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Daily News Blog

26
May

Neurotoxic Pesticides Disrupt Gut Function Linked to Parkinson’s Disease Development

(Beyond Pesticides, May 26, 2022) A study published in The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology finds environmental exposure to neurotoxic pesticides increases Parkinson’s Disease (PD) risk through gastrointestinal (GI) disruption. Research finds exposure to chemical toxicants, like pesticides, can cause neurotoxic effects or exacerbate preexisting chemical damage to the nervous system. Although the mechanism by which pesticides induce disease development remains unclear, this study suggests environmental pesticide exposure disrupts GI cells responsible for supporting the autonomic nervous system. Enteric glial cells (EGCs) are GI cells that play a critical role in the functional changes that accompany GI dysfunction, as this dysfunction is one of the earliest symptoms indicating the onset of PD.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, with at least one million Americans living with PD and about 50,000 new diagnoses each year. The disease affects 50% more men than women, and individuals with PD have a variety of symptoms, including loss of muscle control and trembling, anxiety and depression, constipation and urinary difficulties, dementia, and sleep disturbances. Identifying early biomarkers of PD, such as pesticide-mediated toxicity on GI cells, is crucially important as symptoms intensify overtime, with no current cure for this fatal disease. While only 10 to 15 percent of PD incidents are genetic, PD is quickly becoming the fastest-growing brain disease due to nongenetic factors. Therefore, research like this highlights the need to examine alternate risk factors for disease development, especially if disease triggers are overwhelmingly nonhereditary. The study notes, “Overall, our study demonstrates that mitochondrial dysfunction in EGCs can induce autophagic dysregulation and a proinflammatory response, thereby affecting gut motility.”

The researchers investigated how EGCs respond to environmental pesticide exposure using cellular and animal models to understand the mechanisms driving gastrointestinal abnormalities. The pesticides implicated in the study include rotenone and tebufenpyrad. Both pesticides induce cell death via mitochondrial dysfunction among neurotransmitters that release, activate, or involve dopamine, also known as dopaminergic cell damage. Mitochondrial stress impairs molecular gradient function in EGCs, increasing inflammation of these cells consistent with GI cellular inflammation from neurotoxic pesticide exposure. Pesticide-induced mitochondrial dysfunction adversely affects smooth muscle motion and kinetic energy of the enteric nervous system (ENS) in the GI tract.

The gut, also known as the “second brain,” share similar structural and chemical parallels to the brain. The microbiota in the gut plays a crucial role in lifelong digestion, immune and central nervous system regulation, as well as other bodily functions. Through the gut biome, pesticide exposure can enhance or exacerbate the adverse effects of additional environmental toxicants on the body. Since the gut microbiome shapes metabolism, it can mediate some toxic effects of environmental chemicals. However, with prolonged exposure to various environmental contaminants, critical chemical-induced changes may occur in the gut microbes, influencing adverse health outcomes. The impacts of pesticides on the human gut microbiome represent another pesticide assault on human health. Because the biome harbors between 10 and 100 trillion symbiotic microbes, pesticide exposure has effects on some of those bacteria. The human gastrointestinal tract and its digestive processes (aka, the “gut”) mediate the function of several systems. Dysfunction of the gut microbiome is associated with a host of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as allergies, autism, depression, obesity, and other disorders or syndromes.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when there is damage to the dopaminergic nerve cells (i.e., those activated by or sensitive to dopamine) in the brain responsible for dopamine production, one of the primary neurotransmitters mediating motor function. Although the cause of dopaminergic cell damage remains unknown, evidence suggests that pesticide exposure, especially chronic exposure, may be the culprit. Several studies identify various pesticides involved in the pathology of PD, including insecticides, rotenone and chlorpyrifos, and herbicides 2,4-Dglyphosate, and paraquat. Literature comprehensively documents the neurotoxic properties of paraquat and rotenone as laboratory experiments reproduce features of Parkinson’s in the brain of animals. A Washington State University study determined that residents living near areas treated with glyphosate—the most widely used herbicides in the U.S.—are one-third more likely to die prematurely from Parkinson’s disease. In the Louisiana State University study, exposure to 2,4-D, chlorpyrifos, and paraquat from pasture land, forestry, or woodland operations are prominent risk factors for PD, with the highest risk in areas where chemicals quickly percolate into drinking water sources. Overall, research finds exposure to pesticides increases the risk of developing PD from 33 percent to 80 percent, with some pesticides prompting a higher risk than others. Another study finds a 2.5-fold increase in PD risk among users of each chemical compared to non-users.

Occupational pesticide exposure poses a unique risk through direct handling and application. A 2017 study finds that occupational use of pesticides (i.e., fungicides, herbicides, or insecticides) increases PD risk by 110 to 211 percent. Even more concerning is that some personal protection equipment (PPE) may not adequately protect workers from chemical exposure during application. However, indirect nonoccupational exposure to pesticides can also increase the risk of PD. For instance, 90 percent of Americans have at least one pesticide compound in their body, primarily stemming from dietary exposure, like food and drinking water. These compounds have a global distribution, with evaporation and precipitation facilitating long-range atmospheric transport, deposition, and bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in the environment. Thus, exposure to these toxicants can cause several adverse environmental and biological health effects. With the increasing ubiquity of pesticides, current measures safeguarding against pesticide use must adequately detect and assess total chemical contaminants.

This study is the first to demonstrate that exposure to environmental neurotoxic pesticides impairs mitochondrial transformation of energy in living organisms, causing inflammation in EGCs. The mitochondrial dysfunction and inflammatory events induce gut dysfunction. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a significant aspect of PD pathology. Research demonstrates acute and chronic exposure to pesticides, like rotenone, organophosphates, and organochlorines, can inhibit the mitochondrial brain function responsible for cell regeneration and induce oxidative stress. Although many countries, including Europe and Canada, ban the use of chemicals like rotenone and organochlorines due to concerns about links to Parkinson’s, among other illnesses, the U.S. merely restricts use as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits the use of rotenone to kill invasive fish species. Considering research demonstrates that a multitude of pesticides presenting a risk of developing PD belong to various pesticide classes and have a differing mode of action, advocates say that government officials must evaluate all health effects related to chemical exposure equally regardless of chemical composition. The study concludes, “Our findings have major implications in understanding the GI-related pathogenesis and progression of environmentally linked PD.”

