The nerve


Jaime R. Vergara

Organophosphates. They are ingredients in our DNA and RNA. They are also the basis of many insecticides, herbicides, and nerve gases.

We do not intend to alarm. Scientists and regulators are, however, raising a new concern. Organophosphates block an enzyme that is critical to nerve function in laboratory experiments affecting bugs and people. Even at low level, organophosphates affect the brain development of fetuses and young children.

The EPA banned its residential use in 2001 but they are still agriculturally sprayed on fruits and vegetables. They are also used to control pests like mosquitoes in public places. We absorb them through the skin and lungs, or by eating them on food.

China banning pleasant looking apples wrapped in plastic laced with insecticide prior to maturation is making headlines. The practice of banning suspect produce is growing more frequent in the U.S., too.

I have two neurologically challenged children diagnosed. I join many parents in identifying chemical additives to our metabolic process as a contributing factor, if not a direct cause. The use of mercury as preservative in children’s medicine is claimed by many parents to be such. The railroading of legislation to protect pharmaceutical from any financial liability for any possible medical connection makes any claim beyond financial gain suspect.

The chemical inducing of mango and banana flowering, as well as the control of their uniform ripening (through carbides) to make them have a more attractive appearance and longer shelf life, sacrifices health and nutrition in the service of mighty profit. Saipan eats cardboard tasting bananas when a variety of plants grow naturally in its plains and foothills.

(The mother of my two autistic children was a Peace Corp Volunteer in Davao, and I was a natural resource consultant for watershed development in the Visayan Islands, where we were literally exposed to the rampant use of chemicals in the mango and banana industries, so we might be forgiven our reaction to chemical intrusion into body metabolism.)

We are all familiar with our military use in Vietnam of Agent Orange for the herbicidal war in the ’60s. Half a million people were killed or maimed and another half a million were born with birth defects. Monsanto and Dow Chemical were primary producers.

The impacting photo of the Vietnamese girl screaming in pain over the effect of napalm helped turn the popular tide against the U.S.’ continuing military adventure in Vietnam. “Napalm” is a gelling agent combining the names of naphthenic and palmitic acids. The name is now used as a generic term for several flammable liquids used in warfare.

Realization that the pesticides/insecticides we use in the U.S. Prairies are seeping into the water table and polluting our rivers and lakes feed into the ecological belligerence of fellow Americans. Having resided in Saskatchewan, Canada, and plied the route toward Chicago, we are only too familiar with the aftermath of the 1962 Rachel Carson Silent Spring book that resulted in the banning of the pesticide DDT from commercial use.

The criminal behavior of Union Carbide in Bhopal, India when lethal gas leaked in the middle of the night is lamentable.

The accidents at Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima are understandable. We inadequately mitigate their happening. Fukushima-originating debris in the shores of Washington State, and radiation detected over Michigan-Indiana that sent the Minot Air Force Base into nuclear alert, are examples of how human-induced chemical reactions are no longer just a local matter.

Our intent is not to raise a knee-jerk alarm. After all, a majority of us do not participate in the policy-making processes that determine our commercial and financial affairs. We leave those to corporations that have gone international in their boards and global in their operations. It is our unquestioning subservience to their profit ethos that is within our management and control, for the consumer still has power of the purse in the purchase of packaged products.

Human awareness is within our purview. We can be conscious of our body sense, of the data that comes through our eyes, ears, nasal cavity, digestive tract, and tactile system, and our response when their functioning goes awry. That we grab for the bottle in the medicine cabinet in the first instance of ache reflects our conditioning. Pharmacological responses to pain is, at best, temporary. At the onset, fresh air and clean water, along with adequate nutrients and sleep, are better remedies to physiological disorders.

Our feelings (loci: the neural net of the heart) guide our survival instinct as a preference. Our cognitive faculties (loci: the electromagnetic field of the brain) allow use of social language and numbers that aid in our communication. But it is finally what we do as individuals, in our choices of what to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, that determines the difference. When we allow corporations to dictate the values that guide our senses, we put ourselves at the butt end of commercial gain.

When we sense physiological danger, and corporations with our government collude to hide the truth from us, or worse, cover up the unpleasantness, we can only collectively exclaim: “The nerve!”

Jaime R. Vergara ( is a former PSS teacher and is currently writing from the campus of Shenyang Aerospace University in China.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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