Daily News Archive

Rise in Brain Diseases Caused by Pesticides and Other Pollutants
(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2004)
A recent report published in the journal Public Health found that an alarming rise in brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and motor neurone disease, is related to increased use of pesticides and other environmental pollutants and increased exposures to multiple chemicals.

The report looked at the incidence of brain disease in the US, the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain from 1979 to 1997. They discovered that the numbers of sufferers of brain diseases have soared across the West in that 20 year time period. The researchers then compared death rates for the first three years of the study period with the last three, and discovered that dementias - mainly Alzheimer's - more than trebled for men and rose nearly 90 per cent among women in England and Wales. The other countries were also affected. For other ailments, such as Parkinson's and motor neurone disease, the researchers learned there had been a rise of about 50 per cent in such cases for both men and women in every country except Japan. The increases in neurological deaths mirror rises in cancer rates in the West. The team emphasized that its figures took into account of the fact that people are living longer and it also made allowances for the fact that diagnoses of such ailments have improved.

In the late 1970s, there were around 3,000 deaths a year from these conditions in England and Wales. By the late 1990s, there were 10,000. "This has really scared me," Professor Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University, one of the report's authors, told The Observer. "These are nasty diseases: people are getting more of them and they are starting earlier. We have to look at the environment and ask ourselves what we are doing."

Dr. Pritchard explained that genetic causes were ruled out because any changes to DNA would take hundreds of years to take effect. "It must be the environment," he said. The authors believe that the sharp increases in brain diseases are linked to a rise in levels of pesticides, industrial effluents, domestic waste, car exhausts and other common pollutants that people are exposed to daily. "You have got a devil's brew of environmental change and it is beginning to show signs in the patterns of these diseases and the numbers of deaths. We are not taking pollution seriously enough. People should stop putting their heads in the sand," Dr. Pritchard was quoted by The Daily Mail as saying.

The authors also noted that exposure to many chemicals at once probably plays a larger role than just single exposures. "The multiple use of chemicals in our home and in our food is part of our everyday society, but what the chemical industry does not test is the interaction between several chemicals being used at once. This increase in deaths has to be environmental," Dr. Pritchard added. When registering pesticides, EPA does not consider the synergistic effects of the active ingredient with other chemicals.

TAKE ACTION: Contact [email protected], EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt , and your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative, telling them how you feel about the importance of protecting human health from toxic pesticides and the necessity to take action on the above bullets.

Curtail your exposure to pesticides. Beyond Pesticides offers a plethora of non-toxic alternatives to pesticides. Learn how you can protect your children and loved ones from the effects of pesticides in your home, on your lawns, in schools, in hospitals and other public places. See Beyond Pesticides Alternatives Fact Sheets, How-To Factsheets, information on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in schools, information on organic food, and many other available materials and publications.