"The deterioration of the integrity of the human genome is one of the many challenges of the current model of economic development," warned doctor and geneticist Delia Aiassa, within the framework of the conferenceGenetic risk in children due to environmental exposure, organized and delivered at the Garraham Hospital in the City of Buenos Aires. Aiassa is a teacher and researcher in the Department of Natural Sciences of the Faculty of Exact Sciences at the National University of Río Cuarto (UNRC), and together with researcher Fernando Mañas she has been studying the effects of agrochemicals on people for years. His publications conclude an alarming thesis, disclosed in this class: exposed people suffer from genetic damage.
The conference was convened by the Internal Board of the Association of State Workers (ATE) of the Hospital and driven by, among others, the nurse specialist in palliative care Mercedes "Mechi" Méndez, who for years has observed the entry of children and girls with malformations and cancer diseases arrived from fumigated areas. "The boys continue to come to Garrahan from areas that have been fumigated and with pathologies," he tellsavacaMendez. “That is why we insist that the productive model of looting and contamination be taken into account as a cause of these diseases, that the place where they come from, the toxins they have in their blood, those they inhale, those they eat, be taken into account. That is invisible and is not seen at the time of diagnoses. Yes, it is seen in acute poisonings, like the boys of the tomato plants, but the chronic poisonings periodically with minimal doses that this model receives through fumigations and food is what is not being taken into account. It is time for that to happen from a place as emblematic as Garraham ”.
When the specialist Méndez speaks of “the boys of the tomato plants”, she is referring to Nicolas Arévalo (4 years old), Celeste Estevez (5) and José Rivero (4). They are children from the city of Lavalle (Corrientes), practically dedicated to the production of tomatoes. Nicolás died at the Corrientes Hospital after becoming intoxicated with endosulfan when he was playing near his home: he stepped on a puddle with contaminated water. Her cousin, Celeste, was also intoxicated but was referred to Garraham and is still in treatment. "He continues to live in the same conditions, in front of the tomato plants," says Méndez. Rivero died in 2012: at the hospital they did a urinalysis and determined the presence of agochemicals in his body. Méndez: "As Dr. Andrés Carrasco said, it is an open-air experiment."
The cause for Nicolás's death was brought to trial, but the Goya Oral Criminal Court dismissed agricultural producer Ricardo Nicolás Prieto in December, who was the only person accused of "wrongful death and wrongful injuries in the ideal contest." ResearchMUcan be read here:
The first speaker of the conference was the lawyer Darío Ávila, who shared his experience in Córdoba with the Mothers of Ituzaingó-Annex and in the judicial process that for the first time in Argentina “was able to bring this model that we are denounced to an oral and public trial” . That trial ended with the sentences of producer Francisco Parra and the aerosol pilot Edgardo Pancello to three years of conditional prison. Avila says: "In that trial, the relevant data was that 33 percent of the neighborhood died of cancer." The specialist remarked that these data had been produced and relieved by the mothers of the neighborhood themselves, who conducted home censuses to leave a testimony of something terrifying: their children, children and neighbors were dying of cancer.
Later, Dr. Aiassa stressed that the research on the consequences of the extractive model in Córdoba "is not an easy subject to tackle," and she wondered what is the effect caused by pollutants in general and pesticides in particular. “This use is the main problem of all socio-environmental problems: mining, deforestation, extraction of fossil fuels, heavy metal contamination. This damage can be caused by various genotoxic environmental agents that have the ability to alter genetic material, in addition to medical procedures and lifestyles ”. Aiassa described chemicals that are thrown into the field as “genotoxic agents” and, depending on their mode of action, they can be of three classes: mutagenic, teratogenic (alterations in the embryonic or fetal period) or carcinogenic. Aiassa: "We are studying if these substances are causing damage, in what specific sectors and if they correspond to some type of gene that can lead to some type of cancer."
The researcher pointed out that more and more they must open the range of possible polluting sources. "It is something that is worrying us more and more," he said. And he listed:
- Domestic and industrial wastewater.
- Waste from treatment plants.
- Hospital effluents.
- Agricultural and livestock activities.
- Tanks or septic tanks.
Aiassa explained that these substances emerged between the 30s and 40s, and that today, in the 21st century, there are more than 1,500 active ingredients and more than 50,000 registered pesticides in the world. “Between the '40s and the' 70s the boom was organochlorines (DDT), pesticides (chlorpyrifos) and carbolicides (Fudradam). In the '90s they are already transgenic. We urgently need a review of the classification of these chemical substances and what effect it has on the environment ”. The scientist explained that the current results speak about "possible risk of contamination" to aquatic biota and humans, especially by cypermethrin, chlorpyrifos, endosulfan (such as the children of tomato plants) and glyphosate.
"Is the entire population exposed?" Aiassa asked. "There are some more vulnerable: in rural areas, both adults and children, we were interested in seeing how much of this proximity to the fields affected the genetic material or not." However, he recalled the work of the Multidisciplinary Socio-Environmental Interaction Team (EMISA), led by Dr. Damián Marino, who found glyphosate in cotton, gauze, swabs and other instruments in La Plata. In this sense, Aiassa pointed out that, based on their research, they were able to determine "an increase in genetic damage in human cells exposed to glyphosate, cypermethrin and chlorpyrifos."
The UNRQ researcher recalled the scientist Andrés Carrasco, former president of Conicet and director of the UBA Molecular Embryology Laboratory, who denounced in 2009 the impact of pesticides on people's health. Aiassa: “When I told him that we didn't have enough data, he replied: 'What else are we going to have to prove?'
Aiassa says toCow: “We are facing a situation of great alarm, serious. I don't want to be an extremist, but I do want to emphasize that urgent measures must be taken. I think that we are not becoming aware of all the toxic substances and pesticides, although we do not have to forget about the mining companies and other activities that go towards the same. We are seeing the effects of recent years now: it is an alarm to find increased damage to the genetic material in children because we are talking about a very vulnerable population, and I believe that our duty is to protect it. The health of a town is measured by the health of its children ”.
For that reason, this day was dedicated to the “children of the tomato plants”.