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Doctor: The Best Treatment for Pesticide Related Illnesses is Avoidance of the Toxins

Dr. Alan Vinitsky, left, testifies on behalf of pesticide reduction during Monday's hearing. He was flanked by Joshua Kramer, a pesticide operator who spoke against the bill, and Janet Whitman, a local citizen who advocated for a ban that would extend to private property.

Dr. Alan Vinitsky, left, testifies on behalf of pesticide reduction during Monday’s hearing. He was flanked by Joshua Kramer, a pesticide operator who spoke against the bill, and Janet Whitman, a local citizen who advocated for a ban that would extend to private property.

Among the presenters on Monday, Feb. 27, at a District of Columbia hearing on behalf of the Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012, Dr. Alan Vinitsky offered some of the more compelling information to the committee that evaluating the legislation:

INTRODUCTION

I am a Board Certified Pediatrician and Internist, practicing in Montgomery County for 33 years. I have special interest in Environmental Medicine — with a focus on preventing toxic exposures to persons of all ages — and identifying and treating illnesses that result from toxic exposure and their consequences. I have extensive experience in treating patients who suffered the consequences of PESTICIDE exposures.

I speak in support of the Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012.

PESTICIDES

What we don’t like about insects, rodents, weeds, fungi, we seek to destroy. The manner in which we accomplish that goal is what we discuss today.

Integrated Pest Management provides powerful means to reduce toxic exposure from pesticides, while promoting the common goal of achieving a more pleasant environment — free of undesirables.

MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEETS AND PRODUCT LABELS

The full contents of a product label are hidden under four words “INERT INGREDIENTS” and “PROPIETARY INFORMATION.”

Therefore, any discussion that is limited to the “ACTIVE INGREDIENT” is INCOMPLETE.

When I use the term PESTICIDE today, I am including any and all accompanying ingredients.

WHY ARE THERE INACTIVE INGREDIENTS?

These are additional chemicals, which make the ACTIVE PESTICIDE even more powerful. For example, making it the correct strength, providing a vehicle for its application, increasing penetration of the PESTICIDE, making it attach for a longer time, or making it more resistant to being inactivated in air, soil, or at the site of action.

HOW WE MAKE CONTACT WITH PESTICIDES

Some “so-called safe” PESTICIDES accumulate in and on dust. PESTICIDES can be transported in the air by wind, in dust, on shoes, and clothing. Outdoor applications can be carried indoors — brought there by anyone or anything that came in contact with PESTICIDES, such as pets. PESTICIDES are contained in food and the water we consume.

In other words, PESTICIDES applied in one location can be transported to a remote location. A couple of examples are a bouquet of flowers or personal care products worn by a teacher.

Ventilation systems, simple cleaning, mopping, dusting, or vacuuming distribute PESTICIDES indoors. PESTICIDES affect the water supply by rain or irrigation run-off. ANIMALS and PETS may also be unwitting victims or carriers of PESTICIDE exposure.

PESTICIDES ENTER OUR BODIES

We are exposed to PESTICIDES by inhaling, ingesting, or getting them on our skin or mucus membranes. Infants and children are especially susceptible because the size of their skin relative to their body weight is greater than that of adults. They are more likely to roll and play on the grass, fall on the ground, or play on floors or carpets. They are more likely to put their hands in their mouths and share toys.

PESTICIDES LEAVE OUR BODIES

PESTICIDES exit when we breathe, poop and pee [I am a PEDIATRICIAN!], sweat, cry out tears, and salivate. Women also have a monthly cycle.

Many PESTICIDES must be converted to another form before they can be eliminated.

Fifteen to 20 percent of our population converts chemicals more slowly, due to their genetics. You can be born with this alteration, it can occur over time, or you can suddenly develop it, if your systems are overwhelmed.

Physically- and emotionally-stressed children and adults clear chemicals even more slowly, because protective processes use up your vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. These substances clean up markers in your body, and others trap toxins and escort them out of the body. Once those resources are depleted, the “slow-conversion genes.” which were previously silent, sometimes start operating.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PESTICIDES ARE STILL INSIDE

PESTICIDES that can’t be removed will accumulate in NERVES, CELLS, LININGS OF CELLS, AND ORGANS – especially where there is fat. That includes BRAIN, LIVER, PANCREAS, THYROID, KIDNEYS, LYMPH NODES, HEART AND LUNGS, AND GASTRO-INTESTINAL TRACT. And, if necessary, your body will MAKE MORE FAT to store even more chemicals.

