Postby Oscar » Tue Jan 09, 2007 10:34 pm

Thursday, January 4, 2007 ... -sick.html

WINNIPEG: Jan.4-’07. A graduate student at the University of Manitoba has found a link between the amount of pesticides used on field crops in rural Manitoba and some serious health effects among people who live there.

Jennifer Magoon, (originally from the Ottawa Valley,) made her findings in her thesis towards her Masters Degree in Community Health Sciences.

Her conclusion; regular pesticide use in crop farming may be adversely affecting the health of the rural residents of Southern Manitoba.

Magoon worked on her thesis for about a year-&-a-half. She got funding from the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and worked with a number of other groups like the Manitoba Health Research Centre. She “defended” her thesis before her fellow students, researchers and supervisors in November.

Using data from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, Magoon created maps showing where farm pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides were concentrated.

She explains how she went about gathering data on illness among 323,368 people in rural, southern Manitoba.

“So the health outcome variables were created using data from the Population Health Research Data Repository which is housed at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. And the Repository includes health services utilization history for every individual who’s registered for the Manitoba Health Services Insurance Plan in linkable, anonymous data bases & this study used the physician claims, hospital separation abstracts, pharmaceutical files & the research registry files. So, what these files told me was how many people had been diagnosed with, let’s say, a perinatal condition over the 4-year time period. And so using that information, we used that as our health outcomes.

“What we found was an association, more especially with insecticides, so when insecticide use was higher, we found there was a higher prevalence of perinatal conditions, congenital anomalies and eye disorders.”

The perinatal conditions Magoon describes, in addition to relatively minor ailments, include lower birth weights, respiratory distress and jaundice among the very young.

“So, for example, male perinatal conditions which again is that kind of broad category of infant and fetal outcomes, for an individual with average income in an area with average insecticide use there was a 32.7% chance that they would be diagnosed with a perinatal condition & if you double the amount of insecticide use from the average, they would then have a 36.7% chance of having a perinatal condition so that is the kind of change that we saw.”

Congenital anomalies cover severe birth defects like spina bifida, Downs Syndrome and cleft palate. More than 8,000 males under the age of 5 were analyzed in the study.

For those living in areas of average pesticide use, these conditions went up from just under 12 percent (11.8%) to just under 13 percent(12.8%) , where use was doubled.

Magoon says a “cause and effect” relationship is hard to pin down. But, on average, she adds, we could expect to see one more infant per 100 with a congenital anomaly in those areas with the higher pesticide concentration.

Eye disorders would include retinal degeneration and cataracts. Using those same parameters, these jumped from 33.9% to 35.7%.

“So, in conclusion, this study found that the use of pesticides, especially insecticides, in regular crop-farming operations, may be adversely affecting the health of the rural residents of southern Manitoba. These results are statistically significant. The probability that these results would occur by chance alone are very small.

“And acting on those findings, we could conduct further research into the specific associations, monitor the measures as environmental health impacts and put in place preventative policies.”

Magoon recommends the amount of pesticides used in the province be reduced, at least until longer-range studies, perhaps ones that would look more definitively at causes and effects, can be carried out.

Larry Powell
Earthkeeper Farm
Located near Roblin, MB
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