Neonicotinoid Pesticide Exposure, Mechanisms of Action and Human Health Outcomes

April 19, 2017
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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ImidaclopridCreativeCommonsNeonicotinoids, designed to replace organophosphates, are a class of neurotoxic compounds used as insecticides. Their use in the US is pervasive, with over 90% of all corn and 45% of all soybeans grown from seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides. Country-wide, these chemicals are used in excess of 4 million pounds and applied to over 140 million acres of cropland annually.

In addition to being neurotoxic, these persistent chemicals may also be endocrine disruptors. This is concerning since research has found these chemicals in foods such as honey, fruits and vegetables, and even infant formula. Health implications may include an increased risk of central nervous system disorders (i.e. Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and depression), alternations to the developing brain, and reproductive and developmental effects.

On this call, Dr. Melissa Perry discussed her recent work understanding neonicotinoid exposure pathways, mechanisms of action and potential health outcomes in human populations. 

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MelissaPerryMelissa J. Perry, ScD, MHS, is a professor and researcher at the George Washington University in the department of Environmental and Occupational Health. As a leading public health researcher, her focus has been on investigating factors in occupational injury and disease and the influence of chemical and physical agents on reproduction. Her work has shed light on how people are exposed to pesticides, as well as the mutagenic and hormonal effects of these exposures on farming communities, agricultural workers, and the public.

Dr. Perry’s laboratory at the Milken Institute School of Public Health focuses on reproductive epidemiology and hormone disruptors, and her group has developed new techniques for high-volume identification of chromosomal abnormalities in sperm cells. Her research group was the first to use semi-automated imaging methods to show how pesticides can impact sperm abnormalities.

Dr. Perry is the Chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She is a co-chair of the National Academies Standing Committee on Use of Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions.  She is a past President of the American College of Epidemiology and serves as a standing member of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health research grant review panel.  She is an associate editor of the journal Reproductive Toxicology. In 2014, Dr. Perry was elected to be a member of the Collegium Ramazzini in recognition of her contributions to advancing occupational and environmental health and her personal and professional integrity. She is also a member of the Technical Advisory Board for the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). Dr. Perry is currently collaborating on occupational and environmental health projects in South Africa, Tanzania, China, New Zealand, and Albania.

In addition to over 100 peer-reviewed articles, she is the author of many commentaries, book chapters, and abstracts. The 45 students who Dr. Perry has mentored include researchers who have gone on to become professors, government program directors, and leaders of major industry research initiatives. She earned her Master of Health Science and Doctor of Science from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.


This teleconference call is one in a monthly series sponsored by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s EDC Strategies Partnership. The CHE EDC Strategies Partnership is chaired by Carol Kwiatkowski and Katie Pelch (TEDX), Sharyle Patton (Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center), Jerry Heindel (Commonweal Program on Endocrine Disruption Strategies), and Genon Jensen (HEAL) and coordinated by Maria Williams (Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a Commonweal program). To see a full list of past calls and webinars related to EDCs and listen to or view recordings, please visit our partnership page.

The call was moderated by Sharyle Patton, director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resources Center. The call lasted for 30 minutes and was recorded for our call archive.