PANNA: EPA Scientists Fight Library Closures, New Evidence of DDT health impacts, An Alternative to Methyl Bromide, and more&#82



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EPA Scientists Fight Library Closures, New Evidence of DDT health impacts, An Alternative to Methyl Bromide, and more…

July 6, 2006

Bush slashes EPA libraries budget: Over 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists, engineers, and other technical specialists (half the Agency’s staff) have asked Congress to block a cut of $2 million—80% of EPA’s library budget—proposed by the Bush administration. The cut would close the agency’s network of technical research libraries to the public. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), “Without waiting for Congress to act, EPA has begun shuttering libraries, closing access to collections and reassigning staff,” PEER reports. EPA Director Stephen Johnson refused to consider staff objections. “The public and academic researchers may lose any access to EPA library materials as services to the public are being axed and there are no plans to maintain the inter-library loan process…. Eliminating library access is an absolutely awful way to run an agency devoted to public and environmental health,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a June 29 letter published by PEER.

EPA bows to pesticide producer: “Dichlorvos, also known as DDVP, is related to a World War II-era nerve gas and kills by emitting a vapor that attacks an insect’s nervous system. The problem, scientists say, is that it can poison humans. Harmful effects range from headaches, dizziness and flu-like symptoms in adults to possible brain damage in babies and children. Exposure to large amounts can cause death,” reports the Gannett News Service. DDVP, a chemical on the PAN Bad Actor list, is commonly used for “no-pest” strips and flea collars. The EPA is considering a request from Amvac, the chemical’s manufacturer, to continue to allow home use as long as warning labels are strengthened and “no-pest” strips are made smaller. Amvac also claims that exposure from flea collars is safe when their label directions are followed. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the Natural Resource Defense Council, says that people who have previously used products such as the Alco No-Pest Strip may not read a new label. “This is a situation where people are risking potential permanent harm to their children and pets, and what’s the gain?” Sass said. “There are plenty of safe alternatives. This is old chemistry that we don’t need anymore.” The NRDC has petitioned AMVAC to take DDVP off the market immediately. Watch for a PAN Action Alert this summer.

DDT: A new study of infants born to California farmworkers reveals evidence of neurological harm from DDT exposure. Babies of women exposed to the insecticide have delays in neurological development, according to the study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley. Scientists measured levels of various pesticides in 360 pregnant women who recently emigrated from Mexico to the Salinas Valley, then tested the mental and motor skills of their U.S.-born infants and toddlers. The mental tests measure the children’s ability to learn and think, including memory and problem-solving skills. For every tenfold rise in DDT exposure, the children’s scores on mental tests dropped 2 to 3 points. Their motor skills were also reduced. Ninety percent of the participants in this study were born in Mexico, where DDT was used to control malaria until its ban in 2000. In a Los Angeles Times article the study’s authors caution that “the benefit of using DDT to control malaria should be balanced carefully against the potential risk to children’s neurodevelopment. Whenever possible, alternative antimalarial controls should be considered, especially in areas where pregnant women and children may be exposed.” Read the study abstract in the July issue of the medical journal, Pediatrics.

Alternative to methyl bromide for post-harvest pest control: A group of scientists at the University of California, Davis have developed a device to kill pests with carbon dioxide, a vacuum pump and a little alcohol. The new system is called metabolic stress disinfection and disinfestation, or MSDD. The developers suggest that: “If developed commercially, it can be a single alternative to a broad spectrum of post-harvest pesticides for disinfection and a likely alternative to methyl bromide fumigation or to irradiation for the post-harvest control of arthropods.” Methyl bromide has been commonly used for fumigating grains and other commodities for storage, export and import, but is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Methyl iodide is an extremely harmful chemical that was proposed to replace methyl bromide, but was rejected for registration for use in food production this year by the US EPA. The scientists’ study is detailed in the Journal of Food Science and Agriculture. Read the abstract.

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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