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Pesticide Exposure Damages Nervous System, Brain

Study project finds compounds also harm gastrointestinal system in rats

FRIDAY, Aug. 4, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to pesticides causes changes to rats' nervous systems, according to preliminary results of a project led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota (UND).

The project seeks to identify the dangers posed by pesticides, how exposure occurs, and ways to reduce pesticide-related human health risks.

In laboratory tests with rats, the researchers found that pesticide exposure caused changes in the same areas of the brain involved in multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Pesticides can also cause severe damage to the gastrointestinal system and cause neurological dysfunction, the researchers said.

"Such results may lead to behavioral or biochemical characteristics that will facilitate better diagnosis of pesticide-related illness and help physicians take appropriate steps to treat them," Patrick Carr, an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said in a prepared statement.

"Ultimately, the program will result in the determination of how humans are exposed to pesticides and the development of strategies to help us reduce our exposure-related risks," Ed Steadman, EERC senior research advisor, said in a prepared statement.

"Over the past year, we evaluated the relationships between locations where pesticides are being used and any incidences of neurological symptoms in those areas, as well as characterized the effect specific pesticides have on the nervous system," Steadman said.

That data, which is currently being analyzed, will be used to guide future research on how humans are exposed to pesticides.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more about health risks from pesticides.

SOURCE: University of North Dakota, news release, July 27, 2006
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