This study adds to the large body of scientific studies strongly implicating pesticide’s involvement in Parkinson’s disease development. However, indirect health effects from pesticide exposure are not a new phenomenon as pesticide exposure can cause severe human health (i.e., endocrine disruption, cancer, reproductive/birth problems, neurotoxicity, loss of biodiversity, etc.) and wildlife and biodiversity issues, even at low residue levels. Although the exact cause of PD remains unknown, studies continuously identify exposure to pesticides and specific gene-pesticide interactions as significant adverse risk factors. Environmental triggers like occupational exposure to pesticides can prompt PD in individuals with or without the genetic precursor. However, PD can develop regardless of whether an individual is a carrier of the PD gene mutation. Pesticides themselves can possess the ability to disrupt neurological function. Therefore, the impacts of pesticides on the nervous system, including the brain, are hazardous, especially for chronically exposed individuals (e.g., farm workers) or during critical windows of vulnerability and development (e.g., childhood, pregnancy). Considering that health officials expect Parkinson’s disease diagnosis to double over the next 20 years, it is essential to mitigate preventable exposure to disease-inducing pesticides. For more information on the effects of pesticide exposure on neurological health, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database pages on Parkinson’s diseasedementia-like diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and other impacts on cognitive function

Parkinson’s disease may have no cure, but prevention practices like organics can eliminate exposure to toxic PD-inducing pesticides. Organic agriculture represents a safer, healthier approach to crop production that does not necessitate toxic pesticide use. Beyond Pesticides encourages farmers to embrace regenerative, organic practices. A compliment to buying organic is contacting various organic farming organizations to learn more about what you can do. Those impacted by pesticide drift can refer to Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on What to Do in a Pesticide Emergency and contact the organization for additional information. Furthermore, see Beyond Pesticides’ Parkinson’s Disease article from the Spring 2008 issue of Pesticides and You.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell 

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25
May

Agrichemical Industry Demands Biden Administration Rescind Support for Cancer Victims Before Supreme Court

(Beyond Pesticides, May 25, 2022) Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice urged the Supreme Court to deny a request by Bayer to review a verdict that found the corporation liable for damages from the use of its Roundup (glyphosate) herbicides. Now, Bayer is using proxy organizations to place pressure on the Biden Administration and Justice Department to rescind its decision. Alongside a range of chemical industry umbrella groups, many of which—like Croplife America—Bayer is a member of, a letter was sent to President Biden expressing “grave concern” about the opinion filed by Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. Among a range of baseless claims, the agrichemical industry is deflecting lower court findings on the hazards and cancer risk of their products with the claim that their toxic chemicals are needed to feed the world, as crops shipments from Ukraine have been halted during the ongoing war. “The agrichemical industry has long tried to sell the idea that their toxic pesticides are needed to feed the world, as if to suggest that their motives are altruistic when, in fact, they have shown a callous disregard for life and a sustainable future,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. ” We can grow food without toxic chemicals and offer support for all the victims of war, with a reverence for healthy ecosystems and the life they support,” he said.

Bayer filed its petition with the Supreme Court in August 2021, seeking to reverse the case of Hardeman v. Monsanto, as Bayer assumed all liabilities associated with Monsanto when it purchased the company in 2018. In that suit, a California court found unanimously in favor of the plaintiff, Edwin Hardeman. Mr. Hardeman told the jury he had used Roundup since the 1980s to spray poison oak and weeds around his property, resulting in his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014. He was awarded $5.27 million, while the punitive damages were ultimately reduced from $75 to $20 million.

Bayer’s appeal to the Supreme Court includes two claims. The first is a preemption argument, suggesting that federal pesticide law preempts state-level “failure-to-warn” claims that form the basis of the Hardeman suit. To prevail under California’s failure-to-warn law, plaintiffs must prove that the product had knowable risks, the risks presented were substantial if used in a reasonably foreseeable manner, consumers would not have recognized those risks, defendants failed to warn consumers, and consumers were thus injured as a result.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already affirmed a lower court ruling that state-level failure-to-warn claims were “equivalent to” and “fully consistent with” federal pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and that because the company had the ability to comply with both federal and California law, federal law did not preempt plaintiff claims. Bayer is arguing that because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not approve labels with a cancer warning, failure-to-warn claims should not apply. However the court ruled that Roundup’s label did not have “the force of law necessary to have a preemptive effect.”

Bayer is also arguing that the allowance of expert testimony by the Ninth Circuit violates court precedent and federal rules. The Ninth Circuit held that a district court applied the correct standards in admitting expert testimony in the Hardeman case. This issue centers significantly around causation experts use of epidemiological evidence, a strong and growing body of literature linking glyphosate to cancer, which EPA and pesticide manufacturers have regularly discounted.  

In December 2021, the Supreme Court requested the Solicitor General provide an opinion about whether the Court should take up the civil verdict. This resulted in Bayer suspending settlement discussions until the Supreme Court made its decision. It is very rare for the Supreme Court to review a civil claim; reports indicate less than 1% of such claims are granted review by the Justices.

The amicus brief filed by the Solicitor General rejects both of Bayer’s claims. It asserts that the Ninth Circuit’s standard for the admission of expert testimony is not different from other circuit courts, “and its factbound application of that standard here raises no issue of general importance.”

In regard to preemption, it notes, “The court of appeals correctly held that FIFRA [federal pesticide law] does not preempt respondent’s claims, and that decision does not conflict with any decision of this Court or another court of appeals. The brief further indicates, “Although some aspects of EPA-approved labeling may preempt particular state-law requirements, EPA’s approval of labeling that does not warn about particular chronic risks does not by itself preempt a state law requirement to provide such warnings.” Despite having the statutory authority to do so, and making regulatory determinations regarding the issue, EPA does not relay information on its label about the chronic risks, like cancer, that a pesticide product may pose. No legal requirements within federal pesticide law stop or preempt California from requiring pesticide labels to include information about chronic health dangers like cancer.  

To the pesticide industry, allowing states to alert the public about the chronic hazards of the products they produce would stop them from feeding the world while there is a war in Ukraine. “Supplying wheat to the world is more important than ever given the unprecedented times with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said National Association of Wheat Growers President Nicole Berg. “NAWG is concerned this new policy would undermine access to safe and effective crop protection tools that play a critical role in helping feed the world.”

