A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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EPA hesitates on methyl iodide; Chloropicrin poisons dozens; PAN’s 25th party; and more…
October 4, 2007
EPA delays approval of carcinogenic methyl iodide: Responding to an outcry from scientists and physicians, EPA delayed approval for registration of Midas, a fumigant pesticide marketed to be a replacement for ozone depleting methyl bromide. Midas contains methyl iodide, a chemical that has been used to induce cancer in laboratory experiments, and chloropicrin, another fumigant pesticide recently responsible for a mass poisoning incident (see below). In a letter signed by 54 leading scientists from across the U.S., including 6 Nobel Laureates, EPA director Stephen Johnson was strongly urged to not allow use of the dangerous chemical. The Associated Press has the story.
130 workers poisoned by chloropicrin: A cloud of the pesticide chloropicrin sent farmworkers to a hospital and affected several students at a boarding school near Yerington, Nevada last week. Chloropicrin is a fumigant pesticide used to sterilize soil before planting. The Reno Gazette reported, “The chemical was considered to be a ‘choking agent’ by the military in the early 20th century and was used in artillery shells by the French during World War I. During that war, it was considered by the U.S. military to be among the top four chemical warfare agents…. David Schooley, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, said chloropicrin ‘is a really nasty chemical.'” Chloropicrin is up for re-registration in the EPA Fumigant Cluster Assessment. Find out how you can tell EPA to phase out fumigants.
PAN North America celebrates 25th! A party honoring Pesticide Action Network’s birthday will be held October 14, 3pm – 7pm, at the San Francisco Ferry Building. You can meet our board, staff and many partners and join in celebrating 25 great years of working toward ecological farming and alternatives to pesticides. There will be local food and wine, a terrific raffle — and best of all, a chance to meet community activists, dedicated supporters and visionaries from movements for social justice, environmental protection and fair and sustainable food systems. Tickets are $35 — click to find out more.
Ban on aerial spraying upheld in Davao City, Philippines: Banana plantation owners petitioned a local court in March to lift a city ordinance banning aerial spraying of pesticides. The Filipino Inquirer reported, “The ordinance was passed… after investigations revealed that the health of residents near banana plantations here deteriorated due to aerial spraying activities.” On September 22, a local judge ruled that the ordinance would be upheld, citing testimony in the plantation owners’ petition: “When confronted with the label of the fungicide Dithane, [a scientist] admitted that his company, Dow AgroSciences European Development Center, has warned the public users of its dangerous effects to human health with a disclaimer of responsibility of the company in case any untoward incident resulting in the adverse effect of said fungicide.” The active ingredient of Dithane is mancozeb, a PAN “Bad Actor” chemical that is a probable carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor, linked to neurological, reproductive and developmental toxicity.
Ecuadorian agroecologists organize against highly toxic pesticides: Andes representative for World Neighbors, Stephen Sherwood, and others write in LEISA Magazine, “Highly toxic pesticides are associated with suicides, nervous system and mental health problems, not just among those who spray the products but also among the entire family… While difficult to demonstrate scientifically, continual exposure to neuro-toxins produces symptoms of depression. Depression often leads people to commit self-harming acts. This has led some medical experts to argue that exposure to highly toxic pesticides may contribute to the climbing number of suicide attempts worldwide.” The authors argue that corporate influence over policymakers has led to the failure of traditional regulatory measures. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has joined the call to eliminate extremely and highly hazardous pesticides altogether. The national agroecology movement in Ecuador is taking action to realize this goal. Read more.
Precautionary principle needed to support healthy children: European researchers report in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health that public health professionals should adopt a precautionary approach–taking preventative action in the face of uncertainty–when considering environmental risks to children’s health. “New methodological and scientific approaches are necessary to make use of scattered, but potentially relevant clinical evidence in providing ‘early warnings’ of health hazards.” Read the abstract. For more information on the Precautionary Principle, visit the Science and Environmental Health Network.
UK scientist presents ethics code: BBC news reports that Sir David King, one of the most esteemed scientists in the UK (and Chief Scientific Advisor to H.M. Government), thinks an ethics code is important “to outline responsibilities and values in order to encourage researchers to reflect on the impact their work would have on wider society.” King gave this example of how the code would work: “Place yourself in the position of a scientist who works for a tobacco company, and the company asks you to counter evidence about the health impacts of tobacco. That scientist would be able to look at the code and say, ‘I can’t do that’.” UK scientists have adopted the code nationally and plans are to launch it internationally next year. Read more from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Canadian pesticides bans are successful: Canada’s national statistical agency issued a new report revealing that average pesticide use has decreased since the wave of pesticide bans across Canada. The report analyzed water and pesticide use across Canada for 2006. Quebec had the biggest drop in residential pesticide use, down to 15% for all households from 30% in 1995. The authors warn, “…pesticides can have negative effects on human and ecological health through the contamination of air, water, soil and food sources. In addition to killing target insects such as chinch bugs, insecticides can also kill other species that are beneficial to lawns and gardens. Insects may also be a source of food for birds, but this food source can be contaminated or reduced by pesticides.” Read the report. The New Brunswick Environmental Network counts 129 municipal bans of cosmetic (landscape) pesticides throughout Canada.
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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