A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Dangerous fumigant pesticides; Pesticides and breast cancer; Washington Drift bill; Organic gardening tips and more
May 24, 2007
EPA holds public meetings on fumigants: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding public stakeholder meetings in Washington and Florida for comments on risk management options for soil fumigants. And in California, EPA will participate in a meeting of the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation on risk management options for two fumigants: metam-sodium and metam potassium. EPA is also evaluating methyl bromide, chloropicrin, dazomet and Telone for re-registration. PANNA and other groups are seeking a phase-out of these dangerous chemicals used broadly for sterilizing soil before growing strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, peppers and many other crops. Farmworkers, growers and rural residents report respiratory problems, increased incidence of Parkinson's disease and other health effects from exposure to these toxic chemicals. Find out more about these fumigants and how to get involved.
Washington state to monitor air for pesticides: Following a lengthy campaign by Washington's Farm Worker Pesticide Project (FWPP), and publication of Poisons on the Wind, a joint report by FWPP and PAN about community monitoring of pesticide drift in the Yakima Valley, the state has enacted a law directing the Department of Health to conduct its own air monitoring tests. FWPP co-director Carol Dansereau declared, "Air monitoring will give us much-needed information as we work toward protecting children and adults from pesticides." Residents of the Yakima Valley have reported problems with pesticide drift from the orchards around their homes. According to the Yakima Valley Herald, "Of particular concern to health officials are organophosphates, which protect apple crops against codling moths and leaf rollers. The U.S. EPA recently announced that one of those compounds, azinphos-methyl, would be phased out by 2012." Chlorpyrifos, another harmful organophosphate of concern, was detected by the Yakima Drift Catcher project.
U.S. Senator attacks Rachel Carson: The Washington Post reports that Republican Senator Tom Coburn intervened to block bills honoring Rachel Carson on the upcoming 100th anniversary of her birth, May 27. Coburn’s office, repeating claims made by right-wing activists promoting increased use of DDT in Africa, stated, "Millions of people in the developing world... died because governments bought into Carson’s junk science claims about DDT.” Coburn has been actively promoting increased reliance on DDT for malaria control in Africa, despite a global commitment by the World Health Organization and other international agencies to help countries battling malaria shift to safer alternatives. Human exposure to DDT has been linked with low birth weight babies, developmental delays, reduced ability to breastfeed and harmful reproductive effects. The politicians leading the crusade to undermine Carson’s legacy (including the other Oklahoma Senator James Imhofe) are also aggressively disputing scientific evidence that car and coal power plant emissions contribute to climate change. For background, see “Who’s Promoting DDT” in PANNA Magazine.
Pesticides linked to breast cancer in latest research: The Los Angeles Times reports on research identifying 216 chemicals in our environment linked to breast cancer. The project was led by the Silent Spring Institute, Harvard's Medical School and School of Public Health in Boston, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo and University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. Researchers synthesized national and international data sources to create a unique searchable online database featuring detailed information on the carcinogens. Organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT, DDE and dieldrin, as well as chlorophenoxy acids/esters such as 2,4-D were among the pesticides identified as environmental contaminants implicated in triggering breast cancer. Read the abstract.
Spanish study reveals organochlorine pesticides contaminating pregnant women: A study of 308 pregnant Spanish women showed that the placentas of 100% of them were contaminated with at least one organochlorine pesticide, with an average of eight pesticides found in the their placentas.Maria Jose Lopez Espinosa developed the analysis at San Cecilio University Hospital in Granada. United Press International writes that Lopex "studied the presence of 17 endocrine disruptive organochlorine pesticides -- pesticides which interfere with the proper performance of the hormonal system. The results showed that the most frequent pesticides present in the placenta tissue were: DDE at 93%, lindane at 75%, endosulfan diol at 62% and endosulfan-I at 54%. Lopez said some patients' placentas contained 15 of the 17 pesticides analyzed."
California to issue new restrictions on fumigants: The Associated Press reports that fumigant pesticides "...have long been blamed for being part of the state's air pollution problem because they cause smog-forming gases when they evaporate from fields." A coalition of California public interest groups won a 2004 lawsuit charging the state with using inappropriate data to avoid implementing the its 1994 promise to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from pesticides by 20% below 1990 levels. As a result, on May 18 the CA Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will increase restrictions on fumigants. In addition to their acute poisoning dangers, most emit VOCs and are linked to asthma and other chronic health effects. However, "one provision would let chemical manufacturers monitor what they are supplying to the three restricted regions and allow the head of the state pesticide agency to let growers reduce emissions by methods besides the ones stipulated in the proposed rules. 'That's a loophole big enough to fly a crop duster through,' said Brent Newell, an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment," who filed the original coalition suit. According to Californians for Pesticide Reform, another leader in the coalition, "Environmental justice and community groups across the state are calling on DPR to implement strong regulations that reduce the use of VOC pesticides instead of basing regulations on unproven, unenforceable and scientifically unsound technical fixes aimed at reducing emissions from these pesticides."
Pesticide poisonings of Hawaiian students prompt stronger regulations: In 2006, malathion drifting from a nearby home application sent children to the hospital in Honolulu. A few weeks ago, acephate (branded Orthene) drifted from a sod farm, sickening children again. Concerned after these of pesticide drift caused children to become ill, state legislators adopted two actes to strengthen pesticide regulations in Hawaii. One requires pesticide retailers to post warnings and information on what to do should a poisoning occur. A second act prohibits sales of pesticides to unlicensed operators. Read more in the Honolulu Advertiser.
Organic gardening: More and more people concerned about exposing their children, their pets and themselves to harmful pesticides are turning to organic gardening. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, "Promoters of organic lawn care, which focuses in part on healthy plant roots and soil, say following the right regimen can mean fewer pests, lusher plants and less work. They also cite the potential environmental and health problems of non-organic lawn care. Synthetic fertilizer, for example, eventually makes its way into rivers and lakes, where the nutrients contribute to algae blooms and otherwise alter marine ecosystems. The Free Press provides many useful tips for organic lawncare and gardening.