Pesticide giants accused of covering up their products’ toxicity to developing brains

While neurodevelopmental disorders (autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity, intellectual disabilities, etc.) are on the rise in many countries, including France, the work of chemist Axel Mie (University of Stockholm, Karolinska Institute) and toxicologist Christina Rudén (University of Stockholm) is likely to arouse great interest. And a strong controversy.

In the wake of previous work on glyphosate published in September 2022, the two Swedish scientists show, in a study published Thursday 1er june by review Environmental Healththat several pesticide manufacturers have shielded European authorities from unfavorable results of toxicity tests for the developing brain (DNT, for developmental neurotoxicity) – tests that they had carried out on their substances with a view to their evaluation, before marketing authorisation. Results revealed exclusively by The worldBayerischer Rundfunk and Der Spiegel in Germany, the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) in Switzerland and The Guardian UK.

Initially, the two researchers carried out painstaking work. They compared, in thousands of pages of regulatory files, the data transmitted by the manufacturers to the American authorities, on the one hand, and European, on the other hand. They were thus able to identify nine pesticides for which several manufacturers (including Bayer and Syngenta) have conducted and submitted DNT studies to the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), but not to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Conducted on laboratory animals between 2001 and 2007, these tests were not taken into account by the European regulator during the first authorizations of these nine substances (abamectin, ethoprophos, buprofezin, fenamidone, fenamiphos, fluazinam, glyphosate-trimesium , pymetrozine, pyridaben), mostly granted in the late 2000s.

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“This work must be considered all the more seriously since the impacts of pesticides on neurodevelopmental disorders have been unequivocally proven, not only on laboratory animals, but also on humans.comments the neurobiologist Yehezkel Ben-Ari, director of research emeritus at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), who did not participate in the work of the Swedish researchers. On autism in particular, but also on the intelligence quotient, we know that maternal exposures have an effect on the unborn child. »

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