Why we need to ban this common pesticide

Low levels of exposure are supposed to be harmless, but the evidence suggests otherwise

In a recent study , Valeria Rivero Osimani and her colleagues have found that the exposure of a pregnant woman to organophosphate pesticides can affect the functioning of the placenta.

This research adds yet another hazard to the growing list of dangers involved with the use of these pesticides.

What are Organophosphates?

Organophosphate pesticides are chemicals that affect nerve signals in both insects and mammals. This is what makes it an effective pesticide, but also what makes it extremely dangerous to humans. Overexposure leads to paralyses, and eventually suffocation.

The chemical also breaks down quickly, reducing its impact on the environment, which is why it is currently the most used pesticide worldwide. However, this research has found that exposure to even the remnants of organophosphates after they’ve broken down can have negative impacts on humans.

The Study

Sixty-three healthy pregnant women in Argentina participated in the study over the course of three years. They were chosen based on similarities such as their income, ethnicity, and that they expected to give birth by caesarean section.

The women were divided into three groups. One group of twenty women lived in the city and had no exposure to pesticides. The other women were from a small village surrounded by fruit farms, and were divided into two groups: twenty-one women who gave birth between April and August, and twenty-two women who gave birth between September and December.

Between the months of September and December each year, the fruit farms are sprayed with pesticide. These are also the months when winds in the area are strongest.

The babies born during these months had “significantly lower” birth weights when compared to other babies born in their village at other times of the year. The researchers found that the placentas of these smaller babies showed signs of damage from exposure to the pesticide.

The Effects

It was found that mitochondria, which create energy for the body from oxygen and sugar, were more active in the placentas of the exposed babies as the tissue tried to repair itself.

This increased use of oxygen by the placenta meant that there was less oxygen available for the foetus, affecting the growth and development of the baby.

“Placental dysfunction is the underlying mechanism of many pregnancy complications,” Rivero Osimani states in the report.

What Do We Do About This?

The dangers of organophosphate pesticides are obvious, and known to the government. Australia even has safety procedures in place to protect those who use organophosphate pesticides in their work.

It is time that steps were taken to ban the use of organophosphate pesticides. Organophosphate poisoning is a problem that affects the whole world, particularly developing countries.

Without widespread awareness and active protest, nothing will change. It is up to all of us to make a difference. Please contact your local representative and raise awareness about this serious health issue, and help make Australia organophosphate free.

About Natalie M

I am a student at the Australian National University.

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