A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Petition for fumigant safety; Endosulfan fatality; EPA chief shuns community; Rural women’s empowerment; and more…
August 16, 2007
Fumigant metam sodium poisons workers: A cloud of metam sodium drifted over two Kern County, California businesses, sickening eleven workers with vomiting and dizziness on August 9th. Metam sodium is a PAN “Bad Actor” acutely toxic fumigant pesticide, a carcinogen, and linked to developmental problems. It is being reviewed by both the U.S. EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Public health and environmental protection advocates say fumigants contribute to smog and pose such high risk of respiratory illness that they should be phased out as quickly as possible. Read more.
PANNA is gathering public comments to submit to EPA to demand they protect people from fumigant pesticides: Click here to take action.
Colombian farmer dies, 154 others sickened by endosulfan: Although banned in Colombia since 2001, the organochlorine pesticide endosulfan recently killed one farmer and sickened dozens more working on coffee and banana crops in Colombia’s central western province of Quindio. According to the Xinhua News Agency, “the farmers have not been using masks and other protective equipment while using the lethal pesticide.” Lack of enforcement of pesticide regulations results in major public health problems in many countries, and protective equipment is frequently not available, is not usable due to high temperatures, or is insufficient even if used. In other endosulfan-related news, a recent California Department of Public Health study shows higher incidences of autism in areas where endosulfan and difocol were applied.
Community shut out of Fresno meeting with EPA Administrator Johnson: Even though Stephen Johnson’s staff have been meeting with San Joaquin Valley public health and environmental advocates about the fate of fumigant pesticide regulations, the community members were kept out of a closed door meeting with Johnson, growers, politicians and others. The Fresno area has one of the highest air pollution conditions in the U.S. with corresponding rates of respiratory illness associated with volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), including fumigant pesticides. The Fresno Bee reported on the story, and commented in an editorial that reporters were also shut out of the meeting convened by Republican Representative George Radanovich. Meanwhile, Florida farmworkers spoke with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Assistant Administrator Jim Gulliford on the serious hazards posed by methyl bromide exposure while working in the field. Earlier in the afternoon, Mr. Gulliford heard growers’ support continued use of methyl bromide and other fumigants.
Community loses court order to prevent fumigant contamination: The Moss Landing Heights neighborhood near Monterey, California, lost its court injunction to stop a farmer from applying methyl bromide, slated for international phase-out because it is a potent ozone depletor. Methyl bromide is also extremely toxic, linked to Parkinson’s Disease, other neurological problems and respiratory illness. The farmer is also applying two other fumigants: Telone, a carcinogen and ground water contaminant, and chloropicrin which is acutely toxic. “‘This decision destroyed the community,’ said Jonathan Gettleman, an attorney representing the residents of the subdivision. “Will they feel safe in their own homes?'” The story is in the Salinas Californian.
Former U.S. forestry employee alleges firing over pesticide abuse: Doug Parker worked as pesticide coordinator and assistant director of forestry health for the U.S Forest Service’s Southwestern Region. After almost 40 years with the Service, Parker filed suit in federal court last month charging the agency with firing him for trying to adhere to rules for pesticide use. According to Associated Press, “He was concerned that not following agency policies or laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act — which serves as the basis for federal management of public lands — could have consequences for public safety and the environment.” The lawsuits states: “Responsible management officials knew and were aware that Mr. Parker considered the manner in which pesticide coordination was being carried out by others to be ethically, legally and environmentally unsound.” The Forest Service is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rural women meet to demand rights: Women from all over rural Asia met in the Philippines recently to discuss their rights to food sovereignty, economic empowerment, and a healthy environment. The Asian Rural Women’s Regional Consultation was a landmark meeting organized by many groups, including TENAGANITA/Malaysia, Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, and organizations from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal. In their press statement they write, “We shared the harsh realities of rural women’s lives made more difficult by increasing globalization. . . . We demand land for women and access to productive resources such as seeds, water, and forest and pasture lands. We call for the elimination of pesticides, genetically engineered seeds and patents on life and the promotion of organic and biodiversity based ecological agriculture.” In closing, the groups invited all peoples’ movements to join them at the Rural Women’s Conference for Rights, Empowerment and Liberation to be held in Chennai, India in March 2008.
Old fashioned farming makes good wine: Copying “Mother Nature’s system” is how Colorado farmer Lance Hansen describes practices he uses to make wine so popular that his supply sells out quickly each year. Hansen practices organic biodynamic farming. Popularized by Rudolf Steiner during the 1920’s, the approach is described by the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association as, “…a method for healing the plant world, the animal world, and the human being by creating health and balance in the soil and the surrounding environment. It is based on the premise that the more self-sufficient a farm is, the healthier it will be.” The approach incorporates some Indigenous farming concepts. The Montrose Press reports that the wine tastes good, too. “The wine is outstanding,” Trevor Hertrich of The Liquor Store in Montrose said. “It’s one of the few wines I’ve had that’s made in Colorado and really shows…a sense of place. They’re kind of taking what the land is giving them and bottling it.”
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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