Fungicides are widely sprayed on fruit, vegetable, nut crops and corn and soybean fields. But as Tom Philpott (Mother Jones) reports, a new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, says there’s disturbing evidence fungicides are “doing more than just killing fungi.” Philpott reports that Mark Zylka and his team of University of North Carolina Neuroscience Center researchers subjected mouse cortical neuron cultures—which are similar in cellular and molecular terms to the human brain—to 294 chemicals “commonly found in the environment and on food.”
The researchers wanted to know if any of the chemicals would trigger changes in the brains of the mice that mimicked patterns found in brain samples from people with autism, advanced age, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Eight of them did. Two of those eight—pyraclostrobin and trifloxystrobin—are from a relatively new class of fungicides called “quinone outside inhibitors.” According to the researchers, the use of these fungicides has surged since farmers began using them in the early 2000s—even though the fungicides were never properly tested to see how they might impact human health or the environment.
“What’s most disturbing to me is that we’ve allowed these chemicals to be widely used, widely found on food and in the environment, without knowing more about their potential effects.” – Mark Zylka, research, University of North Carolina Neuroscience Center, in an interview with Tom Philpott, Mother Jones