Go green for mom; Bhopalis arrested; EPA sacks Dow critic; Burger King con; DDT & testicular cancer; and 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.

May 8, 2008

A Mother’s Day with meaning: If flowers are on your Mother’s Day list, shun those doused with chemicals and say “I love you” with pesticide-free blooms from your own garden or a local store that’s gone organic. Or — if you order by Friday morning — you can support PAN by sending California Organic Flowers. And perhaps you’ll join Code Pink, Ploughshares Fund and others who are reclaiming Julia Ward Howe’s original 1870s anti-war message of Mother’s Day for Peace.

Bhopal Protest80 Detained in May 5 Bhopal protest: New Delhi police arrested 80 people — more than half of them children — after they gathered outside Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh’s home to demand justice for survivors of the 1984 chemical plant disaster that killed at least 23,000 people to date. Among those detained was 10-month-old Nida (AP photo) who was born deformed after her mother was exposed to contaminated drinking water in Bhopal. After walking 500 miles and waiting since March 28 in sweltering heat, the protesters have yet to hear a word from the Prime Minister. “We are the same age as Dr. Singh’s grandchildren,” said 11-year-old Yasmin Khan, “Would he let his granddaughter drink poisoned water or see them sitting on the hot pavement for 40 days?” On April 16, Yasmin used the donated blood of Bhopal victims to write a letter to the PM asking for one hour of his time, delivered with handwritten letters from more than 500 other children. Dow Chemical, the site’s current owner, says Bhopal’s cleanup is India’s responsibility. Police released the protesters after two hours and their vigil continues. PAN activists are urged to send a send a NEW fax to the Prime Minster to support the Bhopalis, who vow not to return home until their demands for justice are met.

EPA sacks regulator who challenged Dow: According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bush administration’s top environmental regulator in the Midwest has been given the boot “after months of internal bickering about dioxin contamination downstream from Dow Chemical’s world headquarters in Michigan.” The Tribune reports two top EPA officials told Mary Gade “to quit or be fired by June 1.” For years, Dow claimed it was not responsible for contaminating a 50-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers with the toxic byproduct. Dioxin concentrations in the area are the largest ever recorded in the U.S., poisoning Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. Dioxins cause cancer, disrupt the immune system and interfere with fetal development. When Dow resisted demands to clean up the site, Gade invoked emergency powers to force a cleanup. And now, Gade is out. “I’m surprised if anybody is surprised by this,” said U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). “This administration, from Day One, has always chosen polluters over the environment.”

Burger King kin says ‘Dad did it’: On April 29, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) delivered 60,000 petitions to the Miami headquarters of Burger King, calling on the fast-food giant to join McDonald’s and Taco Bell in paying one-cent more for a pound of tomatoes to improve the wages and working conditions of Florida’s tomato-pickers. CIW says the penny increase could raise workers’ daily wages from $20 to $50. The campaign’s Student/Farmworker Alliance was infiltrated by two spies working for Burger King and CIW was attacked by anonymous emails — from “activist2008” and “surfxaholic36” — calling CIW “blood suckers,” “the lowest form of life,” and accusing the coalition of stealing money from “dupes” who contributed to their cause. The “activist2008” email was traced to an account at Burger King’s Miami headquarters. The identity of “surfxaholic36” surfaced during a phone conversation with the daughter of Burger King Vice President Steven Grover. “I don’t really know much about the coalition,” Grover’s daughter told a reporter from the News-Press: “My dad used to go online with that name and write about them.” CIW’s Geraldo Reyes called the revelation “truly disturbing.”

DDT & testicular cancer: A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has found that DDE, a metabolite (breakdown chemical) of the insecticide DDT, may increase the risk of testicular cancer in men. DDE remains ubiquitous in the environment decades after DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972. According to Reuters, the Institute examined 1,654 U.S. soldiers and found that men with the highest levels of DDE in their blood “were 70 percent more likely to have developed testicular cancer” and that the link was “particularly strong with a type of testicular cancer known as seminoma,” which involves the sperm-producing germ cells of the testicles. The researchers speculate that some of the damaging exposure occurred “in the womb or through breastfeeding.”

Avon (stockholders) calling: On May 1, stockholders considered a PAN-backed resolution requiring Avon to report on its policies and practices regarding the use of nanoparticles in the company’s sunscreen. Ellen Kennedy from the Calvert Fund (and Vice President of PAN’s board) took the lead in filing this historic stockholder challenge to nanotechnology. The resolution won 25% of the vote. Richard Liroff, Executive Director of the Investors Environmental Health Network (IEHN) noted that, while “25% might not seem much,” it is really a “huge vote” since shareholder resolutions on environmental and social issues typically “don’t get beyond the single digits the first year they’re introduced.” Liroff noted that while Avon has ignored IEHN’s concerns, Colgate-Palmolive agreed to meet with critics to develop a policy statement on nanoparticles. A PAN-backed resolution regarding pesticides and asthma will face a vote at Dow’s Annual Meeting on May 15. Check out IEHN’s video: “Toxic Chemicals in Products: Financial Risks and Opportunities”.

Santa’s little helpers — ladybugs: Three Christmas tree farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley — all members of Coalition of Environmentally Conscious Growers — have replaced chemical sprays with ecological pest management. With the help of eager elementary school kids, Holiday Tree Farms, Silver Mountain, and Yule Tree Farms released 72,000 lady beetles to gobble any aphids and mites that might threaten their groves of firs. The aphid-eating insects were provided by Brad Ross of March Botanical who told the Capital Press that his ladybugs, green lacewings, and white fly parasites “flat-out work better than pesticides” while his fly-fighting parasitic wasps “do a better job than chemicals.”

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