EPA reviews endosulfan; Pesticides and diabetes; Lindane ads pulled; pesticides and kids; Policing eco-tests; more…

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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.

February 7, 2008

EPA reviewing endosulfan: Public comment to EPA on re-registration of endosulfan, an antiquated and dangerous insecticide, is open until Feb. 19, 2008. EPA’s own analysis shows that endosulfan endangers workers who handle it directly and those who work in endosulfan-treated fields. Endosulfan travels great distances, accumulates up the food chain, and poses grave risks to aquatic ecosystems. Used in the U.S. on tomatoes, cotton and other crops, endosulfan harms the hormone system, and low levels of exposure in the womb have been linked to autism, male reproductive harm and birth defects. Acute poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and even death. The European Union and several other countries have already banned endosulfan, and alternatives are available. Join people around the world in an effort to phase out endosulfan: sign PAN’s petition by Feb. 15 to protect children, farmworkers and rural communities from this harmful nerve toxin.

Pesticides linked to diabetes: A new study in the British medical journal, The Lancet, provides more evidence that pesticide exposure may play a role in development of diabetes. The study’s authors urged researchers to focus on the role of environmental pollutants, challenging the long-held assumption that diabetes is primarily linked to “genetics and the Westernization of dietary habits and lifestyle.” An analysis of the US National Health and Examination Survey from 1999-2002 found a “strong correlation between insulin resistance and serum concentrations of persistent organic pollutants, especially for organochlorine compounds,” such as the pesticide DDT and it’s breakdown chemicals. A 2007 article in Human and Experimental Toxicology reported similar findings. In addition, a Swedish study of 380 men and women exposed to organochlorine compounds showed “a strong association with the occurrence of diabetes,” as did comparable research in Belgium. Studies of US Air Force Vietnam War vets also “suggest an adverse relation between dioxin exposure (via the defoliant Agent Orange) and symptoms of diabetes.”

Morton Grove pulls its lindane ads: In response to a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration (see Jan. 10, 2008 PANUPS), Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals has withdrawn print and online advertising for its lindane-based products targeting children. The company’s ads extolled the headlice-fighting virtues of its Lindane Shampoo and lotion but failed to mention prominently the dangers (including a warning that the products should not be used on anyone weighing less than 110 pounds). USA Today reports that the acknowledged risks include “hospitalizations, seizures and deaths.” Meanwhile, the Michigan Environmental Council and the state’s Ecology Center are advocating severe restrictions on lindane use. Under a proposed bill by Rep. Ted Hammon, lindane could henceforth only be administered in a doctor’s office, not in the home.

Pesticides in foods endanger kids: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that “government promises to rid the nation’s food supply of brain-damaging pesticides aren’t doing the job.” Environmental Health Perspectives reports on a year-long study found traces of organophosphate pesticides in the saliva and urine of 21 pre-school and elementary-school children who consumed “conventional foods from area groceries [containing]…organophosphates, the family of pesticides spawned by the creation of nerve gas agents in World War II.” Emory University School of Public Health Professor Chensheng Lu reports that “once you switch from conventional food to organic, the pesticides (malathion and chlorpyrifos)…in the urine disappear” in as little as 36 hours. The EPA claims that since passage of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, there has been a 57% reduction in pesticide residues in food but Check Benbrook, chief scientist at the nonprofit Organic Center, says the EPA’s pesticide limits are “too high to say they’re safe.” The EPA maintains “dietary exposures from eating food crops treated with chlorpyrifos are below the level of concern for… infants and children.” To which Benbrook replies: “Given the almost daily reminders that children are suffering from an array of behavioral, learning, neurological problems, doesn’t it make sense to eliminate exposures to chemicals known to trigger such outcomes?”

Government proposes ban on citizen pollution monitoring: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has pressed New York City to draft legislation banning “unlicensed” individuals from testing the air, water, soil, and food for evidence of chemical or radioactive pollution. The official rationale is to prevent “false alarms” in the event of a “terrorist attack” but, as a guest editorial in the New York Times notes, the broadly written law would cover “laboratory analyses used by students, teachers, researchers, activists, unions and many other groups [whose]…work has far more to do with ecology, education, public health and worker safety than with terrorism.” Requiring community activists and researchers to apply for a police license before conducting tests, could “hamper or stop the flow of environmental data.” Such a law could constrain PAN’s drift-catching work. “Restriction of environmental information is rarely in the public’s interest,” the editorial concludes. “The ability of scientists and citizens to gather data quickly and efficiently should be fostered, not suppressed.”

Uganda ignores health impacts of DDT spraying: Ignoring the impacts of DDT on human health and the environment, Uganda’s Ministry of Health is set to begin spraying people’s homes with the organochlorine insecticide DDT in February. Malaria control researcher Dr. Lugemwa Myers says: “We hope to have covered 15 districts by the end of this year.” Ellady Muyambi, of the Uganda Network of Toxic Free Malaria Control says “the pesticide DDT is an endocrine disrupting chemical, a compound that alters the normal functioning of the endocrine system, potentially causing disease or deformity in organisms and their offspring. Our Public Health experts should also realize that other malaria control measures such as mosquito nets have been advocated for as a method of minimizing exposure to malaria. It is vital to note that mosquito nets do not cost much, they are not likely to affect the environment significantly, and do not require investment in research or development to work.”

Pesticide-free Valentine bouquets: Make sure your Valentine’s Day gifts are green. More than 60% of the flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from Colombia, where the women flower-workers earn poverty-level wages, work long hours, and suffer significant health problems due to pesticides. Fortunately pesticide-free and guilt-free alternatives are available. If you can’t find a local supplier of organic flowers (or fair-trade organic chocolate), go to PAN’s Special Offers link. A portion of each purchase goes to support PAN’s work.

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