PANNA: Scientists object to proposed fumigant; Pesticides and asthma; DDT myths; Indiana sustainable farmers; PAN's 25th party;

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives

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Scientists object to proposed fumigant; Pesticides and asthma; DDT myths; Indiana sustainable farmers; PAN's 25th party; more...

September 27, 2007

Scientists ask EPA not to register methyl iodide: Dozens of members of the National Academy of Sciences, including five Nobel Laureates, sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to ask that EPA not register the carcinogenic pesticide methyl iodide as a replacement fumigant for ozone depletor methyl bromide. EPA had refused registration in 2006 after receiving thousands of public comments protesting the registration. Methyl iodide is toxic to the nervous system and the thyroid, as well as causing fetal losses in experimental animals. "The combined toxicity of methyl iodide and the potential for exposure through drift and groundwater contamination is on the extreme end of the spectrum," said Susan Kegley, Senior Scientist at PANNA. "The real question to ask here is why is EPA bending over backwards to register a highly toxic pesticide made by a Japanese-owned chemical company?" Rita Beamish from Associated Press has the story.

Pesticides implicated in endocrine disruption: Scientists in the United Kingdom reported in Environment International that "Many [pesticides] are proven or suspected to be EDs [endocrine disruptors]. Ancient physiological similarities between different vertebrate groups suggest that disorders observed in wildlife may indicate risks to humans. This makes accurate risk assessment and effective legislation difficult. In this paper, the hazardous properties of pesticides which are known to have ED properties are reviewed in order to assess the implications for risk assessment." The pesticides reviewed include 2,4-D and DDT. Read the abstract.

"EPA still going nowhere on endocrine disruptors," reports OMB Watch. Sept. 20, seven Congressional representatives sent a letter to EPA head Stephen Johnson, demanding an explanation for the Agency's continued failure to review and regulate endocrine disrupting chemicals, including pesticides. Representative Henry Waxman, chair of the House Government Oversight committee, was one of the legislators who demanded accountability. The lawmakers wrote, "We urge EPA to carry out its commitment to 'work harder and faster in making more progress' in implementing a comprehensive, timely and scientifically sound endocrine disruptor screening program. It has been over ten years since Congress called on EPA to protect the public from dangerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals." OMB Watch first reported on Congressional complaints about EPA's food dragging in June.

Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) update: The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) plans further aerial applications of a pheromone-based product, Checkmate, to control the apple moth in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, October 9-12, and into November. See PANNA's LBAM page for background; for latest plans, see the CDFA website. PANNA supports the least invasive methods of application of organic remedies, including pheromone traps, twist-ties (Isomate LBAM Plus) and localized ground-level spraying of the organic insecticide, Bacillus thuringensis (Bt). However, as PANNA senior scientist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman wrote to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Until CDFA responds to legitimate community and scientific concerns about efficacy and safety, PAN cannot support further aerial spraying." The Monterey County Herald has the story.

Pesticide exposure linked to asthma: Researchers with the long-term U.S. Agricultural Health Study have found that pesticide exposure is a "potential risk factor for asthma and respiratory symptoms among farmers." Dr. Jane A. Hoppin, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, reported the findings to the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Stockholm. According to Reuters, "Overall, 16 of the pesticides studied were associated with asthma: 12 with the allergic variety of asthma and 4 with the non-allergic type. Coumaphos, EPTC, lindane (banned from agriculture by EPA in 2006), parathion, heptachlor, and 2,4,5-TP were most strongly linked to allergic asthma. For non-allergic asthma, DDT, malathion, and phorate had the strongest effect."

DDT/Rachel Carson disinformation campaign exposed: Journalist Aaron Swartz analyzes the proliferation of news stories and opinion pieces in the media aimed at discrediting Rachel Carson for her work on the dangers of DDT, and questions the accuracy and motives of DDT promotion in his article, "Rachel Carson, Mass Murderer? The creation of an anti-environmental myth". In Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's on-line journal Extra!, Swartz writes, "These myths can have serious consequences. For one thing, despite what is claimed by the right, DDT itself is quite harmful. Studies have suggested that prenatal exposure to DDT leads to significant decreases in mental and physical functioning among young children, with the problems becoming more severe when the exposure is more serious (American Journal of Epidemiology, 11/15/06; Pediatrics, 7/1/06), while the EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen. For another, resistance is deadly. Not only has DDT's overuse made it ineffective, but, as noted, it has led mosquitoes to evolve 'cross-resistance': resistance not only to DDT but also to other insecticides, including those with less dangerous environmental effects." Find out more about preventing malaria without DDT.

Eel River community files suit to halt toxic spraying: The California Department of Parks and Recreation and Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner were sued by Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) for failure to gain community input for their plan to spray 200 riverbank sites along 25 miles of the Eel River with herbicides to manage invasive plant species. "The decision to spray was made behind closed doors with the many people who care deeply about the Eel River locked out," said Patty Clary, speaking for CATs. "State law requires that the public be involved in important environmental decisions and that alternatives be seriously considered - these requirements were not met." The herbicide imazapyr, trade name Habitat, is being used to manage a non-native wetland plant, purple loosestrife. Imazapyr is very water soluble and long-lived in the environment, with risks to endangered plants.

New generation of Indiana farmers choose sustainable farming: The Indiana Department of Agriculture, Purdue Small Farm Team and others hosted a farmers' tour of small family farms that are innovating with sustainable farming methods. The Journal Review writes about Lucy and Adam Moody. Adam is a fifth generation farmer. "The family has a 300-acre farm. In 1987, Adam began to farm sustainably without the use of chemicals. By 1997, he began raising free-range chicken, eggs, beef and pork, using land that had once been dedicated to corn and soybeans.... 'My passion is for sustainable farming,' Adam said. "We have to do it for Oliver's (Adam's grandson's) sake. I owe it all to my father and grandfather." Purdue University also co-sponsors a tri-state organic farming video series and provides technical assistance to small-scale farmers wishing to diversify and explore non-traditional agricultural businesses.

Happy Birthday to PAN! This year marks the 25th anniversary of the international Pesticide Action Network, and PAN North America. In observation of this milestone, we invite all PANUPs readers to visit the special historical overview on our website. And if you will be in or near the San Francisco Bay Area October 14, please consider joining us for PAN's 25th birthday party on 3pm - 7pm at the San Francisco Ferry Building. You can meet our board, staff and many partners and join in the celebration of 25 great years of working toward sustainable farming and a toxic free world. There will be delicious local food, lots of information, a terrific raffle -- and best of all, a chance to party with heroic community activists, dedicated supporters and dynamic visionaries from movements for social justice, environmental advocacy and fair and sustainable food systems. Tickets are $35 (a real deal!) -- click to find out more.


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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