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Daily News Blog

05
May

New Study Links Synthetic Pyrethroids to Neurodevelopmental Problems

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2023) Low level exposure to pyrethroid insecticides found in common pesticide brands like RAID and ORTHO result in neurodevelopmental damage to laboratory animals, reinforcing evidence of harm found in epidemiological studies on human exposure to these chemicals. According to research published in PNAS Nexus, mice exposed to the pyrethroid deltamethrin displayed atypical behavior similar to humans with developmental disorders. “We are not saying these mice have autism or that they have ADHD. That’s not the goal here,” said James Burkett, PhD, study coauthor and assistant professor of neuroscience in the UToledo College of Medicine. “What we are saying is that something in their brain has been altered by this exposure and it’s resulting in the same kinds of behaviors that we see in children with autism.”

Scientists arrived at this determination by exposing a group of mouse mothers to consistent low levels of deltamethrin in their food during preconception, pregnancy, and lactation. The study notes that the amount of pesticide provided was “well below the benchmark dose for regulatory guidance.” A separate control group was given no pesticide in its food. Offspring from the female mice were then put through behavioral tests on social behavior, restrictive or repetitive behaviors, cognition and communication.

Results found that mouse pups whose mothers were exposed to deltamethrin increased their repetitive behaviors. In tests, they buried more marbles than control pups, and performed more self-grooming than the control group. Male pups exposed to deltamethrin also produced fewer vocalizations when being separated from their mothers. Pesticide exposure also impaired learning and memory; in a fear conditioning test, exposed mice were less likely to react to a fearful event they encountered before.

In addition to behavior, scientists observed physiological changes in pups whose mothers were pyrethroid-exposed. These mice exhibited significant changes in dopamine levels and transport around the body. For autistic individuals, the metabolite homovanillic acid (HVA) is considered the earliest biomarker for the condition, and exposed mice pups displayed increased levels of the substance.

“These are all similar to symptoms human patients with neurodevelopmental disorders might have,” Dr. Burkett said.

Synthetic pyrethroids are hazardous pesticides that have flown below even pesticide advocates radar for far too long, not receiving nearly as much attention as other dangerous and commonly used pesticides like glyphosate.

“If you have someone who comes and sprays in your house, this is likely what they’re spraying. It’s used in landscaping, it’s what they fog in the streets for mosquitos. It’s everywhere,” said Dr. Burkett. “Our study, however, adds to the evidence that these chemicals might not be as safe for children and pregnant women as we once believed.”

In fact, Beyond Pesticides has never believed these chemicals to be safe for children or pregnant women. The depth of historical reporting on these chemicals in the Daily News Blog bares this out. As far back as 2008, Beyond Pesticides was reporting on the risk these chemicals pose to children’s development.

The research on this class of chemicals has sounded a consistent drumbeat that of developmental harm to children. In 2011, research determined that children exposed to higher levels of synthetic pyrethroids are three times as likely to have mental delay compared to less exposed children. A study from 2014 associated proximity to pesticide treated agricultural fields in pregnancy to increased risk of autism to children of exposed mothers. Data published in 2015 find that deltamethrin increases risk of ADHD in children, with one study finding impacts specifically to boys. Studies published two years later determined that synthetic pyrethroid exposure increases risk of premature puberty in boys, and another associated the chemicals with externalizing and internalizing disorders. Another study found that aerial mosquito spraying, which is most frequently conducted with synthetic pyrethroids, is linked to elevated autism rates.

The impacts seen are not all developmental. A 2012 study associates pyrethroid exposure before, during, and after pregnancy with increased risk of infant leukemia. And a recent study published earlier this year finds that synthetic pyrethroid exposure during mosquito control operations increases risk of respiratory disease and certain allergies.

Rather than rein in use of these chemicals, EPA in 2019 stripped away protections that reduced children’s exposure to pyrethroids. In making its decision, the agency allowed a letter from the pesticide industry umbrella group Croplife America to dictate its approach to protecting children from hazardous, neurotoxic pyrethroids. The model proposed by Croplife eliminated safety factors for children. In a rare instance, EPA conducted an outside literature review to buttress its argument, but instead ignored those data and prioritized the unprotective model proposed by the pesticide industry.

After selling out children’s health, the agency then took directions from a group referring to themselves as the Pyrethroid Working Group (PWG), comprised of major pesticide manufacturers Bayer, FMC, Syngenta, BASF, AMVAC, and Valent. At the request of this working group, EPA reduced a proposal from EPA staff scientists to implement 66 foot buffer zones between agricultural fields and water bodies down to 10-25 feet. The agency also agreed that wind speeds up to 15 miles per hour were acceptable for pyrethroid applications, despite previous proposals setting the cut-off at 10 mph.

“We have reduced our exposures to many classes of dangerous pesticides over the past few decades through restrictions and regulations,” said study coauthor Gary Miller, PhD, vice dean for research strategy and innovation at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “This study adds to a growing body of literature that the widely used pyrethroids are not without adverse effects and should be further evaluated for their safety.”

While further study is warranted, it should be conducted while this class of chemicals is suspended from public use. Rather than place the burden of proof on scientists to show harm, chemical manufacturers should be required to provide evidence that these chemicals will not harm children’s health. It is evident that they cannot, and with every new study there is growing awareness from the scientific community that these chemicals do not belong on the market.

Take action today by signing the ladybug pledge and urging your mayor to convert your community parks to land care practices that do not use synthetic pyrethroids or other toxic pesticides.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: MedicalXpress, PNAS Nexus

 

 

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