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High prevalence of diabetes among people exposed to organophosphates in India (biomedcentral.com)
268 points by aethertap on Apr 9, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 94 comments

This headline explains my general aversion to "chemicals". This, despite the fact that everything is a chemical and that we are all little chemical machines.

The human physiology is unfathomably complex and the advent of synthetic chemistry has meant that we are now exposed to new molecules which have arisen at a rate tens, hundreds of thousands of years too early for our bodies to evolve to accommodate for them. Our exposure to these chemicals is also incredibly opaque: even eating "clean" by eating fruit and veg exposes us to a multitude of chemicals that come along the pipeline including fertilisers, pesticides and preservatives.

Nature is exquisitely sensitive to chemistry - I recall reading that natural systems have evolved to exploit and dispatch behaviour based on the isotopic composition of carbon-based molecules: naturally synthesised molecules also have a different isotopic profile to artificially synthesised molecules. For the record, Carbon-13 represents ~1% of the natural isotopic abundance.

If something as granular as the isotopic distribution of elements is important to physiological systems, how can we be so complacent as to constantly pile chemicals into every aspect of our lives?

Businesses will wantonly and irresponsibly use any method to increase their bottom lines and it falls to regulators to moderate this behaviour. As an example, I recall McDonald's doping their chip oil with a known toxic organic chemical to lower the rate of thermal decomposition of their oil. This is something they could as easily avoid by replacing their oil more often, but this is costly: they instead defer this cost onto our health by exposing us to unnecessarily dangerous chemicals.

In my opinion the FDA's (or indeed global regulators') thresholds for the use of chemicals is not stringent enough - humans are living longer, how do we know that prolonged exposure to any of these individual chemicals (let alone the cocktail of all of them) over a 50-100 year period are worth the risk?

For another anecdote of irresponsible chemical usage - the onset of lung cancer through smoking underwent a stepwise increase after the tobacco industry started using phosphate fertilisers to increase their crop yield: a side effect of the fertilisers was to enrich the soil in radium which would decay down to Pollonium-210, an alpha source of Russian-assassination fame. Studies have been done on characterising the sievert profile of tobacco leaves, highlighting the risk of this but no action on the tobacco industry has been taken to mitigate this.

I love this quote from E.T. Jaynes:

>A common error, when judging the effects of radioactivity or the toxicity of some substance, is to assume a linear response model without threshold (that is, without a dose rate below which there is no ill effect). Presumably there is no threshold effect for cumulative poisons like heavy metal ions (mercury, lead), which are eliminated only very slowly if at all. But for virtually every organic substance (such as saccharin or cyclamates), the existence of a finite metabolic rate means that there must exist a finite threshold dose rate, below which the substance is decomposed, eliminated, or chemically altered so rapidly that it has no ill effects. If this were not true, the human race could never have survived to the present time, in view of all the things we have been eating.

>Indeed, every mouthful of food you and I have ever taken contained many billions of kinds of complex molecules whose structure and physiological effects have never been determined—and many millions of which would be toxic or fatal in large doses. We cannot doubt that we are daily ingesting thousands of substances that are far more dangerous than saccharin—but in amounts that are safe, because they are far below the various thresholds of toxicity. But at present there is hardly any substance except some common drugs, for which we actually know the threshold.

The most dangerous substances fall into a few categories. Things like insecticides (which is what this thread is about) are designed to kill animals. Insects, but still, their physiology is close enough to humans. And things like heavy metals and radioactive substances. Which our ancestors weren't really exposed to.

For non cancer risks like carbon monoxide poisoning thresholds are generally extremely important and relatively straightforward.

The problem is people are designed to get cancer, or alternatively we are very good at pushing cancer off long enough not to be important but no longer than that. So, the odds of cancer by 90 are very high, and simply shifting a few years early may take a relatively tiny change.

In other words models about cancer risks based on 18 year olds don't extrapolate well to 60 year olds.

An alternative explanation is that we have a lot of "backup capacity" such that small amounts of damage are not noticed by reasonable tests (or potentially are impossible to measure) until we reach a point where we fail to function. I have enough beta cells in my pancreas that you can destroy a lot of them and you will not see my blood sugar lose control; maybe it takes slightly longer to steady, but unless you have previous tests of how well I function I might still look "normal", but if you destroy enough then eventually I stop being able to regulate blood sugar and I clearly have diabetes.

