Zica. Not what it is made out to be



The northeastern state of Pernambuco in Brazil is at the center of that country’s epidemic of babies being born with shrunken heads and damaged brains—a birth defect known as microcephaly.

The world’s scientists, doctors, public health officials, political leaders, and media outlets are all giddily lining up behind the theory that the Zika virus, transmitted by mosquitos, is the culprit behind the epidemic, even though that virus has been around for more than a half century and has seldom been known to cause serious symptoms. The virus has not been associated with microcephaly.

The CDC itself acknowledges… “About one in five people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. … Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. … The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).”

So what has suddenly changed to make Zika almost akin to Ebola? Read the headlines… the sky is falling. Maybe nothing at all has changed with the virus. Maybe people just aren’t looking in the right places, because they’ve already got it in their heads that they’ve snagged the culprit. Done. Hey, but how’s about them pesticides? Ever wonder about the use of pesticides in Pernambuco?

(Remember DDT in the US and the tens of thousands of cases of paralysis it caused during the second half of the 1940s and first half of the 1950s? Remember how we thought it was all due to mosquitoes spreading the dreaded poliovirus, when in fact it was the pesticides the government and households were spraying on everything, including children in pools and picnic areas? Remember the cute jingle… ““DDT Is Good For Me-e-e!”)

Clippings from a Reuters article titled “Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides” last year:

<< In 2012, Brazil passed the United States as the largest buyer of pesticides. This rapid growth has made Brazil an enticing market for pesticides banned or phased out in richer nations because of health or environmental risks. >>

<< At least four major pesticide makers – U.S.-based FMC Corp., Denmark’s Cheminova A/S, Helm AG of Germany and Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG – sell products here that are no longer allowed in their domestic markets. … Among the compounds widely sold in Brazil: paraquat, which was branded as “highly poisonous” by U.S. regulators. >>

<< Brazilian regulators warn that the government hasn’t been able to ensure the safe use of agrotóxicos, as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are known in Portuguese. In 2013, a crop duster sprayed insecticide on a school in central Brazil. The incident, which put more than 30 schoolchildren and teachers in the hospital, is still being investigated. >>

<< Screenings by regulators show much of the food grown and sold in Brazil violates national regulations. Last year, Anvisa completed its latest analysis of pesticide residue in foods across Brazil. Of 1,665 samples collected, ranging from rice to apples to peppers, 29 percent showed residues that either exceeded allowed levels or contained unapproved pesticides. >>

<< Since 2007, when Brazil’s health ministry began keeping current records, the number of reported cases of human intoxication by pesticides has more than doubled, from 2,178 that year to 4,537 in 2013. The annual number of deaths linked to pesticide poisoning climbed from 132 to 206. Public health specialists say the actual figures are higher because tracking is incomplete. >>

<< “This is a giant laboratory for the worst of industrial-scale agriculture,” says Raquel Rigotto, a physician and sociologist at the Federal University of Ceará in Fortaleza, the state capital. Rigotto says her research team has found traces of many pesticides in water taps in the area, and a higher rate of cancer deaths there than in towns nearby with little farming. >>

<< In 2013, the last year figures are available, Brazilian buyers purchased $10 billion worth, or 20 percent of the global market. Since 2008, Brazilian demand has risen 11 percent annually – more than twice the global rate. >>

It could be Zika. Or… it could be any one or many of the more than a dozen highly toxic and controversial pesticides—most of which are banned around the world, but not in Brazil. It could be Zika, or it could be Paraquat, or it could be Furadan, or any number of other poisons contaminating the soil, the water, the food and the air.

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