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Sunday, September 30, 2007



When I was a young man the Postmaster of my home town of Salem Massachusetts decided early one Sunday morning to spray his roses with a DDT-containing insecticide. By early afternoon he was in the hospital, and by evening he was dead.

Just yesterday a good friend of mine emailed me from his home in California. He told me he was recovering from the poisonous effects of using a Malathion-containing insecticide.

Many of my readers know that I now specialize in Allergy, Nutrition, and Environmental Medicine. The exposure to very toxic insecticides is one of the more dramatic environmental-induced diseases. We will discuss the more subtle effects other environmental toxic substances sometime in the future.

What makes insecticides toxic? It is the anticholinergic effect of these toxins affecting nerve transmission.


In biochemistry, cholinesterase is an enzyme which catalyzes the hydrolysis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine into choline and acetic acid, a reaction necessary to allow a cholinergic neuron to return to its resting state after activation. When a nerve is stimulated the chemical, acetylcholine, is produced to cause the nerve transmission to occur. With the build up of this chemical nerve transmission ceases and before the nerve can function again the acetylcholine must be broken down (hydrolyzed) into its two components of choline and acetic acid. Now the nerve is ready to transmit again with the production on acetylcholine.

A cholinesterase inhibitor (or "anticholinesterase") suppresses the action of the enzyme. Because of its essential function, chemicals that interfere with the action of cholinesterase are potent neurotoxins, causing excessive salivation and eye watering in low doses, followed by muscle spasms and ultimately death (examples are some insecticides (DDT and Malathion), snake venoms, and the nerve gases sarin and VX).

Outside of biochemical warfare, anticholinesterase are also used in anesthesia or in the treatment of myasthenia gravis, glaucoma and Alzheimer's disease. Also, such compounds are used for killing insects in a range of products including sheep dip, organophosphate pesticides, and carbamate pesticides. In addition to acute poisoning as described above, a semi-acute poisoning characterized by strong mental disturbances can occur. Also, prolonged exposure can cause birth defects.


Must copy and paste: http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/ddt/01.htm

In December, 1972, the general use of DDT was banned in the United States. In fact, it was the event which resulted in the development of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). DDT was developed as the first of the modern insecticides early in World War II. It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and the other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations. Initially DDT was very useful, but with its widespread use it became evident that the harmful effect to human and animal health greatly outweighed its usefulness.

One of the more dramatic effects upon wildlife was its effect upon killing off large populations of Osprey and the Bald Eagle, our National Symbol. These birds would eat insects or fish contaminated with DDT and their eggs would develop soft shells preventing hatching. After the DDT ban it took almost 30 years before these bird species would recover to the point to remove them from the endangered list.

These insecticides are potent poisons which should be used very sparingly. One should constantly be aware of the balance between removal of insect populations for both disease control and the benefits to farming.

Additionally, individuals using these chemicals should be adequately protected, by wearing protective breathing gear and protecting against skin exposure. These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and in a hot day when perspiration occurs the skin becomes much more vulnerable.

So be careful if you decide to spray those roses early in the morning so you will not be dead by evening!

nicola michael c. Tauraso, M.D.
Director, Tauraso Medical Clinic


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