According to a new study completed at Duke University by Kathleen Hayden, PhD, exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of dementia by as much as 70%.

Dr. Hayden based her finding on data from the Cache County Study of Memory and Health, an ongoing study that began in 1995 and includes over 5000 subjects. The population used for this study was especially relevant because the subjects live in a rural area with lots of agriculture, including the cultivation of wheat, soybeans, apples, corn and hay. Dr. Hayden’s study assessed the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 4012 of these subjects, all of which were free of dementia when the study began. Her analysis found consistent significant relationships between new-onset dementia and exposure to organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides. In addition, any exposure to pesticide was associated with a 56% increase in the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Pesticide exposure has increased drastically over the last 50 years and there are now over 18,000 pesticides licensed for use in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency and over 2 million pounds are applied to our crops, parks, homes and forests,” stated Dr. Hayden who also said, ” exposure to pesticides may have long term damaging effects on the nervous system and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.”  This statement is sensible, since most pesticides are designed to attack or disrupt the nervous system of insects.

There is something you can do to curb the use of dangerous pesticides. Let government, industry and homeowner’s associations know that you do not want your family exposed to toxic chemicals in the environment or through your foods. You can help by purchasing local organic produce that is grown without pesticides or fertilizers and avoiding conventionally grown items. Studies have also shown that foods grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers are more nutritious and provide vitamins and minerals in much higher levels. You can also use natural pesticides in your garden, or switch to native landscaping that does not require to the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The more you do to discourage dangerous practices, the safer we can make our environment!

Source: Internal Medicine News, Dec 2009

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