MEDICAL CONSEQUENCES OF “PESTICIDE” and accompanying CHEMICAL EXPOSURES

Because PESTICIDES function by different mechanisms, my brief discussion cannot be all inclusive.

However, many PESTICIDES affect the NERVOUS SYSTEM or INACTIVATE A CHEMICAL PROCESS, so that a certain critical function of the TARGET is corrupted, and the TARGET dies. Similar consequences may occur in humans.

Children or adults can suffer from asthma, heart problems, irregular heart rhythms, recurrent infections, rashes, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, attention deficit-like behavior, altered vision, sense of smell, hearing, taste or touch, balance, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, dementia, seizures, weight gain, altered hormones – including premature puberty, growth disruption, ovarian and testicular dysfunction, thyroid problems, and diabetes.

There can be increased infertility, increased miscarriages, increased congenital malformations, or a fetus can take on the pesticides, and be saddled with the PESTICIDE burden at birth.

There can be more vague symptoms like the onset of cancer, psychiatric symptoms, or what is called Chemical Sensitivities.

MY PATIENTS WITH CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY

A young lady — I will call her Jean — now 19, and successfully attending college — was exposed to a termite agent — chlorpyrifos — while in preschool. Her older sister was also exposed, whose dominant symptoms remained recurrent asthma and relative overweight, much like her mother and grandmother. The link to the pesticide became apparent since both girls became sick at the same time, after her mother exhaustively investigated the connection.

She was evaluated by a specialist in New York who confirmed that chlorpyrifos was the most likely cause for her initial illness.

Yet, Jean, age 9, arrived at my office with ongoing, intermittent symptoms. She experienced cold body temperature, very rapid heart beat, dizziness, fatigue, and lack of concentration, frequent urination, red eyes and dilated pupils, dizziness, peeling skin rashes on her fingers and blotchy skin. Not all of these symptoms would occur all of the time, nor at the same time, but most often, these would occur at school. She might also have symptoms if she went shopping with her Mom – like going down the laundry detergent aisle, or the perfume counter in the mall store.

Her mother would keep Jean home from school, when symptoms persisted. Jean would recover at home, where air quality was maintained, organic foods were consumed, and water was fresh. In other words, Jean was living in a created OASIS — clean air, food, and water. Jean would return to school, and symptoms would return. Jean was often declared “truant”, yet her Mom was taking the responsibility of doing one of the most fundamental of treatments — avoidance!

Eventually, the timing of symptoms correlated with environmental exposures, such as pesticides, cleaners, floor strippers, glossy paint, polyurethane, white board markers, and even fresh-cut flowers from a florist. But almost all of the other children were unaffected.

Chemical Sensitivity is a condition that affects some people who cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of a substance — well below EPA “safe levels.” To observers, it looks the symptoms are mental or psychiatric.

But, after doing a stress test of her Autonomic Nervous System, Jean and her Mom learned that she was not experiencing psychiatric problems, but neurologic dysfunction. Jean’s low-level exposures are magnified, because she is unable to clear them from her body. These then provoke a “fright or flight” response, not because she is nervous or scared, but because her NERVOUS SYSTEM REPORTED “DANGER!”

In other cases, which I have treated, the Autonomic Nervous System was even more rigid and unbalanced when they first arrived for treatment, and that makes recovery that much more difficult.

The good news for Jean is that with proper treatment she is mostly recovered, and her sensitivities are much improved.

TAKE AWAYS

An important takeaway is that PESTICIDES CAUSE CHRONIC CONDITIONS WITH LONG-TERM AFFECTS, in addition to IMMEDIATE SHORT-TERM EFFECTS. Again, recall my previous statement −
Children or adults can suffer from asthma, heart problems, irregular heart rhythms, recurrent infections, rashes, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, attention deficit-like behavior, altered vision, sense of smell, hearing, taste or touch, balance, weight gain, altered hormones – including premature puberty, growth disruption, ovarian and testicular dysfunction, thyroid problems, and diabetes.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

You can find more information about chlorpyrifos, at www.beyondpesticides.org/gateway/index.htm. You can retrieve this article by Alarcon et al, which was published in 2005 in JAMA — “Acute Illnesses Associated with Pesticide Exposures in Schools.” Chlorpyrifos is now deregistered for most residential use by the EPA since 2006, as a result of persistence on the part of many dedicated persons like Jean’s Mom.

Jean’s illness should never have occurred. YOU HAVE THE POWER OF PREVENTION!

This article recommends all the components of your pending legislation — Integrated Pest Management, registering, surveillance, reporting, and teaching.

I urge you to pass this legislation for the safety of D.C’s Children.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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