Pesticides and Aggression April 29th 1999

Introduction to article by Thomas L Rodgers (

Dear Moms and Dads:
This is about you and your children and the chemically induced confusion
and rage we are seeing more today than every in our memory. Below is an
article sent to me on agricultural chemical residues and their affects on the
human nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. As a former dairy rancher and
producer I understand this well.
As you read this article below, keep in mind that the greater
concentrations of agricultural pesticide and chemical residues -- including
hormones and antibiotics -- are coming into the general public via dairy and
the other livestock products. The animal tissues receive and concentrate
these toxins because of their continual ingestion of treated feeds and direct
administration throughout their life cycles during production.
With many agricultural hormones and toxins, their concentrations can be
measurably several hundreds of times higher in the dairy and animal products
than in any equivalent value of plant foods or any other avenue or source of
general public exposure.
Consider the hundreds of pounds of feed required to produce a cut of
meat or the tens of pounds to produce a glass of milk, and worse in the
highest concentrated form of dairy -- that is cheese. Yet cheese has become
the most heavily consumed and favorite animal food in our children's diets,
while at the same time, and as the most concentrated form of dairy, it holds
the greater potential to be most dangerous in vehicling into man his
biological nightmare of ingested hormones, raw antigenic proteins, fats,
animal sugars, bacteria, viruses, fungi -including candida, artificial
colors, additives, and the antibiotic and chemical residues.
Yet the greatest press for hormonal and chemical farming is in the
dairy, as this new phenomenal and unnatural demand is place on the cows to
produce more and more pounds of milk per animal to satisfy the human demands
for dairy -- primarily cheese.
But also, with the fast food and our dairy and flesh centered menus, the
public, especially the children are consuming more livestock materials over
all now than ever in recorded history. And it is the "chemically" enhanced
and manipulated production techniques that are being required to satiate our
nutritional foolishness.
Is it any wonder that our children's and our own health and sanity is
being compromised. Then with the learning and functional challenges comes the
difficult achievement, disappointment, frustration, and finally, the rage!
A child in this day has little chance of a healthy body and unaffected
mind from this caldron of chemical hell which we have created in our modern
day "fleshpots" and feed to them, unconscionably!

TLRodgers, LSI Bio-Research and Education - Utah (801-298-9095)
Pesticides and Aggression by Environmental Research Foundation
For the past 25 years, tens of millions of Americans in
hundreds of cities and towns have been drinking tap
water that is contaminated with low levels of
insecticides, weed killers, and artificial fertilizer. They
not only drink it, they also bathe and shower in it, thus
inhaling small quantities of farm chemicals and
absorbing them through the skin. Naturally, the
problem is at its worst in agricultural areas of the

The most common contaminants are carbamate
insecticides (aldicarb and others), the triazine
herbicides (atrazine and others) and nitrate nitrogen.[1]
For years government scientists have tested each of
these chemicals individually at low levels in laboratory
animals -- searching mainly for signs of cancer -- and
have declared each of them an "acceptable risk" at the
levels typically found in groundwater.

Now a group of biologists and medical researchers at
the University of Wisconsin in Madison, led by
Warren P. Porter, has completed a 5-year experiment
putting mixtures of low levels of these chemicals into
the drinking water of male mice and carefully
measuring the results. They reported recently that
combinations of these chemicals -- at levels similar to
those found in the groundwater of agricultural areas of
the U.S. -- have measurable detrimental effects on the
nervous, immune and endocrine (hormone)
systems.[2] Furthermore, they say their research has
direct implications for humans.

Dr. Porter and his colleagues point out that the
nervous system, the immune system, and the endocrine
(hormone) system are all closely related and in
constant communication with each other. If any one of
the three systems is damaged or degraded the other
two may be adversely affected. The Wisconsin
researchers therefore designed their experiments to
examine the effects of agricultural chemicals on each of
the three systems simultaneously. To assess immune
system function, they measured the ability of mice to
make antibodies in response to foreign proteins. To
assess endocrine system function, they measured
thyroid hormone levels in the blood. And to assess
nervous system function they measured aggressive
behavior in the presence of intruder mice introduced
into the cages. They also looked for effects on growth
by measuring total body weight and the weight of each
animal's spleen.

