A “congenital abnormality”, also known as a birth defect, is a medical condition caused by problems during the development of a fetus before birth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, an “estimated 276, 000 babies die within 4 weeks of birth every year, worldwide, from congenital anomalies.”

The neurodevelopmental disorder known as “Microcephaly” is a congenital abnormality. It is what is currently occurring in epidemic proportions in Brazil—babies being born with shrunken heads and damaged brains. A total of 4,180 cases of microcephaly cases have been reported in Brazil since October 2015, compared to a 147 cases reported by the Brazilian Ministry of Health in 2014.

For more historical perspective, a total of 167 microcephaly cases were reported by the Ministry of Health in 2013, 175 in 2012, 139 in 2011, and 153 in 2010.

On May 15, 2010, researchers Marília Teixeira de Siqueira, Cynthia Braga, José Eulálio Cabral-Filho, Lia Giraldo da Silva Augusto, José Natal Figueiroa, and Ariani Impieri Souza published a study titled “Correlation Between Pesticide Use in Agriculture and Adverse Birth Outcomes in Brazil: An Ecological Study” on Spring Science+Business Media, LLC ( http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00128-010-0027-8#/ )

According to the study’s abstract:

“This ecological study analyzed the association between pesticide use and prematurity, low weight and congenital abnormality at birth, infant death by congenital abnormality, and fetal death in Brazil in 2001. Simple linear regression analysis has determined a positive association between pesticide use and prematurity, low birth weight, and congenital abnormality.

The association between pesticide use and low birth weight (p = 0.045) and, congenital abnormality (p = 0.004) and infant death rate by congenital abnormality (p = 0.039) remained after the adjustment made by the proportion of pregnant women with a low number of prenatal care visits.”

Excerpted from the study >>

“Brazil accounts for approximately 50% of the agricultural pesticides consumed in Latin America (Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria 2005). Its use increased after the implementation of agriculture financing in the 70’s (Waissmann 2007) and, recently, with the implementation of the National Family Farm Program – PRONAF (Kageyama 2003).

From 1995 to 2005, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and acaricides were, in decreasing order, the most consumed types of pesticides in the country especially in soy, sugarcane, cotton, corn, and citrus crops (Ministerio da Agricultura, Pecuaria e Abastecimento 2005).

Exposure to agricultural pesticides in the Brazilian population has been monitored through the National Program for Food Residues Analysis – PARA, which was implemented in 2001. This program was able to identify nonauthorized agricultural pesticides or pesticide levels above the maximum limit permitted in food samples.

Some pesticides detected by the PARA, such as endosulfan, acephate, chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, and methamidophos (Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria 2009), are the active ingredients for the development of endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity, therefore increasing risks of adverse events on the human fetus (Peiris-John and Wickremasinghe 2008).

Experimental studies have shown that many agricultural pesticides have an impact on production, release, transport, metabolism, and elimination of hormones that regulate homeostasis and other developmental processes (Woodruff et al. 2008).

In the human species, the exposure of one or both parents to agricultural pesticides have been related to prematurity risk increase (Fenster et al. 2006), low birth weight (Whyatt et al. 2004), congenital abnormality (Bell et al. 2001), and fetal death (Longnecker et al. 2005), among other reproductive health problems.”


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