Mississippi, Pesticides and the Poor

In 2004, Congress enacted, and President Bush signed, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which recognizes the “child in utero” as a legal victim if he or she is injured or killed during the commission of any of 68 existing federal crimes of violence.  The law defines “child in utero” as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb”.

The population of Homo sapiens has experienced continuous growth since the end of the Black Death around the year 1400. The population of the more developed regions will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion. An exception is the population of the US which is expected to increase by 44 percent from 305 million in 2008, to 439 million in 2050. (1)

Overpopulation can result from an increase in births, a decline in mortality rates due to medical advances, or from an increase in immigration.(2)

Is better health-care in the US fueling overpopulation?

Medical advances and care would appear to be sound in the US.  More money per person is spent on health care in the United States than in any other nation in the world.  A greater percentage of total income in the nation is spent on health care than in any United Nations member state except for East Timor. The US has the third highest public health care expenditure per capital.  It also has the highest number of mandated vaccines of any country in the world. (3)

You would expect this to mean lower infant mortality rates.

Although the under-5 mortality rate in the US has fallen in recent decades, it is still higher than many other wealthy nations – 2.3 times that of Iceland and more than 75 percent higher than the rate of the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden.  It comes in at 34th place for under 5 mortality.(4)

Country # of Mandatory Vaccines
(<5 yrs old)
Mortality Rates per 1,000 Children Under 5 yrs old Mortality Rate Worldwide Rank
United States 36 7.8 34
Iceland 11 3.9 1
Sweden 11 4.0 2
Singapore 13 4.1 3
Japan 11 4.2 4
Norway 13 4.4 5
Finland 12 4.7 6
Hong Kong 13 4.7 7
Czech Republic 20 4.8 8
South Korea 4.8 9
Switzerland 16 5.1 10
France 17 5.2 11
Spain 20 5.3 12
Belgium 18 5.3 13
Germany 22 5.4 14
Austria 19 5.4 15
Australia 27 5.6 16
Israel 11 5.7 17
Denmark 12 5.8 18
Netherlands 20 5.9 19
Canada 28 5.9 20
United Kingdom 20 6.0 21
Italy 13 6.1 22
Ireland 24 6.2 23
Channel Islands 6.2 24
Slovenia 14 6.4 25
New Zealand 21 6.4 26
Cuba 6.5 27
Luxembourg 23 6.6 28
Portugal 19 6.6 29
Brunei 6.7 30
Cyprus 23 6.9 31
Malta 14 7.6 32
Croatia 18 7.7 33
Average 18.0

Are vaccines having an effect on child mortality rates?

In January 1928, in the early stages of an immunization campaign against diphtheria, Dr. Ewing George Thomson, Medical Officer of Health of Bundaberg, began the injection of children with toxin-antitoxin mixture.  On the 17th, 20th, 21, and 24th January, Dr. Thomson injected subcutaneously a total of 21 children without ill effect. On the 27th a further 21 children were injected. Of these children, eleven died on the 28th and one on the 29th. (5)

This disaster was investigated by a Royal Commission which found, after the consideration of all possible evidence concerning the deaths at Bundeberg, the injection of living staphylococci was the cause of the fatalities.

From this experience, the Royal Commission recommended that biological products in which the growth of a pathogenic organism is possible should not be issued in containers for repeated use unless there is a sufficient concentration of antiseptic (preservative) to inhibit bacterial growth.

One such preservative is Thimerosal.

Thimerosal is a mercury-containing organic compound (an organomercurial). Since the 1930s, it has been widely used as a preservative in a number of biological and drug products, including many vaccines, to help prevent potentially life threatening contamination with harmful microbes.

Over the past several years, concerns about the use of thimerosal in vaccines and other products have been raised. This is due to increasing awareness of the theoretical potential for neurotoxicity of even low levels of organomercurials, and because of the increased number of thimerosal containing vaccines that had been added to the infant immunization schedule.

In 2004, the IOM’s Immunization Safety Review Committee stated that;

“The benefits of vaccination are proven and the hypothesis of susceptible populations is presently speculative, and that widespread rejection of vaccines would lead to increases in incidences of serious infectious diseases like measles, whooping cough and Hib bacterial meningitis.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing its efforts to reduce the exposure of infants, children, and pregnant women to mercury from various sources. Discussions with the manufacturers of influenza virus vaccines (which are now routinely recommended for pregnant women and children 6-23 months of age) regarding their capacity to potentially increase the supply of thimerosal-reduced and thimerosal-free presentations are ongoing. Discussions are also underway with regard to other vaccines.

Thimerosal has been removed from, or reduced to, trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine.  Vaccines with trace amounts of thimerosal contain 1 microgram or less of mercury per dose.

So if vaccines aren’t responsible for the high rate of child mortality in the US, what is?

Premature Births

In 2009, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report which stated that the American rates of infant mortality were affected by the United States’ high rates of premature babies. Infant mortality rates for infants born at 37 weeks of gestation or more are higher in the US than in most European countries.(6)

The percentage of preterm (birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation) births in the US has risen 36 percent since 1984.

Preterm Births

In 2004, 1 in 8 infants born in the US were born preterm, compared with 1 in 18 in Ireland and Finland. Preterm infants have much higher rates of death or disability than infants born at 37 weeks of gestation or more.