The experiments were replicated many times, to make
sure the results were reproducible. They found effects
on the endocrine system (thyroid hormone levels) and
the immune system, and reduced body weight, from
mixtures of low levels of aldicarb & nitrate, atrazine &
nitrate, and atrazine, aldicarb & nitrate together. They
observed increased aggression from exposure to
atrazine & nitrate, and from atrazine, aldicarb & nitrate

The Wisconsin research team wrote, "Of particular
signficance in the collective work of Boyd and
others,[3] Porter and others,[4] and our current
study[2] is that THYROID HORMONE
CONCENTRATION CHANGE was consistently a
response due to mixtures, but NOT usually to
individual chemicals." [Emphasis in the original].

In the five-year experiment, thyroid hormone levels
rose or fell depending upon the mixture of farm
chemicals put into the drinking water. Dr. Porter and
his colleagues present evidence from other studies
showing that numerous farm chemicals can affect the
thyroid hormone levels of wildlife and humans. PCBs
and dioxins can have similar effects, they note. Proper
levels of thyroid hormone are essential for brain
development of humans prior to birth. Some, though
not all, studies have shown that attention deficit and/or
hyperactivity disorders in children are linked to
changes in the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood.
Children with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) have
abnormal thyroid levels. Furthermore, irritability and
aggressive behavior are linked to thyroid hormone

Interviewed recently by Keith Hamm of the SANTA
explained, "Earlier work had shown that thyroid
hormone typically changed when exposure to these
pesticides occurred. Thyroid hormone not only affects
and controls your metabolic rate, that is, how fast you
burn food, it also controls your irritability level. For
example, Type A personalities are more assertive,
more aggressive, more hyper. These people tend to
have higher levels of thyroid hormone. Type B
personalities--people that are really laid back, really
take things very easily--have lower levels of thyroid
hormone. We expected that changes in thyroid
[would] change irritability levels. This was a concern
because there was information that kids are getting
more hyper and [that their] learning abilities are going
down," Dr. Porter said.

A recent study of 4 and 5 year-old children in Mexico
specifically noted a decrease in mental ability and an
increase in aggressive behavior among children
exposed to pesticides.[6] Elizabeth A. Guillette and
colleagues studied two groups of Yaqui Indian children
living in the Yaqui Valley in northern Sonora, Mexico.
One group of children lives in the lowlands dominated
by pesticide-intensive agriculture (45 or more
sprayings each year) and the other group lives in the
nearby upland foothills where their parents make a
living by ranching without the use of pesticides. The
pesticide-exposed children had far less physical
endurance in a test to see how long they could keep
jumping up and down; they had inferior hand-eye
coordination; and they could not draw a simple stick
figure of a human being, which the upland children
could readily do.

Notably, in the Guillette study we find this description
of the behavior of pesticide-exposed children: "Some
valley children were observed hitting their siblings
when they passed by, and they became easily upset or
angry with a minor corrective comment by a parent.
These aggressive behaviors were not noted in the
[pesticide-free] foothills [children]."

The human body can defend itself against poisons to
some degree, but Dr. Porter and his colleagues
describe ways in which low-level mixtures of
pesticides and fertilizer might get past the body's

The body is prepared to protect itself against poisons
taken by mouth. The liver begins to produce enzymes
that try to break down fat-soluble chemicals.
However, if a poison enters through the lungs or the
skin, the body does not offer the same kind of
defenses. Furthermore, the body's ability to put up
defenses may be compromised by taking certain
medications (e.g., antibiotics), or by receiving "pulses"
of toxins rather than a steady dose.

Receiving "pulses" of poisons would be normal in the
case of agricultural poisons which are sprayed onto
crops only at certain times of the year. During those
periods, people living near sprayed fields might get a
sudden dose of poison via their lungs, their skin and
their drinking water. Dr. Porter describes such a
situation this way:

"Imagine [that] you're standing in a boxing ring and a
boxer jumps in with you, and he walks toward you
smiling with his hand outstretched. And you reach out
to shake his hand and he smacks you in the stomach
as hard as he can. And when you bring your arms up
to defend yourself, he backs away. Finally you get
tired of holding your defenses up and you drop them
and he rushes in and smacks you again. That's the
physical equivalent to a 'pulse dose,' which is normally
what we tend to get exposed to.

"The defenses we have take a while to induce, just like
it takes a while to bring your arms up. It takes
anywhere from a half a day to five days to induce
those [defenses] to appropriate levels. If you're in a
particular stage of your hormone cycle or you're taking
some antibiotics, it can compromise your ability to
defend yourself even if you did have enough time to
induce your defenses. If you've got pulse doses
coming in under your defenses or coming in faster than
you can bring your defenses up then you've got a
situation where you're totally vulnerable.

