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Study Links Mosquito Spray to Delayed Motor Skills in Babies

The consequences of the Zika hysteria could be felt for generations. Unsettling images of Brazilian babies with microcephaly drove Zika into the headlines, but it is the organophosphate pesticides that were widely sprayed in the “fight” against Zika that have been linked to developmental issues in infants.

CNN reports that naled, the insecticide used throughout the southern U.S. in Zika abatement efforts, has been tied to poor motor skills in infants. The spraying was particularly prevalent in highly populated neighborhoods in the Miami area.

Zika was an obscure mosquito-borne virus until the media fanned the flames of fear. The threat of Zika resonated because it was tied to visible birth defects, is mosquito-borne, affects pregnant women and can be sexually transmitted. Little attention has been paid to Brazilian health officials walking back their worst case scenarios and conceding that Zika alone was not responsible for the rise in birth defects.

Organophosphate pesticides are an endocrine disruptor. These chemicals are similar in structure to natural sex hormones such as estrogen, thereby interfering with their normal functions. Prenatal exposure, for example, has been linked to delayed brain development, reduced IQ and attention deficits. The connection between endocrine disrupting chemicals and cancer is of particular concern. Children who are exposed to these chemicals from a young age may be predisposed to cancer at increasingly earlier ages.

It is worth noting that most of the women who gave birth to babies with microcephaly were poor and lived in small cities or on the outskirts of big cities. In addition, the outbreak occurred in a largely poverty-stricken agricultural area of Brazil that uses large amounts of banned pesticides. Between these factors and the lack of sanitation and widespread vitamin A and zinc deficiency, you have the basic framework for an increase in poor health outcomes among newborn infants in that area.

Many experts agree that the threat of an epidemic outbreak of Zika virus on continental U.S. soil is virtually nonexistent. So you needn’t go dousing your backyard in chemicals in an attempt to stay safe from the Zika virus (whose connection to birth defects is still being explored).  

If, however, mosquitoes are bothersome for you, there are some steps you can take to encourage them to live elsewhere. Draining standing water, including pet bowls, gutters, garbage and recycling bins, spare tires, bird baths, children's toys and so on, is important. This is where mosquitoes breed, so if you eliminate standing water you'll eliminate many mosquitoes.

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