Pesticides Linked to Climate Change, Despite Declining Efficacy

Pesticides are a key contributor to climate change – posing risks to the environment, public health, and food security – while their effectiveness is declining, according to a recent study.

Developed by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), the study describes a vicious cycle: pesticides add emissions to the air that contribute to climate change, and as temperatures rise, so do the number of pests and insects. More insects encourage agricultural workers to use more pesticides.

This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that greenhouse gas emissions from pesticides are understudied and underestimated.

The Environmental Impact of Pesticides

Producing one kilogram of pesticides requires about 10 times more energy than one kilogram of nitrogen fertilizer, an agriculture chemical with known negative environmental impacts. Meanwhile, some pesticides like sulfuryl fluoride are themselves greenhouse gasses – emitting one ton of sulfuryl fluoride is equivalent to emitting nearly 5,000 tons of CO2. According to researchers, the issue is further complicated by oil and gas companies, which profit from pesticides. Ninety-nine percent of synthetic pesticides are derived from petroleum.

Higher Demand, Questionable Efficacy

As temperatures rise, crops become less resilient due to heat stress, changing rainfall patterns, and more pests. This leads to greater demand for synthetic chemicals and pesticides. Indeed, the global synthetic pesticide industry is predicted to grow substantially in the coming years: estimated at $16.3 billion in 2021, it is anticipated to grow to $27.6 billion by 2031.

However, some researchers note that less than .01 percent of pesticides even reach the pests they’re intended to target. This figure is especially low when it comes to flying insects like mosquitoes. Consider this: based on an estimate that target mosquitoes only receive about 0.0000001% of aerial spray, 1 million insecticide droplets must be produced to hit only one target mosquito. Consequently, excess chemicals end up in the soil, water, air, and on other plants. Hot temperatures further aggravate this problem by rendering pesticides into a toxic gas.

Pesticides, Cancer & Birth Defects 

Meanwhile, the human toll of pesticide use is significant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are an estimated 300,000 human pesticide poisonings in the United States resulting from applying pesticides. The global number is much greater, with 26 million human pesticide poisonings and 220,000 deaths each year.

Exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, increases a person’s likelihood of developing cancer by 41%, according to an analysis by University of Washington researchers. Pesticides may also lead to birth defects when parents are exposed to them before or during pregnancy.  These chemicals may damage the mother’s or father’s chromosomes leading to issues in fetal development.

A Potential Solution: Agroecology

Given the link between pesticides and climate change, and the human costs associated with pesticide use, there is a need to reduce reliance on them. This is especially true given their declining efficacy.

Agroecological farming offers a solution by promoting ecological processes that adapt to local conditions as well as practices such as intercropping (where two or more crops grow together to increase biodiversity and promote plant health.) Agroecology also prioritizes the health of farmers and agricultural workers. According to the PANNA report, agroecology leads to better public health, improved food security, and enhanced biodiversity.

According to one of the PANNA report’s co-authors, “conventional farming methods don’t account for environmental externalities and health costs.”

The report acknowledges that a change across the entire food production system would be costly and encourages the use of incentives such as subsidies, similar to those introduced for transitioning to green technology.

How We Help Victims of Pesticide Exposure

Seek justice with the help of our experienced lawyers. For 20 years, our pesticide law firm has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for dangerous chemicals and the birth defects and personal injuries they cause. If you or a loved one has suffered adverse health effects caused by dangerous products, we can help.


Honoring Legendary Activist Dolores Huerta

Today is a special day in history: the birthday of labor activist Dolores Huerta.

Huerta, who was born April 10, 1930, grew up with a mother who set a strong example of community activism. After working multiple jobs, Alicia Chávez bought her own restaurant and hotel. She hosted low-paid farmworkers at affordable rates, even waiving their accommodation fees at times. Alicia Chávez also modeled integration as the agricultural community. Where they lived was made up of Mexican, Filipino, African American, Japanese, and Chinese families.

Although Huerta studied to become a teacher, she soon left the profession because she was tired of seeing her students, many the children of low-income farm workers, come to school hungry and lacking proper clothing.