Maybe if you kept tons of test results of when I was normal, you could try to compare, but in addition to the problem that most people don't take tests when they don't notice issues (and even when they do, the medical profession just seems to love to destroy files after a number of years: it just feels criminal to destroy data like that on someone's medical history), the test subject is also getting older and you expect them to not function as well :/.

Even if you know something is failing, often medical science just doesn't care: over a decade ago I was getting hearing tests done occasionally as I could tell I was losing the hearing in my right year, but I had hearing that was so good (better than most people even for being in my early 20s, when everyone still has good hearing... and so usually aren't taking hearing tests) that the doctors would explain I'd topped out their charts, had "excellent hearing", and they couldn't even know if something was wrong. Well: I definitely have extremely worse hearing in my right ear now :/.

It wouldn't surprise me if the exact opposite were true: that medical science often estimates things assuming there are "thresholds", when quite possibly almost nothing is subject to a threshold effect while often being cumulative; the issue being just that the response curve is sufficiently sloped, and is further skewed by tests based on results instead of on internal state, that it looks like there are thresholds, and so we underestimate essentially everything dangerous.

An alternative explanation is that we have a lot of "backup capacity" such that small amounts of damage are not noticed by reasonable tests (or potentially are impossible to measure) until we reach a point where we fail to function.

We are actually all supposed to be 7 feet tall and full of muscles, we just don't know it because every last one of us has been stunted by poor diet and what not.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I generally agree with your points about thresholds, and the fact that some synthetics don't degrade very quickly.

But this is funny:

> And things like heavy metals and radioactive substances. Which our ancestors weren't really exposed to.

Please excuse the Wikipedia quote. The numbers are right, and it's written well enough:

> 40K occurs in natural potassium (and thus in some commercial salt substitutes) in sufficient quantity that large bags of those substitutes can be used as a radioactive source for classroom demonstrations. In healthy animals and people, 40K represents the largest source of radioactivity, greater even than 14C. In a human body of 70 kg mass, about 4,400 nuclei of 40K decay per second.[2]

K-40 is primarily a beta (electron) emitter.

In some cases a large enough difference in quantity is a difference in quality. The doses of radiation that are dangerous to humans, are orders of magnitude larger than what you get from eating a banana. The amount of bananas you'd need to consume to get radiation poisoning is unimaginable.

There are orders of magnitude more K-40 in you, than in a banana ;)

Which is the basis for the fact (often disbelieved) that you're exposing yourself to radiation when you sleep next to someone. And that sometimes leads to the what if question 'How many people would have to spoon to create a critical mass?'

Well, those betas have pretty short path length. But long enough to hit your own DNA, given that K gets pumped into cells.

Can anyone tell if this applies to carcinogens? Can a tiny amount cause cellular damage and lead to cancer?

For all (most?) cancers, you need many mutations in one cell.

There is some probability that a mutation will trigger an internal check in the cell to detect bad mutations, and the cell will commit suicide.

There is also some probability that the cell will die accidentally before the second mutation.

There is some probability that the immune system will detect something fishy and kill the cell just in case.

If the time between each mutation is bigger, then you have more time to get lucky and remove the cell while it has a single mutation, before it can accumulate more mutations and become dangerous.

So a lower dose will increase the time between mutations and make the case of two accumulative bad mutations less common. Then at small doses, the effect is not linear and perhaps below some threshold the ability of the body to detect problems will fix all the cases before you notice.

The problem is that it's very difficult to measure the effect of very low doses for a long time. (You have to test the drug in some animal that lives for a long time like elephants instead of mice.) (And it's difficult to get funding and graduate students for a 20 year experiment.)

So the "linear non threshold model" is slightly pessimistic, it err on the side of caution, but it's probably good enough and not too alarmist.


Technical note: There are actually no cells with zero mutations. All cells have some mutations. Some have less, some have more. Some mutations are dangerous, most are innocuous, a few may be advantageous. But to simplify the discussion, I just ignored this and imagine that usually the cells have no mutations.

It depends highly on the mechanism of carcinogenesis. Lead is a (possible) carcinogen, and accumulates even in relatively small quantities because it takes up residence in your bones and is slowly released back into your blood over years. Others may be eliminated rapidly and only cause damage in large or continuous doses. Frustratingly the answer is often "it depends". The very low end of the spectrum of exposures is often the most relevant to humans (due to our relatively low exposure to most things), but very hard to study, because the effects are often drowned out by other causes of morbidity/mortality.

