For years now, researchers working in Kibale National Park in Western Uganda have noticed a growing number of primates suffering from bizarre deformities—ranging from missing limbs and cleft lips to concave faces and flattened noses. Now, a team of researchers may have found the culprit: agricultural pesticides.
According to a new study published in the journal, the team found that at least 16 of the 66 chimpanzees monitored in Sebitoli, an area of the national park, showed physical abnormalities. At least six of 35 baboons were also photographed with nasal deformities. But none of these primates show any signs of infectious lesions.
The researchers were determined to find out what was going on in the area. They found that farmers and workers from two major tea factories were using eight pesticides: glyphosate, cypermethrin, profenofos, mancozeb, metalaxyl, dimethoate, chlorpyrifos, and 2,4-D amine. Further investigation revealed that the area’s land, waters, and plants all had levels of DDT and chlorpyrifos exceeding recommended limits. That has a major impact of the primates of Sebitoli, who often raid the maize crops and nearby farms.
Of all the pesticides in that length list, DDT holds the worst reputation. It has already been banned under the UN Stockholm Convention for its effect on the environment but is permitted in African countries as a tool for combating malaria.
“TH is implicated in cranial facial organogenesis. Abnormal maternal or neonatal levels of TH have been associated with facial dysplasia, including cleft palate, and lip in human newborns,” the authors write.
Of course, the researchers did not find a causal relationship between pesticides and these abnormalities. However, they do argue that there is “ample evidence” to warrant further investigation.
Source: IFL Science, Elite Readers