The Power of Community Organizing

After leaving teaching, Huerta worked with the Stockton (Calif.) Community Service Organization and founded the Agricultural Workers Association. She soon met César E. Chávez, and they co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to help give agricultural workers the power to band together and receive better treatment. The NFWA is currently known as United Farm Workers (UFW).

She successfully lobbied legislators to get Aid for Dependent Families and disability insurance protection for farm works in California. Huerta also helped enact 1975’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first law in the U.S. that allowed farm workers to organize and bargain for better working conditions and wages.

Committing to Women’s Rights

While organizing the first national boycott of grapes, Huerta became involved with the women’s liberation movement. She saw how well the goals of women’s liberation and worker’s rights were and began working for women’s rights within the agricultural worker community. She fought against gender discrimination in farm work. Huerta also encouraged entire families to get involved in the movement, because often entire families were doing the agricultural work.

Through the years, Huerta has also advocated for more participation in public life by women and people of color. She traveled around the U.S. encouraging Latinas to run for office as part of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s 50/50 by the Year 2000 campaign and served as National Chair of the 21st Century Party, which focuses on ensuring that political representation matches the makeup of America through gender and ethnic diversity.

Fighting for Agricultural Workers and the Working Poor

The through-line in Huerta’s life of activism has been farm workers. Although she lived with her mother after her parents divorced, her father was a farm worker and later a state representative. With César Chávez and the UFW, she has improved the lives of agricultural workers by helping them organize and fight for better pay and protections. Currently, she and her foundation continue to help farm workers by educating them about their rights, the laws and agencies that protect them, and the benefits and services they have access to.

Of particular importance to Huerta is farm workers’ ongoing exposure to dangerous pesticides. In addition to fighting low pay, long hours, and lack of healthcare, Huerta spoke out against the physical damage from exposure to pesticides she witnessed among farm workers, including cancer and birth defects. Although farm workers have had victories on this front, in a 2017 interview with NPR, Huerta said the fight is not over:

“This is a really, really big issue to this day for farmworkers. Because even though we were able to get many of the pesticides banned, they keep inventing new ones.”

In particular, Huerta mentioned chlorpyrifos, which the EPA failed to ban in 2019 despite evidence of links between exposure and severe health problems and birth defects.

New Documentary Finds Roundup “Everywhere”

Brian Lilla, an award-winning filmmaker, moved to the Napa Valley wine region to raise his children in a healthy environment. But as he saw Roundup applied vigorously to the vineyards spread throughout the area, he “learned how toxic wine country is.”

“I didn’t want to leave Napa because I have children,” Lilla said in an interview with the nonprofit publication Capital & Main. “I didn’t want to run away from the problem. No matter where I go, there’s going to be glyphosate in the food. Yes, it blew my mind to find out how much it’s being used in the vineyards. But I want to make it clear that the vineyards are not the villains, nor are farms.”

Lilla’s new film, “Children of the Vine,” explores the role the herbicide Roundup has had on Napa Valley vineyards and the people who work in them and live around them.

What Is Roundup?

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is commonly found in herbicides throughout the world. Although Roundup’s maker, Monsanto, insists the product is safe, the World Health Organization concluded in its 2015 report on glyphosate that this key herbicide ingredient is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Lawsuits by farmworkers, groundskeepers, and others who regularly use Roundup as part of their jobs are mounting, with claims that it causes cancer and other health problems. More than thirty countries have banned or limited the use of glyphosate.

Glyphosate Is Everywhere, But Do We Really Need to Use It?

Unfortunately, the use of glyphosate is so widespread that traces of it can be found even in organic food products, including wine.

The “Children of the Vine” website points out that glyphosate “is now found in breast milk, baby food, wine, and 80% of food grown in the United States.”

An interviewee in the film stated: “So as we look at the consequences in our children, with each generation mounting a more and more severe collapse of health and more and more penetrance of disease, glyphosate sits at the center of it because we have poured a single chemical into our food and water system at a rate now of four billion pounds a year.”

Director Lilla said he had a “cordial” discussion with Monsanto’s public relations department about “Children of the Vine.” After he shared the film with them, “they sent me an eight-page report refuting everything I say about Roundup, which comes from the scientists and legal evidence.”

