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Daily News Blog

20
Apr

Protect Bees, Trees, You and Me This Earth Day 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, April 20, 2023) This Earth Day (Saturday, April 22, 2023), Beyond Pesticides urges individuals to spread awareness of the toxic pesticides that poison people and the environment and the safe alternatives that are available to safeguard communities and the surrounding environment. On Earth Day, reflecting on the beauty and wonder of the natural world highlights the importance of restoration and preservation to maintain the planet’s intricate web of life. However, the natural world on which life depends is under dire threat as the dependence on toxic chemicals (e.g., pesticides) enables ongoing environmental contamination.

Mechanized and industrial human activity perpetuates ongoing toxic chemical contamination, resulting in massive die-offs of beneficial organisms, increased rates of autoimmune diseases, endocrine disrupting and transgenerational chemical effects, and widespread pollution of our air and waterways. Beyond Pesticides, has the tools needed to increase environmental awareness in your community. Therefore, this Earth Day, Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for the adoption of organic practices and policies that alleviate threats to ecosystems and enhance biodiversity. Michigan State University professor Thomas Dietz, Ph.D. highlights, “Continuing the successes of environmentalism—an integration of science, a concern with human well-being and justice, and a recognition of the need to consider facts, values, and uncertainty—is crucial for dealing with climate and other global environmental challenges.”

Share information about the chemicals entering our communities in the United States and around the world. Pesticides are pervasive in all ecosystems, soils, water (solid and liquid), and air, frequently at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. However, many people do not know what pesticides they encounter and the associated negative effects. It is critically important to make people aware of both the hazards associated with cosmetic lawn care pesticides and the availability of alternative practices and products. Of the 40 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 26 are possible and/or known carcinogens, 24 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 29 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 21 have been linked to birth defects, 24 are neurotoxic, 32 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 33 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Of those same 40 lawn pesticides, 21 are detected in groundwater, 24 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 39 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 33 are toxic to bees, 18 are toxic to mammals, and 28 are toxic to birds. [Check out the Beyond Pesticides Infographic!]

Importantly, Beyond Pesticides’ Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management provides information on the health and environmental effects of nearly 400 registered pesticide active ingredients. It is searchable by chemical name, product name, or health and environmental effects. The database is designed to provide decision and policymakers, practitioners, and activists with easier access to current and historical information on pesticide hazards and safe pest management, drawing on and linking to numerous sources and organizations that include information related to pesticide science, policy, and activism. As decision-makers and the community become educated, let us know of chemicals you think should be added to the Gateway to [email protected]  or the Story Submission page.

Discover how environmental exposure impacts human health. Ninty percent of Americans have at least one pesticide biomarker (including parent compound and breakdown products) in their body. The presence of pesticides in the body has implications for human health, especially during vulnerable life stages like childhood, puberty, pregnancy, and old age. The scientific literature demonstrates pesticides’ long history of severe adverse human health effects (i.e., endocrine disruption, cancer, reproductive/birth abnormalities, neurotoxicity) and effects. Beyond Pesticides capture the scientific literature through the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, documenting elevated rates of chronic diseases among people exposed to pesticides, with increased numbers of studies associated with both specific illnesses and a range of diseases. Currently, the database is searchable for 1,300 scientific references relating to brain and nervous system disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s), birth defects, cancer, endocrine dysfunction, learning and developmental disabilities, and sexual reproductive dysfunction, among others. With consistent updating, the database is a vital resource for individuals, organizations, and other institutions can refer to when discussing pesticide’s impact on human health. As you become educated, consider sending studies you think should be added to the database to [email protected] or the Story Submission page.

