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Alarming Public Health Study Documents Effects of Bee-killing Insecticides on People in Japan

November 18th, 2015
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety Concerned Rural Americans Face Similar Risks

WASHINGTON, DC (November 18, 2015)—From 2006 to 2014, Japanese doctors documented a new cluster of symptoms reported by hundreds of rural Japanese people: patients suffering from recent memory loss, finger tremors, and combined symptoms of headache, general fatigue, palpitation/chest pain, abdominal pain, muscle pain, and cough. Public health researchers later associated these symptoms with the level of exposure to agricultural neonicotinoid insecticides, used on fresh fruits, tea, rice and a host of other human food crops. Urine sampling showed the level of symptoms correlated with the amount of neonicotinoid consumption. 

Last week, the public health team composed of Japanese, American and African researchers published the alarming story of those patients. The patients lived in rural communities and were being exposed to agricultural chemicals mostly through ingestion of pesticide-contaminated food and also perhaps by blowing sprays and dusts in a heavily-farmed, densely-populated area. Residential, pet and other exposures may also have contributed. The people involved were not farmworkers and did not have unusually high occupational exposures.

Key quotes from the authors:

“The results suggest that the occurrence of neo-nicotinic symptoms in the general population is related to environmental exposure to neonicotinoids, at least acetamiprid and thiamethoxam.”

“Gender seems to be one of the factors that neo-nicotinic symptoms manifest. In this study, more than 60% were women in the Typical Symptomatic Group and Atypical Symptomatic Group. This trend is consistent with our previous study. Age dependency was not clear in our studies. However the involvement of young patients suggests the adverse effect of neonicotinoids on the developing brain; and that of aged patients suggests the effect of neonicotinoid on the brain with cognitive function problems.”

Peter T. Jenkins, consulting attorney with CFS, stated,“If this Japanese rural population is experiencing neurological symptoms from exposure to neonics, aren’t rural Americans also at risk in many areas? Any involuntary poisoning with neurotoxins is reprehensible and must come to an end. These exposures are occurring mostly through eating and drinking, so the risks go far beyond farmworkers and other occupational exposures to every-day consumers in rural areas.”

The potential for water contamination is also high; although Japanese studies have not documented it, numerous U.S., Canadian, and Dutch studies have. These are compiled in the new Center for Food Safety report, Water Hazard:  Aquatic Contamination by Neonicotinoid Insecticides in the United States. The safety of drinking water sources and threats from pesticide contamination needs further urgent research.

“The bee-killing class of neonicotinoid insecticides act neurotoxically. Human brains and nervous systems can be affected in some of the same ways as insects with high enough dosing. Prior neurotoxicity studies on the neonicotinoids have raised alarms, including within the European Food Safety Agency. But, those were mostly cell culture or rat studies. Now, well-supported evidence of illness in real people has emerged in the published scientific literature for the first time. Federal and State regulators must act to protect public health,” said Jenkins.

The paper is: Marfo, Fujioka. et al. 2015. Relationship between Urinary N-Desmethyl-Acetamiprid and Typical Symptoms including Neurological Findings: A Prevalence Case-Control Study.  PLoS ONE 10(11): e0142172. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142172 .


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