Organophosphate pesticides (OPs) are among the most used pesticides in agriculture. They are basically neurotoxic, causing neurological issues, learning and developmental disorders and depression, and sometimes leading to suicide.
Just to make sure everyone got their fair share of neurotoxic OPs, the EPA estimated that about 33 million pounds of organophosphate pesticides were used in 2007. That’s a fraction of the 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides used mostly by Big Ag, 80 percent.
There have been reductions in OP use, but the addition of other pesticides and herbicides applied in increasing amounts has more then covered the positive gains of those reductions, as conventional and GMO farming practices demand ever more toxins to maintain their production.
Odd how organic farmers manage without all that.
But a Boise State’s School of Allied Health Sciences research group in decided to use the OP group of pesticides as the main marker for their research to determine if organic food offered a viable health difference.
The Boise research approach
Neurological and other health effects have been associated with OP residues among farm workers, including suicide after extreme depression in Chinese farmers. Even children whose mothers were pregnant while living near farms in California that received generous spraying have shown definite negative impacts on learning abilities and increased tendencies toward ADHD symptoms and behavioral issues.
But for this study, assistant professor and lead author Cynthia Curl collaborated with others in different locations and created the study, called “Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).”
As the name may imply, their study population of 4,466 came from within the existing MESA group, just as many other broad studies employ large nurses’ groups whose markers, habits and medical records are readily accessible.
Cynthia and her colleagues used urinary dialkylphosphate (DAP) levels among the subgroups within that major group and compared the levels between groups with reported dietary consumption of non-organic produce and those whose organic produce consumption was at least moderate.
The Boise Allied Health study concluded: Long-term dietary exposure to OPs were estimated from dietary intake data, and estimates were consistent with DAP measurements. More frequent consumption of organic produce was associated with lower DAPs.
Professor Curl has high hopes for variations and extensions of this study. “The next step is to use these exposure predictions to examine the relationship between dietary exposure to pesticides and health outcomes, including neurological and cognitive endpoints. We’ll be able to do that in this same population of nearly 4,500 people,” she said.
And further down the road, Professor Curl envisions, “If we can predict pesticide exposure using dietary questionnaire data, then we may be able to understand the potential health effects of dietary exposure to pesticides without having to collect biological samples from people. That will allow research on organic food to be both less expensive and less invasive.”
For now, Cynthia recommends everyone at least avoid the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Dirty Dozen List, which lists the 12 most heavily chemically sprayed fruits and veggies that you must replace with organic. The EWG also has a Clean Fifteen List, the 15 least chemically sprayed fruits and veggies, which indicates that it’s safe to pinch pennies by purchasing a Clean Fifteen avocado instead of an organic avocado.
Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records
A controversial deal between tech giant Google and the National Health Service (NHS) will allow artificial intelligence units access to 1.6 million confidential medical records. Since 2014, Google has partnered with several scientists in an attempt to understand human health, but a new report reveals the data gathering goes far beyond what was originally anticipated.
According to documents obtained by the New Scientist, the data sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust gives access to the sensitive healthcare data of millions of NHS patients. The chilling and wide-reaching deal allows DeepMind access to the medical records of the 1.6 million people passing annually through the three London hospitals owned by the Trust — Barnet, Chase Farm, and the Royal Free.
The Google-owned A.I. firm announced in February it was working with the NHS to build an app called Streams — intended to help hospitals monitor patients with kidney disease. However, the new information has revealed that the extent of the data being shared goes much further and includes logs of day-to-day hospital activity, records of the location and status of patients, and even logs of who visits them and when.
Results of pathology and radiology tests are also shared, as is information from critical care and accident and emergency departments. In addition, DeepMind’s access to the centralised records of all NHS hospital treatments in the U.K. means the tech company can access historical data from the last five years, all while receiving a continuous stream of new data.
At the same time, DeepMind is developing a platform called Patient Rescue, which uses hospital data streams to build tools to carry out analysis and support diagnostic decisions. The New Scientist explained how it works:
Comparing a new patient’s information with millions of other cases, Patient Rescue might be able to predict that they are in the early stages of a disease that has not yet become symptomatic, for example. Doctors could then run tests to see if the prediction is correct.
While the Royal Free has not yet responded to the question of what — if any — opt-out mechanisms are available to patients, the New Scientist suggests this is unlikely to be a straightforward process. Despite the agreement stating Google cannot use the data in any other part of the company’s business, many will be seriously wary of the access the online tech giant now has to the confidential data of millions of people.
As the New Scientist wrote:
Data mining is the name of the game in the burgeoning field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and there’s no company in the world better at that than Google.
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