How Pesticides Impact Crucial Pollinator Species and Other Wildlife. The globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk. The impacts of pesticides on wildlife are extensive and expose animals in urban, suburban, and rural areas to unnecessary risks. Pesticides can affect animals through direct application or indirectly through drift, secondary poisoning, and runoff. Some animals could encounter direct spraying, while others may consume plants or prey contaminated with pesticides. However, the climate crisis adds another level of concern, especially regarding passive pesticide and microbial exposure from snowmelt. With the increasing rate of biodiversity loss, it is essential for government agencies around the globe to research how previous and ongoing use of pesticides can impact present-day species. Therefore, animals can act as sentinel species for chemical contamination, detecting risk to humans by exhibiting signs of environmental threat sooner than humans in the same environment. Unless more is done to address chemical pollution, humans will also continue to see similar declines in general health, fitness, and well-being. Learn more about how pesticides threaten wildlife and what you can do through Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife program page.

Exposure to pesticides can alter an organism’s behavior, impacting its ability to survive, reproduce, and provide necessary ecosystem services (e.g., pollination, soil fertility, population control, etc.). For instance, the United Nations states that 80 percent of the 115 top global food crops depend on insect pollination, with one-third of all U.S. crops depending on pollinators, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, research finds that many insect populations are in decline, including managed and wild pollinators. Monarchs are near extinction, and commercial beekeepers continue to experience declines that are putting them out of business. The continued loss of mayflies and fireflies disrupts the foundation of many food chains. Additionally, the decline in many bird species has links to insect declines. Since the 1970s, three billion birds have vanished.

However, a decade ago, Earth Day 2013 saw the launch of the BEE Protective campaign spearheaded by Beyond Pesticides and our friends at Center for Food Safety. This campaign continuously generates a tremendous outpouring of support through local action, social media, and information requests to Beyond Pesticides. New backyard beekeepers and gardeners are fostering local pollinator resilience and creating bee-friendly habitat that brings communities together and fuels the campaign to BEE Protective of pollinators. Pesticides pose an imminent threat to all aspects of biodiversity, including pollinators and numerous other beneficial species.

As we appreciate the Earth and all it provides on this Earth Day, we hope you will use our resources, take action, and educate others on the ways toxic chemicals jeopardize the complex natural processes on which we rely. Through the promotion and adoption of alternative systems like organic, we can work with the Earth’s natural systems to produce a safer, healthier world for all living species.

Consider a food system that enhances, not harms, human and environmental health. Multiple studies have found that eating a conventional (nonorganic) diet will increase the presence of pesticides and their metabolites in an individual’s urine, including higher pesticide body burden from eating conventional foods. Additionally, children carry higher levels of the weed killer glyphosate and other toxic pesticides in their body. Many studies show that many common pesticides result in developmental problems in children, such as higher rates of ADHD. There is also strong evidence that organophosphate insecticides, still widely used on fruits and vegetables in the United States, are dropping children’s IQs on a national and global scale, costing billions to the economy in the form of lost brain power.

That’s why switching from a conventional to organic diet will drastically reduce the levels of pesticide in one’s body, with one week on organic food showing a 70% reduction in glyphosate in the body, according to one study. Socioeconomic factors play a large role in access to heathy organic foods, and the ability to provide the sort of environment that allows a child’s brain to flourish. But eating organic should not be a choice to make – all food should be grown with high quality standards that reject the use of brain-damaging pesticides and protect the wider environment. 

Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database is designed to help explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption. Those foods that are often referenced as “clean” commodities may be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife, while not all showing up at detectable or elevated levels on our food. Database users select an individual crop that will bring up a page that lists all of the pesticides that have registered tolerance (legal residue) allowances on that specific crop, from which we extrapolate use patterns. The database lists the human health (acute, and chronic effects) and environmental (surface water contaminant, ground water contaminant, wildlife poison, bee poison, long-range transport) effects linked to each pesticide.

Join Beyond Pesticides as the organization continues to push for that reality. See Beyond Pesticides’ Resources and sign up for our Action of the Week and Weekly News Update.

With Earth Day coming up, get ready to grow your spring garden the organic way by Springing Into Action, pledge to eliminate toxic pesticide use by signing the Ladybug Love Pledge and follow up with other actions that will make a difference.

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