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Testing for Pesticides

February 10, 2017

Computer modeling may reveal which pesticides post long-term risks.



Modeling pesticide health risks. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Pesticides are tested for acute toxicity, but rarely for potential long term health effects. Such testing is costly and time consuming. So pharmacologist Raj Rajnarayanan and his colleagues at the University at Buffalo created a database of thousands of chemical structures, organized into family groups, and a computer model that flags structures likely to be active in the body.

RAJ RAJNARAYANAN (University at Buffalo):

If you know one in a family is implicated, then the rest of them will be tagged and we’ll test them right away.


In the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, they report that the pesticide carbaryl closely mimics melatonin, a hormone related to sleep and metabolism. They’re now looking for possible effects in the body. Overall, the work will allow them to sift through huge libraries of chemicals to discover which need closer scrutiny. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon