It is both shocking and unsurprising that in the thirty-three years since my first epilepsy diagnosis, not one neurologist has ever suggested environmental factors a possible cause, in spite of the fact that our environment is filled with neuro-disruptors designed to devastate the central nervous systems of insects. There are huge vested interests behind the pretense that profit driven science is safe, and that the massive amounts of toxic substances produced by that science have no significant negative impact on people or ecosystems. At every step, attempts to trace the connections between carcinogens and cancer are hampered, but at least people are aware carcinogens exist. No-one talks about epileptogens.
Perhaps one reason is that unlike carcinogens which produce cancer as an unintentional effect, these chemicals were created specifically for the purpose of creating chaos in nervous systems of living beings. Parathion is an organophosphate, one of the most dangerous of that highly dangerous class of chemical. It is 30 times more toxic than DDT, and was used for mosquito eradication during my childhood. It was invented by German chemist Gerhard Schrader who worked for IG Farber. While researching organophosphate pesticides for agriculture, he and his team discovered tabun, sarin, and two other nerve gasses classified as weapons of mass destruction. Twenty-four IG Farber executives were tried for war crimes at Nuremberg (and later reinstated as directors of chemical companies.) The company set up a chemical plant next to Auschwitz (left) that at its peak used 83,000 enslaved laborers, and one of its subsidiaries, Degesch, made Zyklon B, , the substance used to murder people in gas chambers.
One way that scientists study epilepsy is to create it in laboratory animals. One way to do this is through a process called kindling. The animals are given repeated doses of electrical or chemical stimulation, below the level that would cause outright seizures on the spot, and over a period of weeks, this permanently lowers their seizure thresholds. Although there’s no detectable damage to brain tissue, the kindled animals’ brain function is altered. There are changes in the amygdala, hippocampus and cortex, and to receptors for the nueurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, leading to a state of cellular hyperexcitability, signs of increased anxiety, depression and cognitive problems. One report notes that kindling is most effective when doses are several times a week rather than daily. More is not necessarily more damaging.
Two of the chemicals used to kindle the brains of rats in these studies are the pesticides dieldrin and lindane, both of which were used on my family’s farm. As a fetus, infant and toddler, I was quite certainly exposed to repeated doses not big enough to make me convulse, but I see no reason to doubt that they charged through my young brain, resetting my thresholds, altering my neurochemistry, and turning me into a kindled child.
Aurora Levins Morales is a disabled and chronically ill, community supported writer, historian, artist and activist. It takes a village to keep her blogs coming. To become part of the village it takes, donate here.
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