For people who are not pregnant, Zika is about as consequential as the common cold. Per the CDC, “Zika is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.”
The only people who should fear Zika are pregnant women, because Zika has been linked to microcephaly and other brain development defects for fetuses who are exposed to it. Even though there are many legitimate questions about the role of Zika in the cases of microcephaly in Brazil, (the article, Zika Microcephaly and the Problem with Smoking Gun Medicine describes many of the issues and questions still at hand) let’s assume that Zika causes brain development problems in fetuses who encounter it.
In order to protect developing fetuses from Zika, many areas in the American South are spraying Naled, an organophosphate insecticide, over populated areas. Naled is, without a doubt, an effective insecticide. Naled will kill mosquitos (and bees) who are exposed to it. If your sole goal is to kill insects, Naled is a fine solution. But the goal shouldn’t be to kill insects (even ones as nasty as mosquitoes) it should be to prevent microcephaly and other brain development problems in fetuses.
The rampant spraying of insecticides over populated areas in America begs the questions – Can the spraying of Naled prevent microcephaly in fetuses? And, more importantly, the question should be asked, can Naled CAUSE microcephaly and other brain abnormalities in fetuses?
Given that almost all of the cases of Zika diagnosed in the US are imported, travel-related cases, and that, per CNN, “the only state with active mosquito transmission is Florida, and only in the Miami and St. Petersberg/Tampa areas,” spraying Naled in areas other than those small sections of Florida is worthless at preventing the spread of Zika.
The second question, can Naled cause microcephaly and other brain development defects, is more interesting.
The site, www.nospray.org notes on their Fact Sheet on NALED Insecticide Being Sprayed for Zika that:
“Naled’s breakdown product DICHLORVOS (another organophosphate insecticide) interferes with prenatal brain development. In laboratory animals, exposure for just 3 days during pregnancy when the brain is growing quickly reduced brain size 15 percent.”
In their Information on Aerial Spraying form, the CDC states that neither Naled nor the Bti larvicide that is being sprayed along with it, cause cancer or exacerbate asthma. Those things are reassuring, but drastically incomplete. The question here is, can Naled, as nospray.org contends, interfere with prenatal brain development? The CDC doesn’t bother to address that in their information sheet.
For more than thirty years, scientists have known that endocrine-disrupting chemicals that appear to have no effects on adults can have devastating effects on fetal development in-utero. An organophosphate pesticide, like Naled, need not cause cancer, or have any notable effect on adults, to interfere with fetal brain development, and there is, as nospray.org contends, evidence that Naled is an endocrine-disruptor that can interrupt fetal brain development.
The article, Association between organophosphate pesticides exposure and thyroid hormones in floriculture workers, published in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology notes that:
“These results suggest that exposure to organophosphate pesticides may be responsible of increasing TSH and T(4) serum hormone levels and decreasing T(3) serum hormone levels, therefore supporting the hypothesis that organophosphate pesticides act as endocrine disruptors in humans.”
Naled is one of many organophosphate pesticides, and any chemical that changes levels of thyroid hormones is an endocrine-disrupter.
Moreover, thyroid hormones, those hormones specifically disrupted by organophosphate pesticides like Naled, are critical for fetal brain development. This passage from Our Stolen Future by Theo Coloborn, Dianne Dumonsky and John Peterson Myers describes the role thyroid hormones play in fetal brain development:
“Extensive research on the developing brain and nervous system has found that thyroid hormones help orchestrate the elaborate step-by-step process that is required for normal brain development. As touched on in Chapter 3, these hormones stimulate the proliferation of nerve cells and later guide the orderly migration of nerve cells to appropriate areas of the brain. The brain and nervous system, like other parts of the body, pass through critical periods during their development both in the womb and in the first two years of life. When thyroid levels are too high or too low, this development process will go awry and permanent damage will result, which can range from mental retardation to more subtle behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. The precise nature of the damage done by abnormal thyroid levels will depend on the timing and the extent of the disruption.”
So, organophosphate pesticides, which have been shown to disrupt thyroid hormones, are being sprayed to kill mosquitoes so that pregnant women won’t get Zika and their fetuses won’t suffer from Zika-induced microcephaly, BUT the organophosphate pesticides themselves are endocrine-disruptors that can adversely affect brain development.
As of August 31, 2016, there are only 35 people in the U.S. who have locally acquired mosquito-borne Zika (per the CDC).
Thousands, if not millions, of people have been exposed to Naled because of the recent spraying of it to “prevent Zika.”
Exposing significantly more fetuses to endocrine-disrupting, brain development inhibiting, pesticides, in order to prevent a few cases of Zika-induced microcephaly, is INSANE.
Apparently, our health departments, the CDC, and the U.S. Congress have entirely forgotten how to do a risk analysis. They are endangering innocent people (there is no more vulnerable population than developing fetuses) through aerial spraying of organophosphate pesticides, while claiming that they are spraying the pesticides in order to protect fetuses from Zika. As the memes say, Orwell was only wrong about the year.
I have no conclusions about this insanity other than to say that if everyone read Our Stolen Future, a book about the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on fetal development (it’s a good, and easy-to-read book—it was a bestseller when it came out in the late 1990s), we wouldn’t be allowing our “health departments” to spray endocrine-disrupting chemicals anywhere near pregnant women. Perhaps with some knowledge, public pressure, and a few more bee deaths (people are rightly outraged about the death of millions of bees from the spraying of Naled, but I find it interesting that people are more outraged about the bees than they are about the effects of indiscriminate spraying of endocrine-disrupting pesticides near human fetuses), this insanity will stop.