Pesticides to blame for lychee deaths, says study

Six months after medical journal The Lancet published a study connecting consumption of the lychee to the deaths of children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, a new study maintains that the delicious tropical fruit is not to blame at all.

According to the new study, it’s the land and not the produce that was causing the unexplained neurological damage. In 2014, 122 children died in the Muzaffarpur region. The new study, published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, found that a number of pesticides — including endosulfan — which has been banned since 2011 caused the brain damage among children.

In January 2017, In The Lancet Global Health, published a study of Indian children with litchi-associated encephalopathy unequivocally pinning the blame on the fruit itself. The researchers studied 390 patients admitted to the two referral hospitals in Muzaffarpur between May 26, and July 17, 2014 with symptoms of acute encephalitis syndrome.

They concluded that skipping the evening meal after consumption of lychee resulted in low blood glucose level and acute encephalopathy that provoked seizures and coma, causing death in many cases.

In the new study, published on Monday, the researchers interviewed families that worked in lychee orchards to conclude that most affected children had consumed ‘unwashed lychees, peeling away the skin with their teeth.’ The report adds that, “eating lychees was not associated with illness in the case–control study. The outbreak was linked to lychee orchard exposures where agrochemicals were routinely used, but not to consumption of lychees.”

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 2:37:15 AM |

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