Pesticide Industry Propaganda: The Real Story

The Real Story Behind the Myths

May 1, 1995

Pesticide Industry Propaganda: The Real Story: Myth 4: Nobody has ever been hurt by exposure to pesticides at low doses

Myth #4: Nobody has ever been hurt by exposure to pesticides at the low doses found in food and water.

The landmark 1993 National Academy of Sciences study of children and pesticides concluded exactly the opposite when it found, based on an examination of actual residues in actual diets, that some children are exposed to so many organophosphate pesticides in food each day that they could experience "acute organophosphate insecticide poisoning" (NRC 1993a).

Mainstream scientists agree that real world exposure to cancer-causing chemicals presents real risks (Portier et al. 1994), particularly in the modern, polluted environment where people are routinely exposed to complex mixtures of cancer-causing chemicals. Between 30,000 and 60,000 people each year die from exposure to cancer-causing environmental pollutants.

At least 20 additional epidemiology studies in the peer-reviewed literature document a relationship between exposure to pesticides and increased risk of cancer in children (see children's references, Appendix 1). Children are generally more susceptible to the toxic effects of these chemicals than adults, and current animal tests and regulations do not protect children (NRC 1993a, WHO 1986).

Children are routinely exposed to hundreds of pesticides in food, as well as contaminants in air and water. The combined toxicity of these chemicals is not known, nor is it being studied. Meanwhile, the incidence rate of childhood cancers, particularly brain cancer and childhood leukemia, continues to rise (Ries, et al. 1993).

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute have found that farmers have elevated rates of several types of cancer that are associated with chemical exposure, including pesticides (see farmer references, Appendix 2).

Other effects, such as disruption of the endocrine system, have been shown to occur in animals at extremely low doses (Gray 1992). Scientists agree that there is a biologically plausible relationship between many chlorinated chemicals in the environment, including pesticides, and endocrine-related effects, such as declining sperm counts and rising rates of testicular and breast cancer that are widely reported in the industrialized world (Auger et al. 1995, Abell et al. 1994, Sharp and Skakkebaek 1993, Carlsen et al. 1992, Schrader 1988).