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Bayer Fined $5.6 Million for 2008 Factory Explosion

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2015) Seven years after an explosion that killed two factory workers in Institute, West Virginia, Bayer CropScience is facing federal fines. Bayer is the manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides that are linked to severe decline in pollinator populations. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $5.6 million settlement with Bayer to resolve the 2008 violation of federal chemical  accident prevention laws. As a result, Bayer must commit to spending $4.23 million to improve emergency preparedness and institute response  measures to protect the Kanawha River, pay a $975,000 penalty, and spend approximately $452,000 to implement a series of reforms to improve safety at chemical storage facilities across the United States. On August 28, 2008, a pesticide waste tank exploded inside the Bayer plant, instantly killing one worker and sending another to the hospital where he would eventually die. Although Bayer officials assure the public that the explosion was secure and released no chemicals, residents living near the plant complained of air pollution exposure and related illnesses. The tank contained waste products from thiodicarb, including methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), hexane, methomyl, and dimethyl disulfide, all of which are acutely toxic […]

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Pesticide Manufacturer DuPont Labeled “Severe” Safety Violator by OSHA

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2015) Last November, a worker at a DuPont chemical plant in La Porte, Texas was overcome when a supply line released more than 20,000 lbs. of methyl mercaptan, a toxic chemical precursor for pesticides produced at the plant. Three co-workers rushed to attempt a rescue, but all four were fatally asphyxiated by the toxic gas, according to an investigation from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Now, after a lengthy investigation, OSHA is placing DuPont on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program,  which focuses agency resources on inspecting employers who have “demonstrated indifference to their OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Act] obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.” Earlier this year, OSHA’s initial investigation into the La Porte plant incident resulted in eleven citations, a $99,000 fine, and a long list of safety upgrades required to be taken by the company. “Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, PhD, MPH. “Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system […]

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EPA at Odds with Scientists on Endocrine System Effects of Weedkillers Atrazine and 2,4-D

Monday, July 6th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2015) With the release of its  Tier 1 screening results  for the first 52 pesticide chemicals (active and inert ingredients) evaluated under  the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at odds with a large body of scientific evidence worldwide that identifies many of these chemicals, most notably the herbicides  2,4-D  and  atrazine,  as interacting with the endocrine system or acting as endocrine disruptors. Independent scientific data has shown these chemicals to interfere with the hormone system. EPA’s EDSP is a multi-step process used to ensure that exposure to chemicals does not result in adverse human health and environmental effects that canoccur from the disruption of hormones. The two-tiered screening and testing system requires that EPA identify which chemicals are able to interact with the endocrine system, specifically with three hormonal pathways — estrogen, androgen, and thyroid — in Tier 1. Tier 2 is designed to go one step further, requiring EPA to determine endocrine effects across taxa (e.g. mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates) as well as potential effects on non-endocrine systems (e.g. neurological, immunological, hepatic, and renal).  According to EPA, Tier 1 screening data are the best way to determine […]

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Aerial Photos Show “Factory Farms” Certified Organic in Violation of Law

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, December 22, 2014) Stunning aerial photographs of certified  organic farms taken in an investigation launched by The Cornucopia Institute reveal industrial-scale operations housing thousands of animals in cramped conditions with no access to the outdoors. Access to pasture for ruminants like dairy cows is required under National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, and all livestock certified organic must have a means of reaching the outdoors year-round. “The vast majority of these massive, industrial-scale facilities, some managing 10,000-20,000 head of cattle, and upwards of 1 million laying hens, had 100% of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, which has filed a legal complaint against 14 livestock operations it alleges are illegally marketing themselves as organic. It is important to note that not all organic farms house their animals in conditions seen in the aerial photographs. “Many of our dairy farmer-members have animals, they truly care for, that have names, not numbers,” Kastel explained. However, environmental and consumer groups have been sounding an alarm over the increased dependency many larger industry-owned farms have developed  on synthetic inputs temporarily allowed in organic production. These practices undermine the values […]

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Leak at DuPont Chemical Plant Leads to Death of Four Workers

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2014) Four workers died this past weekend when the valve on a container of methyl mercaptan, a compound used in the production of insecticides, fungicides, and plastics, malfunctioned at a La Porte, Texas chemical plant owned by DuPont. The chemical, which has a strong odor of rotten eggs, spread throughout the Houston metropolitan area, causing concern for people up to 40 miles away. This incident is the latest in a string of chemical disasters for DuPont and across the United States. A 2011 U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation determined that “a series of preventable safety shortcomings” led to three accidents over a 33-hour period that resulted in the death of one worker from phosgene gas exposure at a DuPont plant in Belle, West Virginia. CSB, an independent federal agency tasked with investigating chemical accidents, has begun a probe into the recent incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will conduct a separate investigation. In 2013, in the wake of an explosion at a chemical plant in West, Texas that claimed the lives of 15 people and injured hundreds more, President Obama signed an Executive Order entitled Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, in an […]

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Report Finds Numerous Schools Near Toxic Pesticide Fields

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2014) A new report from the California Department of Public Health finds 36 percent of public schools in the state have pesticides of public health concern applied within a quarter mile of the school. Persistent and toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos, methyl bromide, and malathion are among the pesticides found to be applied near schools. The report also finds that Latino children are also more likely to attend schools near areas with the highest use of pesticides of concern. The report, “Agricultural Pesticide Use near Public Schools In California,” released this month, looked at 2,511 schools in the 15 California counties with the highest overall use of farm pesticides in California for 2010, and finds that counties in the southern part of the Central Valley had the most schools near farms where pesticides were applied. Fresno County had the highest number of schools —131 — with pesticides applied nearby. Five percent of schools are within a quarter mile of where the highest volumes of pesticides are used: 2,635—28,979 pounds of active ingredient. Latino children are 46 percent more likely than white children to attend schools where pesticides of concern were applied nearby. The report’s findings are being […]

