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"Pesticides reach people through sprayed food, windblown particles and water"
Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in Argentina and in the world. It is a systemic, non-selective and broad spectrum herbicide that acts by competitively inhibiting the enzyme "EPSPS" of plants and microorganisms, eliminating weeds and pests of all kinds.
Over the years spraying and safety criteria were based on acute effects. When applying pesticides to crops, only lethal doses were taken into account, that is to say the doses with which a person can be killed directly. But pesticides have a long-term effect due to chronic exposure to low doses of product particles.
Pesticides get to people through sprayed food, windblown particles, and water. They persist in time, in the environment and in people. SENASA (National Service for Food and Agriculture Health and Quality) found 52 types of pesticides in fruits, vegetables and vegetables based on controls carried out in the last 5 years in urban areas.
Of the pesticides found, 2 are prohibited (DDT and Endosulfan), 4 are not authorized to use (Diazinon, Aldicarb, Acrinatrine and Hexaconazole) and 2 were prohibited by SENASA Resolution 149/2016 on July 1, 2016 (Methyl Azinfos and Methamidophos ). Those found in the greatest presence were Chlorpyrifos, Deltamethrin, Cypermethrin, Endosulfan, Lambdacialothrin, Imidacloprid, Carbendazim, Pyremethanil and Dichlorvos.
The results confirm the great exposure to which we are all subjected. Over the years, exposure leads to endocrine and neurodegenerative diseases, abnormal embryonic development, and cancer.
At a general level, pesticides act as endocrine disruptors that alter the synthesis, release, transport, metabolism, action or elimination of natural hormones, modifying the functioning of the human hormonal system. Due to an estrogen-like effect, they alter the normal processes of reproduction and development, that is why the effects are manifested more severely in embryonic development, producing malformations and abortions.
In men it is related to testicular and prostate cancer, decreased levels of testosterone and the amount of sperm. In women, it is related to breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.
In 2017 3.8 million tons of pesticides were used in the country. Argentina leads the world ranking of liters of pesticides per inhabitant. It is estimated that there are 12 million people exposed to pesticides in the country. Various are the studies throughout the world that have demonstrated its harmfulness on health.
The Biogeochemistry and Environmental Chemistry laboratory of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Museum of the UNLP, together with the Ombudsman of the Province of Buenos Aires, have carried out a survey on the use of agrochemicals in the province of Buenos Aires. For the same, soil and air samples collected throughout the Province of Buenos Aires were obtained. Among the pesticides found, the predominance of Endosulphanes and prohibited compounds such as Dieldrin and DDTs in the horticultural zone was confirmed.
The study asserts that pesticides applied in the field reach the surrounding cities, with a strong increase during the summer due to the greater spraying at that time of year. Pesticide concentrations skyrocket up to 25 times, to a greater extent the increase in Endosulphanes and Chlorpyrifos (maximums of 100-500 times) is observed, acquiring high levels, similar to those reported for India, which reflects the impact of local applications .
The relationship between pesticides and Cancer has been documented in the multicenter study entitled "Assessment of exposure to pesticides in extensive crops in Argentina and its potential impact on health" funded by the Argentine Ministry of Health in 2014.
The results obtained show a positive association between the intensity of exposure (evaluated through the Accumulated Exposure Index to Pesticides - IEP) and total cancer mortality in men, and breast cancer in women. The Pampas area of the country groups the IEPs higher than the national average. The highest Total Environmental Impact Indexes (IIAT) were for the pesticides 2,4-D and Chlorpyrifos in the same area.
The High Total Environmental Impact Indices of Cypermethrin and Chlorpyrifos are associated with higher mortality from breast cancer, and those of Glyphosate and Chlorimuron with that of total cancer in men. Greater general symptoms, cardio respiratory, dermal and genotoxic damage were greater in the people in charge of the fumigations, than in those not exposed. Genotoxic damage from pesticides is a potential primary risk factor for long-term effects, such as cancer and reproductive impairment. In addition, the study concluded that the residence environment of children who belong to fumigated areas constitutes a context of high vulnerability.
The Environmental Research Center (CIMA) belonging to the Faculty of Exact Sciences of the National University of La Plata has carried out research that shows that the pesticides applied in the fumigations evaporate and then fall with the rains. That is, it rains pesticides. The objective of the work consisted in studying the levels of Glyphosate and Atrazine in rainwater in urban and peri-urban population centers of the Pampean Region.