The wording of the industry’s letter to President Biden urging his Administration to withdraw the brief is even more bombastic. “Such action would reduce crop yields at a time when lives depend on us producing every bushel possible.” With such a claim, one may suppose that the agrichemical industry is a nonprofit charity. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. These industry groups represent a modern-day oligopoly, focused solely on short-term goals, the next quarterly returns, and outsized compensation for its executives. The chemical industry aims to extract as much profit as possible from the land, and through the unnecessary use of hazardous pesticides, transfer the risk of crop loss from weeds and insects to its customers in the form of chronic health risks, health care costs, and environmental contamination. In this context, states are simply notifying their residents of the health risks the chemical industry is attempting the transfer to them when they use one of their pesticide products. As the agrichemical industry proclaims its mission to “feed the world,” as many as 30 million adults and 12 million children are living in food insecure homes where they are not consistently getting enough to eat.

Bayer is a member, has a representative who sits sits on the board, or provides monetary donations to nearly every industry group that signed the letter attempting to pressure the Biden Administration to withdraw its amicus brief. This letter follows along with Bayer’s “Hail Mary” attempts to sidestep responsibility for the health effects of Roundup. As Bayer notes on its website, “Regardless of the final outcome at the Supreme Court, the company is fully prepared to move forward with its five-point plan, manage litigation risks and bring closure to the Roundup™ litigation.” As part of this “five-point plan,” the corporation has already indicated it is reformulating consumer-use Roundup products beginning in 2023. However, as Beyond Pesticides noted at the time, there would be nothing to stop Bayer from rescinding that decision at any moment.

It is not enough to maintain a status quo that permits chemical industry cartels to bully regulators and elected officials into defending their hazardous products. Real reform is needed to address the depth of corruption that allows dangerous, carcinogenic pesticides to be placed on the market in the first place. Join Beyond Pesticides in urging your Senators to enact meaningful reforms to federal pesticide law, and tell EPA to stop allowing the pesticide industry free rein to regulate itself based on financial risks instead of the risks to health and the environment that federal law requires.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source:  US Department of Justice, FB.org, About Lawsuits

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24
May

Breakthrough Study Shows Organophosphate Nerve Gas Caused Gulf War Illness

(Beyond Pesticides, May 24, 2022) New research is providing strong causal evidence that Gulf War Illness (GWI) is the result of exposure to sarin gas, an organophosphate nerve agent used by Saddam Hussein as a chemical weapon during the Gulf War. The findings, published earlier this month in Environmental Health Perspectives, have important implications for the hundreds of thousands of American service members suffering from a constellation of chronic symptoms without a true understanding of how they became sick. “Quite simply, our findings prove that Gulf War illness was caused by sarin, which was released when we bombed Iraqi chemical weapons storage and production facilities,” said Robert Haley, MD, lead author of the study and epidemiologist at University of Texas Southwestern. “There are still more than 100,000 Gulf War veterans who are not getting help for this illness and our hope is that these findings will accelerate the search for better treatment.”

Sarin was first synthesized in the late 1930s by Nazi chemists working for IG Farben (a consortium that included Bayer) in an attempt to create stronger and more powerful insecticides. Sarin is a G-series organophosphate (named after the scientists that created them), characterized by high acute toxicity and quick evaporation after release. Exposure to sarin can quickly result in death, though lower levels of exposure have been linked to long-term brain and nervous system impairment. The chemical was identified as a potential chemical weapon but not used per se during World War 2. It was subsequently produced by both the U.S. and USSR during the 1950s. Production ceased near the end of that decade, though stockpiles remained in the U.S. until the 1970s. In the late 1980s, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against both Kurdish civilians and Iranian soldiers. Production and stockpiling of sarin was banned under the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.

During the Gulf War, the U.S. military bombed Saddam Hussein’s stockpiles of sarin gas. Satellite imagery from the time show that debris plumes from these bombed sites drifted over to American troop positions. Nerve agent alarms were set off at certain American encampments during the course of the war.

Veterans dealing with Gulf War Illness have described a range of ongoing symptoms, from fever to fatigue, headaches, night sweats and insomnia, difficulty finding words, issues with concentration and retaining information, sexual dysfunction, respiratory problems, dizziness, skin rashes, joint and body pain and diarrhea and indigestion.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs refers to the illness as a “chronic multisymptom illness.”

GWI has been investigated and associated with a range of environmental exposures over the years, including depleted uranium, smoke from oil wells, and other chemicals exposures like carbamates, DEET, and permethrin, used extensively to address pest problems among the deployed. Firm epidemiological data showing causation has been elusive due to scientific scrutiny over recall bias from self-reported exposures, selection bias of studied cohorts, and other potential confounding exposures.

“What makes this new study a game-changer is that it links GWI with a very strong gene-environment interaction that cannot be explained away by errors in recalling the environmental exposure or other biases in the data,” Dr. Haley said.

To make their determination, researchers enrolled 1,016 randomly selected veterans deployed during the Gulf War out of over 8,000 that completed a U.S. Military Health Survey. Half of whom developed GWI and half did not. Researchers collected blood and DNA samples from all those enrolled, and completed a questionnaire specifically asking whether- and if so, how often, nerve agent alarms sounded where they were living or working while in Iraq (alarm frequency was used as a measure to gauge exposure amounts).  

The enrolled veterans’ DNA – in particular, a gene known as paraoxonase-1 (PON1), were analyzed by researchers. Previous research has found PON1 to be a genetic determinant to human susceptibility to organophosphate poisoning. There are two versions of the gene – a “Q” version that produces a blood enzyme that breaks down sarin and an “R” version that can break down other chemicals but does not do well at neutralizing sarin. Individuals may have QQ, QR, or RR genotypes.

Gulf Veteran’s PON1 genes tied very closely to risk of GWI. Among service members who heard nerve agent alarms during their deployment, QQ genotypes had a 3.75 fold increase risk of GWI, QR a 4.4 fold increased risk, and RR were 8.9 times likely to develop GWI. These results, adequately addressing a range of confounders while showing a strong ‘gold standard’ gene-environment interaction, provide a high degree of confidence of causality, according to the researchers. “Your risk is going up step by step depending on your genotype, because those genes are mediating how well your body inactivates sarin,” said Dr. Haley. “It doesn’t mean you can’t get Gulf War illness if you have the QQ genotype, because even the highest-level genetic protection can be overwhelmed by higher intensity exposure. There’s no other risk factor coming anywhere close to having this level of causal evidence for Gulf War illness.”

