Exposure to pesticides is a major contributor to disease, and can depress the immune system, the World Resources Institute has concluded.
The Washington based pressure group wants stronger government surveillance and controls over the use and marketing of pesticides, particularly when they are used in developing countries. Pesticides should also be tested for their immunotoxicity.
Its new report, "Pesticides and the Immune System: the Public Health Risks", draws on new data on pesticide use around the world and its effects on humans and wildlife.
One piece of research, from Moldova, Russia, discovered that farms in the region were using 20 times the world average for pesticides. More than 80 per cent of children there who were known to have been exposed to the pesticides had "significant deviations in more than five immunological parameters." The children were also three times more likely to have infectous diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, and two to fives times more likely suffer some infectious disease. In adults, "the incidence of respiratory, reproductive, and sensory organ diseases was higher than in residents of areas where pesticide use was less".