Lilla also talked to vineyard growers and others in the wine industry about the use of glyphosate. “I think it boils down to economics,” he said. “What is it going to cost to maintain your weed program with Roundup? And what’s really interesting about that question is what you find when you talk to organic growers. When I talked to Frogs Leap Winery [a Rutherford (California) winery that farmed organically for decades], I found that it doesn’t cost more, isn’t more work. It’s about the same.”

Another interviewee in the film said: “A lot of the problems you see in vineyards are self-inflicted. You can easily farm grapes in Napa Valley organically.”

How We Help Victims of Pesticide Exposure

Seek justice with the help of our experienced lawyers. Our Dallas, Texas, pesticide law firm has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for dangerous chemicals and the birth defects and personal injuries they cause. If you have a child with birth defects caused by dangerous products, we can help.

5 Ways to Lower the Risk of Birth Defects

A new pregnancy – or planning for one – can be such an exciting time in a family’s life. And you will want to do whatever you can to ensure your baby will be happy and healthy.

The problem is that so much conflicting information can confuse parents-to-be about what really works to protect your baby’s health. Although it is impossible to guarantee that your child won’t be affected by birth defects, these time-tested tips can improve your chances of having a healthy baby.


See Your Doctor

Prenatal care is one of the most important actions to take. If you’re still in the planning stages, your doctor can help you manage your health to prepare for pregnancy. Then once you are pregnant, your doctor will monitor your baby’s and your health to ensure both are in good health.

If you have any chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease, your doctor may recommend more screenings or more frequent visits to help ensure healthy development. Your doctor will also typically screen for any sexually transmitted diseases, as these can also cause birth defects and ongoing health problems.

Your doctor can also prescribe safe medication to help alleviate pregnancy symptoms if they interfere with your life.

Take Your Vitamins

A prenatal vitamin is a crucial part of a healthy diet before and during pregnancy. Folic acid, in particular, is a vital component. It has been proven to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. These birth defects can happen before a woman even knows she is pregnant, which is why many health officials recommend that women of childbearing age ensure they are consuming 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to prevent brain and spine defects.

Once pregnant, your body will require increased nutrition as it supports you and your growing baby. If you have any questions about your nutrition and vitamin intake, your doctor is the best person to ask.

Get Your Vaccines

Certain diseases can cause severe birth defects during pregnancy, so it is essential to be up to date on vaccinations before becoming pregnant, including vaccinations to prevent human papillomavirus, measles, mumps, rubella, flu, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and COVID-19. If you haven’t gotten all these vaccines, or they aren’t up to date, you may be able to take them during pregnancy. Concerns about your ability to receive these vaccines are best addressed with your doctor.

Maintain Your Health

Pregnancy can be physically taxing. Cravings can lead to unhealthy eating or unnecessary weight gain. The best option is to ensure that you are at a healthy weight and perform regular exercise before you get pregnant. If you are physically active already, you will likely be able to continue to exercise with some modification, which your doctor can advise you about.

In addition to taking your vitamins, make sure you’re eating a healthy and varied diet so you and your growing baby receive enough nutrition from food.

Although your changing body can make it challenging, especially toward the end of pregnancy, try to get adequate sleep to mitigate some of the fatigue that comes with being pregnant.

Stay Away from Harmful Chemicals 

Finally, avoiding dangerous substances before and during pregnancy is essential in maintaining fetal health. As mentioned, many birth defects happen in the earliest stages of pregnancy, long before a woman realizes she is pregnant. So, avoiding chemicals that can cause damage is an important step in preparing for a baby. In fact, even if you aren’t planning to become pregnant, any woman of childbearing age is wise to minimize chemical exposure.

Some substances to avoid include alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, chemical solvents, pesticides such as glyphosate (found in Monsanto’s Roundup and other bands), herbicides, and cleaning products. Because these chemicals have been linked to cancers and other diseases in addition to birth defects, avoiding these substances is in the mother’s best interests, too.

