POLITICO Washington — New research published on Tuesday shows that “diseases-cauring” herbicides — including glyphosate, dicamba and the more popular neonicotinoid pesticides — are in large part responsible for causing birth defects and death in humans.
The findings, published in the journal Science, found that the presence of neonic-containing pesticides in the environment is the second most important factor that predicts the number of babies born with birth defects.
The study also found that exposure to neonic pesticides during pregnancy is the single most important contributor to the number and type of children with birth deformities.
It’s also a big contributor to more than 400,000 newborn deaths each year, said study co-author Dr. Matthew Hirsch, an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
The study found that prenatal exposure to pesticides, combined with environmental exposure in the womb, can lead to the birth defect of a child born to a mother who used neonicants.
In fact, the study found, the likelihood of a newborn born with a birth defect is four times higher if her mother has used neonics during pregnancy.
Hirsch, who was not involved in the research, said the study provides strong evidence that neonic chemicals are not the cause of birth defects, but rather contribute to the occurrence of birth deformity by the pesticide.
Hirsh said that he’s not convinced that neonics are the cause, but he said that the risk of adverse birth outcomes is higher in the presence or presence of these pesticides than in the absence of them.
He said the new findings should be viewed in the context of the research he conducted last year, when he found that neons, but not pesticides, are a cause of neonatal mortality in the United States.
The results of that study have not yet been published, but the new research suggests that neonatal deaths associated with pesticides are a more significant cause of death than neonatal death associated with other causes.
Hirshes study also showed that neonates born to mothers who used pesticides during their pregnancy are more likely to have birth defects than those born to moms who used other pesticides, including those that are no longer used.
“I believe this is an important reminder that pesticides should not be used as an alternative to other methods of birth control and should be used when alternatives to birth control have been shown to be safe and effective,” Hirsch said.
He also said that if neonic and pesticide use continues to increase, the risk for a child’s developing birth defect will be “increasingly large” in the future.