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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 23:21 GMT 00:21 UK
Pesticides 'can cause brain damage'
Brain
Pesticides can cause problems with speech and thinking
Gardeners and farmers who use pesticides are at risk of developing brain damage, according to a study.

Research carried out in The Netherlands suggests people who expose themselves to pesticides, including those who work with chemicals, over a long period may suffer from long-term side-effects.

The Maastricht Ageing Study examined the health of 830 people. Of these, 629 had been exposed to pesticides in the course of their work.

It found that many had mild cognitive dysfunction (MCD), which meant they had problems identifying words, colours or numbers and were unable to speak fluently.

The researchers found that people exposed to pesticides were five times more likely to suffer from mild brain problems compared with the general population.


People who are frequently exposed to pesticides have higher risk of developing mild cognitive dysfunction

Hans Bosma, Maastricht Ageing Study

Farmers and gardeners were most at risk of developing problems.

"Our findings suggest that people who are frequently exposed to pesticides, such as arable farmers and gardeners, may have a higher risk of developing MCD," said Hans Bosma, one of the authors.

He added: "Our findings might reflect subtle changes in brain function among people exposed to pesticides."

Writing in the latest issue of the medical journal The Lancet, they said that further research was needed to back up their initial findings.

Pesticides have been associated with everything from cancer and infertility to Gulf War syndrome and eye abnormalities and, in many cases, there is solid evidence to back this up.

For this reason, some countries have banned the use of certain pesticides in food and safety levels have been set for others which are deemed to protect the public.

However, the jury is still out on the risk of consuming many pesticides on a long-term basis.

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16 Sep 99 | Medical notes
Pesticides
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