Exposure to Pesticides During Pregnancy Linked to Brain Damage in Embryos

Exposure to Pesticides During Pregnancy Linked to Brain Damage in EmbryosBringing a new child into the world can be the most exciting event for a family. But that excitement is often short-lived once you hear that your child will be born with a severe birth defect. One particularly devastating condition is holoprosencephaly, or HPE, a brain condition that can cause moderate to severe facial deformities, developmental delays, miscarriage, and early death.

Although this birth defect can be genetic, it is often caused by environmental factors, including the use of pesticides before and during pregnancy.

When children are born with serious birth defects, such as holoprosencephaly, it can be devastating and costly to the family and for the health care and educational systems as they provide lifelong support to these children.

Medical researchers are looking at possible causes of this birth defect so we can help prevent it in the future. They study genetic information and other things that might increase risk, such as chemicals pregnant women might be exposed to.

Putting Pregnant Women at Risk

A recent study in the journal Environmental Health looked at how pesticides might be linked with HPE. They chose to study pesticides and this particular birth defect because we already know that pesticides have been linked to other birth defects and they tend to have a greater effect on a developing brain than on an adult brain.

In this study, researchers gathered a group of women who had given birth to a child with holoprosencephaly and a group of women whose child was born with Williams-Beuren Syndrome, a similar birth defect with a known genetic cause. The researchers asked women what types of pesticides they had used or had been exposed to during their pregnancy, if any, including insect repellant, flea and tick medications, and bug sprays. The researchers also asked women whether they had lived near an agricultural field during their pregnancy.

They compared the results of these different groups of women to see if pesticide use seemed to be linked more strongly to cases of HPE than to Williams-Beuren Syndrome. They found a link between all types of pesticide use they asked about and HPE, with especially strong links between the use of flea and tick medications and agricultural pesticides among the women who had lived near an agricultural field while they were pregnant.

The researchers noted that the critical period for holoprosencephaly to develop is the first trimester, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. HPE affects 1 in 250 embryos, although many of these pregnancies result in miscarriage. It is still relatively common, affecting 1 in 10,000 babies born at full term.

The Long-Term Dangers of Pesticide Exposure

There are many different types of pesticides, some of which are commonly available for household use and some of which are mainly used in industrial and agricultural settings. The researchers in the Environmental Health study found some increased risk of holoprosencephaly with all of them.

One particularly disturbing finding in their study was the increased risk of HPE for women who live near an agricultural field. It could be easy for women to stop using insect repellant, flea and tick medicine, and bug spray when they are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant, but few neighbors can control what pesticides are used by the people nearby producing food, grass seed, Christmas trees, or other agricultural products—and they may have no way of knowing what is used to control pests right next door.

Other researchers are looking deeper into specific components of pesticides and how they might cause HPE. One study at the University of Wisconsin explored the effects of piperonyl butoxide, or PBO, on the brain development of mice. This chemical is used in many household pesticides, including the flea and tick medications associated with HPE in the Environmental Health study.

These university researchers exposed mice to PBO during the period in their pregnancies that matches the early pregnancy period so critical in a baby’s brain development. The mice exposed to PBO showed facial deformities similar to those that accompany HPE in humans. The more PBO the pregnant mouse was exposed to, the more severe the deformities in the fetus.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that PBO is found in more than 1,500 commercial products. But there is no requirement to label it as dangerous during pregnancy.

Babies Born Addicted to Opioids Cost U.S. Over $500 Million per Year

In the year preceding the onset of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, the opioid epidemic led the headlines. Studies were conducted, opioid lawsuits were filed, and new regulations aimed at holding drug manufacturers and prescribers responsible for the havoc the highly addictive drugs wreaked on millions were passed. Yet the stranglehold of addiction persists, albeit in the shadow of COVID-19.

As millions of Americans come out from under the coronavirus pandemic blanket with mass vaccinations and opening economies, the opioid epidemic is fast coming back to the fore with a focus on its most innocent victims.