"If you've got a pregnant mom, for example, in day 20
when the fetus's neural tube is closing and she gets an
exposure, she hasn't had enough time to induce her
defenses. Her thyroid level goes up or goes down, the
hormone crosses the placenta and can permanently
alter the developmental pattern of the fetus's brain.
And then the pulse dose is gone, you have no
detection, mom doesn't even know she's pregnant, and
you may have an offspring that is neurologically
compromised and wonder, 'How did this happen?'"

In the interview with Keith Hamm, Dr. Porter
expressed concern for the overall effect of pesticides
on the nation's children:

Hamm: "Are pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer used
more or less these days than fifty years ago and have
the toxicities changed?"

Porter: "The usage has continued to climb. There's an
enormous amount of these [chemicals being used] right
now. There was a recent study that examined the urine
of people across the country, [asking] if people are
being exposed. On average, anywhere from five to
seven compounds were being excreted. There's a
great deal of expo- sure to the general populace.

"And yes, the toxicities have definitely changed. [Some
toxicities are now measured] in the parts-per-trillion
range. I would point out that fetuses are sensitive to
chemicals in the parts per quadrillion range."

Hamm: "I would assume that most people in this
country are eating conventionally grown food. If that's
the case, wouldn't the problems be more apparent?
Why are there not more hyperaggressive dim-witted
people with poor immune systems?"

Porter: "If we really looked carefully at what's been
happening in this county, you might find exactly that

* * *

Because of recent violence in small cities and towns
(such as Littleton, Colorado, Laramie, Wyoming, and
Jasper, Texas), this is a time when Americans are
searching for the causes of violence in their society.
Some are blaming a decline in religious upbringing.
Others are blaming households with the parents
working and no one minding the kids. Some say the
cause is violent movies, violent TV and extremist
internet sites, combined with the ready availability of
cheap guns. Still others point to a government that has
often sanctioned the violence of "gunboat diplomacy"
to open foreign markets for U.S. corporations.

No one seems to be asking whether pesticides,
fertilizers and toxic metals [see REHW #529, #551]
are affecting our young people's mental capacity,
emotional balance, and social adjustment. From the
work of Warren Porter, Elizabeth Guillette and others,
it is apparent that these are valid questions.

--Peter Montague (National Writers Union, UAW
Local 1981/AFL-CIO)


[1] Jack E. Barbash and Elizabeth A. Resek,
Michigan: Ann Arbor Press, 1996); Richard Wiles and
others, TAP WATER BLUES (Washington, D.C.:
Environmental Working Group, 1994); Brian A.
Cohen and Richard Wiles, TOUGH TO SWALLOW
(Washington, D.C.: Environmental Working Group,
1997); Environmental Working Group, POURING IT
DRINKING WATER (Washington, D.C.:
Environmental Working Group, 1996). See And: Gina M. Solomon and Lawrie
COMMUNITIES (New York: Natural Resources
Defense Council, October, 1998).

[2] Warren P. Porter, James W. Jaeger and Ian H.
Carlson, "Endocrine, immune and behavioral effects of
aldicarb (carbamate), atrazine (triazine) and nitrate
(fertilizer) mixtures at groundwater concentrations,"
Vol. 15, Nos. 1 and 2 (1999), pgs. 133-150.

[3] C.A. Boyd, M.H. Weiler and W.P. Porter,
"Behavioral and neurochemical changes associated
with chronic exposure to low-level concentration of
pesticide mixtures," JOURNAL OF TOXICOLOGY
3 (July 1990), pgs. 209-221.

[4] W.P. Porter and others, "Groundwater pesticides:
interactive effects of low concentrations of carbamates
aldicarb and methamyl and the triazine metribuzin on
thyroxine and somatotropin levels in white rats,"
(September 1993), pgs. 15-34. And see: W.P. Porter
and others, "Toxicant-disease-environment interactions
associated with suppression of immune system,
growth, and reproduction," SCIENCE Vol. 224, No.
4652 (June 1, 1984), pgs. 1014-1017.

[5] Keith Hamm, "What's In the Mix?" SANTA
15, 1999, pg. 21 and following pages. See Thanks to
George Rauh for alerting us to this interview.

[6] Elizabeth A. Guillette and others, "An
Anthropological Approach to the Evaluation of
Preschool Children Exposed to Pesticides in Mexico,"
Vol. 106, No. 6 (June 1998), pgs. 347- 353.

Descriptor terms: violence; hormones; thyroid
hormone; development; aggression; chemicals and
behavior; behavior and chemicals; delinquency;
studies; mexico; warren p. porter; elizabeth guillette;
adhd; attention disorders; hyperactivity; learning
disabilities; brain development; emotional stability;

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