A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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July 12, 2007
EU court reverses paraquat ruling: The European Union's Court of First Instance in Luxembourg rejected a ruling authorizing the use of paraquat as an active plant protection substance in the EU. Although the active ingredient already had been banned in 13 countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Finland, in 2003, the Commission of European Communities (CEC) issued an order (Directive 2003/11) approving the use of paraquat. Sweden challenged the ruling and the judges ruled that the CEC's action showed a "disregard" of proper procedures.
"This is an important decision," said Anne-Sofie Andersson, Director of the International Chemical Secretariat, citing the court's conclusion that Directive 2003/11 "fails to satisfy the requirement of protection of human health."
Paraquat is highly toxic poison that causes serious, irreversible, untreatable and potentially deadly effects. Paraquat is one of the most widely used active substances in pesticides. More than 120 countries use pesticides containing paraquat for weed control in orchards, forests and a range plantation crops, including coffee, cocoa, oil palms, rubber, bananas, and tea.
The Court found that the CEC had acted at the request of "a number of paraquat producers, including Zeneca" that provided the CEC with incomplete and misleading information. Zeneca and other "notifiers" were faulted for withholding "studies on the link between paraquat and Parkinson's disease" and the CEC was criticized for considering only 14 application scenarios (the scenarios were all proposed by the notifiers and the CEC only bothered to examine two of them). The Court also noted that the CEC failed to acknowledge important studies from France and Guatemala that demonstrated the real-world risks of paraquat use.
It remains uncertain what the CEC and EU member states will now do, and the court ruling may not lead to a ban any time soon. PAN's international paraquat campaign, led by the Berne Declaration in Switzerland, is tracking the situation. Check panna.org for updates. The court decision is here.
Lawsuits over pesticide contamination on banana plantations: The first of five lawsuits filed in the US over harm from DBCP suffered by banana plantation workers employed by Dole and Standard Fruit in Nicaragua and other countries is starting trial this week. DBCP is a carcinogen, acutely toxic, and a suspected endocrine disruptor. Associated Press reports that this first case "...accuses Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide. Dow Chemical Co. and Amvac Chemical Corp., manufacturers of the pesticide, 'actively suppressed information about DBCP's reproductive toxicity.'" The lawsuits claim that Dow Chemical knew as early as the 1950's about the risks to human health from DBCP.
Boys more vulnerable to toxic exposure: A new report by the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment demonstrates that while all children are at risk from exposure to environmental hazards, male infants are more vulnerable in utero than females, with impacts on brain development of particular concern. "Four times more boys than girls are affected by autism and ADHD. Boys are also at increased risk for learning disabilities, Tourette's Syndrome, cerebral palsy and dyslexia," according to Kathleen Cooper with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. The study, released on Father's Day, urges parents to be conscious of toxic chemicals that might come into the home from the workplace, and encourages activism to reduce use of pesticides and other chemicals. Read the report.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration restricts Chinese seafood: The FDA announced new restrictions on some of China's seafood that is imported into the United States. Shrimp, scallops, catfish, eel, and a certain type of carp are among the goods from China's booming aquaculture industry restricted by FDA due to evidence of contaminants including carcinogens and antibiotics. Pesticide contamination of Chinese seafood-including DDT residues-were found in a recent study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Science. DDT was banned in China in 1983, but takes many years to breakdown. The report calls the coastal region of southern China "probably one of the most DDT-polluted areas in the world." The International Herald Tribune has the story.
Accidents contaminate communities: There were two accidents that spewed toxic insecticides into communities this week. In Albany, Texas, a truck lost a pallet of Temik, the brand name for aldicarb, a PAN "Bad Actor" chemical that is acutely toxic and a suspected endocrine disruptor. Residents and employees of nearby businesses were forced to stay indoors. Read more from WALB. In California, a fiery truck explosion on Highway 99 near the Tulare County town of Earlimart, caused chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide to burn, spreading fumes over a large area near the scene of another pesticide contamination in 1999 when 600 people fell ill. As in 1999, residents were not alerted to the contamination, and are concerned that authorities have not implemented mandated safety plans and training for measures for pesticide accidents. Teresa DeAnda, a resident and Field Representative for Californians for Pesticide Reform, said, "I was worried for the health of my family and my community." The Bakersfield Californian has the story.
Biodiesel demand destroying communities in developing nations: The developed world's increasing call for plant fuel to manufacture biodiesel is destroying some farming communities and contaminating water and land with toxic pesticides in the developing world. In These Times describes one soy bean production situation: "Rural eastern Paraguay was once flush with jungles, small farms, schools, and wildlife. Now it is a sea of soybeans. The families, trees, and birds are gone. The schools are empty. The air is filled with the toxic stench of pesticides."
North Dakota farmers making biodiesel from waste: Farmers and members of North Dakota University's extension program gave demonstrations of biodiesel made from local waste products at the county fair. Using vegetable waste oil, the farmers want to reduce their dependence on fossil oil. According to KXMC-TV, "The smell of diesel fuel so familiar to many area farms is changing in some places-now farms... smell more like french fries."
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