The resumed interest has opioid attorneys working overtime filing opioid lawsuits for clients whose exposure to the drugs around and during pregnancy have led to their children being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) defines NAS as “a withdrawal syndrome primarily occurring in infants with in-utero exposure to opioids.” It is a diagnosis that occurs “6.7 times per 1,000 live hospital births and costs the U.S. $572.7 million each year,” according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), which studied a nationally representative sample of all pediatric discharges, as reported in JAMA. Medicaid-covered births account for 83.3 percent of the total cost ($477 million). Babies’ stay in the hospital can be 20.4 days or more with an average cost to families of $22,552.

The Project defined in-hospital births as “those with a primary/secondary diagnosis of live birth and no indication of birth outside the hospital or transfer from another hospital.”

While NAS can happen to any baby exposed to opioids in-utero, the highest incidence rates were among “American Indian/Alaska Native individuals (15.0 per 1,000) and non-Hispanic white people (10.5 per 1,000), the lowest income quartile (9.3 per 1,000), rural areas (10.6 per thousand), and the Northeast (9.5 per 1,000).” Medicaid-covered births had the highest NAS rates (12.3 per 1,000) with those without any kind of insurance just behind at 7.0 per 1,000.

What the Research Shows

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids in the past year. More than 70 thousand died from overdose, and 1.6 million people misused prescription pain relievers for the first time.

Women who experience severe pain before or during their pregnancies are still commonly being treated with opioids, most often with codeine and oxycodone, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This is a problem, because “opioid use during pregnancy can affect women and their babies.”

The National Birth Defects Prevention Study conducted from 1997 through 2005, which studied just over 19,000 maternal cases, supports that finding as it showed there is an “association between early pregnancy maternal opioid analgesic treatment and certain birth defects.”

These findings lend support to parents with NAS-affected babies who wish to seek claims against opioid manufacturers and prescribers.

Most Common Opioid-Related Birth Defects

The latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study, “Maternal Treatment with Opioid Analgesics and Risk for Birth Defects,” published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, reveals “codeine and hydrocodone were the most frequently prescribed medications, representing 69 percent of all reported opioid analgesics used.” The reasons for a prescribed opioid regimen during pregnancy include chronic diseases, infections, injuries, and surgical procedures.

Treatment with opioid analgesic, according to the study, was linked with congenital heart defects such as:

  • Atrial septal defect
  • Atrioventricular septal defect
  • Conoventricular septal defect
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Pulmonary valve stenosis
  • Tetralogy of Fallot

The study says the “findings related to congenital heart defects were consistent with findings of previous studies showing links between the use of codeine during the first trimester and the occurrence of some heart defects.”

Other common birth defects include:

  • Gastroschisis (a defect of the abdominal wall)
  • Glaucoma (an eye defect)
  • Hydrocephaly (build-up of fluid in the brain)
  • Spina bifida (a type of neural tube defect)

How We Help Opioid Victims Who Suffered Birth Defects

Contact us to seek justice with the help of our experienced opioid attorneys. We’ve battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years. Our Dallas, Texas, opioid law firm represents families dealing with opioid-related birth defects. If you have a child with birth defects caused by exposure to opioids during the first trimester of pregnancy, we can help.

Bill Works to Raise Regulations on Restricted-Use Pesticides

As the use of dangerous pesticides continues, a potential bill is in the works to increase protection for the public.

The Hawai‘i state House unanimously voted to pass a bill that would establish regulations on users of restricted-use pesticides. Specifically, Senate Bill 3095 would create usage, reporting, and location requirements for agricultural businesses that utilize 35 or more pounds or gallons of restricted-use pesticides in a year. The bill includes the following proposals:

  • Restricted-use pesticide users must report the substance used, the amount, and location
  • A buffer zone within 100 feet of school properties
  • A complete ban on all pesticides that contain chlorpyrifos

The Dangers in Chlorpyrifos

Chlorpyrifos is a chemical component of pesticides that is widely used in commercial farming because it is inexpensive to make. Pesticides that contain neurotoxins such as chlorpyrifos are known to cause birth defects in unborn children when their parents are exposed. As such, hundreds of Hawai‘ian residents wrote to the state House to voice their support for the bill in a copied form letter stating, “we need mandatory disclosure and notification, along with pilot programs for buffer zones and drift studies around schools,” according to a report by the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald.

