GroundTruth Blog

Karl Tupper's blog

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When DDT was introduced more than 60 years ago, it initially scored victory after victory in the fight against malaria — nearly eliminating the deadly disease in many areas. But these wins were mostly short-lived, as mosquitoes rapidly developed resistance to the chemical. Today, its effectiveness is a fraction of what it once was; meanwhile an arsenal of better and safer anti-malaria interventions has been developed, including effective chemical-free strategies.

And so, under the auspices of the Stockholm Convention, the nations of the world have committed to phasing out DDT, while allowing it to be used in the short-term in those few places where it's still effective and other methods of malaria control are unavailable. This is an approach PAN enthusiastically supports.

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Imagine if a persistent, toxic chemical was being added to all sorts of products you use everyday: soap, toothpaste, cosmetics, shaving cream, even toys and underwear. Imagine being told that it was put there to keep you safe from disease, when in reality it could end up making you sicker by contributing to antibiotic resistance. Imagine your food was being grown in fertilizer contaminated with this chemical, and that government tests found it in 75% of Americans. Finally, imagine you had an opportunity to do something about it.

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Two studies came out in the last couple of weeks that really illustrate the problems associated with "PBT" chemicals: those which are simultaneously persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Persistent substances resist degradation — you can move them around but it's really hard to get rid of them. Bioaccumulation happens when chemicals in food, water, and air end up getting stored in the body of a living thing. Thus, for a bass living in a mercury polluted lake, the mercury levels in the fish may be thousands of times higher than the levels in the water. A cow grazing on PCB-laced feed will store the chemical in her body and excrete it in her milk, and humans too act as sinks for all kinds of chemicals.

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Today it seems obvious that a woman's health directly impacts the well-being of her future child. Women thinking about becoming pregnant — or those who already are — are often careful not to smoke, drink or take certain drugs. Meanwhile, conventional wisdom says that a father's health can't have any direct impact on that of his child. But as described in the cover story of the January/February issue of Miller-McCune, conventional wisdom is wrong: Fathers do matter.

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The suffering caused by years of endosulfan use on cashew plantations in Kerala's Kasaragod district is well known: birth defects, high rates of mental retardation, and delayed puberty, in addition to the hundreds of deaths directly attributed to the antiquated insecticide. Now, the Indian press is reporting another cluster of endosulfan-induced disease a couple hundred miles away in Muthalamada district, also part of the state of Kerala.