Pesticides in the news: Humans and ‘the birds and the bees’ #harmful


This week has been a big week for pollinators, including honey bees. On a good note, The White House announced a memorandum to come up with a strategy to help save honey bees and other pollinators (earlier post here).

It has also been a big week for pesticides. First, you probably saw all over the news a new study out of California that found a correlation between neuro-developmental disorders (including autism), and residential proximity to pesticide use (actual study here). The study is essentially hinting that babies who are exposed to pesticides during pregnancy, may have a higher risk of developing autism or related disorders. However, this is a preliminary finding that will certainly generate more interest in defining any potential link between pesticides and developmental disorders.

Second, there is a new report from an international panel of 29 scientists, the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) from the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. The panel and report found that years of research demonstrate that pesticides are harming birds, bees, butterflies, and worms (here and here). The report will be published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research, but is being released at a number of events before publication.

This report should be a final wake up call for American regulators who have been slow to respond to the science,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network North America. “The weight of the evidence showing harm to bees and other pollinators should move EPA to restrict neonicotinoids sooner than later. And the same regulatory loopholes that allowed these pesticides to be brought to the market in the first place — and remain on the shelf — need to be closed.”

While the human study looked at many pesticides, it found correlations with organophosphates, chlorpyrifos, and pyrethroid pesticides. The WIA report on bees and pollinators focused on the harmful effects of two pesticides, Neonicotinoids and fipronil. While these different pesticides have somewhat different uses, it is clear that they can be harmful to humans or human agriculture (it turns out we need healthy pollinators to have productive farms). Following these reports, and their coverage in the news, hopefully more research will be done on the harmful impacts of pesticide use. It will be very interesting to watch future research examining pesticide exposure and a potential role in neurodevelopment disorders. Additionally, hopefully policymakers will pay attention to the harmful impact pesticides can have for both human health and agriculture.