The letter signed by residents states that “additional studies on pesticide drift are meaningless without knowledge of what pesticides were and are being applied.” This only goes to amplify the importance of full disclosure regarding the pesticides sprayed. When the wind blows these toxic pesticides, people nearby are in danger of direct exposure.  Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that there is evidence of an association between early exposure to pesticides and a number of adverse effects, including cancers, as well as decreased cognitive function and birth defects.

What is Galiher DeRobertis & Waxman doing to Help?

Galiher DeRobertis & Waxman is committed to fighting for families with pesticide-related birth defects. While we are not doctors, our lawyers work with highly-qualified scientific and medical professionals to determine if a reported birth defect is related to a parent’s exposure to pesticides. Our lawyers are experienced in successfully representing families injured by defective products, harmful pesticides, and corporate negligence. We provide free initial consultations and will meet with you to evaluate your claim with no obligation on your part. If your child has pesticide-related birth defects, he or she may have a claim against the company responsible for that pesticide exposure. Please get in touch with us for a free case evaluation at 1-866-998-TOXIC (6942) and learn more about your legal options. Our team will begin working immediately and aggressively to obtain the best result for your case.

Prevention and Prenatal Care Can Lower the Risk of Birth Defects

About three percent of babies born in the United States each year are affected by birth defects. Birth defects, also called congenital defects or malformations, may be mild or severe, and can have a profound effect on the child and the family.

Care Providers Can Bridge the Gap

Access to prenatal care has been shown to have a sizable impact on fetal health. Health care providers can perform tests during pregnancy to assess the health of the fetus and screen for potential birth defects. They can also ask questions to help see if the pregnant person has been exposed through work or location factors to harmful chemicals or pesticides that could cause birth defects. For example, farm workers and workers in semiconductor factories have been found to have higher rates of birth defects because of exposure to chemicals before or during pregnancy.

Health care providers will also help plan adequate nutrition and connect women who can’t afford high-quality food and prenatal vitamins with services. Health care providers can perform diagnostic tests to assess the risks for and diagnose some birth defects to help potential parents make informed decisions and plans for their children.

But many prospective parents don’t have adequate access to prenatal care to help prevent birth defects. They also may not have received the vaccinations necessary to prevent pregnancy complications. These factors can create a disparity in birth outcomes between socioeconomic and ethnic groups and lead to higher rates of birth defects in groups who are less likely to receive conscientious health care and to be able to afford high-cost procedures and devices.

Causes and Types of Birth Defects

Although some birth defects are genetic and may not be easily prevented, other birth defects are caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals, lack of adequate nutrition, and exposure to infectious diseases before and during pregnancy. Some birth defects may be caused by a combination of factors, such as a genetic factor that increases sensitivity to an environmental hazard. Still other defects can be caused by lifestyle choices, such as drug use or smoking, and parental medical conditions, including diabetes or obesity. About 30% of the causes of birth defects are known, but the remaining 70% are of unknown or indistinct origin.

Birth defects may be visible or invisible. For example, limb abnormalities, Down syndrome, neural tube defects, and cleft palates are usually visible at birth or soon after. However, defects in internal organs or visual or hearing deficits may not be easily determined at birth. Many birth defects may lead to higher risk of death. In fact, worldwide, nearly 240,000 Infants die each year within 28 days of birth. Birth defects contribute to another 170,000 deaths of children ages 1-5 each year. In the United States, birth defects are estimated to be the cause of 20% of infant deaths.

Birth defects may also lead to lifelong disability, causing emotional distress and financial hardship for their families. Surgeries and medications may be able to cure some birth defects or provide relief from the symptoms, but other birth defects victims may need medical aides and expensive devices to ensure they can lead a full life.

Opioids Prescribed to Pregnant Women Tied to Birth Defects

With over 27 million Americans using an illicit or prescription opioid on a routine basis, it’s quite clear that opioid use impacts many facets of our society. The epidemic kills an average of 70,000 people per year – and the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, in fact, worsens widespread drug use. But many of those it doesn’t kill live out their lives with complications. Recently, sales of opioid pain relievers in the United States have surged. The populations most affected by this are pregnant women and their infants.