Front line service members that put their lives on the line deserve answers regarding how they became and meaningful action to treat their illnesses. Far too many veterans of the Vietnam war are still suffering with illnesses caused by exposure to dioxin present in the notorious herbicide Agent Orange. But after fighting in war, sickened service members have found that they must fight a different sort of fight at home for their own health care. Veterans of the Gulf War are likewise still fighting for care. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report found that 80% of Gulf War veteran disability claims are denied by US Veteran’s Affairs. GWI claims are approved at a rate roughly three times lower than all other potential claimed disabilities. With strong data now on the cause, VA must move rapidly to ensure American veterans get the treatment they deserve.

As the National Capital Poison Control Center notes, pesticides and nerve agents are similar poisons with similar symptoms. Numerous individuals across the country – many of whom reach out to Beyond Pesticides for assistance – are suffering from a debilitating range of environmentally induced chronic symptoms that affect their ability to function in day-to-day life. This constellation of conditions is often referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Idiopathic Environmental Illness, or Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance. A recent review by a national team of researchers incorporates GWI into its review of chemical sensitivity conditions, with important findings for wider public health.

More investment is needed in both epidemiological approaches to determine the cause of environmental illnesses among service members and the general public, and treatments to address the myriad of chronic conditions one may experience after a triggering exposure. For more information on chemical sensitivities, see read a transcript of a talk given by Doris Rapp, MD published in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides and You newsletter, and visit the University of Texas, San Antonio website on the Hoffman TILT program.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center press release, Environmental Health Perspectives, (Also See Environmental Health Perspectives editorial on the study).

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23
May

Broadscale Devastating Ecological and Health Effects Associated with Herbicide Indaziflam; Ask To Go Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2022)  The climate change-induced increase in wildfire frequency and intensity has lent new urgency to efforts to manage so-called “invasive” plants. Unfortunately, the herbicide-based approach favored by many is both counterproductive and hazardous. It must be replaced by an organic system, incorporating biological control agents like goats and establishing a more resilient ecology.   

Tell your county/city officials to replace herbicides with organic vegetation management. Tell EPA and Congress that herbicides must be evaluated in the context of the availability of organic systems.

Use of the herbicide indaziflam is an example of the ineffectiveness of management based on herbicides. While indaziflam is considered a “selective” herbicide, it actually kills and prevents germination of a wide range of broad-leaved plants and grasses and comes close to being a soil sterilant. The action on seedlings is long-lasting, thus inhibiting the growth and establishment of a resilient plant community that is resistant to invasion. Given its persistence and nonselective action and the extent of the damage it causes to native soil seed banks and plant biodiversity, indaziflam could contribute to the eventual ecological collapse of ecosystems where it’s applied, similar to the cascading impacts of the systemic insecticides, fipronil and the neonicotinoids on animals. The impacts of indaziflam could be even greater than insecticides since plants are the foundation of all living systems.  Building resilience and resistance into a plant community requires working with succession, which requires the growth of some annuals, in preparation for the longer term community of mostly perennials—contrary to the approach of killing all “weeds.”

As one might expect from an herbicide with such wide-ranging effects, indaziflam—which was promoted and used for 10 years with an incomplete (“conditional”) registration—has serious and pervasive ecological impacts. Plants are the foundation of both terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and thus impacts of this long-lasting herbicide reverberate through the ecosystem. In spite of these risks, EPA considers registration of indaziflam to be “in the public interest.” EPA’s conclusion is based on considerations that do not include alternative management systems— or, indeed, the inadequacies of the management systems in which it is used. No determination weighing risks and benefits can be adequate if it does not consider the conditions under which the user decides to use it.

In addition to the substantial negative ecological impacts, indaziflam’s health effects are also significant. The nervous system is the major target for toxicity in mammals. Evidence of neurotoxicity (e.g., decreased motor activity, clinical signs, and neuropathology) was observed in rats and dogs, in acute, subchronic, and chronic toxicity studies. Organs affected by indaziflam in mice and rats include the kidney, liver, thyroid, stomach, seminal vesicles, and ovaries. Adverse effects on the thyroid indicating potential endocrine disruption include increased thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid histopathology. Chronic exposures also led to atrophied small seminal vesicles (which produce semen) in male rats and glandular erosion/necrosis in the stomach and blood-filled ovarian cysts/follicles in female mice. Developmental toxicity is evidenced by decreased fetal weight with decreased maternal body weight gain and food consumption. Decreased pup weight and delays in sexual maturation were observed in offspring in the rat two-generation reproductive toxicity study, along with clinical signs of toxicity, at a dose causing parental toxicity.

Herbicide treatments should be replaced by . Organic vegetation management occurs within a system of defined parameters, which determine which materials may be used. In the case of vegetation control for fire management, many have found that no synthetic chemicals are needed—that goats can provide both vegetation removal and soil preparation. Although overgrazing with cattle can contribute to “invasive” plant problems by creating bare spots for them to colonize, well-managed cattle grazing can reduce exotic annual grasses that pose a fire hazard. 

Tell your county/city officials to replace herbicides with organic vegetation management. Tell EPA and Congress that herbicides must be evaluated in the context of the availability of organic systems.  

Letter to county/city officials:

The climate change-induced increase in wildfire frequency and intensity has lent new urgency to efforts to manage so-called “invasive” plants. Unfortunately, the herbicide-based approach favored by many is both counterproductive and hazardous. It must be replaced by an organic system, incorporating biological control agents like goats and establishing a more resilient ecology.

Use of the herbicide indaziflam is an example of the ineffectiveness of management based on herbicides. While indaziflam is considered a “selective” herbicide, it actually kills and prevents germination of a wide range of broad-leaved plants and grasses and comes close to being a soil sterilant. The action on seedlings is long-lasting, thus inhibiting the growth and establishment of a resilient plant community that is resistant to invasion. Given its persistence and nonselective action and the extent of the damage it causes to native soil seed banks and plant biodiversity, indaziflam could contribute to the eventual ecological collapse of ecosystems where it’s applied, similar to the cascading impacts of the systemic insecticides, fipronil and the neonicotinoids on animals. The impacts of indaziflam could be even greater than insecticides since plants are the foundation of all living systems.  Building resilience and resistance into a plant community requires working with succession, which requires the growth of some annuals, in preparation for the longer term community of mostly perennials—contrary to the approach of killing all “weeds.”