In a side note, Organophosphates replaced Organochlorides for a very similar reason. They have a much faster elimination rate, reducing the time that they stay in the food chain (and hopefully reducing the exposure of non-target species). Organochlorines, on the other hand, were very stable, which made them easily stored, but also caused biomagnification, where animals further up the food chain started concentrating it in their bodies as they ate smaller animals that had been exposed. This caused serious environmental effects, leading to the shift to the pesticides we use today.

It's all about luck, you know? They'll all cause some sort of cellular damage. Cancer is when you get super unlucky and it's the right sort of cellular damage that leads to unchecked growth and disables apoptosis.

You can load the dice by playing very slowly..eat little..slow metsbolism makes for slow metastasis.

Can you point to any credible information on this prescription?

Cancer cells depend almost exclusively on glucose.

Seems more like common sense doesn't it? You decrease the chances of consuming random poisons in food by... consuming less food.

Well, your hypothesis is definitely scientific, since it can be disproven. Couple of counter-hypotheses:

- Consuming less food requires the body to use fat-reserves. Some of these might have been storing heavy metals. With a quick enough change in diet, these might pose a significant risk.

- Consuming less food might alter your gut microbiology. Disheveling this balance might create the risk of infection or even worse.

- Consuming less food (to be precise, less lipids), might alter, or even disable certain parts of the metabolism, often leading to deficiencies in supplies for the immune system, thus making us more vulnerable to 'poisons'.

I don't know which of the above hypotheses are correct, but I am sure they are just as (un)likely as yours is.

What's the point here? Is this not common sense? Too much of anything is bad. Why bring complicated subjects radioactivity to this point when all you need to do is use the example of water, ie: you can die from consuming too much water, and it is called water poisoning.

Is your point merely that everything is Schrödinger's chemical unless we study it? That is a stupid stance. This article is clearly associating a = b+c, ie: this chemical is causing bad things for your intestinal microbes which leads to diabetes, etc.

I feel like you are maliciously attempting to downplay the severeness of the studies' results by introducing the Schrödinger argument. I am calling the quote by ET Jaynes to be pointless and equating his example of radioactivity to the aforementioned water example.

With this equation in mind, are you trying to say that a small dose of our insecticides is good for us, but, we are abusing it? Do you have any grounds for this? Even E.T Jaynes implies there is no proof for this statement because of the lack of studies. Why would you downplay this?

Indeed it is the age old idea of "the dose makes the poison". What Jaynes is saying is a bit more than that though. Most people assume toxic chemicals have a linear response. If you take half the poison, it will still have 50% of the effect of the full dose. Jaynes argues this model is completely wrong and under a certain threshold there is basically no effect. If you look at a study of people or animals exposed to high doses of pesticide, it doesn't really tell you anything about normal people exposed to much smaller doses.

More than that, he is saying there is a double standard for synthetic substances.We treat them with much more fear and caution than the natural chemicals we are exposed to all the time. Many common vegetables would not pass FDA requirements if they were "invented" today. They contain thousands of chemicals. Many of which have never been tested, and some of which are even known to be toxic. Like solanine.

That's great, but, not the subject of this post. We're not discussing the theory of whether new chemicals are good or bad. I agree with you that the general consensus is to overly fear man made chemicals, which is wrong and also stupid.

The issue I am having with the comment is that this is a specific study on a specific set of chemicals that produced a specific outcome. We're not discussing chemicals in general, and yet you are making it seem like the results of this study should be ignored because chemicals can be good and bad.

To draw a comparison, it's like someone posted an article about high concentrations of asbestos leading to health problems, implying that maybe we shouldn't use it as an insulator. It's not implying that we shouldn't use insulators. It's simply implying that maybe we should reconsider the use of this specific insulator. Then you come in commenting nonsense about how insulators are a good thing, and that we need insulators. The issue is that nobody is arguing against you. You're right that insulators are a good thing and necessary. The problem is that takes away from the main point of the article, that we should reconsider the use of this specific item.

>We're not discussing chemicals in general

The grandparent comment I replied to is literally about fearing man made chemicals in general.

>To draw a comparison, it's like someone posted an article about high concentrations of asbestos leading to health problems, implying that maybe we shouldn't use it as an insulator. It's not implying that we shouldn't use insulators. It's simply implying that maybe we should reconsider the use of this specific insulator. Then you come in commenting nonsense about how insulators are a good thing, and that we need insulators.

