A NEW STUDY from Norway found that the incidence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida or hydrocephalus in children of potato growers was 60% higher than in the rest of the population.
The study, undertaken by researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Health in Oslo, indicated that there was an association between growers’ exposure to the fungicide mancozeb and the neural tube defects in their children.
Mancozeb is a widely used fungicide, and it is particularly effective against potato late blight (dry rot).
It has been found to induce malformations of the neural tube when degraded and metabolized to ethylenethiourea (ETU) in test animals, and the researchers wanted to find out whether it might cause similar damage in humans as well.
“We found a link between growing potatoes and having children with neural tube defects, but we are not certain that Mancozeb or ETU is the culprit. Our findings do support the hypothesis, but more research is needed to strengthen it further,” said Karl-Christian Nordby, the scientist in charge of the study.
Of 102,703 children from farming homes born between 1973 and 1991, the researchers found 131 with neural tube defects.
The study has been published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health.
It prompted one national newspaper in Norway to call for a ban on mancozeb until further research is carried out into the safety of using this fungicide.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s science committee is to consider the case for a possible withdrawal of pesticides containing mancozeb later in the summer.