As one might expect from an herbicide with such wide-ranging effects, indaziflam—which was promoted and used for 10 years with an incomplete (“conditional”) registration—has serious and pervasive ecological impacts. Plants are the foundation of both terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and thus impacts of this long-lasting herbicide reverberate through the ecosystem. In spite of these risks, EPA considers registration of indaziflam to be “in the public interest.” EPA’s conclusion is based on considerations that do not include alternative management systems— or, indeed, the inadequacies of the management systems in which it is used. No determination weighing risks and benefits can be adequate if it does not consider the conditions under which the user decides to use it.

Herbicide treatments should be replaced by organic management. Organic vegetation management occurs within a system of defined parameters, which determine which materials may be used. In the case of vegetation control for fire management, many have found that no synthetic chemicals are needed—that goats can provide both vegetation removal and soil preparation. Although overgrazing with cattle can contribute to “invasive” plant problems by creating bare spots for them to colonize, well-managed cattle grazing can reduce exotic annual grasses that pose a fire hazard.

I request that you replace the use of herbicides with organic alternatives. Thank you.

Letter to EPA:

The climate change-induced increase in wildfire frequency and intensity has lent new urgency to efforts to manage so-called “invasive” plants. Unfortunately, the herbicide-based approach favored by many is both counterproductive and hazardous. It must be replaced by an organic system, incorporating biological control agents like goats and establishing a more resilient ecology.

Use of the herbicide indaziflam is an example of the ineffectiveness of management based on herbicides. While indaziflam is considered a “selective” herbicide, it actually kills and prevents germination of a wide range of broad-leaved plants and grasses and comes close to being a soil sterilant. The action on seedlings is long-lasting, thus inhibiting the growth and establishment of a resilient plant community that is resistant to invasion. Given its persistence and nonselective action and the extent of the damage it causes to native soil seed banks and plant biodiversity, indaziflam could contribute to the eventual ecological collapse of ecosystems where it’s applied, similar to the cascading impacts of the systemic insecticides, fipronil and the neonicotinoids on animals. The impacts of indaziflam could be even greater than insecticides since plants are the foundation of all living systems.  Building resilience and resistance into a plant community requires working with succession, which requires the growth of some annuals, in preparation for the longer term community of mostly perennials—contrary to the approach of killing all “weeds.”

As one might expect from an herbicide with such wide-ranging effects, indaziflam—which was promoted and used for 10 years with an incomplete (“conditional”) registration—has serious and pervasive ecological impacts. Plants are the foundation of both terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and thus impacts of this long-lasting herbicide reverberate through the ecosystem. In spite of these risks, EPA considers registration of indaziflam to be “in the public interest.” EPA’s conclusion is based on considerations that do not include alternative management systems— or, indeed, the inadequacies of the management systems in which it is used. No determination weighing risks and benefits can be adequate if it does not consider the conditions under which the user decides to use it.

Herbicide treatments should be replaced by organic management. Organic vegetation management occurs within a system of defined parameters, which determine which materials may be used. In the case of vegetation control for fire management, many have found that no synthetic chemicals are needed—that goats can provide both vegetation removal and soil preparation. Although overgrazing with cattle can contribute to “invasive” plant problems by creating bare spots for them to colonize, well-managed cattle grazing can reduce exotic annual grasses that pose a fire hazard.

I request that you reconsider the registration of indaziflam and other herbicides for which organic alternatives are readily available.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

The climate change-induced increase in wildfire frequency and intensity has lent new urgency to efforts to manage so-called “invasive” plants. Unfortunately, the herbicide-based approach favored by many is both counterproductive and hazardous. It must be replaced by an organic system, incorporating biological control agents like goats and establishing a more resilient ecology.

Use of the herbicide indaziflam is an example of the ineffectiveness of management based on herbicides. While indaziflam is considered a “selective” herbicide, it actually kills and prevents germination of a wide range of broad-leaved plants and grasses and comes close to being a soil sterilant. The action on seedlings is long-lasting, thus inhibiting the growth and establishment of a resilient plant community that is resistant to invasion. Given its persistence and nonselective action and the extent of the damage it causes to native soil seed banks and plant biodiversity, indaziflam could contribute to the eventual ecological collapse of ecosystems where it’s applied, similar to the cascading impacts of the systemic insecticides, fipronil and the neonicotinoids on animals. The impacts of indaziflam could be even greater than insecticides since plants are the foundation of all living systems.  Building resilience and resistance into a plant community requires working with succession, which requires the growth of some annuals, in preparation for the longer term community of mostly perennials—contrary to the approach of killing all “weeds.”

As one might expect from an herbicide with such wide-ranging effects, indaziflam—which was promoted and used for 10 years with an incomplete (“conditional”) registration—has serious and pervasive ecological impacts. Plants are the foundation of both terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and thus impacts of this long-lasting herbicide reverberate through the ecosystem. In spite of these risks, EPA considers registration of indaziflam to be “in the public interest.” EPA’s conclusion is based on considerations that do not include alternative management systems— or, indeed, the inadequacies of the management systems in which it is used. No determination weighing risks and benefits can be adequate if it does not consider the conditions under which the user decides to use it.

Herbicide treatments should be replaced by organic management. Organic vegetation management occurs within a system of defined parameters, which determine which materials may be used. In the case of vegetation control for fire management, many have found that no synthetic chemicals are needed—that goats can provide both vegetation removal and soil preparation. Although overgrazing with cattle can contribute to “invasive” plant problems by creating bare spots for them to colonize, well-managed cattle grazing can reduce exotic annual grasses that pose a fire hazard.

I request that you prevent EPA from abusing the conditional registration of pesticides, which allows companies to market products before they are fully evaluated.

Thank you.

 

 

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20
May

Corruption Problems Persist at EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, May 20, 2022) Beyond Pesticides has long covered the various ways in which corruption related to pesticides, agriculture, and food — whether in industry or government — can result in harm to human and environmental health, including to a multiplicity of organisms, and their ecosystems and habitats. In this Daily News Blog entry, we will review the landscape of U.S. pesticide regulation, examples of corruption, and what can be done to counter it.