The percentage of infant deaths from preterm-related causes increased from 34.6 percent in 2000 to 36.5 percent in 2004. Nearly half (43.5 percent) of the deaths of infants of non-Hispanic black mothers were preterm related in 2004, compared with 32.1 percent of the deaths of infants of non-Hispanic white mothers and 33.4 percent of the deaths of infants of Hispanic mothers.

According to a new March of Dimes report, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have especially high numbers of early, life-threatening deliveries.

Vermont and New Hampshire were the only states with a preterm birth rate under 10 percent, while in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana the premature birth rate ranged from 16.5 to 18.3 percent – much higher than the the goal of 7.6 percent set by the federal government’s Healthy People 2010 campaign.

Premature infants are at greater risk for short and long term complications, including disabilities and impediments in growth and mental development.

Some Southern states are seeing a disturbing trend: their infant-mortality rates are not improving, and some are getting worse. The most recent statistics show Mississippi has the biggest increase in the number of babies dying in their first year of life.

Historically, the state has had a higher infant-mortality rate than most of the country. But between 2004 and 2005, the number of babies dying in the state increased almost two points — to 11.4 deaths per 1,000 births.

“We were very shocked to see that, over the last four or five years, rates have started to climb and are spiking,” says Oleta Fitzgerald, Southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund.  Many health-care experts are trying to make sense of the trend, but Fitzgerald says it’s simple: she calls it a moral issue.

Nobody wants to take care of poor children, whether they are black or white or whatever color, she says.

In the heart of the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest parts of the nation and overwhelmingly African American,  infant death rates are even higher. Among blacks, the rate has soared to 17 per thousand. Lynne Walker of the Department of Health does not have any explanation for the sudden surge of infant deaths.

“Prematurity, low birth weight, SIDS and birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality in Mississippi,” she says.

Does smoking and tobacco play a part?

In Missouri, about 28.4 percent of expectant mothers smoked, ranking it among the states with the highest maternal smoking rates. While most are aware that smoking tobacco is a life-threatening activity, people may be less aware of the problems associated with the widespread applications of toxic chemicals used to grow the crop.

In the US, tobacco is grown on more than 650,000 acres in over 20 states, primarily in the southern region of the country. The US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that at least 25.6 million pounds of pesticides are used on this crop each year. The list includes pesticides that are extremely acutely toxic; pesticides that may cause cancer or birth defects; and others that are potent nerve toxins. In fact, over 450 different pesticide products are registered for use on tobacco by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (7)


Pesticides are also used on one of Mississippi’s main cash crop, cotton. More than a dozen different species of insect pests attack the cotton crop. Each of these pests is capable of causing economic yield loss, and some, such as the tobacco budworm, are capable of totally destroying a crop. Cotton growers invest large sums of money per acre in producing cotton therefore the use of insecticides is an important component.

One such insecticide is endosulfan.

Endosulfan is a chlorinated insecticide that is chemically similar to DDT, which was banned nearly 40 years ago. Like DDT, endosulfan builds up in the environment and in the bodies of people and wildlife, and it is transported in the atmosphere via winds and currents. Nearly all other organochlorine pesticides have already been banned.

Now it appears endosulfan is about to join the list.

EPA officials, working alongside endosulfan’s sole manufacturer, Makhteshim Agan of North America, have agreed to terminate all uses, yet give growers time to shift to alternatives.

The agency’s move reverses a decision made in 2002 under the Bush Administration that allowed continued use of endosulfan with some restrictions. That decision triggered a lawsuit two years ago filed by farm labor unions and environmental groups.

“Finally” said Kristen Boyles, who handled the lawsuit for the groups, which included United Farm Workers, Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Endosulfan should have been banned years ago. As this growing season enters full swing, we sincerely hope it’s the last one where this dangerous poison is let loose in our communities and our environment.

In California, officials have determined that the amounts found in the air near some fields and orchards posed a public health risk to bystanders. The state declared endosulfan a toxic air contaminant in 2008, which triggered efforts to reduce people’s exposure. The ban on endosulfan will leave dicofol as the last major chlorinated pesticide allowed today in the US, where it is used to kill mites, mostly on cotton and citrus.

However, dicofol is known to be harmful to aquatic animals, and causes egg shell thinning in various species of birds. It is moderately toxic to mammals, and accumulates in body fat. The EPA has determined that dicofol may present serious concerns in occupational and residential settings. They are especially concerned with hormonal toxicity.

The effect on pregnant women and babies?

Many studies have shown pesticides can “drift” from the site of application and are detected in nearby residential homes.(8) Studies in Spain have revealed women of reproductive age appear to be exposed to endosulfans because these chemicals can be mobilized during pregnancy and lactation. Despite legislation to control the use of certain products, they repeatedly appear in the adipose tissue, milk and serum of human populations.

A recent study(2006), examined fetal exposure to organochlorine molecules with hormonal effects. It determined the presence of nine organochlorine molecules in the adipose tissue, serum, and umbilical cord of women giving birth by cesarean section.

The most frequent pesticide present in the placenta tissue was endosulfan-diol, with an average concentration of 4.15 nanograms per gram of placenta. Surprisingly, research discovered that some patients’ placentas contained 15 of the 17 pesticides analyzed.

The placenta is a temporary organ that forms inside the uterus during pregnancy. It helps to nourish the unborn child.  Helps to nourish the unborn child with poisons and toxins that can ultimately cause neurological impairment or death.

After all, the US doesn’t want to be overpopulated with poor folk – it may lead to civil unrest…


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