Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I'd just like to point something out

No doubt you have read about this study that finds that so-called "Gulf War Syndrome" may be related to low-level exposure to sarin gas. Subtle changes appear in the brains of soldiers who were exposed to sarin at levels that produced no acute effects.

Not that anybody but me is going to notice this, but the biological effect of such low-level exposure to sarin is identical -- precisely the same, indistinguishable from, not different, congruent with -- to exposure to organophosphate pesticides such as malathion and diazinon. I'm talking about exposures which are routinely experienced by farm workers and exterminators, and which until fairly recently were commonly experienced by homeowners, because organophosphate pesticides were sold for use in gardens and even kitchens. Not any more, I'm happy to say, but they are still widely used commercially. Nobody pays any attention to it, but there is evidence from animal studies that sub-acute (i.e., symptom free) exposure to organophosphates causes brain damage to primates, and we've known that for 30 years or more.

Carbamate pesticides such as sevin, by the way, which are still sold to homeowners and even used in flea collars, have the same biological effect as organophosphates, although by a different mechanism. So whether this study raises any alarm about them I do not know.

Organophosphate pesticides ought to be banned.

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