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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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