Home > Pesticides and preservatives causing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other ailments

Pesticides and preservatives causing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other ailments

by Open-Publishing - Wednesday 15 July 2009

Edito Health Food Agriculture - Fishery - Animals Environment

by Monica Davis

Many chemicals we commonly use are suspected of generating this increase in brain proteins, including pesticides, fertilizers and food preservatives. A new study found that a chemical ingredient that has been used as a food preservative contributes to several diseases.

Time and again, the chemicals we use in agriculture, food preparation and medicine have proven that there is a price to pay for convenience. The convenience of pest and weed free crops, the convenience of bug free homes and the price for our current modern living is higher than many us imagine, even in our worse nightmares.

The heartache of living with an Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or cancer patient, the pain of seeing your loved one’s mind shrink so much in cognitive ability that they no longer remember spouses, children, kin or acquaintances is spreading. Just recently a member of the federal bench announced her resignation because of early onset Alzheimer’s.

Judge Karen Williams, chief judge of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has announced her retirement. Judge Williams says she has early-onset Alzheimer’s, which has effectively ended her judicial career. According to legal circles, she had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In her resignation letter, Judge Williams wrote:
It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I announce today I am stepping down from the bench. My doctors have diagnosed me in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. And although no one knows how quickly the disease will progress, I want to leave the court while I still have my faculties and know that I have made all my decisions with a sound mind. (The State. 7-10-09)

Judge Williams, from all reports, is an active 57 year old, whose mark on the American judicial system as a Supreme Court Justice, could have influenced a generation of American jurisprudence, had she not been affected by Alzheimer’s in the prime of her judicial career. Unfortunately, for Judge Williams and tens of thousands of Americans who are affected by Alzheimer’s, there is no one culprit that can be blamed for the disease.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner retired early, because of her husband’s Alzheimer’s. The Justice is a strong proponent of Alzheimer’s research, as are many whose loved ones suffer from the condition.

Estimates are that the disease is affecting more people than ever before, although many say we are calling “old folk’s dementia” Alzheimer’s, unlike past generations. Nevertheless, it is a growing problem.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The number is poised to skyrocket, with 16 million people forecast to have the mind-destroying illness by 2050. Today’s treatments only temporarily alleviate symptoms. Already, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 10 million people share the overwhelming task of caring for a relative or friend with it. (CBS News)

Justice O’Connor and a group of scientists, private individuals and politicians have called for a national Alzheimers strategy. Given the rise in the numbers of elderly Americans over the next few decades, the nation can’t afford to drop the ball in research, treatment, and hopefully prevention of this catastrophic condition.

Unfortunately, we can find no single cause, or cure and the outlook is bleak. "You will never meet an Alzheimer’s survivor - there are none," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who co-founded the group, said in his testimony. (Ibid)

Experts say the disease causes an increase in proteins in the brain, but they are not really sure what causes these proteins to build up. The why isn’t known, but scientists do have theories about what the proteins do to hobble brain function.

“One theory is that they block nerve cells’ ability to communicate with each other, making it difficult for the cells to survive. “ (Carrie Hill, PhD, “What Causes Alzheimer’s, About.com)

Many chemicals we commonly use are suspected of generating this increase in brain proteins, including pesticides, fertilizers and food preservatives. A new study found that a chemical ingredient that has been used as a food preservative contributes to several diseases.

[Researchers] found strong parallels between age adjusted increases in death rate from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes and the progressive increases in human exposure to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines through processed and preserved foods as well as fertilizers. (Science Daily, July 6, 2009)

This study has serious implications for people who work in agriculture and/or who eat food with preservatives—including bacon, lunch meats and other foods contraining nitrites and nitrates. The article notes that
Nitrites and nitrates belong to a class of chemical compounds that have been found to be harmful to humans and animals. More than 90 percent of these compounds that have been tested have been determined to be carcinogenic in various organs. They are found in many food products, including fried bacon, cured meats and cheese products as well as beer and water. Exposure also occurs through manufacturing and processing of rubber and latex products, as well as fertilizers, pesticides and cosmetics. (Ibid)

