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Insecticide Exposure May Cause Problems with Brain Development: EU

Exposure to two widely used insecticides may impact the development of the brain and cause health problems for humans, according to a warning issued this week by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). 

Acetamiprid and imidacloprid, both neonicotinoid insecticides, were found by recent research to cause harm to the developing human nervous system, specifically the brain.

Researchers from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a statement Tuesday discussing those findings and indicating that the chemicals should be more tightly controlled.

European health officials recommend new lower guidance levels of exposure to the insecticides while more research is done to determine any long lasting effects on the human nervous system.

The research and recommendations were issued following a request by the European Union (EU), which is a regulatory body involving 28 member states that are primarily located in Europe.

The EFSA’s Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR) found the two drugs may affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with learning and memory, resulting in Developmental Neurotoxicity (DNT).

The proposed guidance recommends new long-term and short-term exposure limits for humans that officials say would protect against neurotoxicity in the developing human brain.

The two insecticides belong to a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids. The recently developed chemicals are a nicotine-based pesticide. Imidacloprid, manufactured by Bayer, is a one of the most widely used insecticides in the world.

Imidacloprid is used in products like Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control, Confidor, Intercept, Merit and Nuprid. Acetamiprid is sold by Nisso Chemical and used in products like Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer. Both products are sold in stores across the United States.

Although the chemicals are widely used, imidacloprid was among three neonicotinoid insecticides that were banned by the EU in April. The two-year ban was enacted on pesticides used on flowering crops in Europe that attract honey bees.

The EU blamed the insecticides for the deaths of large numbers of honey bees, a phenomena which may also affect human health.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently raised similar concerns about the effect of the insecticide on honey bees as well, following a study published in October. The study found neonicotinoids may adversely affect the insect immune response and promote replication of a viral pathogen among the honey population.

The recommended exposure limits will be reviewed by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. The review may take several months before action is taken.

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Image via: Art Konovalov / Shutterstock.com

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