A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Pesticides at Florida school; Breast cancer study; Pesticide bans promoted in Kansas, Ontario and Oregon; more…
April 19, 2007
PAN’s analysis supports Florida students’ air monitoring. Last December, two Florida high school students used a PAN “Drift Catcher” to sample the air at an elementary school located next to a cabbage field. When tests revealed the presence of several toxic pesticides, school officials initially dismissed the students’ research. MACTEC, a consulting firm, was hired to re-test the air. After MACTEC’s report came back negative, Principal Brian McElhone declared the school was “a safe learning environment.” PAN and the St. Augustine Environmental Youth Council came to the students’ defense with an editorial in the St. Augustine Record, observing that MACTEC’s tests were “designed to detect only extremely high levels of pesticides” and their conclusions were based on risks posed to adults, not children. PAN’s Dr. Susan Kegley also pointed out that, while “approximately 65 pesticide active ingredients are legally allowed to be used on cabbage, the school sampled for only three.” PAN followed up on April 13 by releasing its own full Technical Report on the students’ tests. A shorter Summary Results and Recommendations report and executive summary are also available online.
Oregon bill for pesticide buffer zones at schools. Working with the Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA), Oregon Senator Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) introduced Senate Bill 20 to ban the application of pesticides within five miles of schools during the academic year (September 1 to June 15). Power-driven sprayers would be banned within a mile of schools and manual applications would be banned within a half-mile. “The Oregon Pesticide Analysis Response Center has received reports of children and school staff being sickened by drift,” says OTA Director Lisa Arkin, “Protection zones can help eliminate risk.” The bill has pleased parents but infuriated farmers who warned state legislators that SB 20 would affect 79 percent of the orchards in Hood River County. Even fellow Democrat Rick Metsger criticized Walker’s bill as “unworkable” for Oregon agriculture. Oregon residents are urged to email legislators to support the bill.
Lawn chemicals, breast cancers linked. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology compared 1,508 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer and 1,556 women without breast cancer. The Long Island, New York women, were questioned about their activities during 1996-1997, and found that “the use of lawn and garden pesticides was associated with an approximate 40% increased risk in developing breast cancer.” The dose was not a determinant since any exposure to the pesticides seemed to increase the risk of developing cancer. The researchers have called for “use of non-chemical alternatives for pest control.”
Greens promote extending Ontario pesticide ban to golf courses. Quebec is one of 127 Canadian cities that have restricted use of pesticides on lawns and in public spaces. In Ontario, four million residents in 19 communities (36% of the city’s population) have already banned the use of lawn chemicals. Ontario’s Green Party is teeing up to extend the ban to cover golf courses throughout the province. On average, golf courses apply 5kg of pesticides per acre, more than three times the average intensity used in agriculture. The pesticides include the herbicide 2,4-D (FrontlineTM), the fungicide chlorothalonil (both suspected human carcinogens) and the acutely toxic organophosphate insecticide, chlorpyrifos. A recent municipal study found that golf course run-off has severely contaminated Ontario’s Rideau River.
Murder in Mexico. On April 11, Santiago Rafael Cruz, the manager for the Monterrey office of Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), was found murdered. The daily El Universal reported that Cruz “was apparently beaten to death before dawn Monday morning by an intruder” to the office. FLOC founder Baldemar Velásquez noted that FLOC’s campaign to win farmworkers’ rights has drawn the wrath of “crooked people… so we’ve had continued attacks on our officers here in Mexico, and harassment of our staff.” Cruz previously worked for FLOC in Ohio and U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) is now pressing Mexican authorities for an investigation. Contributions to Cruz’ family may be sent to the Santiago Tragedy Fund c/o FLOC, 1221 Broadway St., Toledo, OH 43609.
Pesticide-free parks in Kansas. For the past two years, officials in Lawrence, Kansas have been maintaining the city’s Watson Park without using chemicals to test the feasibility of a citywide ban on pesticide use in parks. Thirty-three of Lawrence’s 42 city parks are already pesticide-free and residents have appealed to city commissioners to ban pesticides from the other 18 sites.
EPA decides not to regulate certain pesticides in drinking water. On April 12, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its “preliminary determination not to regulate 11 contaminants” found in drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to update its list of regulated contaminants every five years. More than 90 contaminants are currently regulated and, as of 2005, 51 more substances were under consideration for addition to the list. The contaminants EPA has chosen not to list include: DDE (a breakdown product of DDT), Telone (a soil fumigant), EPTC (an herbicide), Fonofos (an insecticide), Terbacil (an herbicide), and 2,6-diinitrotoluene (a chemical found in explosives, ammunition, dyes and polyurethane foams). The EPA is still considering whether to list two other contaminants — perchlorate (a by-product of rocket fuel) and MTBE (a toxic ingredient in formulated gasoline).
Citizens uncover dioxin hot-spot. In 1968, the Simpson Timber Company stopped using pentachlorophenol (a dioxin-laced wood preservative) at its waterfront plywood mill in Eureka, California. In 2003, after a consulting firm hired by Simpson assured the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board that all the contaminated soil had been removed, Simpson demanded to be relieved of any further clean-up responsibility. But a recent grassroots study by Humboldt Baykeeper and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics revealed that the site’s soil and nearby drainage ditches still contain dioxin “at levels tens of thousands of times higher than the EPA considers safe.” Humboldt Baykeeper’s Pete Nichols called the mill “a dioxin hot-spot” that has poisoned Humboldt Bay. Simpson Timber subsequently confirmed these new findings. The two watchdog groups have sued Simpson to force a clean-up.
Organic farmers promote business benefits to Congress. Organic produce growers, beef producers, grain millers and others testified before Congress this week that industrialized farming has hurt communities and asked that the Farm Bill support the fast growing and successful family businesses that are producing organic foods. The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
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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