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environmental impacts

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Scientists link pesticides & biodiversity loss

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Many scientists rank biodiversity loss very high on their list of urgent global concerns. Chemical contaminants have long been understood as an important driver, but empirical evidence on a large scale has been sparse.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides compelling data to fill this gap. Researchers found that biodiversity dropped in pesticide-laden streams in three countries: Germany, France and Australia.

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Neonic harms go well beyond bees

Neonicotinoids have been in the news a lot in recent months, and are now widely recognized as a class of insecticides contributing to the dramatic declines in honey bee populations.

Last week, a researcher out of the University of Stirling in the UK released a new study examining other ways “neonics” are impacting the environment. It turns out that the harmful effects of these insecticides are widespread — from birds to earthworms, mammals to aquatic insects.

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Minnesota says 'no thanks' to triclosan

Good news for public health and water quality from Minnesota this week. By June of this year, state agencies and institutions will no longer be buying soaps and cleaning products containing the pesticide triclosan.

Governor Mark Dayton made the shift with an executive order signed Monday. The new policy — the first of its kind in the country — comes in response to a combination of strong science and public concern about the chemical's prevalence and harms.

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First bees, now birds

Prairie bird populations are falling in many Midwestern states, from ring-necked pheasants to horned larks to sparrows. Scientists now say insecticides are a primary culprit.

Minnesota birds are hardest hit with 12 species in decline, followed by Wisconsin with 11, and Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska and New York with nine affected species each.

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Soap pesticide found in MN lakes

Minnesota lakes contains triclosan, say researchers. An anti-bacterial pesticide found in soap, toothpaste and many other products, triclosan is currently being (slowly) evaluated by both EPA and FDA. Meanwhile, many companies have already pulled it from their list of ingredients in response to concerns about the chemical's health and environmental harms.

University of Minnesota scientists analyzed sediment from eight lakes to understand trends in contaminant levels over time. They found that levels of triclosan and its byproducts have gone up steadily since the chemical entered the market in the 1970s.

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Common pesticides kill frogs, say scientists

Frogs exposed to commonly used pesticides in the lab had mortality rates between 40-100%, according to a new study in Germany. One fungicide, when applied at doses approved for use, caused frogs to die within an hour.

The new study provides strong support for earlier research pointing to pesticide exposure as a contributor to the global decline of amphibians, a disturbing trend that has puzzled researchers for years. Like canaries in a coal mine, frogs are often considered a "sentinel" species — and declines may be an early warning of broader harms.

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Beekeepers expect "worst year for bees"

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“We’re facing the extinction of a species.” That’s what one Midwest-based large-scale commercial beekeeper told me last week at the annual gathering of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). And he meant it.

Bee losses have been dramatic, especially in recent years. And beekeepers are feeling the sting. According to many who manage hives, commercial beekeeping won’t pencil out in the future unless things change, and soon.

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Rivers & fish win policy battle — for now

As of this week, it looks like our rivers, streams and lakes — and the critters who live in them — will be a little more protected from pesticides.

Unless, that is, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and others representing agribusiness interests manage to undo EPA’s court-ordered efforts to better protect the nation’s waterways from pesticide pollution. Roberts and company are pursuing every legislative hat trick in the book. But so far, cleaner water and healthier fish are coming out ahead.

Kristin Schafer
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Tree-killing herbicide pulled from market

Dupont's new systemic herbicides, designed to keep turf grass free of troublesome weeds, seem to pose little direct danger to human health. But it turns out they do kill trees.

After receiving more than 7,000 reports of damaged or killed trees in states throughout the midwest, last week EPA ordered Dupont to immediately "halt the sale, use or distribution" of the company's herbicide Imprelis.

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POPs put babies & polar bears at risk

A collection of recent studies shows that exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) — including many longlasting pesticides — can slow growth rates of human embryos and shrink the genitals and weaken bones of polar bears.

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, is asking health professionals around the world to do more to protect children from the health effects of POPs.

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