It would be more like if someone posted an article about asbestos, and the top comment was about how they strongly distrust all man made materials.

Our ability to determine the toxicity of a compound is always directly proportional to our ability to concentrate it. Many synthetic compounds trigger concern, distaste, and hysteria simply because we are able to measure their effects precisely, while many "natural" compounds slide on by with error bars a thousand (or million, or billion) times wider. This is irrational.

It's reasonable to avoid risk by sticking with (e.g.) tried and true food sources, but I'd argue that the revealed preference is for a much larger amount of risk tolerance. The most ardent naturalist will gladly accept a new berry that none of their ancestors ever encountered simply on the basis that other people are eating it without ill effects. They do not demand generational studies on millions of people, and yet the same concerns you bring up for synthetic compounds absolutely apply. Nature is responsible for the overwhelming majority of the worst toxins we know of, but unknown natural compounds are accepted with a relatively modest amount of evidence for their safety. I think the double standard we apply to synthetics is absurd.

See also: radio waves. We can concentrate them to the point where they literally vaporize living tissue. This means we can make (and have made) absurdly good measurements of their toxicity and carcinogenic tendencies, yet my (techie!) friends still joke that their cell phones are giving them cancer.

Right, so I agree - it's all about incurred risk vs. benefits. GM crops and radio frequency exposure probably incur a risk to our health, but the imminent benefit of having radio transmission and greater crop yields in a world which still has starving people outweigh the longer term risks to society.

However, "natural" is a reasonable heuristic for "something our bodies have had time to adapt for" and the introduction of synthetics has short-circuited the evolutionary feedback loop.

Heavy metals are probably a good example of this, perhaps in another million years there will be humans and animals that have excretive pathways for mercury.

My issue is that most of us live in a world of plenty and we do not need to incur many of the risks that we do through chemical exposure, especially as their use is typically to serve a business' needs rather than our own. Additionally, the opacity of the problem is also an issue because it is hard to make informed decisions about what we consume due to us being many levels detatched from the supply chain which produces that which we eat.

> GM crops and radio frequency exposure probably incur a risk to our health, but the imminent benefit of having radio transmission and greater crop yields in a world which still has starving people outweigh the longer term risks to society.

I've heard this often when it comes to GMO crops ("we need these to feed starving people"), but I'm not sure how much evidence there is for it. There was an New York Times investigation into GMO vs. non-GMO crop yields recently where they found no discernible difference between the two[1]. I've heard some criticism of the article, but most of the criticism I've seen comes from people who have decided ahead of time that GMO's are wonderful and any criticism of them is bad.

Also, from what I've seen the problems with food scarcity don't stem from low crop yields but rather from distribution. I don't think seeing it as a crop yield problem is the right way to approach it.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/gmo-promise-fall...

A lot of of the criticism of GMOs is based on flawed science and misleading use of statistics

That article you linked was flawed on quite a few levels. It argued for example that France was able to reduce its levels of pesticides without using GMOs and used percentages to show the reduction, thereby arguing that GMOs are not necessary

But looking at absolute values, France had a far higher use of pesticides and insecticides and even after the reduction it is still higher than the US, although in the US herbicide use has gone up (primarily glyphosate, but that replaced other more toxic herbicides).

Greater crop yield means more efficient use of the land and resources. I agree we produce more than enough food but reducing yield is not the answer. Also we've barely scratched the surface in terms of using the potential of GE.

[1] http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2016/10/the-tiresome-discussion...

> Also, from what I've seen the problems with food scarcity don't stem from low crop yields but rather from distribution. I don't think seeing it as a crop yield problem is the right way to approach it.

Absolutely agree on this one. The world produces enough food (well, cereal grains) to feed everyone. However, I would still argue that increasing crop yields is incredibly important for the species as a whole. Better yields means lesser land required for cultivation. You basically reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture and I think this would be incredibly important e.g. in Africa where you either may not have a lot of Arable land OR might not want to cut down virgin forests just to feed your people.

Unfortunately, we are routinely exposed to thousands of synthetic chemicals daily, making it impossible to attribute future ailments to particular compounds. It's very sad that there's zero requirement to understand the long term (60 years+) effects of these new chemicals to the human body.

We're exposed to thousands of naturally occuring toxins on a daily basis, most we don't even know about.

Alfatoxin, a potent carcinogen, comes from a fungus that grows on peanuts.