A look at some recent instances provides unfortunate assurance that problems of corruption at EPA persist. A serious flaw in EPA’s registration (and periodic pesticide registration review) processes is their reliance on industry-provided data and research on safety of pesticide products, which does not reliably represent actual risks of harms. Agrochemical companies sometimes purchase research that yields biased or distorted findings, cherry pick results in their submissions to EPA, or try to suppress research findings.

USRTK recently covered an instance in which Bayer (and other companies) funded a study on the impacts — of use of their neonicotinoid (neonic) corn seed treatments — on bees during planting season. Neonics have been widely implicated in the plummeting health, function, and populations of pollinators and in the so-called “insect apocalypse,” as covered by Beyond Pesticides and The Intercept. Bayer then pressured the university-based academic research team to leave out of the research report photos that implicated a neonic-treated seed product harmful to bees. Such attempts to control research findings, or communications about them, are common. In the Bayer case, all findings were eventually published, but not without industry attempts to suppress “damaging” information.

In another instance of industry misbehavior, the outcome of a court case, revealed only days ago by the U.S. Department of Justice, is a guilty plea by a pesticide company product manager to the charge of falsifying and using a document in order to obtain approval from EPA to manufacture a pesticide. (Both the company and the specific pesticide are unnamed in the DOJ statement.) Christopher James Davis, of Venice, California knowingly submitted to EPA documents (supporting the registration of a pesticide) that falsely represented that the pesticide had been approved for manufacture and use in Canada. It had not, but EPA relied on that false information in its approval of the manufacturer’s application.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division commented, “The honesty of individuals applying to manufacture pesticides is vital to protecting the public’s health and the environment.” EPA Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent in Charge Chuck Carfagno added, “In order to safeguard the environment, it is essential that the Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide programs receive accurate and honest information from pesticide producers and their employees. This guilty plea sends a clear message that EPA and its law enforcement partners will continue to hold individuals fully accountable for illegal conduct that jeopardizes the environment.” Fair enough, but it begs the question: why would EPA just accept such a representation from a pesticide company without investigating the claim?

There are myriad ways in which toxic pesticides enter the environment, and the organisms and resources in it: through direct application (and misapplication) in agriculture and turf management, for uses in buildings (homes, schools, hospitals, etc.), via airborne applications for crops or insects and the drift that results, in coatings on crop seeds, via animal feed, in “pest control” strategies, in pet treatments and collars, and embedded in consumer products (e.g., disinfectants, clothing and textiles, toys, and many other items). Customers for these products range from the average American consumer to huge entities such as the agricultural, healthcare, and military sectors, as well as many smaller institutions and industries.

How does the firehose of roughly 17,000 chemical pesticide products available in the U.S. happen? The two big “players” that make decisions about pesticide use are government and industry. (Academia enters the picture, as well, in that universities are often tapped for various kinds of research.) On the government side, Congress generates laws that guide federal regulatory agencies as they enact the laws. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is the chief statute governing pesticide policy and regulation, though other statutes, such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), the Food Quality Production Act of 1996 (FQPA) — which modified both ESA and FFDCA — and the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) also affect pesticide management.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the primary regulatory body for pesticides in the country. Other federal agencies have some regulatory, monitoring, and/or enforcement roles, including the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), USDA (Department of Agriculture), FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), Consumer Products Safety Division (CPSC), NIH (National Institutes of Health), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), ATSDR (the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), and DOT (Department of Transportation), as do various state-level (and occasionally, county or municipal) agencies.

The other big entity is the pesticide industry, which includes, dominantly, agrochemical and petrochemical companies that must apply to have their pesticide products registered by EPA. The registration process is described by EPA as “a scientific, legal, and administrative procedure through which we examine the ingredients of the pesticide, the particular site or crop where it is to be used, the amount, frequency, and timing of its use, and storage and disposal practices. In evaluating a pesticide registration application, we assess a wide variety of potential human health and environmental effects associated with use of the product. The company that wants to produce the pesticide must provide data from studies that comply with our testing guidelines.”

EPA also is required to develop and conduct risk assessments for potential harms to “humans, wildlife, fish, and plants, including endangered species and non-target organisms . . . contamination of surface water or ground water from leaching, runoff, and spray drift.” It defines potential risks to humans as those ranging from acute toxicity to long-term impacts (e.g., cancer, reproductive system disorders, et al.). The agency also approves the text that appears on the labels on pesticide products “to ensure the directions for use and safety measures are appropriate to any potential risk.”

Industry’s goal is to sell as much product as it can. Government’s role (through its agencies) is supposed to be regulatory and protective. In-house federal agency research scientists, those in academia, and those working in private laboratories may contribute to both government and industry evaluation of pesticide products. In any of these arenas, and as with all human processes and systems, there are opportunities for distortion, negligence, and outright corruption, and so it is in the universe of pesticide research, evaluation, registration, and use.

These instances threaten the public and its interests, and require members of the public, environmental and health advocates, and “good government” entities to pay close attention to how that interest is compromised or harmed, and work to reform systems and processes to reduce and prevent them in the future. Indeed, to this end, Congress has created 57 Offices of the Inspector General (OIGs), attached to various federal agencies, whose purpose is “to prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse relating to their agency’s programs and operations, and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the agency’s operations and programs.”

There are too many examples of bad behavior to review comprehensively in this Daily News Blog; readers can learn more through Beyond Pesticides’ coverage of, e.g., Monsanto/Bayer malfeasance related to dicamba and general Monsanto misconduct disclosed in the Monsanto Papers; undermining of science and outsize industry influence at USDA; the threat to scientific integrity at EPA (p. 17); EPA receptivity to industry influence; whistleblower “outing” of unethical practices at EPA; and the “capture” of EPA by industry.

In the summer and fall of 2021, Beyond Pesticides reported on complaints filed with the EPA’s OIG by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) on behalf of four EPA whistleblower scientists. These individuals maintained that “risk assessments for both new and existing chemicals were improperly changed by agency managers to eliminate or reduce calculations of risks.” More specifically, they charged that during the Trump administration and into 2021, managers at EPA (in both the Office of Pesticide Programs and the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics’ New Chemicals Division) accessed “risk assessments completed by staff scientists in order to . . . remove language that identifies potential adverse effects, including developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, mutagenicity, and/or carcinogenicity; and [to] revise conclusions in risk assessment reports significantly to indicate no toxicity concerns despite data to the contrary.”

