Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS updates service for complete information.
December 4, 2008
- Day of No Pesticides — December 3
- Endosulfan threatens Philippine produce
- Endosulfan kills Indian schoolchildren
- Pesticides found in Antarctic krill
- Pesticides found in Thai farmers and students
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 60 — December 10
Every year, the global Pesticide Action Network commemorates December 3 as “Day of No Pesticides” to mark the world’s worst chemical disaster: the 1984 Union Carbide pesticide factory explosion in Bhopal, India. A toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate and other deadly gases was released that killed thousands in a single night and has caused more than 20,000 deaths in succeeding years, leaving 150,000 injured. Bhopal has been called the worst commercial industrial disaster in history but, sadly, it may not the last. Around the world, the ongoing manufacture, distribution, and use of chemical pesticides continues to poison the environment and devastate the lives of nearby residents. PAN Asia Pacific Executive Director, Sarojeni V. Rengam, noted several of the global protests: “In Kerala, our partners are asserting the calls of communities struggling against endosulfan in Kasargod, and the devastating effects of the DDT plant in Eloor. In Sri Lanka, the Vikalpani Women’s Federation have galvanized their campaign on paraquat around the death of a young man who succumbed to exposure. From Indonesia to Thailand, China to the Philippines, and Bangladesh to Mongolia, citizen actions will take place against pesticides that continue to cause so much human health and environmental damage." PAN Asia and the Pacific also issued a statement calling for a global ban on "endosulfan, one of the most dangerous organochlorine pesticides in the world."
The Philippines' Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority has detected residues of the "deadly endosulfan pesticide" in cabbages, pechay and other vegetables sold in city markets in Northern Mindanao. The Philippines Sun Star notes that "the cream and brown-colored pesticide gained notoriety after 10 tons owned by Del Monte Philippines went down with M/V Princess of the Stars," which sank off Sibuyan Island in June (See PANUPS Oct. 9). Endosulfan is persistent in the environment and, the Sun Star notes, the pesticide "sticks to soil particles and may take years to completely break down." It is currently under consideration for listing as a persistent organic pollutant under the Stockholm Convention because of its ability to persist in the environment and be distributed globally by winds and water. Endosulfan exposure has been linked to convulsions, childhood autism, male sexual dysfunction and death. Although the Philippines has banned endosulfan, the Sun Star reports "unscrupulous importers… smuggle the pesticide from neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia." Del Monte and Dole had been allowed a waiver to use the banned pesticide on its banana and pineapple plantations, but in response to the ferry accident, that waiver is slated to end this year.
On November 13, India's The Telegraph reports, 43 students at a state-run boarding school in Ranchi, Jharkhand, were hospitalized after drinking milk laced with endosulfan, a poisonous pesticide. Five of the students died. Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance reports that, after the deaths, state officials filed charges against the school's headmaster, two cooks and Pratima, the company that supplied the tainted milk. India, the world's largest producer of endosulfan, is home to three major manufacturers — Excel Industries, EID Parry and the government-owned Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL). Endosulfan is under consideration for global action under two international treaties — the Rotterdam Convention, which governs international chemical trade, and the Stockholm Convention, which targets persistent organic pollutants for global phaseout. The Indian government (backed by HIL and the Indian Chemical Council) actively campaigned against the inclusion of endosulfan under both of these treaties at intergovernmental meetings in September and October, despite widespread support from other countries. According to Krishna, the government of India must "stand up to the manifest influence of endosulfan manufactuers," by banning the dangerous chemical, compensating the victims in Ranchi and holding the companies "criminally liable for culpable homicide."
Pesticides were found to "dominate" a roster of toxic chemicals detected in Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba, "the Antarctic keystone species"). A report in Science of the Total Environment explains that adult krill caught in 12 different sites were tested for nearly "100 orgahohalogen compounds including chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphebyls (PCBs), polybrominated organic compounds [POC] and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/furans." A team of researchers from Australia, Norway and Germany report that "organochlorine pesticides dominated" their test results, with hexachlorobenzene "the single most abundant compound quantified." The study, described as "one of the most comprehensive reports of POC contamination of the Antarctic food web to date," reported finding traces of dichlorodiphenylethene (DDE), a breakdown product of DDT, "at notable concentrations."
Scientists from Chiang Mai University tested the urine of small-scale farmers in two different regions of Chiang Mai Province for the presence of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. According to a report published in Science of The Total Environment, farmers from the Pong Yaeng subdistrict tested positive for metabolites of organophosphorus insecticides and ethylene bisdithiocarbamates while farmers from Inthakhin subdistrict showed "significantly higher concentrations of malathion, 2,4-D, alachlor, and parathion." The tests revealed that "chlopyrifos and pyrethroid insecticides seemed to be commonly used across both communities," while the presence of methamidaphos suggested that, "despite a ban on its use, methamidaphos continues to be used in the communities." The researchers also detected "organophosphorus insecticides, synthetic pyrethroid insecticides" and herbicides" in urine samples of 12-13-year-old Chiang Mai students. Writing for the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, they report that in 207 urine samples tested for 18 pesticide metabolites they found 14, including seven that were detected at a frequency of 17% or more. Most frequently detected metabolites included breakdown products of malathion, chlorpyrifos, permethrin and other pyrethroids. The highest concentrations of pyrethroid insecticide metabolites were found in children of farmers.
December 10, 2008 marks the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UNDR has been called "A Bill of Rights for the World." In honor of this historic date, Amnesty International USA has launched the Protect the Human campaign and created a special UNDR Web site: a place where people from all over the world can stand together to understand, promote and protect basic human rights. The online activist hub, TakePart, describes the website as “incredibly rich with film, music, an interactive Google map, information on the declaration and various ways you can take action and spread the word.” One very powerful feature is an interactive mosaic that explains each of the 30 Articles from the UDHR.