A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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DDT briefings; Banana worker settlement, NYC admits West Nile spraying unsafe; Spring healthy lawn campaign; more
April 26, 2007
Briefings on malaria and DDT in Washington and Dakar: On April 24, U.S. Representative John Conyers arranged a briefing in Washington DC for Congressional staff and the media in recognition of Africa Malaria Day, April 25. Speakers from Kenya, Alaska, California, Louisiana and DC described current evidence of human health impacts of DDT and recommended safer and more effective solutions to this ongoing human tragedy. On May 1, during the Third Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (POPs Treaty) convening in Dakar, Senegal, Pesticide Action Network, the International POPs Elimination Network and partners from Africa and around the globe will sponsor a side event to advocate preventing malaria and promoting health without risk of the use of DDT. Details on DC and Dakar events.
Banana workers win $300,000 in sterility settlement: The Amvac Chemical Corp has agreed to pay 13 Nicaraguan banana workers $300,000 after the workers claimed they were rendered impotent by exposure to the pesticide DBCP. According to the LA Times, more than 12,000 Nicaraguans claim they were sickened by the chemical, known to cause brain and kidney damage and male sterility in animal tests. Dow Chemical and Dole Fruit (co-defendants in the case) are awaiting a trial in Los Angeles. All three firms face further lawsuits from tens of thousands of banana workers worldwide. Although banned in the U.S. in 1979, DBCP continued to be used throughout Central America into the 1980s, causing sterility among thousands of workers.
Big Apple admits pesticide spraying was not safe: In 1999 and 2000 then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ordered the mass spraying of Manhattan in response to the threat of West Nile encephalitis. Environmental groups subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of New Yorkers disabled with asthma and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. According to the No Spray Coalition (NSC), in the seven years since the lawsuit was filed, "several of the plaintiffs died from pesticide-related illnesses." Under an April 12, 2007 Federal Court settlement, City officials now concede that Giuliani was wrong when he insisted it was "safe" to spray residents with pesticides derived from World War II-era nerve gasses, including the organophosphate malathion. The City was also required to pay $80,000 to five grassroots groups. In a Letter of Concern to City officials, NSC called for creation of a Community Health and Environment Council to recommend "alternative, nontoxic control of mosquitoes."
Chemical-free lawns: Springtime is boom-time for the lawn-and-garden industry but this season, Scott's ad-blitz for Turf BuilderTM and Miracle-GrowTM is being countered by the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns, which is urging homeowners to swap petroleum-based chemicals for organic alternatives. The Coalition reports that, of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine system. The Coalition's "Simple Guide to Creating a Healthy Lawn" is available online, along with links to scientific studies on the health hazards of chemical lawn care products. Listen to a public service announcement here.
Cotton is "the world's dirtiest crop": The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton , a joint report by Pesticide Action Network UK and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), notes that $2 billion worth of chemicals are used on the world's cotton fields every year and "cotton is responsible for the release of 16% of global insecticides." The World Health Organization classifies the cotton pesticide aldicarb as "extremely hazardous" while the joint report calls the organochlorine pesticide endosulfan "the most important source of fatal poisoning among cotton farmers in West Africa." Cotton chemicals also pose a major health risk to workers and children in Uzbekistan, India and other high-production countries. EJF's "White Gold- The True Cost of Cotton" about cotton's impacts in Uzbekistan won the Environmental Activism & Social Justice Award at the 9th Annual Earth Vision International Environmental Film Festival in Santa Cruz, CA this month. Watch the video.
Native Americans to monitor pesticides: Northern Minnesota's White Earth Pesticide Action Network (WEPAN) will monitor pesticide drift across tribal lands during the 2007 growing season using Drift Catcher air monitoring devices designed by Pesticide Action Network scientists. The goal is to "develop educational programs and policies that reduce young children's exposure to pesticides and other neurotoxins in their homes, preschools, childcare centers and other community environments."
Organic kiwis are healthier: Researchers from the University of California at Davis grew two sets of kiwi vines on the same ranch to compare the effects of fruit grown with agricultural chemicals and without. The organically grown kiwis developed darker, thicker, insect-resistant skins and produced 14 percent more vitamin C and 17 percent more polyphenols (health-promoting antioxidants). The researchers reported their findings in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture and concluded: "All the main mineral constituents were more concentrated in the organic kiwi fruit."
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.