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Exposure to Atrazine in Combination with Fungus Increases Mortality of Frogs

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

(Beyond Pesticides, October 29, 2013) Early-life exposure to the herbicide atrazine makes frogs more susceptible to death from chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), a fungal disease implicated in amphibian declines across the globe. The research, Early-life exposure to a herbicide has enduring effects on pathogen-induced mortality, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and led by University of South Florida (USF) biologist Jason Rohr, Ph.D, provides critical information for scientists hoping to stem the global demise of amphibian populations. “Understanding how stressors cause enduring health effects is important because these stressors might then be avoided or mitigated during formative developmental stages to prevent lasting increases in disease susceptibility,” Dr. Rohr explains. Researchers exposed tadpoles to atrazine at levels found in the environment for a period of  six days during the animal’s development, in combination with exposure to chytrid fungus (linked to worldwide amphibian decline), resulted in increased mortality 46 days later. According to the study, “[E]arly-life exposure to atrazine altered growth and development, which resulted in exposure to chytrid at more susceptible developmental stages and sizes, and reduced tolerance of infection, elevating mortality risk at an equivalent fungal burden to frogs unexposed to atrazine. Moreover, there was no evidence of […]

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Group Plans to Sue Agencies over Threatened Amphibian

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2010)The Center for Biological Diversity notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) December 15 of its intent to sue the agencies for failing to study and act on threats posed by more than 60 pesticides to the threatened California red-legged frog. A 2006 legal settlement secured by the Center required the EPA to assess the impacts of pesticides on the frog, then consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Endangered Species Act to address those impacts, by 2009. The completed assessments were submitted to the Wildlife Service between March 2007 and October 2009. Although EPA determined that 64 registered pesticides are likely to harm the frogs, the Service has not completed any consultations or adopted protective measures. “The EPA acknowledges that scores of pesticides may be dangerous to California’s rare red-legged frogs, but nothing’s been done about it,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center. “This three-year delay violates the Endangered Species Act and jeopardizes the future of the largest native frog in California.” Historically abundant throughout California, red-legged frogs have declined in numbers over 90 percent and have disappeared from 70 percent […]

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Blueberry Farmers’ Suit Against Pesticide Maker Moves Ahead

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

(Beyond Pesticides, August 17, 2010) A federal appeals court has revived the fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims by blueberry farmers in New Jersey, who say that a pesticide made by Novartis Crop Protection, Inc. reacted badly with fungicides and ruined their crops. Declaring that the lower court improperly dismissed the farmers’ state law claims as preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the federal court concluded that farmers were not suing over the alleged flaws in the warning label-which is federally regulated -rather were complaining about misrepresentations in Novartis’ marketing brochure. The case, Indian Brand Farms Inc. v. Novartis Crop Protection Inc. was filed in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Jersey. Blueberry farmers said Novartis should have warned them that a new version of its pesticide, including diazinon as the active ingredient, also included a surfactant that reacts badly with fungicides. The promotional brochure failed to mention this reaction and when farmers mixed the diazinon pesticide with the fungicides Captan and Captec, it caused phytotoxic damage, including blotches, depressions and spots, and in some cases killed their plants. It was not clear to the appeals court that the practice of combining pesticides with […]

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Report Finds Toxic Pesticide Combustion in Grass Seed Production

Monday, March 30th, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, march 30, 2009) The burning of grass seed fields on more than 38,000 acres in Oregon has been a threat to public health for decades.

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EPA Seeks Public Comment on Possible Drinking Water Contaminants

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2008) EPA is seeking public comments on a proposed list of 104 possible drinking water contaminants that may need to be regulated in the future to ensure the continued protection of drinking water. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA includes on the draft Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) currently unregulated contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems and which may require regulation. This draft CCL, which is the third such listing, lists 93 chemical contaminants or groups and 11 microbes, and describes the process and basis for selecting these contaminants.“EPA is casting a broader scientific net for potential regulation of chemicals and microbes in drinking water,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “EPA’s proposed list of priority contaminants will advance sound science and public health by targeting research on certain chemicals and microbes and informing regulators on how best to reduce risk.” The CCL process was established by the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act as a mechanism to determine if new regulations are needed to protect drinking water. Under this process EPA conducted extensive research into the occurrence and health effects of the listed contaminants before […]

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Show Your Love with an Organic, Fair Trade Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2008) Whether you love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is less than ten days away. Millions of flowers and chocolates will soon be bought and given to loved ones. Unfortunately, these gifts come at a cost much higher than the one on the price tag. Conventional roses and chocolate sold in the United States are produced using toxic pesticides, with little regard for the workers or the environment.The United States imports about 70 percent of its flowers from foreign countries, mostly from Ecuador and Columbia. Roses analyzed in the past few years were found to contain a myriad of harmful pesticides that ranged from organophosphates such as Dimethoate, carbamate- Aldicarb, to organochlorines like Captan, Bravo, Tedion, Iprodione and Procymidone. Organophosphates are considered to be the most likely pesticide to cause an acute poisoning. They are a highly toxic class of pesticides that affect the central nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Symptoms of exposure include: numbness, tingling sensations, headache, dizziness, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, incoordination, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, slow heartbeat, unconsciousness, incontinence, convulsions and fatality. Some organophosphates have been linked to birth defects and cancer. Organochlorines are known estrogenic pesticides and have been linked […]

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