CA's methyl iodide trial commands EPA attention; Tainted drinking water in schools; EPA to disclose 'inerts'...
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An independent Scientific Review Panel convened September 24-25 in Sacramento California, to evaluate the science behind the proposed pesticide for strawberries, methyl iodide. According to Nature, "At issue is a set of apparently conflicting assessments of the chemical's health hazard. In 2007, the EPA concluded that health standards could be met by proper use of masks and procedures, such as keeping workers away from newly fumigated fields. A 2009 report from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), however, concludes that methyl iodide fumigation 'results in significant health risks for workers and the general population,' with some scenarios requiring a 3,000-fold reduction in exposure, according to its models and safety limits." The Fresno Bee reported, "The makers of methyl iodide have asked the California Department of Pesticide Regulation for permission to use the powerful chemical in the lucrative California market. 'This is worth going to the mat over,' said Susan Kegley, a scientist with the Pesticide Action Network North America...'This is so toxic, and exposure to it is almost guaranteed.'" During the Sacramento meetings, a panel of independent scientists from around the country reviewed DPR's risk assessment, and heard from U.S. EPA, Arysta Corporation (methyl iodide's manufacturer), California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and Pesticide Action Network. After a day of scientific review, U.S. EPA agreed to reopen its national decision on methyl iodide, pending information from the Panel. PAN activists and partners, including Californians
for Pesticide Reform, Lideres Campesinas, Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Watch, spoke during a public comment period. Jim Cochran, co-founder of Swanton Berry Farm, offered his perspective as a long-time strawberry grower, suggesting that it's time to move toward sustainable and healthy strawberry production, and away from toxic chemicals. Over the next few months, California will consider and respond to the findings of the Panel.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson announced this week that EPA is eager to work with congress to reform the nation's policies governing toxic chemicals. Worried over the inadequacy of federal laws to protect human health and the environment, Jackson stated, “Our oversight of the 21st century chemical industry is based on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).... Over the years, not only has TSCA fallen behind the industry it’s supposed to regulate - it’s been proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects." Jackson pointed to a set of Obama Administration principles for reform that the agency hopes will guide the policy change. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg, (D-NJ) have committed to introducing legislation to reform federal chemical policies. "America's system for regulating toxic substances is broken," said Senator Lautenberg. "Americans deserve to know that products they rely on...are safe and will not harm their families." Pesticide Action Network supports the overhaul, and will push to ensure the reform requires immediate action on chemicals of concern while setting up a future infrastructure that allows approval of only the safest chemicals. PAN Senior Policy Analyst Kristin Schafer commented, "Reform of U.S. chemicals policy is long overdue - and is absolutely essential to protecting the health of families and ecosystems around the world. We'll be pushing for reform that outlaws the most dangerous toxins, supports a shift to the manufacture of safer products, and restores U.S. global leadership on chemicals policy." EPA has identified an initial list of chemicals for possible action, and anticipates completing a set of four action plans in December. It will complete and post additional chemical action plans in four-month intervals thereafter.
An Associated Press investigation found that school drinking water was tainted with lead, pesticides and other toxins in all 50 states. According to the Press, “In California's farm belt, wells at some schools are so tainted with pesticides that students have taken to stuffing their backpacks with bottled water for fear of getting sick from the drinking fountain. Signs posted above the kitchen sink warn students not to drink from the tap because the water is tainted with nitrates, a potential carcinogen, and DBCP, a pesticide scientists say may cause male sterility." According to the report, "The contamination is most apparent at schools with wells, which represent 8 to 11 percent of the nation's schools. Roughly one of every five schools with its own water supply violated the Safe Drinking Water Act in the past decade. 'It's an outrage,' said Marc Edwards, an engineer at Virginia Tech University who has been honored for his work on water quality. 'If a landlord doesn't tell a tenant about lead paint in an apartment, he can go to jail. But we have no system to make people follow the rules to keep school children safe?'" The news comes as concern is mounting over children's health and exposure to toxic chemicals. The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported on October 1 that "Chronic childhood diseases linked to exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment have been surging upward, costing the U.S. almost $55 billion a year," a message delivered by Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, professor and chair of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
The U.S. EPA announced September 30 that it plans to disclose the identities of the so-called "inert" ingredients in pesticides, including those that are potentially hazardous. Inert ingredients, found in the majority of pesticide products, can comprise up to 99.9% of the final product. The ingredients are added to help the "active" ingredient in the pesticide product be more effective, potent or easier to use. Despite the name, inert ingredients are not necessarily benign, and have found to be hazardous to health or the environment in many cases. On September 30, EPA responded to two petitions (one from Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and a second from State Attorneys General), that identified over 350 inert pesticide ingredients as hazardous. Petitioners request disclosure of the ingredients, and seek to include the list of inert ingredients on the pesticide label. The pesticide industry has fought disclosure of the inert ingredients, claiming they are trade secrets. The public knows precious little about these chemicals that can cause damage to human and environmental health. Disclosure of inert ingredients was one of the top priorities for action that Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides and more than 100 supporting organizations submitted to the Obama Administration in early 2009. According to EPA, the Agency "anticipates publishing its proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register within the next few months. In it, EPA will discuss ideas for greater disclosure of inert ingredient identities, including inerts associated with various hazards, as well as inerts in general. EPA believes one way of discouraging the use of the
more hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide formulations is by making their identities public. In addition to pursuing regulatory action for inert disclosure, EPA is considering encouraging voluntary initiatives to achieve this broader disclosure."