This post ran in 2016, during the Zika virus panic when everyone was investing in..... vaccines and tiny hats.
Note: Thanks to Levi for allowing us to excerpt this terrific look at the winter of 2016 viral panic. Ebola hangs its head in shame. Exsanguination can't hold a candle to anencephaly. H1N1 is curled in a fetal position, a mere shadow of its phormer pfearphul pharma selling selph.
By Levi Quackenboss
The other day a lady friend called to ask what I thought about the Zika virus. She said she needed to hurry up and get pregnant and get through her first trimester before summer arrived in her southern state– bringing mosquitoes– so that her baby would not be born with microcephaly if she caught the Zika virus.
This was a real phone call. A real concern. From a really smart woman.
I’m going to share with you what I said to her in that moment of genuine concern for her yet-to-be-conceived child:
Seriously. Smooth them down, ladyfriend. Relax. I do not buy for one moment that the Zika virus— which was been studied for 70 years and has never been linked to microcephaly– is causing babies in Brazil to be born with tiny heads.
Being the quack that I am, three questions first came to mind.
- What is the pesticide regulation situation in Brazil?
- Is there a Zika virus vaccine coming down the turnpike?
- Have prenatal vaccines been recently introduced to Brazilian women?
Let me start by saying that while some headlines are screaming that Brazil is “badly losing the battle” and the virus is “spreading explosively” across the country, the truth is that the criteria used to determine that 4,000 Brazilian babies had microcephaly is a head measurement of 33 centimeters or less. That would put 10% of American newborns into the microcephaly category. So either this is an epidemic of overly broad diagnostic criteria or we’ve got 400,000 cases of microcephaly in the US each year. (Spoiler: we actually have 25,000 cases in the US every year that you never hear about.)
Anyway. Eight months pre-Zika-hysteria Reuters ran this enlightening article entitled “Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides.” It turns out that Brazil has the dubious distinction of buying even more pesticides than the United States, which was previously the largest consumer of pesticides in the world. They spend 10 billion dollars a year on herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Not only that, but Brazil uses highly poisonous pesticides that are not even allowed to be used in the US, trumping our high threshold for toxic exposure to our peoples. Most of the food grown and sold in Brazil violates their own national safety standards; it certainly violates the standards for the rest of the world.
If you took a college-level biology class you probably studied cell sodium channels. I won’t get too deep into it but it’s suffice to say that they are crucial to development. There is one particular insecticide class called pyrethroids that act on insect sodium channels and disrupt neuro-development. It is also known that if a seizure medicine that acts on the very same sodium channels is used in pregnancy it has a side effect of… can you guess? Microcephaly. Maybe we should quit messing with sodium channels? Maybe we should not let pregnant women eat/breathe/touch chemicals that disrupt sodium channels?
Maybe it’s a bad idea to crop dust a school with this stuff, Brazil?
Also on the pesticide list is an old favorite called Atrazine, best known for causing transgendered frogs, but is also responsible for making babies with small heads.
And I hate to break it to you (not really, I love breaking it to you) that we already have people with the Zika virus in the US and only one case is linked microcephaly, but it’s in the Monsanto testing ground petri dish we like to call Hawaii.
Read more at Levi's site.