February 24, 2016 | by Marie-Monique Robin | InTheseTimes.com
In a 1996 report entitled Pesticides and the Immune System: The Public Health Risks, which was commissioned by the prestigious World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, DC, Robert Repetto and Sanjay Baliga write: “The scientific evidence suggesting that many pesticides damage the immune system is impressive. Animal studies have found that pesticides alter the immune system’s normal structure, disturb immune responses, and reduce animals’ resistance to antigens and infectious agents. There is convincing direct and indirect evidence that these findings carry over to human populations exposed to pesticides.”
“That document sparked the chemical industry’s wrath,” explained Robert Repetto, an economist who specializes in sustainable development and who was vice president of the WRI when the report was written. “It was the first time a study had gathered all the available data on the effects of pesticides on the immune system, a subject that was completely underestimated at the time and, in my opinion, continues to be now, even though it is crucial to understanding the epidemic of cancer and autoimmune diseases that are observed, notably in industrialized countries.”
Indeed it is—and we will revisit this—as cancer is rarely caused by one factor alone; more often it is the result of a complex and multifactorial process, generally initiated by the action of pathogens (or of antigens), such as rays, viruses, bacteria, toxins, or chemical pollutants, and possibly favored by genetic predispositions, lifestyle, or diet. In good health, the body can defend itself against the aggression of pathogens by mobilizing its immune system, whose function is precisely to track and eliminate intruders using the action of three distinct, but complementary, mechanisms.