Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain

The Nation    By Susan Freinkel    3/31/14

Driving along Highway 101 through California’s Salinas Valley, it’s hard to miss the fact that you are traveling through one of the most bountiful farm belts in the country. No matter the time of year, it seems, green fields unfurl toward the mountains that flank the valley, and crews of workers are stooped in the act of picking. Some unique alchemy of air, soil and climate exists here to create a place where dozens of crops flourish, from artichokes to zucchini. Growers plant red and green lettuces side by side in rows so they can be picked and packaged directly as ready-mixed salads. Eighty percent of the country’s leafy greens come from the valley, thus its longtime nickname: “America’s Salad Bowl.”

For all the natural blessings, that bounty also depends on pesticides—more than 8 million pounds of them in 2011. Farmland is expensive here, which puts the farmers under constant pressure to keep increasing their yields. So they rely on an ever-evolving chemical arsenal to fight weeds, insects and diseases in order to grow the blemish-free produce that consumers want to buy. Pesticides are so deeply ingrained in the way agriculture is practiced here that people scarcely notice the noisy helicopters spraying the crops, or...

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