Impact on Children Exposed to Opioids During Pregnancy 

While the impact of opioid use during pregnancy continues to be a subject of ongoing debate, solid evidence suggests that perinatal opioid exposure can cause adverse behavioral, cognitive, or developmental outcomes. In a recent study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Stephen Patrick and his co-authors easily conclude that prescribing opioids to pregnant women is quite common. They also found this practice strongly associated with neonatal complications or possible birth defects. With opioid use during pregnancy typically resulting from prescriptions for pain management, it’s often the case that doctors or medical professions fail to consider all options before prescribing such a drug. Many around the country, including states, cities, counties and even hospitals question the manufacturers of such drugs. Because of the numerous distressing legacies left by the opioid epidemic, many of the ongoing lawsuits filed against drug companies reference infants born with complications.

Birth Defects Caused by Opioid Use During Pregnancy

Ever since this issue came into public discourse over a decade ago, several scientific reports have found that maternal opioid treatment early in pregnancy is associated with certain types of birth defects in infants, including:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Hydrocephaly
  • Spina Bifida
  • Glaucoma

Additionally, cognitive and developmental delays are also closely associated with opioids like codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone taken either before becoming pregnant and during the early trimester of pregnancy. Researchers like Cheryl S. Broussard urge that women and their physicians consider these risks before making treatment decisions during pregnancy. It’s possible that strengthening existing lax prescription rules and regulations could help decrease the risks that pregnant women prescribed opioids face.

Paradise Lost: The Secret Pesticide Danger Looming in Hawai‘i

Pesticides sprayed on genetically modified corn are potentially having a dangerous effect on residents of Hawai‘i. So, why aren’t questions being answered?

A storm has been brewing over the last three years in reference to something quite tiny: corn kernels. On one side, companies claim that the plant is a cash crop across Hawai‘i. On the other hand, doctors say that the corn, genetically modified to resist pesticides, is leading to birth defects, and illnesses. It truly isn’t the corn that is at issue.  It is the pesticides that are sprayed on the GMO (genetically modified organisms) corn and the severe birth defects and illnesses to which they possibly lead.

How do Pesticides Contaminate?

According to a detailed study conducted by the Center for Food Safety, in Kauai alone, chemical companies Dow, BASF, Syngenta, and DuPont spray 17 times more restricted-use insecticides per acre than on ordinary cornfields in the US mainland.  About 90% of industrial GMO corn grown in the US was originally developed in Hawai‘i, with the island of Kauai hosting the biggest area.

When the spraying takes place and the wind is blowing simultaneously, this is how the town becomes contaminated. This phenomenon, known as pesticide drift, is the movement of pesticide dust or droplets through the air at the time of application or soon after, to any site other than the intended area. Kauai residents who live, work, and play close to the fields complain of their eyes and lungs hurting along with dizziness and nausea.

Pediatrician, Carla Nelson, has reported that there have been at least nine infants born with severe heart malformations requiring complex surgery within the last five years. This is more than 10 times the national rate, according to analysis by local doctors.

How People Work to Stop Pesticide Contamination

Growing concern over pesticides and their health impact on residents led to multiple attempts to force companies to disclose in advance what they spray and to create buffer zones. While former Hawai‘i senate majority leader, Gary Hooser, was previously rebuffed in his requests, he continued to do research and found that companies, unlike regular farmers, were being treated differently. The state asked for a federal exemption for the companies so they could avoid modern standards of compliance. The chemical companies that grow the corn on land Hawai‘i previously used for sugar refuse to disclose with any precision which chemicals they use, where and in what amounts, but they insist the pesticides are safe, and most state and local politicians concur.

This culture of non-disclosure has created an increased desire for information on the possible connection between these pesticides and birth defects. In response, the Joint Fact-Finding Study Group on Genetically Modified Crops and Pesticides on Kauai, composed of doctors and scientists, and a professional facilitator was appointed to “determine if there are human harms coming from these pesticides.”

The possible link between pesticides sprayed on GMO plants and birth defects along with other illnesses continues to be an ongoing issue for the people of Hawai‘i with more questions than answers and passionate beliefs on both sides.