What is the issue ?
- Indian researchers have developed a gel which, when applied on the skin, can inhibit some pesticides from getting absorbed into the body, thus averting serious adverse effects and even death.
How do pesticides affect us ?
- Organo-phosphate based pesticides, which are commonly used by farmers in India, are toxic to the nervous system and heart, and can cause cognitive dysfunction.
- When esters present in organo-phosphate based pesticides enter the body they bind and inhibit an enzyme (acetylcholinesterase or AChE) critical for nerve and muscle function.
- This causes neurological disorders, suffocation, paralysis, and even death.
What has been done ?
- Researchers used a chemical reaction to convert the ester into acid by using a catalyst to make the pesticide inactive. Since the majority of organo-phosphate based pesticides are absorbed through the skin (the nasal/inhalation route constitutes about 10 15%) the researchers made a gel for topical application.
- The active ingredients of the gel are attached to chitosan (a substance found in the hard outer shells of crab and shrimp) so the gel does not penetrate the skin.
- Studies on rats found that the gel was effective in a range of temperatures (20-40°C) and a single application could protect the animals for four continuous days of pesticide exposure.
- As long as there is a thin layer of the gel present on the skin it can offer protection from pesticides, the gel does not act like a physical barrier but chemically deactivates the pesticides thereby limiting the inhibition of the enzyme.