An Interview with Pesticide Expert and Toxicologist
Janette Sherman, M.D.
Endocrine disruptors, synthetic chemicals that mimic and interfere with natural hormones, lurk everywhere from canned foods and microwave popcorn bags to cosmetics and carpet-cleaning solutions. The chemicals, which include pesticides, fire retardants and plastics, are in thermal store receipts, antibacterial detergents and toothpaste (like Colgate's Total with triclosan) and the plastic BPA which Washington state banned in baby bottles. Endocrine disruptors are linked to breast cancer, infertility, low sperm counts, genital deformities, early puberty and diabetes in humans and alarming mutations in wildlife. They are also suspected in the epidemic of behavior and learning problems in children which has coincided, say many, with wide endocrine disruptors use.
Like Big Pharma, Big Chem holds tremendous sway at the FDA which gave the endocrine disruptor BPA a pass in March, citing "serious questions" about the applicability of damning animal studies to humans. But in April, research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presented new evidence of the ability of endocrine disruptors--in this case the pesticide chlorpyrifos, found in Dow's Dursban--to harm developing fetuses. Janette Sherman, M.D., a pesticide expert and toxicologist, has studied the effects of chlorpyrifos for many years and talked about what her research has revealed.
Rosenberg: You published a paper in the European Journal of Oncology in 1999 which is eerily predictive of recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research about children exposed in the womb to the pesticide chlorpyrifos (found in Dow's Dursban and Lorsban). This research found actual structural changes in exposed children's brains, especially related to emotion, attention and behavior control.
Sherman: Dursban (chlorpyrifos) is a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical Co. and Eli Lilly that has both organophosphate and tri-chlorinated pesticide characteristics and toxicities. Working as a legal consultant, I evaluated eight children with profound abnormalities whose families had proof of their child's exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb. I was stunned by how much the children resembled one another--they looked so similar they could have been siblings or cousins. The children were all severely retarded and needed feeding and diapering. One had quadriplegia and another died soon after I examined him.
Rosenberg: In your 1999 paper you refer to the brain problems cited in the Proceedings research as possibly pesticide-related.
Sherman: Yes. The children also had corpus callosum defects, which means there was no connection between their right and left side of their brains.