Report Blaming Birth Defects On Pesticides, Not Zika, Gets Debunked

(REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A report anti-pesticide activists are using to link pesticides to the Zika virus was “completely wrong,” according to medical experts.

“The effect of this [report] to cause panic in people, and to prevent an effective response to disease carrying-vectors, is a very substantial negative,” Ian Musgrave, an expert on neurotoxicology and pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, told The Huffington Post. “If they wanted to control the mosquitos, what are they going to use now? Something even more toxic?”

Musgrave called the Argentinian doctors’ report “simply not plausible.” The pesticide in question is lethal to mosquitoes, but it affects a hormone system in insects which humans simply don’t  have. Musgrave said a human would have to drink over 1,000 liters of pesticide-treated water every day to feel any negative effects.

In February, Argentinian scientists published a report claiming the birth defects seen across Latin America are actually caused by a pesticide pyriproxyfen, which is used in control efforts against the mosquito which carries the Zika virus. The pesticide is mainly used to kill mosquito eggs in public water supplies. The report blamed the entire rash of birth defects on Monsanto, a company that sells genetically modified crops and pesticides, while getting basic factual information about the Zika virus and its history flat-out wrong. The report even condemned the very idea of mosquito control.

Medical experts noticed the study and began to poke holes in it. For one, Monsanto is not even involved in the manufacturing of pyriproxyfen.

The Argentinian doctors even acknowledged to The Wall Street Journal Monday they hadn’t done any lab studies or epidemiological research to support their assertions. Despite these failings, the report gained a lot of media attention and was picked up by anti-genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other green groups. It was even picked up in mainstream outlets such as The Telegraph and Tech Times. The report even convinced the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul to ban the pesticide.

Organizations such as the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO) both strongly suspect that two neurological disorders, the birth defect microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, are linked to the mosquito-born Zika virus. WHO has actually stated that a link could be proven within weeks.

Laboratory studies have confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with the birth defect microcephaly.

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