This Is Your Brain On Fungicides: How An Increasingly Common Crop Treatment May Be Damaging Us Worse Than We Thought.
Its getting harder and harder to keep up with all the chemicals that are sprayed on our food sources. Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide has been in the news lately as scientists learn more and more about the damage it can do to humans and the ecosystem as a whole. Same with pesticides; the more we learn about neonicotinoids and the harm they do to pollinating insects, birds, and humans, the more people are sounding the alarm around the world.
But there is another class of chemicals used to treat most of our crops, and they are proving to be equally alarming: fungicides.
They’re sprayed on fruit, vegetables, and nut crops, plus they enter the human food chain indirectly as well in the form of corn and soybean crops that are fed to livestock.
But a new study seems to indicate that commonly used fungicides can have a dramatic effect on the brain, even mimicking the symptoms of autism, advanced aging, and even neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s.
The study, led by Mark Zylka of the University of North Carolina Neuroscience Center looked at mouse cortical neuron cultures–which are functionally similar in cellular and molecular terms to the human brain–to nearly 300 chemicals that are commonly found in the environment and on food. The researchers hoped to determine whether any of the chemicals triggered changes that evoked patterns found in brain samples from people with autism, advanced age, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Of the chemicals tested, eight were a solid match. But two of those are especially troubling: they are known as “quinone outside inhibitors,” a relatively new class of fungicide that is all the rage since they were first developed for use in the early 2000s.
Of course, effects on the brain cells of mice in a lab setting is a far cry from establishing a causal link to human brain disorders. That will require much more testing and study of groups like farm workers who are exposed to the fungicides regularly.
But that very fact exposes what is truly wrong with the way we do food production in the modern world: we saturate our planet, our food, and ultimately our own bodies with these new and relatively untested chemicals, tossing tons and tons of the stuff everywhere, and it’s only late in the game that someone like the researchers at UNC have a moment to really look at what the unintended consequences might be.
Just because we can do something doesn’t always mean we should. One wonders if humankind will only learn that lesson after it’s too late.