CA pesticide use down; Court rejects pesticide water exemption; Pesticides & autism...

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS updates service for complete information.

January 15, 2009

 

Pesticide use on the decline in California

Pesticide use declined statewide in California, according to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). The Agency reported that 172 million pounds of pesticides were applied in 2007, versus 188 million pounds in 2006, a decrease of 16 million pounds, or 8.4 percent. However, trends in use of some of the more toxic pesticides are going in the opposite direction. "The total pounds of fumigants used annually in California have stayed relatively constant over the years, with only minor fluctuations since they've been keeping records," said PAN Senior Scientist Dr. Susan Kegley. "And the use of one fumigant, 1,3-dichloropropene (Telone), is on the rise, with 9.6 million pounds reported used in 2007, up 77% from 2002." Telone is a Proposition 65 carcinogen that DPR pulled from all uses in the early 1990s because of concerns about cancer risks from inhalation exposure to people living near fumigated fields. Telone was reintroduced in the mid-1990s on a limited basis, but with the phaseout of methyl bromide, growers are increasingly turning to Telone again as a replacement chemical. "Farmers are still heavily dependent on these toxic chemicals, which means that there is little progress towards fumigant-free farming," Kegley added. "For sustainability and the health of Californians, this is not the direction we need to be headed." The Stockton Record reported on the pesticide use data release.

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EU Parliament votes to tighten pesticide rules

The European Parliament voted this week in favor of tightening rules on pesticide use in the European Union by creating a list of hazardous pesticides to be eliminated from use in food production. The European Commission said pesticides can cause cancer, are toxic to reproductive systems and can disrupt hormones. "After nearly three years of discussions the EU is just a heartbeat from eliminating dietary and occupational exposure to the worst carcinogenic and mutagenic pesticides", said Elliott Cannell of PAN Europe. PAN Europe and Greenpeace, while pleased with the progress, believe that the ban doesn't go far enough, and that the final legislation was watered down due to lobbying from the chemical industry. "Banning 22 harmful substances out of over 400 is barely a start," said Manfred Krautter of Greenpeace. "Food in Europe will continue to be contaminated by many dangerous chemicals for years to come." According to the BBC, the new rules would also ban or severely restrict any use of pesticides near schools, parks or hospitals. Wholesale aerial crop-spraying would also be banned, and buffer zones would be mandatory to protect aquatic environments and drinking water from pesticides. Brian Hill, PAN North America's Science Director, says, "the approach that the EU is taking of eliminating groups of pesticides in entire hazard categories rather than analyzing pesticides one at a time is a great step. The main flaw is simply that not enough hazard categories were simultaneously addressed."

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Court cancels EPA's pesticide water exemption

On January 7, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that has allowed pesticides to be applied to U.S. waters without a Clean Water Act permit, according to the Environmental News Service. The rule, issued by EPA in November 2007, stated that pesticides are exempt from the Clean Water Act's permitting requirements. While environmental groups challenged the rule, the EPA argued that its decision was a "reasonable construction" of the Clean Water Act, the Courthouse News Service reports. Appeals Court Judge Cole joined the consensus that EPA had overstepped it's authority: "The Clean Water Act is not ambiguous," he wrote. Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild conservation director, said, "When it comes to toxic pesticides and their effects on our rivers and salmon, we need to be certain that good science is being used and those resources are protected. This ruling is a victory for clean water and fish, and a victory for Americans who care about healthy rivers and streams."

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New approach to U.S. pesticide regulation

On January 9, Beyond Pesticides and Pesticide Action Network submitted an extensive document, "Transforming Government's Approach to Regulating Pesticides to Protect Public Health and the Environment," (PDF, 384kb) to the Obama Transition Team. The two coalition groups have been in conversations with the transition team on issues related to food, agriculture and chemicals policy. The transition document now details pesticides-specific priorities for those tasked with identifying what the new administration should take on, with a focus on the first 100 days, and as of January 9, 100 organizations and hundreds more individuals had signed on. Most of the Beyond Pesticides/PAN recommendations point to pending regulatory actions and petitions before the government--specific actions that EPA, USDA, FDA and other agencies can take immediately to protect public health and the environment, and roll back much of the damage done by the Bush administration.

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Environmental factors likely behind autism epidemic

Changes in doctors' diagnoses cannot explain the sevenfold increase in autism since 1990, a new study shows. Rather, “It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiology professor at University of California, Davis who led the study. In California alone, more than 3,000 new cases of autism were reported in 2006, up from just 205 in 1990. The increase had previously been attributed to a change in diagnoses, but the new study concludes that those factors can't explain most of the increases, reports Marla Cone of the Environmental Health News. ""Mothers of autistic children were twice as likely to use pet flea shampoos, which contain organophosphates or pyrethroids, according to one study that has not yet been published,"" says Hertz-Picciota. ""Another new study has found a link between autism and phthalates, which are compounds used in vinyl and cosmetics. Other household products such as antibacterial soaps also could have ingredients that harm the brain by changing immune systems,'" she added.

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New resource for integrated pest management

IPMopedia is a wiki-based resource site that works to provide the public with free, up-to-date advice and information on topics related to integrated pest management and green gardening. Collaborating with experts from the fields of agriculture, horticulture, pest management, and ecology, the site strives to be at the forefront of easily accessible and applicable information for use by the gardening community. By connecting gardeners in the field with IPM and green gardening experts, IPMopedia hopes to strengthen the lines of communication between the two groups, something that has been lacking in the past. This connection will help to increase access to and use of IPM knowledge particularly for gardeners in King County, WA, home of the new service. Through the implementation of IPM advice and information gained from IPMopedia, gardeners everywhere will have more tools and knowledge necessary to create sustainable landscapes, control pests, and dramatically reduce their use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. The knowledge brought forth by IPMopedia has the power to make positive impact on the health of our surrounding environments, waterways, wildlife, and ourselves, the site declares.

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