(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2009) Following a recent recommendation by the international Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to take “global action” to address health and environmental impacts, a broad coalition of 42 environmental, health, labor, and farming groups sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging EPA to finally take action to ban the antiquated insecticide.
Acute poisoning from endosulfan can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and even death. Studies have linked endosulfan to smaller testicles, lower sperm production, an increase in the risk of miscarriages and autism. Endosulfan is a potent environmental pollutant and is especially toxic to fish and other aquatic life. It also affects birds, bees, earthworms, and other beneficial insects. Endosulfan travels such long distances that it has been found in Sierra Nevada lakes and on Mt. Everest. This persistent pesticide can also migrate to the Poles on wind and ocean currents where Arctic communities have documented contamination.
“It’s time for the U.S. to step up to the plate and get rid of endosulfan,” notes Karl Tupper, Ph.D., staff scientist with Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). “EPA’s review of endosulfan has been dragging on for years. Since 2006 they’ve invited some 270 days of public comment on the issue. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is abandoning this old-fashioned poison. EPA action is long overdue.”
The letter from the coalition comes on the heels of the recent conclusion of scientific experts at the Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) that endosulfan “is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted.”
The POPRC is the panel that evaluates chemicals for listing in the Stockholm Convention, a United Nations treaty that bans dangerous chemicals known as POPs including PCBs, dioxins, and many pesticides. Endosulfan is being considered for addition to the treaty due to the fact that it persists in the environment, is toxic, is transported long distances on wind and water currents, and builds up in the living tissue of animals, including humans.
“Endosulfan is one of the persistent pesticides that threatens the safety of traditional foods and health of Arctic peoples,” says Pamela Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “EPA has a moral obligation to protect the health of Indigenous communities of the north.” Endosulfan has become one of the most abundant pesticides in the Arctic air and is found in wildlife including fish, seals, and beluga whales. Long-term monitoring reveals that levels are not declining in the Arctic and will likely increase as a result of climate warming if actions are not taken to eliminate its use.
“As part of the global community, the U.S. has responsibility to eliminate the use of POPs that travel beyond its borders,” adds Joe DiGangi, Environmental Health Fund. “The consensus of the scientific committee means endosulfan cannot be used safely by any country. It’s time for the US to ban it.”
Groups signing the letter include Pesticide Action Network North America, Beyond Pesticides, Environmental Health Fund, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Farmworker Justice, and the United Farm Workers.