It is not only the pesticide industry that engages in unsavory practices. The conventional food industry (and notoriously, the fossil fuel industry, the tobacco industry before that, and others) engage in the practice of funding third-party “front groups” to advance their messaging, too often including disinformation, so as to maintain profits. The practice, sometimes called “astroturfing,” encourages an impression of grassroots or public support for such groups, when in fact, they exist to promote industry interests among the public, and with legislators and regulators. Often, the groups sport names that attempt to make them sound like reasonable, unbiased, informational entities.

Globalization and Health released a report in February 2022 investigating the work of one such group, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and its foundation, whose funding sources are not widely or well-disclosed, but which draft Internal Revenue Service documents show to include PepsiCo, Mars, Inc., Kraft, and Monsanto, among others. IFIC has, according to the research, voiced strong opposition to nutritional research demonstrating the role of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages in obesity epidemics.

Further, the researchers “suggest that IFIC promotes a skewed portrayal of evidence, disseminating only research which is favourable to industry,” and note how IFIC uses its “seeming credibility [to] reach the press, policy makers, and the public at large” — which its underlying funders cannot do because of clear conflicts of interest. These front groups “camouflage” messaging to make it appear more legitimate than it is. The report’s conclusion: “IFIC’s promotion of evidence for the food industry should be interpreted as marketing strategy for those funders. Effective science communication may be obfuscated by undeclared conflicts of interests.”

None of these phenomena does anything to repair public trust in science, government agencies and officials, or other institutions whose goals are, nominally, the well-being of life on the planet. In 2021, Beyond Pesticides and 37 other environmental and health groups, farm organizations, and beekeeper councils sent a letter to EPA imploring the organization to reform its Office of Pesticide Programs in light of the agency’s broad and persistent failures to regulate pesticide use effectively enough to protect human and environmental health.

It is clear that Congress must either (1) be made far more aware of EPA failures and the ethical failures of the agency, and of the companies it is supposed to regulate, than it appears it is, or (2) be made to understand the concern, fear, and outrage of the public, which is subjected to pesticide and other toxic chemical exposures in multiple ways every single day.

Follow these issues through Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News Blog, the Take Action feature on the website homepage, and through our journal, Pesticides and You. Please consider getting involved, by calling or writing to your federal elected officials, to EPA itself, to companies that engage in astroturfing, or to a research university with which you may be affiliated, and/or by joining or developing a local, genuinely grassroots organization to work on these kinds of issues. We can help; contact us at 202.543.5450 or [email protected].

Sources: https://usrtk.org/pesticides/bayer-osu-neonic/, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-executive-pesticide-manufacturing-company-pleads-guilty-making-and-using-false, and https://globalizationandhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12992-022-00806-8

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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19
May

Contaminated Environment and Chemical Exposure Puts Firefighters at Elevated Risk for Adverse Heart and Brain Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2022) A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds a correlation between the number of fires fought annually and atrial fibrillation (AF), one of the most common medical arrhythmias that increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other cardiovascular health issues. In the firefighting occupation, firefighters can experience exposure to chemicals and particulate matter in smoke, pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that increase cardiovascular (heart) and respiratory distress risk through oxidative stress and autonomic function disruption. However, firefighters encounter both personal and occupational (work-related) risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, making this subset of the population particularly vulnerable to heart-related fatalities. Considering firefighters live 10 to 15 years less than non-firefighters, studies like these are significant for understanding how chemical exposure contributes to health and wellness disparities. Lead author Paari Dominic, Ph.D., notes, “Clinicians who care for firefighters need to be aware of the increased cardiovascular risk, especially the increased risk of [AF], among this unique group of individuals… The conditions that elevate their risk further, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, lung disease and sleep apnea, should be treated aggressively. In addition, any symptoms of [AF], such as palpitations, trouble breathing, dizziness and fatigue, should be investigated promptly.”

Using the Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, researchers surveyed 10,860 firefighters who are members of one of the five preselected organizations. The survey asked firefighters how many fires they fought per year to determine occupational exposure and compare that to self‐reported cardiovascular disease. Firefighters were mostly men less than 60 years old. The results demonstrate that firefighters face a 14 percent increase in AF risk due to occupational exposure. Inhalation and dermal (skin) exposure represent the main routes of exposure driving cardiovascular issues. The more fires fought per year, the higher the cardiovascular risk, denoting a dose-response relationship between the magnitude of chemical exposure and response to chemical exposure.

Firefighters play a role in protecting wildlife, people, and personal properties from harms, making the job more physically demanding. However, regardless of a healthy lifestyle (e.g., fitness, diet) to prevent illness or injury from physical dangers, firefighters can still frequently encounter hazards like chemical exposure, which can be unavoidable. Thus, studies on firefighter health have shown an increase in risks like heart diseases, not only from toxic chemicals in fire, smoke, or combustion, but from chemicals in gear, such as flame retardants. Organophosphate ester  (OPEs) is an additive used in flame retardants, mainly used as a replacement for the phased-out polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Consequently, residues of organophosphates (OPs) enter the environment, making these chemicals ubiquitous in human and animal blood, urine, tissues, and milk. Research demonstrates that OPs are highly toxic, originating from the same compounds as World War II nerve agents, producing adverse effects on the nervous system, endocrine disruption, reproductive dysfunction, fetal defects, neurotoxic damage, and kidney/liver damage. Exposure can increase vulnerability to deadly diseases, including cardiovascular disease. However, the growing cancer incidence among firefighters nationwide is most concerning, as reports suggest exposure to chemicals in safety equipment and aqueous film-forming foams (e.g., flame retardants) leads to cancer development.