Is not exclusive of peanuts. Aflatoxins of several types can appear in lots of incorrectly stored foods from milk to eggs, corn, nuts, cereals and many vegetables. A big cause of concern and probably having a role on liver cancer in dogs and cats.

I agree with some of your fear of synthetic chemicals but it is doubtful that food residue pesticides are the cause, in my opinion. The amounts are ridiculously low for foods consumed in the US. If food pesticide consumption was a major source of chemical dosing, why have no studies to my knowledge ever shown eating organic foods to have epidemiologic health benefits?

This study compares those that have direct exposure to the organophosphates such as farmers and pesticide sellers in India to those with indirect exposure (eating the food and exposure to runoff) to see this diabetes correlation.

If you work in an organic synthetic lab for an extended period of time, you can develop sensitisation towards bench-top solvents.

Granted, the exposure rate is much much higher than the average person's exposure to "chemicals", but over the course of a lifetime, similar mechanisms are surely in place.

When you consider factors like plastics leaching into drinks (and it goes without saying how ubiquitous plastic bottles are)and the accumulation of other chemicals through the food chain (think mercury concentrating up the chain into tuna), the exposure rate is probably much higher than we realise.

Chemicals can be dangerous precisely because we are "chemical machines"!

Yep, the anecdote of methyl iodide leaching through nitrex gloves and skin to interrupt DNA sequencing by methylating your DNA was a chilling image that has stayed with me and reminded me how we are simply giant walking reaction beakers and can be pretty vulnerable to the whims of a tiny nm-scale molecule.

Another favourite was how cis-platin would crosslink DNA to prevent replication of cancer cells in your body.

> to interrupt DNA sequencing

I think you meant "DNA transcription".

Thanks, I absolutely did!

I wonder if their is a thing called 'chemical noise level' in biochemistry.

Different harmless organic molecules that together work as sand in the engine.

And business is only going to get more of a free pass under the new admin's EPA head. He seems to be wholly on the side of big business, when a balance is needed.

Could you please explain what is "isotopic composition" and "isotopic profile"? Or give some links to read up on?

They mean the atomic structure of the atoms in the molecules:


Not sure what biological processes are sensitive to that though.

Here is a review of some of the studies going into the isotopic chemistry of living organisms:


We have the proof from you- thank you- how do we stop these businesses from continuing to do these things?

That is what regulation (which has sadly become a dirty word) exists for - to keep businesses in check.

That there is a growing market for "clean" produce is an indication that there is a growing awareness and appetite for change

> Studies have been done on characterising the sievert profile of tobacco leaves, highlighting the risk of this but no action on the tobacco industry has been taken to mitigate this.

Most people who die from smoking don't die from cancer. You could easily reduce the risk of lung cancer from cigarettes, but that would place an enormous burden on the healthcare system, because then smokers would just die from more expensive conditions like emphysema.

If government required tobacco companies to limit the amount of radiation in their productions, cigarette taxes would need to go up to compensate. The real solution is just making the sales of cigarettes illegal, and then forcing people to buy loose tobacco and roll their own if they want to smoke.

My dad has IPF which is scars on lung tissue which is due to many inhaled contaminants over decades. He was a blue collar worker always around paint fumes, sawdust, grinding dust, etc..

I worry that people who vape are in for a terrible surprise a few decades after they start vaping.

Actors on stages and djs would show said effect.

Which said effects have been studied and shown to have detrimental impact on actors. Smoke machines use the same compounds found in vaping, and thy were found to cause irritation of the lungs over time

Given how the criminalization of drugs has spawned a host of terrible criminal trades, I don't think outlawing tobacco is the solution. If people want to hurt themselves, they should ultimately be allowed to, but the problem with food is that the risk profile has not been characterised so people cannot make informed decisions about what they consume, and choice is limited.

Or just outlaw smoking and be done with it. /s

If only.

The vast majority of what goes into cigarettes isn't tobacco leaves. If people had to make their own, no one would ever make them the same way as how they are currently mass produced.

The idea that this is some sort of backdoor effort to criminalize tobacco or smoking is completely misguided.

From conclusion: Hence, rather than searching for other chemical alternatives, promotion and development of traditional self-sustainable, nature-based agricultural practices would be the right approach to feed this world.

Living off organic produce is not possible (at least in India as of now). The farmers do not earn much and have debts to pay-off. The only way they know of saving crops is using subsidised fertilizers provided by the government. Over the years indiscriminate use of pesticides has increased. In fact availability of Urea was a poll issue in National Election in some parts of India. [1]

[1] http://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/neem-coated-urea-why...

