Sierra frogs at risk; DDE & diabetes; 50-year farm bill; and 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.

Support Panups!July 23, 2009

Drifting pesticides threaten frogs in Sierra

Pacific Tree FrogPesticide drift from two insecticides -- chlorypyrifos and endosulfan -- travels by wind and water to cause deadly conditions for Pacific treefrogs and foothill yellow-legged frogs, two species native to mountain meadows in the Sierra Nevada range. New research shows that after the two pesticides are applied in California's Central Valley, they drift on easterly winds, land in the Sierras through rain and snow and are spread by runoff. The research was published in the August 2009 issue of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Pesticide Action Network is working to ban all uses of both insecticides in the United States, especially given the viability of organic and agroecological alternatives. In 2000, U.S. EPA banned chlorpyrifos for home use because of evidence linking the pesticide to neurodevelopmental problems in humans and concern for children’s health. The pesticide, produced by Dow Chemical, is under scrutiny by the Agency again since children and families in agricultural areas continue to face high levels of exposure. The EPA is also considering canceling uses of endosulfan, banned in more than 60 countries. Bayer, a significant producer of endosulfan, agreed last week to end distribution of endosulfan by 2010 due to global protest against its deadly impacts on communities around the world.

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DDE linked to diabetes and Great Lakes fish

Consumers of Great Lakes sports fish have had increased levels of DDE in their bodies, and higher chances of developing diabetes than others, according to research published in the July 2009 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. DDE is the metabolite (breakdown product) of the pesticide DDT. Although banned for use in the U.S. more than thirty years ago, DDT and DDE persist in the environment for generations. People are exposed to DDT and DDE primarily through their diet -- and especially from meat, dairy products and fish. “Even though we haven’t used DDT in decades, its metabolites are still detected in almost everyone in the country,” said lead researcher Mary Turyk, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s School of Public Health. The study included 471 adults; those with higher levels of DDE in their blood were more likely to develop diabetes. Environmental Health News reports that, “The study is among the strongest voices in a chorus of research supporting the link between environmental chemicals and diabetes, according to David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York, Albany.” Fortunately, with the banning of DDT by the U.S. and many other countries in the 1970s, and its listing with eleven other pesticides and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by more than 155 nations for global phaseout under the Stockholm Convention since 2004, levels of DDE in people who consume Great Lakes sports fish have begun to decline significantly.

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Summer PAN Magazine in new online format

Summer magazineThe Summer 2009 issue of the PAN North America Magazine is out in a new, online-friendly format. This issue's "Healthy Legacy" theme responds to a growing body of research that links pesticide exposures in utero, infancy and early childhood to long-term damage. You can find inspiration and action tools in these online stories. Inspiration comes from the stories of young activists, PAN campaigners, and mothers with growing children -- all told with a fierce determination to create a better world. Sandra Steingraber, author, environmentalist, and parent; and Kristin Schafer, mother of two and a long-time PAN policy advocate; invite readers to create communities where pesticides do not contaminate us. Tools in the Solutions section offer ways to continue our progress toward this future -- for we are making progress in our work together. This includes the launch of WhatsOnMyFood.org — Pesticide Action Network's new online guide to pesticides found on 89 specific foods, from almonds to winter squash. PAN members receive three issues per year of the magazine in the mail (membership starts at $35). Join PAN.

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Maine momentum for safer chemicals

On July 17, two agencies in Maine took first steps towards safer chemicals for the state by releasing a list of 1,700 “chemicals of high concern” -- substances, including several pesticides, that pose a significant risk to human health and are used in manufacturing common consumer goods. The listing comes after the passage of the Kids Safe Products Act last year. Maine's law now requires the state to take priority action to eliminate at least two of the chemicals of concern in consumer products. The Bangor Daily News reported that Michael Belliveau of the Environmental Health Strategy Center said Friday’s listing should "send a signal” to manufacturers. "'Hundreds of these chemicals, known to wreak havoc on our hormone systems and cause cancer and learning disabilities, are in the products used by Maine families every day and concern is building among the public about the long-term effects on our health,'” he said. Maine’s actions come as other states are tackling safer approaches to chemicals. A full report on State Leadership in Formulating and Reforming Chemicals Policy: Actions Taken and Lessons Learned (PDF) reveals "... a huge increase in the number of bills introduced within the last few years, especially in states that in the past had been relatively quiet,” says Jessica Schifano, report author and Policy Analyst at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where the report was published. “A range of factors contribute to this trend, from new policies in Europe, to consumer pressure and demands from large manufacturers and retailers for safer products.”

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Hospitals secure better food 

Veggies from MarketNorthern California hospitals and health care institutions, lead by Kaiser Permanente, are increasingly sourcing organic and local food for their facilities. They are part of a growing group of health professionals and institutions that say organic and local foods are better for our health and the planet. The San Jose Mercury News recently covered the developments. "'What people eat is one of the most important determinants of their health,'" said Dr. Preston Maring, an obstetrician at Kaiser Permanente who started the movement to put farmers markets outside the hospitals. Throughout northern California, chefs are planting organic gardens next to emergency rooms, health care centers are sponsoring farmers markets, and the daily hospital menus are including more organic and local ingredients. According to the Mercury News, "advocates say there could be huge cost savings to the health care system if diseases like obesity, diabetes and other environmentally related health conditions could be addressed through the food system. Kaiser's Maring calls farmers markets and new purchasing programs imperatives, not luxuries. 'It's a symbol of good health,' he said. 'It's a symbol of what we need to do in the country to even have the health care system survive over time.'"

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Farm leaders call for '50-Year Farm Bill'

Three long-time sustainable farming advocates - mostly from the nation's heartland - traveled to Washington, DC to lay out a plan for America that includes a gradual yet steady transition to an agriculture that measures its success by how it delivers on these basics: yield, healthy food, resiliency of local ecosystems and thriving rural communities. The current and predominant industrial agriculture model emphasizes crop yields almost exclusively, leaving serious consequences for health, the environment, access to food and economic viability of rural communities. The leaders included Wes Jackson, geneticist and president of the Land Institute - Kansas; Fred Kirschenmann, Fellow at the Leopold Center in Iowa and former farmer from North Dakota; and Wendell Berry, writer and farmer from Kentucky. They spoke with Obama administration officials and with Jane Black from the Washington Post. Topics covered included an emerging food citizenry from urban and rural communities, alike; the growing food crisis; food safety scares; feeding the world.

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