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Lung Disease Dangers Grow Along with Fungicide Resistance

PHOTO: People with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health problems from the common mold Aspergillus (as seen above). Photo credit: albertstraub/Flickr.
PHOTO: People with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health problems from the common mold Aspergillus (as seen above). Photo credit: albertstraub/Flickr.
January 30, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - A new study points to the growing threat of fungicide resistance to agriculture and public health, and calls for fundamental changes in how food is grown and traded.

The report is from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Dale Wiehoff, the institute's vice president for communications, said its research shows that, while the beneficial effects of fungicides are dwindling, fungal resistance is growing - partly because of biological evolution and partly because of human activities and agricultural practices.

"We've seen applications of fungicide not to control pathogens but to increase yield," he said. "This kind of overuse of fungicides really speeds up the development of resistance."

Wiehoff said other factors in fungicide resistance include multi-year monocropping and the worldwide movement of commodities, livestock and pests without any effective bio-security protocols.

Among the more alarming reports of late is from Europe, Wiehoff said, where researchers have found that the pervasive fungus Aspergillus - which can cause serious health problems for humans - has grown resistant to the common class of fungicides known as Azoles.

"When this pathogen enters into your system and you're weak and sick, it can lead to serious lung disease," he said. "There are reports in the Netherlands of 30 people a month dying from complications related to fungicide resistance to Azoles."

Instead of the short-term fix of developing new and more powerful fungicides, Wiehoff said the key to preventing resistance and protecting public health and the environment is by encouraging ecological farming practices that are free of fungicides and other chemicals.

The study is online at iatp.org. Background on fungicides is at ephtracking.cdc.gov. Information on aspergillus is at cdc.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX