Last September, 18 high school students, mostly girls, suddenly developed severe tics and twitches. Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill in the Age of Autism blog report:
One Thursday last September, a crop-dusting plane swooped down over a cornfield in Western New York and dipped below the tree line, spraying an insecticide engineered to paralyze the nervous system of agricultural pests called earworms. After several passes, the plane climbed, banked sharply, and flew away.
The event, captured on this video by a local resident, is noteworthy for when and where it happened: on a school day, on a field adjoining LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in Western New York, where an outbreak of tic disorders among 18 students, mostly girls, would soon gain national attention. By then two girls had developed symptoms, according to the state Health Department – one in May 2011, the other earlier in September – but the bulk of the cases would follow, including two more the next week.
“This cornfield is adjacent to the school property and uphill from the school,” the neighbor who took the video wrote in an e-mail. “The fields in our area are dusted at least twice a year.”
The “dust” that settled that day is called Tundra. Its active ingredient, bifenthrin, has been linked at high doses in animal studies to some of the same symptoms experienced by the LeRoy students. U.S. regulators regard it as much safer than earlier generations of pesticides such as DDT, but it was banned in Europe until just last week due to environmental concerns.
Most of the LeRoy girls were diagnosed by a local neurology clinic with a psychiatric illness called conversion disorder, a finding the state Health Department endorsed despite the protests of parents who said their daughters were not emotionally disturbed. Several investigations, including one made public last month, found no evidence of environmental contamination…
It is unknown whether the school district, the state Health Department, or the outside consulting firm, Leader Professional Services, was aware of the incident or the report. Last month, Leader completed an extensive, $70,000 report that found no current environmental hazards.
“The air, soil and surface water sampling conducted at the [Junior High/Senior High] site did not identify chemicals at concentrations which could be considered to have health impacts to students, teachers, administrative staff or the public occupying the site,” the Leader report said.
Based on that, LeRoy Superintendent Kim Cox wrote district families in June: “I have excellent news to announce concerning the results of the air, soil and surface water testing of the Junior/Senior High School building and grounds by Leader Professional Services. Leader has compiled an extensive report concerning the testing undertaken and subsequent analysis, concluding there are no adverse health impacts from contaminants in the air, soil or water in or around our high school campus.”
Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, vice president at Dent Neurologic Institute and the neurologist who diagnosed many of the girls with conversion disorder, went further, saying the results confirmed his diagnosis and treatment. (Only one student still has symptoms, he told The Buffalo News in June.) Mechtler said Erin Brockovich, the activist who raised the possibility of toxic effects from a train derailment in the township or other causes, should “now go on national TV and take back her dramatic speculation about environmental toxins being the root cause of the disorders,” according to the newspaper.
Brockovich was brought in by some of the parents who scoffed at the conversion disorder diagnosis, which has its origins in the late 19th century Freudian concept of “hysteria,” in which patients, most often young women, supposedly convert mental trauma into physical symptoms. When that happens to several members of a group at once, it is called mass hysteria, or in modern parlance, a mass psychogenic event…
Strikingly, Tundra, the pesticide sprayed on the field, has been shown to cause symptoms in animals that parallel those suffered by the girls, who in addition to tics had trouble walking and standing and suffered breathing problems, strange sensations, seizures and blackouts.
Bifenthrin, the active chemical in the pesticide, was banned in Europe until last week because of safety concerns.
When fed to rats at high doses, symptoms included “tremors, clonic [rapid muscle contraction/relaxation] convulsions, twitching, incoordination, staggered gait, splayed hind limbs, atypical posture,” according to a Technical Fact Sheet from the National Pesticide Information Center.
Bifenthrin and other high-tech pesticides have been cited as possible culprits in the collapse of bee colonies around the country. In a well-known study, a California researcher found that flea-killing pet shampoos containing pyrethrins – the class of chemicals to which bifenthrin belongs – might be linked to a risk of autism when handled by pregnant mothers.
And, according to this article by Leslie Carol Botha,
On January 19, the Wall Street Journal blatantly and irreverently headlined an article: Teens in Upstate New York Get Diagnosis: ‘Mass Psychogenic Illness’, based on the ‘expert opinion’ of neurologist Laszlo Mechtler, Vice President of Dent Neurologic Institute, who has treated 11 of the girls. According to WSJ… “In MPI, physical symptoms that are perfectly real but that have psychological roots rather than some underlying organic cause appear in a group of people, often spreading from one to the next.”.
Mechtler’s statement about the 12 Le Roy High School girls is degrading, demeaning, and reminiscent of how women were ‘treated and diagnosed’ then sent to public asylums in the 1800′s if they did not obey their husbands (male authority). But then again a quick search and one finds what one would expect to find in this case. Dr. Mechtler sits on the American Academy of Neurology Editorial Board – and the disclosures state:
‘Dr. Mechtler has received personal compensation for speaking engagements from Forest Laboratories, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., Inc., and Zogenix, Inc.
Sue the LIVING SHIT out of these assholes. Isn’t this the same thing the say about radiation exposure? “It’s all in your head”, “stress causes worse symptoms than radiation” etc. They come out with fake environmental reports which hide the real cause and exonerate the guilty. They are paid off by big business. The lies get big media exposure. And this was in a SCHOOL… they don’t give a shit about children’s health.