Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Persistent Pesticides Exported from U.S. Ports
The United States and other industrialized countries produce or export few if any of the organochlorine pesticides on the short list of chemicals targeted by the treaty on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) currently being negotiated. However, other pesticides that have been designated as persistent bioaccumlative toxic chemicals (PBTs) are being shipped in large quantities from U.S. ports to countries around the world.
The Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE) recently analyzed U.S. Customs shipping records, and found that PBTs were exported from U.S. ports at the rate of at least 16 tons per day in 1998. Since 1991, FASE has been documenting the extent of trade in banned and other hazardous pesticides by analyzing transcripts of U.S. Customs shipping records.
To do the analysis, FASE looked to see whether government regulatory agencies in the U.S. or elsewhere had identified persistent pesticides of concern. A preliminary investigation found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had developed proposed lists of PBTs in the context of two U.S. statutes, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Emergency Planning Community Right-to-Know Act-which created the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).
The Washington State Department of Ecology has also published a list of PBTs using data compiled by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy (Canada). In addition, the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council has published a PBT list.
By comparing the compounds on these lists to data from U.S. Customs shipping records for the years 1994-1998, FASE determined that 10 pesticides that were designated persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic on one or more of these lists had been exported from U.S. ports. The total quantity increased from almost 2.3 million pounds in 1994 to nearly 12 million pounds in 1998.
Beginning in 1995, the herbicide pendimethalin, which appears on EPA’s TRI list, accounts for the majority of shipments. Although the acute toxicity of pendamethalin is low, it is classified by EPA as a possible human carcinogen, and has been reported to have endocrine disrupting effects.
According to Customs records, pendimethalin shipments to Argentina averaged more than one million pounds per year between 1994 and 1998. Countries receiving more than a million pounds total during this period include Brazil (3.3 million), Japan (2 million), Taiwan (2.2 million), Australia (1.9 million), the Netherlands (1.7 million), Colombia (1.6 million), the Korean Republic (1.6 million) and India (1.4 million).
The highly toxic organochlorine pesticide endosulfan has been identified as a PBT by both the EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology. Principal destinations of endosulfan shipments from U.S. ports during the years 1994 to 1998 include Venezuela (353,453 pounds), Pakistan (204,248 pounds), Guatemala (133,221 pounds) and Brazil (120,528 pounds).
The organochlorine pesticide lindane has been restricted or banned in eight countries (Australia, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Saint Lucia) because of “persistency in the environment, bioaccumulation in the food chain and toxicity to humans, aquatic and terrestrial species.” According to U.S. Customs records, lindane was exported to Brazil at an average rate of nearly one ton per week between 1994 and 1998. The average rate of export to Hong Kong was 0.6 tons per week.
“Public information on the production and trade of persistent chemicals is vital,” said Carl Smith, Senior Editor at FASE. “If you’re attempting to assess risk, it’s essential to know how much a chemical is being used, and where. Public access to this kind of information will help non-governmental researchers and public interest groups support the goals of the POPs treaty.”
Source: “Beyond POPs: Persistent Pesticides Exported from U.S. Ports,” Global Pesticide Campaigner, December 1999. (The Global Pesticide Campaigner is published every four months and is available from PAN North America. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Contact: Carl Smith, Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE); 4801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90037; phone (323) 937-9911; email email@example.com.