For this, samples of the rain events were carried out in the province of Bs. As, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Entre Ríos. Glyphosate was the most detected herbicide with 90% positive results, a mean and a maximum regional concentrations of 6.5 µg / L and 67.3 µg / L, for Atrazine in 79% of the cases with mean - maximum of 1.5-15.7 µg / L and AMPA with 35% detection and mean-maximum of 0.8-7.9 µg / L. From glyphosate an environmental metabolite is produced by the action of soil bacteria, called AMPA, with a greater genotoxic capacity. The provinces where the highest concentrations were detected were Córdoba, Santa Fe, Bs. As. And Entre Ríos.
The "Glyphosate and Anencephaly" research carried out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and published this year in the Journal of Neurology and Neurobiology, revealed that glyphosate once in the embryo's circulation generates two consequences, anencephaly and developmental arrest embryonic.
The study clarifies the role of the herbicide in neurological and degenerative diseases. The glyphosate accumulated throughout life, acts as a substitute for the amino acid glycine during the synthesis of proteins of vital functions, which has contributed to the increase of debilitating diseases, such as ALS, parkinsonism and autism.
The research runs through all of the metabolic pathways in which glyphosate acts detrimentally. Of the many pathways that lead to anencephaly, glyphosate acts on all of them. Its exposure impairs the absorption of essential nutrients, acting as a chelator of several minerals, including zinc, manganese, cobalt, copper and multiple vitamins that their deficiency is linked to the development of anencephaly, including folate, cobalamin, vitamin D and the amino acid methionine. . Glyphosate, in addition to inducing oxidative stress in human cells, replaces Glycines in the insulin receptor, which is linked to the current global epidemic of type II diabetes.
The most important conclusion is the role of glyphosate in the formation of micronuclei, related to cancerous processes, in low and continuous doses, and the damage that it causes to the DNA of cells, considered precancerous lesion. The study coincides with the reality faced by the fumigated towns of Argentina, with the highest rates in the country in malformations and congenital heart disease.
Another study carried out jointly between the University of Córdoba and the National University of La Plata on the town of Monte Maíz in 2015, confirms a high rate of spontaneous abortions, with a frequency that is 3 times higher than the urban average in the country; and the presence of children with congenital malformations that double the provincial and national rate.
Currently, Senasa seeks to expand the use of agrochemicals in various crops and the amount of poison allowed in food. The objective is to increase the agrochemicals authorized for crops such as grapefruit, pelon, apricot, cherry, blueberries, fig, banana, kiwi, avocado, fennel, leek, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, aubergine, chard, arugula, spinach, legumes, cereal grains, nuts, aromatic herbs and teas. Along with the introduction of new agrochemicals that have no antecedents either inside or outside the country.
It is not admissible to authorize the registration and commercialization of pesticides without research carried out by centers and with public control of universities and civil society organizations. However, the Ministry of Environment announced in the last inauguration of the 25th Congress of AAPRESID, the idea of shortening by resolution the minimum distance for fumigation with Glyphosate at the National level. The measure would not have the intervention of Congress or the Ministry of Health and reduces the fumigations to a distance of 100 meters.
Argentina violates the laws of protection and defense of human rights. The general environmental law, the hazardous waste law, article 41 of the Constitution and the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, ratified by our country, which protect citizens from harm caused by harmful substances such as Glyphosate.
At the national level, the "Precautionary Principle" applies in a generic way for the entire territory of Argentina. In accordance with article 4 of the National Environmental Law No. 25675, the law obliges those who apply chemical substances that may threaten health to adopt "effective measures to prevent the generalized degradation of the environment, regardless of costs or consequences." But the law was never applied to agriculture, as confirmed by the General Auditor of the Nation.
The health field has a great commitment to this problem by revealing the vulnerabilities, damage to health and social inequities related to the chemical agrarian model. We must produce an in-depth critique of the science model that supports decisions in the field of policies, especially those of public health, and propose other study models that consider the complexity of health problems and preventive actions for protection Of the health.
By Vanesa Rosales de la Quintana
Family Medicine specialist. Medical Auditor. Buenos Aires' University.