Bayer abandons endosulfan; Dow pushing climate-changing pesticide; more…

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Help Support PANUPSJuly 16, 2009

Bayer commits to stop making endosulfan

Victory celebrationAfter people around the world took action with their underwear on July 7th, Bayer has committed to end production and distribution of the pesticide endosulfan in 2010. Bayer’s decision comes after years of global campaigning against this persistent pesticide, which is linked to autism, birth defects and male reproductive harm. Correspondence between Bayer and the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers (CBG) in Germany indicates Bayer will end worldwide distribution of endosulfan and pledges “to progressively replace the products of the WHO class I [extremely and highly hazardous pesticides], especially in [third world] countries”. The commitment came after CBG sent Bayer a letter and a supply of underwear turned in during the international underwear amnesty, organized by Pants to Poverty, the Environmental Justice Foundation, Pesticide Action Network and other groups. Bayer is one of six multinational corporations that together control the majority of production and distribution of hazardous pesticides; the pledge to replace Class I pesticides was originally made in 2002. PAN North America scientist Karl Tupper remarked, “It’s great to see a major player like Bayer step up and do the right thing on endosulfan. Their example will put pressure on the handful of small generic pesticide manufacturers that are still pushing this deadly chemical on those few countries where endosulfan hasn’t yet been banned.”

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Dow applies to expand use of climate-changing pesticide

On June 10, U.S. EPA revealed Dow Agrosciences’ intention to pursue researching sulfuryl fluoride as a soil fumigant pesticide. Dow intends to release 32,500 pounds of Vikane (its brand name for sulfuryl flouride) into the environment to fumigate test plots in Florida, Georgia, Texas and California. On July 10, Pesticide Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Alaska Community Action on Toxics and others submitted a letter (PDF) opposing the experimental use permit on the grounds of sulfuryl flouride’s anticipated climate and toxicity impacts, reports Chemical & Engineering News. Sulfuryl fluoride is currently used primarily for structural fumigation, particular for termites. It persists in the atmosphere for decades and is extraordinarily potent as a greenhouse gas. “The hazards of using sulfuryl fluoride in agriculture have not been evaluated. It is also 4,780 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide,” said Dr. Brian Hill, PAN senior scientist. “Either one of those facts makes permitting these tests a major mistake.” Putting sulfuryl fluoride’s climate-changing capacities into perspective, if 10% of the planned 32,500 pounds of the product escaped into the air, that would be the equivalent of 15.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere — or driving a car around the earth 900 times.

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Pesticide lindane linked to Parkinson’s Disease

The human bodyA new study reported in Archives of Neurology indicates that people with Parkinson’s Disease are more likely than those without to have breakdown products of the pesticide lindane in their blood. Scientists found the pesticide beta-HCH in 76 percent of people with Parkinson’s, compared with 40 percent of the control group. Beta-HCH is a breakdown product of the pesticide lindane. Lindane has been a PAN target for elimination around the world for the past several years. In May, more than 150 nations agreed to end production and agricultural use of lindane during meetings of the Stockholm Convention. The U.S. stopped agricultural uses of lindane in 2006, but the FDA still allows lindane in pharmaceutical products, including shampoos and lotions. Pesticide Action Network Associate Director of Advocacy Kristin Schafer comments, “More and more, scientists are finding that exposure to certain pesticides interferes with healthy aging and can contribute to disease in later life. We’ve known for many years that persistent pesticides like lindane are dangerous – and that safer solutions are available. This research adds weight to the case that it’s time for the corporations that market these toxics to end their distribution and join the green economy.”

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Doctors call for GM food moratorium

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called for an immediate moratorium on genetically modified (GM) food, citing increasing studies that reveal links between GM foods and health risks, including infertility. The AAEM wrote the USDA in June 2009 as the Agency began plans to loosen oversight and controls over GM food in the United States. The letter comes after a recent position statement released by the AAEM that calls for physicians to educate their patients about the risks associated with GM foods and evaluate the roles that GM foods may play in disease. GM foods are in the American food supply due to a sustained push by Monsanto and other corporations that developed and patented GM seeds to be used with their own pesticides. These technologies replace seed saving and hybrid seed development traditionally done by farmers and scientists, and keep most of the agricultural seedstock under the control of fewer than ten corporations worldwide.

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Study links DDE with fetal brain development

Pregnant motherNew evidence published in the May 2009 issue of Environmental Research suggests that women’s exposure to DDE in early pregnancy is linked with changes in thyroid hormone levels, which in turn affects fetal brain development. DDE is a breakdown product of the persistent pesticide DDT. According to a synopsis by Jonathan Chevrier, PhD, “Researchers found that women with higher DDE blood concentrations were 2.5 times more likely to have high thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Increasing DDE exposure was also associated with reduced thyroxine (T4) levels. Potential effects of chemicals on thyroid function during pregnancy are of concern because thyroid hormones play a crucial role in fetal brain development. Previous reports found high TSH and low T4 in pregnant women to be associated with reduced cognitive abilities in children aged between 10 months and 8 years.” The blood of 157 women in Spain was analyzed for the study. DDT use was prohibited in the US in the 1970s. In May 2009, the UN and World Health Organization announced their commitment to reduce DDT use by 30% by 2014, and to eliminate it within the 2020s. The Global Environment Facility committed $40 million to 10 projects in 40 countries for sustainable, safe malaria solutions that end reliance on DDT. 

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