...and 36 of them are in use within the United States.

Emphasis below on chlorpyrifos which Trump's EPA took off the EPA's banned list. EPA bulletin written before Trump took office:

"...Thirty-six of them [organophosphates] are presently registered for use in the United States, and all can potentially cause acute and subacute toxicity. Organophosphates are used in agriculture, homes, gardens and veterinary practices; however, in the past decade, several notable OPs have been discontinued for use, including parathion, which is no longer registered for any use, and chlorpyrifos, which is no longer registered for home use. ..."


The mechanism they pinpointed is illustrated in "Figure 7":

OPs (star) enter the human digestive system via food and are metabolized into acetic acid (trapezoid) by the gut microbiota (oval). Subsequently, acetic acid was absorbed by the intestinal cells and the majority of them were transported to the liver through the periportal vein. Eventually, acetic acid was converted into glucose (hexagon) by gluconeogenesis in the intestine and liver and thus accounts for glucose intolerance.

So the pesticide is being eventually converted into glucose, which has the same effect as if you were eating too much sugar/carbs.

Not at all correct. Acetic acid at 5% is vinegar. You can consume substantial quantities of that without dramatically increasing your diabetes risk. The damage had to be happening upstream of acetic acid.

If anything, vinegar lowers glycemic response, ie blood glucose doesn't go as high after a meal.

Nope. The chemicals influences the microbes in your gut. Your gut microbes are responsible for a lot of the food pre-processing. What exactly microbes contribute is not always clear but they contribute significantly. Likely they contribute to the break-down of long chained carbohydrates. Disturbing the microbes in the gut is at least a possible mechanism for causing diabetes. There have been other studies that showed significant impact of fecal transplants on body weight.

Generally it is so that correlation is not causation. In this case they backed up their statistics with investigations along the whole digestion tract so it is not so easy to dismiss the idea.

Wow. Does this mean that organophosphates aren't actually causing chemical damage, but are just a glucose source? On the one hand, that means that organophosphates are really not very toxic to humans. But also, it implies that exposures must be enormous.

I can't believe that organophosphates are ingested in amounts that would be a problem when converted to glucose. That would have to be tens of grams every day. Something else must be the culprit.

A point to be noted is that the study was done in India, where regulations on the amount of pesticide used may not be as enforced as in other developed countries.

But they're not pouring teaspoons of pure liquid pesticide in their tea every day...

Sure, but grams?

I would think the thing to investigate is the changes in the gut bacteria.

What do they do differently after the chronic exposure?

Farmers working with Sheep Dip chemicals have been studied;






There is also 'Genetic variation in susceptibility to chronic effects of organophosphate exposure' http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr408.pdf

Gulf War Syndrome has also been studied as a possible effect of close range exposure to organophosphates in pesticides and inset repellents.

to summarize, crop pesticides are converted to glucose internally, causing diabetes.

a pretty big plot-twist for a delirious problem in global health, and a find that resembles a 21st century silent-spring.

For those who haven't heard of it:

Silent Spring is an environmental science book by Rachel Carson.[1] The book was published on 27 September 1962 and it documented the detrimental effects on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting industry claims unquestioningly.


Congrats on being one of today's lucky 10000[1], just like me.

1: https://xkcd.com/1053/

That's maybe a bit oversold. The pesticides Carson was writing about, used at levels common in the 1950's, were toxic on levels basically incomparable to anything in this study. DDT was a terrible carcinogen to the consumer, a near death sentence to the agricultural worker, and nearly wiped out the entire california condor population in a few decades of use.

In comparison this finding is of a diabetes correlation well underneath the levels we see due to diet. Well... I mean that's bad, but there's bad and there's bad, and this doesn't qualify.

Doesn't mean it should be used, but let's be realistic about our criticism.

Neato, how do we avoid exposure to that pesticide?

It is not just one pesticide, it is a whole family of pesticides that include Malathion, Parathion, Diazinon and more. These are related both in terms of chemistry and mechanism of action to nerve gases such as Sarin and VX.

Don't use them on your lawn and garden, eat organic produce as much as you can, and beware of fruits and vegetables that are likely to expose you to pesticides, see


Overall I would be much more afraid of occupational exposure than pesticide residues

Thank you for your helpful and thoughtful reply!

