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Pesticide Might Be The Cause Of Microcephaly, Not Zika Virus, New Study Says

Pesticide Might Be The Cause Of Microcephaly, Not Zika Virus, New Study Says

Especially now that the Zika virus has officially arrived in the United States (via Florida), pregnant women across the country are worried about the possible effects that contracting this mosquito-born virus might have on their unborn children.  Many health organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have concluded that the Zika virus is responsible for microcephaly (a condition where a baby is born with a smaller than normal head and can have long-term cognitive problems because of it). However, a new study raises some questions about these conclusions.

The New Study: does Zika Really Cause Microcephaly?

This new study was undertaken by the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) and recently published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. In it, researchers did a large study of 12,000 pregnant Columbian women who showed signs and symptoms of the Zika virus.  What is interesting about this study, though, it that none of these 12,000 women gave birth to babies with microcephaly.

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At this time, there were four cases of microcephaly reported, but this would considered to be at the normal rate of this birth defect, which occurs in approximately 2 out of every 10,000 births even in unaffected populations.

The researchers estimate that, throughout Columbia, there are or have been around 60,000 pregnancies affected by the Zika virus, so the absence of microcephaly births raised the inevitable question: if the Zika virus is not causes microcephaly, then what is?

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A New Culprit is Named

So if the Zika virus is not causing these birth defects, what is?

The NECSI believes that the real culprit might well be a pesticide called pyriproxyfen, which, ironically, is widely used in Brazil to help control the mosquito population. The chemical is used in areas which have been particularly affected by microcephaly — and it has been used in the public water supplies at unprecedented levels.

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The researchers, in making their argument, pointed out the following facts:

  1. Pyriproxyfen works to control the mosquito population by interfering with the development of larvae — and might well interfere with the development of human babies.
  2. Its chemical structure is similar to a form of vitamin A known as a retinoid. The use of retinoids with women during pregnancy has been linked with a variety of serious birth defects, including microcephaly.
  3. Pyriproxyfen has been used in Brazil in the public water supply at unprecedented levels — and this usage happened just before the outbreak of microcephaly in this country.
  4. The fact that other countries who have suffered from Zika virus outbreaks have not suffered from large numbers of microcephaly is suspicious.

The Study in Context

This study should be looked at in context in order to really appreciate its importance. To begin with, the manufacturer of pyriproxyfen has denied any link between its pesticide and birth defects. However, this has been belied by a neurodevelopmental psychologist from the Harvard School of Public Health whose research found a link between this chemical and smaller skull size in laboratory animals.

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In the meantime, the use of this pesticide remains widespread in Brazil despite worries that it might be causing these defects in unborn children. The good news is that some countries are exploring alternatives to mosquito control, that does not harm the human population in any way. This includes the use of larvae-eating fish and mosquito traps.

The long and short of it is that the Zika virus, while certainly a threat to public health, may not be the culprit behind the outbreak of microcephaly — and alternatives to the use of pyriproxyfen should be investigated in order to reduce the potential health risk to pregnant women and their developing babies.

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Brian Wu

Health Writer, Author

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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