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A Pesticide Connection?

Ever notice what happens to ants when sprayed with a pesticide? They crawl around in a manic disorganized-like way until they die. At least that is how it appears to this "back yard mechanic."

This page is to invite you to consider the pesticide connection and to share if you have seen any relationship between pesticide exposure and psychosis in yourself, your loved ones or friends. I have now documented unusual behavior preceding three manic episodes shortly after a pest control employee sprayed Permethrin and Cypermethrin upwind at our neighbor's house right next to Chris' bedroom where he spends a good deal of time composing music.  Though I did not make the connection then, and therefore did not write about it, I could smell the insecticide in his room before the episode  discussed in the book  starting  on page 379.  At that time I closed his window to keep out the smell.  It wasn't until I discussed this with Dr Kunin that I considered that this particular insecticide could be one more risk factor. So far I have learned the following from my own research and feedback from others. Please send your comments to dave@bipolarodyssey.com if you want them to be posted here.

bulletThese chemicals belong to a class of pyrethroids which are excitatory acting upon the sodium ion channels in nerve cell membranes, " Striatal dopaminergic pathways as a target for the insecticides permethrin and chlorpyrifos," Neurotoxicology 2001 Dec 22(6):811-7
bulletAccording to Dr Doris Rapp, "The pyrethroids disrupt the permeability of the nerve membranes. They can inhibit calcium uptake in rat brain cells affecting neurotransmission." http://www.drrapp.com/lettertodoctors1.htm (Note: Excessive intracellular calcium occurs in mania. )
bulletVarious Google searches have shown that, among other things, pyrethroids are associated with aggression, memory problems, and hyperactivity.
bulletAt low concentrations one pyrethroid, deltamethrin, directly stimulated PKC in rats. This increased neurotransmitter release and free Ca+2 in the brain synapse. The data supports the view that " calcium-sensitive proteins involving synaptic transmission are the major action targets of type II pyrethroids."  Biochem Pharmacol. 1993 Feb 9:45(3):703-10
bulletA veterinarian reports that permethrin and pyrethrin insecticides  cause neuroexitability in pets. This is a common clinical poisoning seen in veterinary offices. Cats are most often affected and usually show twitching or strange behavior--star gazing and vocalization.
bulletOne study showed that troops exposed to chemicals, such as Permethrin and Cypermethrin (pyrethroids) during the Gulf War had impaired brain functioning.
bulletA study with rats showed the synergistic effects of chemicals such as pyrethroids and stress impaired fertility as well as impaired brain functioning.  http://www.dukemednews.org/news/article.php?id=6326
bullet A study in the Journal of Occupational Medicine assessed mortality from mental disorders and occupational exposure to pesticides, finding a weak, but significant relationship.
bulletFor the organophosphorous and carbamate pesticides poisoning, "Blurred or dark vision, confusion, tightness in the chest, wheezing, productive cough and pulmonary edema may occur.  Incontinence, unconsciousness, and convulsions indicate very severe poisoning.  Slow heartbeat, salivation, and tearing are common symptoms of severe poisoning.  Toxic psychosis, with manic or bizarre behavior, has led to a misdiagnosis of acute alcoholism." Chris was exposed to a small amount of pyrethroids, but since they affect dopamine pathways, would he be more vulnerable to the effects?   http://www.agr.gov.sk.ca/DOCS/crops/integrated_pest_management/general/pesticidesafety.asp
bulletNear the bottom of this article entitled Mood Disorders by Jeannette Y Wick, RPh, MBA, Chief Pharmacist, Commission on Mental Health Services, District of Columbia Government, Washington, DC, in the Supplement 1A to the Journal of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists 1998/ Vol 13 we learn that pesticides may actually cause mood disorders. http://www.ascp.com/public/pubs/cc/1998/supp1a.shtml  It seems logical that for a person already predisposed to brain dysregulation, a small amount of these products could have a powerful effect.


A family member became psychotic following five years of regular applications of a chlorpyrifos formulation inside and outside the family home. It was the final fumigation that tipped the scales. Sixteen independent diagnoses in Australia and the US diagnosed toxic encephalopathy, (SPECT scan), high levels of solvents in the blood, defective liver detoxification/clearance etc. These people can become more psychotic on prescribed anti-psychotics, since they are similar in chemical composition to the prescription drugs. Pesticide poisoning as etiology for 'mental' illness is not recognized in Australia, although MSDS information/medical tomes often include psychosis as an outcome.
Recommend the website below for up to date information on the role pesticides play in illness.
Appreciate your initiative in setting up this site.
Pamela Valenti

Hi Dave,  I have a ten year old son who has Lyme and Bipolar. Just a thought for you, I tried treating my son's play pants with Permethrin, but after a few times stopped because I was sure that wearing them made him more aggressive and brought on agitated behavior.  Donna Benner FBENNERESQ@aol.com

I don't know of any research but I know that the Chemical Injury Information Network has many
archived articles on the effects of pesticides.   I do have a friend who is bipolar and he says that whenever they spray he gets manic also.  I personally get extremely fatigued when they spray, and want to sleep a lot.  I think it may have different effects on different people depending on the chemical makeup of their body. Matthew <webmaster@coalitionagainsttoxins.com>

One person reported a manic episode after lawn spraying and another after house spraying.

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