Potatoes and spinach are two of my dietary staples, so it is alarming to see them on the "dirty dozen" list.

Would scrubbing, washing, peeling, cooking, etc do something to the "pesticide residue" found on these vegetables?

Occupational exposure is real and serious, and shows what might happen with chronic exposure. There are documentaries and videos that show the hands of field workers in California. They bubble and peel and blister and discolor, all from pesticides.

From the cited paper:

"In summary, findings conclusively demonstrate that consumer exposures to the ten most frequently detected pesticides on EWG's “Dirty Dozen” commodity list are at negligible levels and that the EWG methodology is insufficient to allow any meaningful rankings among commodities."

tl;dr The "dirty dozen" list is not backed up by evidence. If you read the conclusion of the paper: In summary, findings conclusively demonstrate that consumer exposures to the ten most frequently detected pesticides on EWG's “Dirty Dozen” commodity list are at negligible levels and that the EWG methodology is insufficient to allow any meaningful rankings among commodities. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135239/

Yes, all of those things will help.

Unsurprisingly, insect-resident crops. If you're in the US, there's a good chance you're already doing it.

Farmers generally use less insecticide when they plant Bt corn and Bt cotton. Corn insecticide use by both GE seed adopters and nonadopters has decreased—only 9 percent of all U.S. corn farmers used insecticides in 2010. Insecticide use on corn farms declined from 0.21 pound per planted acre in 1995 to 0.02 pound in 2010. This is consistent with the steady decline in European corn borer populations over the last decade that has been shown to be a direct result of Bt adoption.

--Fernandez-Cornejo and Caswell, 2006; NRC, 2010

I can't tell if krona is trolling. We're exposing people to more insecticides in their diet when the plant itself produces insecticides!

At least spraying puts insecticides on the outside of the plant, which is somewhat washable. Making the kernels of corn that we eat produce insecticides makes it impossible to remove these chemicals from our dinner plates....

As a layperson, I'm pretty sure I'd rather eat corn laced with Bt than corn with organophosphates rinsed off.

That's kind of a strawman argument - what about corn laced with organophosphates vs corn that's been genetically modified to generate organophosphates in the kernels?

I can't tell if sableon is ignorant, or just scare mongering.

We calculate that 99.99% (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves. -- Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural) Vol. 87, pp. 7777-7781, October 1990 Medical Sciences

Note the date. In other words, it's insufficient to say that pesticides are dangerous to humans, since most aren't in the quantities that occur naturally. On the toxicity of organophosphates, it's been well known since the second world war.

With bt, use is down but the plant itself is producing it! I think that's more likely to cause exposure.

If you're talking about Bacillus thuringiensis or the toxin it produces, it occurs naturally in all kinds of things.

Don't sell it or apply it to your fields.

> Based on the survey executed among the pesticide users including pesticide applicators, farmers, and pesticide sellers

Eat organic food


Please don't create new accounts to violate the guidelines with. We ban the main account in addition to the throwaways if you do.

The original title of the article: "Gut microbial degradation of organophosphate insecticides-induces glucose intolerance via gluconeogenesis"

Why is the title in HN edited to make this about "India"? Is this finding not applicable to people elsewhere? or id other parts of the world stop using organophosphates?

The primary reason most people I know who eat organic do so to avoid pesticides and herbicides.

Good luck finding organic staple crops such as rice, wheat, or maize.

Good luck?

There is no luck required assuming you have access to well-stocked grocery stores.

I wonder if the people in India most likely to be exposed to organophosphates in India are also the people most likely to be living almost entirely off of rice. Did the study do a sufficiently good job eliminating obvious confounding factors?

Misread the title as "..linked to gluten intolerance". Was hoping it would shine a light on that increasing.

Side note, gluten intolerance and diabetes type 1 often go hand in hand. When my kid was diagnosed, they tested both of us for a whole bunch of things. I came back gluten intolerant and he, luckily, did not. Celiac is another thing that often coexists with T1D.

Glucose intolerance is arguably much more serious :)!!!

It's not just diabetes - exposure to pesticides increases risk of suicide, lymphoma, ALS. congenital anomalies and reduces fertility. There is a solid case in choosing organic foods. See summary of risks here http://outcomereference.com/causes/77

I was always suspicious of the diet/lifestyle explanation for diabetes. It's conveniently unfalsifiable, and it's obnoxiously paternalistic and moralizing.

and of course the rise of the standard american diet in the 3rd world has nothing to do with it?

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