PANNA: Paraquat/Parkinsons links; Endosulfan up for PIC list; Backyard farmers; more...

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Paraquat/Parkinsons links; Endosulfan up for PIC list; Backyard farmers; more...

April 12, 2007

More Parkinson's links to paraquat and other pesticides. On April 5, the Parkinson's Institute released new findings from a joint research effort sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that named the pesticides paraquat and dieldrin as "potential risk factors for Parkinson's disease." Epidemiological and lab evidence pointed to the pesticides as "environmental factors" that damaged neurons. In the December 2000 Journal of Neuroscience, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry researchers reported that mice exposed to both paraquat and the fungicide maneb developed "the exact pattern of brain damage that doctors see in patients with Parkinson's disease." The Rochester researchers also found the two chemicals are routinely applied together in California, Florida, the Midwest and the Northeast, which are also the "areas of the country where people are more likely to die of Parkinson's disease."

Fumigant findings stir anger in New Zealand. Port workers in the town of Nelson have been dying from motor neurone disease and their widows believe the deaths are linked to methyl bromide used to fumigate timber for export. The Campaign Against Toxic Sprays demanded an investigation. Finally, after a long delay, New Zealand's Environment Court confirmed that the workers and nearby residents were likely exposed to dangerous levels of methyl bromide escaping from storage sheds. According to TV New Zealand, under a "worst-case scenario, residents would face gas levels twice the workplace safety standard." A spokesperson for Genera, the company using the fumigant, dismissed the court's findings as "unscientific." But Genera is now considering installing a system "that will capture all the gas."

Endosulfan nominated for UN blacklist. A scientific panel has recommended adding endosulfan (an organochlorine insecticide) to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Treaty -- joining a list of 39 substances that cannot be exported without the express permission of the receiving nation. Asbestos and DDT are already on the list of materials considered "so harmful they can only be traded in special circumstances." Endosulfan is a human neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor. Davo Simplice Vodouhe, a PAN Africa partner from Benin, reported from the panel meeting: "It is the second most widely used insecticide in cotton production, and has been linked to many incidents of pesticide poisoning, sometimes fatal, among West African cotton farmers." (Read Report) It is expected that the bans will be ratified during the 2008 Rotterdam Conference. PAN also advocates that endosulfan be added to the Stockholm Convention (POPs Treaty) list for global phase out because it persists in the environment and bioaccumulates.

Clean up and prosper. Pollution not only harms the environment, it can also eat away at corporate coffers. The Investor Environmental Health Network's (IEHN) new 52-page report, "Fiduciary Guide to Toxic Chemical Risk," warns that, with increasing levels of toxic chemicals showing up in "human blood, breast milk and amniotic fluid... liability litigation and government enforcement actions may further undermine bottom lines and reputations." The Network estimates the cost of chemically triggered cancers, neurobehavioral disorders and childhood cancers in California, Connecticut and New York alone at $15 billion a year. IEHN's 20 investment group members - managing $22 billion in assets - are encouraging companies to adopt "safer chemical policies." PAN is an IEHN advisor.

Poisons from the past haunt Africa. Over 40 years of the "Green Revolution," many Third World nations imported huge stockpiles of commercial seeds, chemical fertilizers, and toxic pesticides. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization now estimates that some 50,000 tons of pesticides shipped to Africa sit unused in dilapidated warehouses. According to the Peace Reporter, rusting barrels containing dieldrin and other banned compounds are also stored "in the open air in millions of sites all over the continent." Some of these pesticides become even more toxic as they break down over time. The U.N. estimates that its Africa Stockpile Program will take $225 million and at least 12 years to clean up these hazards. Eloise Touni, PAN UK Africa Stockpiles Program coordinator, notes that although these pesticides are decades old, they pose immediate risks. Ironically, the Peace Reporter notes, many of the clean-up contracts may be "given to the same firms that [sold] pesticides" in the first place, thus assuring the poison-peddlers "a double profit."

Biomonitoring bandwagon gathers speed. In 2006, California Governor Schwarzenegger signed a law to test citizens for exposure to chemical contamination. SB 1379 requires the State Health Department to facilitate human testing and to track exposure data. The demand for biomonitoring is growing among the body politic. The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) reports that similar bills are now in the works in Indiana (IN1473), New York ( A01958 ) and Washington State (HB 1570). The NCEL notes that only 10% of the 100,000 synthetic chemicals registered for use have ever been tested for potential harm to humans.

Your backyard farmer. Want a garden without having to pick up a shovel? Donna Smith and Robyn Streeter, two enterprising Oregon horticulturalists, have domesticated the concept of Community Supported Agriculture. Their small company, "Your Backyard Farmer," creates small, personalized vegetable gardens in other peoples' backyards -- complete with natural fertilizers, organic seeds, and bio-intensive, pesticide-free mound beds. The entrepreneurs have found that a 400-square-foot plot can feed a family of four. "Our clients don't have to do anything," Smith says. With the "kitchen garden" making a comeback, Smith and Streeter are now getting queries from Eugene to Europe.


PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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