India blocks endosulfan listing; WA fumigant hazards; Vikane & climate change; more...

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

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

March 26, 2009

 

India again obstructs Rotterdam Convention

The Indian government is once again standing alone to block the listing of endosulfan in the Rotterdam Convention. Listing would mean that endosulfan could only be shipped to countries that have explicitly given "prior informed consent" (PIC) to receive it. The Convention, or “PIC treaty,” is an international agreement that provides for information exchange on hazardous chemicals and helps countries prevent imports of banned chemicals. The expert committee of the Convention is meeting this week in Rome to decide (among other issues) whether endosulfan qualifies for listing under the treaty. As the world’s largest producer and user of endosulfan, India is strongly opposed to restrictions on the highly-hazardous pesticide. It is the sole country fighting to keep endosulfan off the PIC list, with all other members of the committee agreeing that listing should move forward.

According to Pesticide Action Network representatives currently attending the Rome meeting, the Indian delegation (which includes representatives from the Indian Chemical Council) has resorted to erecting procedural roadblocks and mounting unfounded legal objections. India engaged in similar tactics at last October’s meetings of the Rotterdam Convention where, by the end of deliberations, it was alone in actively opposing endosulfan's listing. India has also opposed adding endosulfan to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, where listing would trigger a global ban. “We urge the Committee to do all that is in its power to prevent the shameful political domineering of one country from preventing the chemical going through for listing under the Convention,” said Dr. Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific from the Rome meeting. “It is an outrage that one country which manufactures endosulfan, heedless of the problems the chemical has so clearly caused in Africa, should be able to prevent those countries from having the simple protection of the Prior Informed Consent procedure from proposed shipments of a substance they don’t want.”

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Fumigant threatens Washington potato region

In 2006, Pesticide Action Network and the Farm Worker Pesticide Project (FWPP) teamed up to document high levels of pesticides in the air near orchards in Washington state’s Yakima Valley. The results prompted Washington to set up its own monitoring program to investigate the threat of pesticide drift. That program has now begun quietly issuing its findings, and FWPP is released a report (PDF) this week analyzing and summarizing these results. The state program monitored the air near potato fields for MITC, the highly toxic fumigant generated from metam sodium applications. FWPP's report shows that MITC was a ubiquitous air contaminant in potato growing areas during the fumigation season and that residents are regularly exposed in amounts exceeding acceptable risk levels determined by the federal EPA and California EPA. The report is particularly timely as the state is struggling to hammer out its budget in these dire financial times, and the monitoring program and other pesticide-related state programs are currently on the chopping block.

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Study links DDT to obesity

Researchers at Michigan State University have discovered that prenatal exposure to a break-down product of DDT -- an insecticide commonly used in the U.S. until it was banned in 1973 -- may play a role in the obesity epidemic in women, according to the Muskegon Chronicle. The long-term study tracked the 20- to 50-year-old daughters of 250 western Michigan mothers, first contacted in the 1970s, who ate fish laced with the toxic remnants of DDT, in order to gauge their offsprings' exposure to the break-down chemical DDE. DDT and DDE are persistent organic pollutants whose levels in Lake Michigan and elsewhere are only slowly declining, despite the decades-old ban. The researchers found that women with intermediate levels of DDE in their bodies gained an average of 13 pounds of excess weight. Women with higher levels of DDE gained more than 20 excess pounds. "What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women," said Janet Osuch, a professor of surgery and epidemiology at MSU's College of Human Medicine and one of the lead authors of the study. Osuch said prenatal exposure to toxins is increasingly being looked at as a potential cause for the rise in obesity seen worldwide.

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Pesticide spraying ban proposed in Philippines

A bill that would ban aerial spraying of hazardous substances, including pesticides, has been filed in the Philippines Senate, according to GMA News. "The harmful effects of aerial spraying of pesticides have surfaced over the years, including specific illnesses that occur in clusters among residents living in and around agricultural areas where this method of pest control is practiced," said Philippines Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, who filed the bill. Zubiri cited a study by the Kalusugan Alang sa Bayan, Inc. in three Davao communities in 2006. Three workers died of cancer due to years of pesticide exposure, and pesticides have also been linked to cerebral palsy and asthma among residents, GMA News reports. Aerial spraying was previously banned in Davao under a local ordinance, but that law has been undermined by the powerful banana plantations which succeeded in overturning the law in 2007.

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Organophosphates poison South African teachers

Four teachers in Durban had to be rushed to a clinic after being exposed to organophosphate pesticides at the Mkobozi Primary School (K-6), reports South Africa's News24. The school had been sprayed with undisclosed insecticides for pest control, and when the teachers arrived at the school on Monday, March 23, they "absorbed the poison through their skin," according to Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha. One of the teachers remains in critical condition, while three others are listed as "serious". The school was evacuated and there have been no reports of children seeking treatment. Botha explained that when a building was sprayed with such a pesticide, it could take about four days to clear up before anyone could reenter. Organophosphorous pesticides (chlorpyrifos [Dusban and Lorsban], azinphos methyl [Guthion], malathion and many others) remain in wide use in the U.S. (some 70% of insecticides) and around the world, despite the fact that they are among the most acutely toxic nerve poisons, are linked to developmental or reproductive harm, and some are carcinogenic and or known or suspected endocrine disruptors. They are used both in agriculture and in vector control, including mosquito abatement.

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Vikane's potent climate change impact

Sulfuryl flouride (Dow's "Vikane"), a fumigant pesticide used both to fight termites in homes and other structures and for crops stored after harvest, is a greenhouse gas that is 4,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. MIT researchers have measured the levels of the gas in the atmosphere, and determined its emissions and lifetime to help gauge its potential future effects on climate. Until the study was completed nobody knew exactly how long it would last in the atmosphere. "Our analysis has shown that the lifetime is about 36 years, or eight times greater than previously thought, with the ocean being its dominant sink," says Ron Prinn, director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science and a co-author of the new paper. He concludes that sulfuryl flouride would become "a greenhouse gas of some importance if the quantity of its use grows as people expect." Prinn is optimistic that the new discovery "very early in the game" will allow for further research on alternatives. Dow Chemical is the primary producer of sulfurly flouride, manufactured at a newly-expanded plant in Pittsburg, CA.

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