What we have is a situation where our food and water may be contributing to increased incidences of cancer and Alzheimer’s. The increase of several diseases may be attributed to the increeased consumption of preservative-laden fast foods over the last 2 generations. Researchers say their

findings indicate that while nitrogen-containing fertilizer consumption increased by 230 percent between 1955 and 2005, its usage doubled between 1960 and 1980, which just precedes the insulin-resistant epidemics the researchers found. They also found that sales from the fast food chain and the meat processing company increased more than 8-fold from 1970 to 2005, and grain consumption increased 5-fold. (Ibid)

This has serious implications for people who were exposed to high levels of environmental pesticides, food preservatives in processed foods—lunch meats, bacon, hot dogs, or fast food burgers, etc, or whose water supplies contained fertilizer run off.

One thing is for sure. The convenience food industry, fast food restaurants and the agriculture industry won’t be pleased with the study, or its recommendations, which "include eliminating the use of nitrites and nitrates in food processing, preservation and agriculture; taking steps to prevent the formation of nitrosamines and employing safe and effective measures to detoxify food and water before human consumption." (Ibid)

Once more, research points to dietary and environmental causes of many modern diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, many forms of cancer, diabetes and obesity. Billions of dollars are at stake in the fast food industry, not to mention the nation’s pharmaceutical sector, as well as our petrochemical based agriculture and manufacturing industries.

Given the state of today’s economy, the job loss that banning many of chemicals and food products could cause would be catastrophic. Are we willing to pay continue to pay for jobs with our lives? Do we have poilitical leaders willing to stand up to the multi-trillion dollar agriculture, restaurant, food , chemcial and pharmaceutical industries to take these products off the market or replace them with less hazardous products?

Some health experts have even suggested raising the price of unhealthy, sugar/salt/preservative foods as a way to combat diet-driven diseases.

Raising the prices of less healthy foods (e.g., fast foods and sugary products) and lowering the prices of healthier foods (e.g., fruits and vegetables) are associated with lower body weight and lesser likelihood of obesity. Children and adolescents, the poor, and those already at a higher weight are most responsive to these changes in prices. (Science Daily, 3-9-09)

That would be a catastrophe for millions of poor people who simply can’t afford fresh vegetables, non-processed or organic food. Poor people and the middle class are already struggling with increased food prices and decreasing income. An artificial increase on fast food and “unhealthy” food would be crippling.

About the Author: Monica Davis is an Indiana-based author, journalist, activist, historian and media personality with a decade of experience in investigative journalism, in print and broadcast. Her work has been cited in various articles on institutional racism, land lynching, environmental justice and the crisis among black farmers. Her articles have been read into the Congressional Record. Ms. Davis is a frequent radio guest on stations across the nation and is published in the US, Great Britain, India and New Zealand, and specializes in economics, agriculture and sustainability issues. She has conducted seminars and presentations on Land Loss at museums and universities and regularly publishes on Indybay.org, Opednews.org, namastemagazine.uk.com, SFBayview.com.

For interviews and speaking engagements contact her at:
davis4000_2000 [at] yahoo.com
Her author website is:

Forum posts

  • I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  • It’s so sad how our government is willing to allow its citizens to consume things that are known to be deadly and life threatening to humans...

    It is also interesting that annual flu shots, which contain mercury, are still legal and pushed onto US citizens even though there is evidence to show that after five years of consecutive exposure to mercury laden flu shots, people are 10 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and the CDC and the FDA still claim that the mercury is not to blame...

  • I have read a couple of studies that assert the population in developed countries will see their lifespan expectancies decrease in a near future. One of the reasons to explain that tragedy are toxics we find in food because of the intensive agriculture. We should focus on eating quality food instead of quantity, think about organic for instance!

  • Few neurodegenerative diseases are as devastating as Alzheimer’s sickness, an irreversible affliction from which more than 5.4 million individuals suffer. Genetics have played a major role in the research into Alzheimer’s thus far. In fact, Time magazine reports that genetics has opened a new pathway of discovery in the Alzheimer’s war. Five genes - MS4A, CD2AP, CD33, EPHA1 and ABCA7 - have been identified as markers of increased risk of contracting late-onset Alzheimer’s. Here is the proof: Five new Alzheimer’s genes discovered