet.




    0



    0
  86. john personna says:

    I think I should have looked up that Cancer & Farmers article earlier on. Sorry. It would have illustrated my point.

    It really says where I’m coming from:

    “Malignancies frequently showing excesses among farmers included Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the lip, stomach, prostate, skin (nonmelanotic), brain, and connective tissues. The etiologic factors that may contribute to these excesses in the agricultural environment have not been identified. Detailed, analytic epidemiologic studies that incorporate environmental and biochemical monitoring are needed to clarify these associations.”

    Perhaps it will even need new science to nail down which factors are etiologic.




    0



    0
  87. john personna says:

    … but we can guess it probably isn’t the water, the H20 itself.




    0



    0
  88. john personna says:

    Here’s another way to look at it:

    We were the first oil-based economy. We had the first oil well and the first “people’s car” from Ford. We got oil production ramped up and running like crazy in California by the 1920’s, and moved to Texas shortly after.

    We’ve grown at an incredible rate, powered by that chemical energy, but a century of hard work really can make “play out” a resource.

    Drilling more, is not an answer to that.




    0



    0
  89. john personna says:

    Darn, such a nice comment … but on the wrong thread ;-/




    0



    0
  90. Wiley Stoner says:

    Being born to liberal parents like Anjin and manits leads to lower IQs in children. Hard to get roses when you start with rocks.




    0



    0