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Neonicotinoid Pesticides and Adverse Health Outcomes

photo of agricultural corn treated with neonicotinoid seed coatings

Neonicotinoid pesticides are a class of chemicals that act as insecticides by exerting neurotoxic effects via irreversible binding to insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Because nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are also present in the nervous systems of mammals, there is concern that neonicotinoids may impact animals other than their insect targets, including humans. These pesticides have been used increasingly in U.S. agriculture since 2005, when the patents expired on seven neonicotinoids making possible the production of generic products. Almost all agricultural corn and ~ 1/3 of soybeans planted in the U.S. in 2013 were treated with neonicotinoid seed coatings. Aside from agricultural uses, neonicotinoids are also used to control pests such as fleas and lice in livestock and domestic pets. Use of noenicitinoids on food crops, environmental persistence, and possible binding to human nicotinic acetylcholine receptors raise concerns for potential adverse human health impacts with chronic low-level exposures.

In Spring of 2015, Neonicotinoid pesticides were nominated to NTP for possible evaluation of noncancer health outcomes. In response, OHAT is conducting a scoping review to identify the extent of evidence available to understand human health effects of seven neonicotinoid pesticides (acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam). This scoping review will systematically collect and categorize the literature to develop a systematic evidence map of the evidence by health effect and types of evidence, and identify data gaps in available research. The results of this scoping review are anticipated to support prioritization of topic areas and decision making for consideration of future research or literature-based evaluation.