PAN leaders vindicated; lindane ban works; outlawed pesticides still deadly; chlorpyrifos on the ropes in California; 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.

December 20, 2007

Legal victory for PAN Philippines leaders: In 1999, a 17-year-old journalist named Ilang-Ilang Quijano wrote an article, “Poisoned Lives,” for the Philippine Post and Philippine Inquirer describing the health impacts of banana plantation pesticides on the village of Kamukhaan. The article described a study by her father, Dr. Romeo (Romy) Quijano, and a peasant organization that took testimony from some of 150 families who were reporting health damage from pesticides. They found that two decades of pesticide use on neighboring banana plantation had polluted the soil and the surrounding sea–killing trees, crops, animals and fish–and destroyed the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk. The study provided evidence that prompted restrictions on pesticides and promoted the use of safer and more equitable agricultural policies worldwide. After the article appeared, the plantation owners, Lapanday Agricultural and Development Corporation (LADECO), filed a 5.5 million peso libel suit against the Quijanos. See PANNA Magazine, Fall 2006, for the full story.

On December 10, 2007, Human Rights Day, a Davao City judge ordered the case dismissed, ruling that there was “no convincing proof [of]…any malicious intent of defendants against the plaintiff corporation.” The judge ordered LADECO to pay the Quijanos 50,000 pesos (an amount nowhere near their 300,000-peso legal costs). Still, the ruling is an important victory for health, environmental justice and free-speech activists, especially so since LADECO is owned by the powerful Lorenzo family, which has close ties to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Dr. Quijano, president of PAN Philippines, expressed his relief that the case had been dismissed but deplored the fact that “this patently malicious suit was allowed to prosper and linger for [seven] years.” He vowed to continue the fight against “oppressive social structures that allow corporations like LADECO to exploit and poison people in poor communities.” Dr. Quijano’s earlier work led the Philippines to ban the highly hazardous pesticide endosulfan.

Lindane ban a watershed event: In 2002, California became the first state to ban a pharmaceutical to protect water quality when it outlawed the use of lindane, an insecticide used to treat head lice and scabies. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives now reports that the “elimination of pharmaceutical lindane produced environmental benefits” including a marked decline in lindane levels in the water supplies of urban areas. California doctors surveyed for the study note that the ban “did not adversely affect head lice and scabies treatment” and the authors conclude that California’s ban could serve as a model for other states considering a ban on lindane. Morton Grove, the company that manufactures lindane, was recently acquired by the Indian company, Wockhardt. The Hindu notes that there are a number of lawsuits pending against Morton Grove and “it remains to be seen whether these pose challenges to the new Indian owners.” Morton Grove has also sued two non-profit organizations for publicizing information about the health effects of lindane.

Banned pesticides still kill: A $800,000 study by the Canadian Cancer Society — the largest of its kind ever attempted — has found strong evidence that links the residue of banned chemicals — including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), herbicides, insecticides and fungicides — with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A report in the International Journal of Cancer reveals that individuals whose blood contains high levels of metabolites of the pesticide chlordane are 2.7 times more likely to develop the disease. The Vancouver Sun notes that non-Hodgkin lymphoma “is the fifth most common cancer in Canada” and results in death in 40% of the cases diagnosed. Rates of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which have risen steadily over the past 30 years, are only now starting to decline, “the result of banning the chemicals years earlier.” Even organic crops can contain these long-lasting PCB residues. Noting that it can take 20-30 years for PCBs to breakdown in the environment, lead scientist John Spinelli observes: “Maybe we should have acted sooner.”

California moves one step closer to banning chlorpyrifos: On December 10, after emotional testimony by women from impacted agricultural communities, a branch of the California EPA moved a step closer to listing clorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide as a significant health hazard. Banned by the U.S. EPA in 2001 for use in homes, chlorpyrifos is still used on agricultural crops — cotton, citrus and nuts. Nearly 2 million pounds are used in California each year. All seven members of an Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) advisory committee voted to “prioritize” the preparation of hazard identification materials for chlorpyrifos — the first step towards including it on California’s Prop 65 list of developmental and reproductive toxicants. A Prop 65 listing would provide an authoritative recognition of its general developmental toxicity and pave the way towards a ban. Tulare County resident Domatila Lemus told the OEHHA committee how “clouds of pesticides near our homes and schools [made]…children sick with rashes or vomiting or headaches.” When a Dow Chemical Company representative cited the U.S. EPA’s decision to re-register chlorpyrifos for agricultural use, PAN Senior Scientist Dr. Margaret Reeves pointed out how the EPA ignored “compelling evidence” from its own scientists that chlorpyrifos applications “damage the developing nervous systems of fetuses, infants and children.”

Household pesticides harm babies: Children born to women exposed to household pesticides show twice the risk of developing acute leukemia according to a recent study appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives. In a survey of more than 2800 individuals, researchers found “insecticide use during pregnancy was significantly associated with childhood AL [Acute Leukemia]” and other cancers, and conclude that this finding, combined with other studies, suggests that it may be advisable to prevent pesticide use by pregnant women. The International Agency for Research on Cancer warns that children can be harmed by pesticides in utero as well as during childhood. This is just the latest in a series of studies over the years that have linked household pesticide use with childhood leukemia and brain tumors.

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