A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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DDT contamination in California; Testing pesticides on humans dramatized on “Law and Order”; Chlorpyrifos on rice in Taiwan; Beyond Pesticides launches database; and more
February 01, 2007
DDT still contaminates California fish: Although banned in 1973, a new federal survey shows that DDT contamination remains widespread off southern California’s coast. Los Angeles Times reporter Marla Cone writes that “The data…offer the most comprehensive look at the scope of contamination from a 100-ton deposit of DDT that still covers several square miles of the ocean floor decades after the pesticide flowed into county sewers beginning in the late 1940s.” Montrose Chemical manufactured DDT near Torrance, CA from 1947 to 1971, spilling some 2000 tons of the pesticide into sewers draining into the ocean. As a result, DDT levels in fish caught in this area still exceed what are determined “safe,” and the fish may be re-evaluated for safety for human consumption by the state environmental health agency, according to Cone. The fish with the highest DDT contamination where white croakers, which are “still showing up in a handful of Asian markets in Los Angeles and Orange counties… Derek Muir, a global contamination expert at Canada’s National Water Research Institute, said the amounts found in the white croaker were ‘definitely the highest DDT that I have seen in any fish.'” See complete story.
Human testing of pesticide subject of crime drama: Tuesday evening, February 6th, U.S. television network NBC will air “Loophole,” an episode of the crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” is based on the issue of intentional dosing of human beings in pesticide experiments. The story describes a fictional chemical corporation dosing children with an experimental organophosphate pesticide. Check local listings for time. Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles and Pesticide Action Network consulted with the producer and writer in developing this episode. PAN is asking members to host house parties to watch the show, discuss the issues, and send comments to NBC. Get details here.
Chlorpyrifos contaminates “organic rice” in Taiwan: Routine testing by Taipei’s Agriculture and Food Agency showed contamination of organic rice with the organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos. Although approved for use on conventional rice crops, it is forbidden for organic rice. The Taipei Times reports that the organic field was adjacent to a field where crops were grown with chemical pesticides. Su Mun-rong, deputy director one of the organizations that certify organic produce in Taipei, told the Times, “We had an extremely wet spring. The field affected was next to a field where rice was being grown conventionally and the runoff must have overflowed into the organic field.” Chlorpyrifos is a PAN “Bad Actor” chemical linked to neurological and reproductive problems and is particularly harmful to women and children. Find out how you can take action toward banning chlorpyrifos in the United States.
Bangladesh farmers using pesticides without information on dangers: A recent study by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) reveals a story familiar throughout the developing world. Golam Sarwar, public analyst of Public Health Laboratory in Dhaka City, is quoted in the Daily Star: farmers are using organophosphates, organochlorines and other highly hazardous pesticide chemicals “‘to ensure maximum production all year long'”. The BARI study indicates that farmers and distributors often do not know what the chemicals are or the dangers they pose from direct exposure and food residues. One wholesaler described a pesticide as “medicine” that helps bananas grow — an all-too-typical impression fostered by sales promotions by agents of pesticide manufacturers. According to the Star, “farmers and traders admitted of using toxic chemicals and pesticides frequently to make a quick buck without knowing that these chemicals have a negative impact on humans…”
Beyond Pesticides launches new database: Beyond Pesticides — formerly the (U.S.) National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, a founding member of PAN North America — has launched a new web database: Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management. The service currently has information on 81 chemicals, and includes fact sheets, popular product and manufacturer names, chemical class, regulatory status and other information. The website is “intended to provide decision and policy makers, practitioners and activists with easier access to current and historical information on pesticide hazards and safe pest management.” Gateway links to the PAN Pesticide Database as well as many other resources. Beyond Pesticides is soliciting user feedback as they develop the database with more information.
Growers and neighbors share toxic pesticide exposure: Californians for Pesticide Reform member Mary Haffner writes in the Ventura County Star about the shared risks of exposure to pesticides by both growers and people whose homes are next to agricultural areas. Mary became a pesticide activist after a local school was contaminated with methyl bromide drifting from a nearby strawberry field. “Something has to change for agriculture to remain viable,“ she writes. “Our schools should not be surrounded by rows of strawberries blanketed in carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and nerve toxins. Our elementary school children and soccer moms should not have to run for cover when chemicals banned for home use are sprayed in heavier and more toxic concentrations across from our playgrounds and soccer fields. Our government’s regulatory scheme for agricultural pesticides should not be asking, ‘How much human suffering and environmental degradation is acceptable?’ instead of ‘What methods can we employ that cause the least damage to human and environmental health?'”
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
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