For the first time, researchers discovered a dose‐dependent relationship between heart conditions like AF and firefighters’ occupational exposure to toxic chemicals. Every additional five to ten years of firefighting increased AF prevalence by one-half to a full percentage point, even after adjusting for age. Although OPEs toxify the environment, other chemical compounds of concern in the study are PAHs, with over 100 different chemicals that exist naturally or artificially (e.g., coal, wildfires, agricultural burning, pesticide products, medicine, hazardous waste sites, etc.). Exposure to PAHs occurs by breathing in contaminated air, as these toxic compounds can attach to particulate matter or contaminate food, water, and other resources. PAHs are carcinogens that can prompt other health consequences. Moreover, regions with high chemical use can also have higher rates of wildfires, and thus more fires are fought per year. California, a region prone to wildfire, also contains many agricultural lands that are treated with pesticides. However, the interaction between pesticides and fire has unknown health and environmental consequences and pesticide labels specifically advise the user to avoid flammable environments. With ample evidence demonstrating cancer rates and other disease prevalence is higher among firefighters, the study recommends, “Further research into causal relationships, underlying mechanisms, and risk mitigation strategies is crucial and will lead to a better understanding of cardiovascular risk factors in [firefighter] and the ability to protect and care for [firefighters] in the line of duty.”

Cardiovascular disease is becoming increasingly prevalent and the leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2022, followed by cancer. Therefore, understanding the risk that pesticide exposure plays in disease development is essential to consider since these chemicals can cause disproportionate health effects on individuals working occupations like firefighters, farmworkers, and landscapers. With far too many diseases in the U.S. associated with pesticide exposure, reducing pesticide use is a critically important aspect of safeguarding public health and addressing cost burdens for local communities. Policies should enforce stricter pesticide regulations and increase research on the long-term impacts of pesticide exposure. Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent studies related to pesticide exposure through our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms pesticides can cause, see PIDD pages on cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other diseases. Learn more about how pesticides can adversely affect human and environmental health by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides and You article “Highly Destructive Pesticide Effects Unregulated.”

One way to reduce human and environmental contamination from pesticides is to buygrow, and support organic. Beyond Pesticides advocates a precautionary approach to pest management in land management and agriculture by transiting to organic. Furthermore, given the wide availability of non-pesticidal alternative strategies, families, chemical occupational workers, and the agricultural sector can apply these methods to promote a safe and healthy environment. For more information on the benefits of organic, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: About Lawsuits, Journal of the American Heart Association

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18
May

Bat Losses Costing American Farmers Half a Billion Dollars Annually

(Beyond Pesticides, May 18, 2022) Bat population declines are costing American farmers as much as $495 million each year, finds research published this month in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. Since 2006, a devastating fungal pathogen known as  Pseudogymnoascus destructans has torn through U.S. bat populations, causing a disease known as White Nose Syndrome that has killed over 90% of northern long eared, little brown, and tricolored bats. As researchers try to get a handle on the devastating and rapidly spreading disease, the effects are becoming apparent in agriculture as farmers lose their critical ecosystem services. “Lost bat populations have harmful ripple effects on food and agriculture,” says study coauthor Amy Ando, PhD. “Crop yields fall and input costs rise as farmers try to compensate for the services bats usually provide. That drives down the value of farmland and the number of acres planted, and the supply shock probably also hurts consumers as ag production becomes more costly.”

White nose syndrome and its fungal pathogen were first discovered in a cave in New York in the mid-2000s, having likely traveled from Europe on the gear of a hiker or spelunker. The syndrome is characterized by white fungal growth on the muzzle of infected bats. Researchers believe that bats become infected with the fungus during hibernation. The fungus colonizes the skin of bats and ultimately affects their entire body, resulting in bodily dysfunctions that can cause bats to wake up early for hibernation, and burn through fat reserves before spring insects arrive. There is no known cure to the disease, and recent data indicates that it has spread from the single New York cave to dozens of states, reaching as far north as Canada’s Manitoba province and as far west as Seattle, Washington.

To determine how the disease and subsequent loss of pest control services is affecting farmer’s bottom lines, researchers calculated the value of bat ecosystem services, focusing in particular on corn, wheat and soy crops grown extensively throughout the U.S. They then determined how the loss of bats affected the land rental rates for farmland in a U.S. county. Results show that land rentals fell by $2.84 per acre in an affected county, and $1.50 in counties nearby the disease outbreak. Not only did land rental rates decrease, but functional agricultural lands were reduced in total–including roughly 1,100 acres in a county with a disease outbreak and 582 acres in nearby counties.

“If you no longer get that free pest control you’ve had on marginal land where yields may be lower than average and input costs are already high, then having to also deal with yield loss and/or purchase chemical pesticides to replace the bats’ service can be enough to make land no longer viable,” said Dale Manning, PhD, professor of agricultural and resource economics at CSU, and lead author on the paper.

Increases in chemical pesticide use can cause additional ripple effects that further harm bats and other ecosystem services. A study published late last month found that pesticides can accumulate in fly larvae and be retained through a pest insect’s metamorphosis. The bioconcentration of pesticides in pest insects can then act as a chronic source of exposure to birds and bats that feed on them. The authors of the research note how declines in these important animals have coincided with increases in toxic pesticide use over the last two decades. Pesticide use harms the immune system of most animal, making contaminated populations more susceptible and at increased risk of disease.

As declines in bird and bat populations continue to occur, it is becoming increasingly clear that just like the loss of pollinators, ecosystem services provided by bats cannot be adequately replaced by human activities. “Some bats are important pollinators for high-value crops in tropical and desert climates, and guano [bat dung] is an important fertilizer in some parts of the world,” Dr. Ando says. “But the biggest benefit people get from the bats hurt by white-nose syndrome is pest control. The humble little brown bat can eat over half of its body weight in bugs every night.”

Researchers note that their estimate on the value of bat ecosystem services are conservative, and do not include a range of add-on benefits provided by these animals. In addition to pest management, bats provide a public health benefit, and thus lower health care costs by reducing toxic pesticide use on chemical farms, in addition to their ability to lower the rate of mosquito borne disease. Bats are also incredibly useful in the study of emerging viral diseases such as coronaviruses, and have an inherent, existential value to natural landscapes.

Using data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, researchers determined that interventions to aid bat populations would be worth the cost. One proposal, costing $42 million, would include a campaign to preemptively spray fungicides in bat caves, representing an approach that is likely to do more harm than good. Another approach, modeled at roughly half the cost ($22 million) would vaccinate individual bats against the disease. The bottom line, the study shows, is that we should be willing to spend big to save the backbone of agricultural pest management before it is too late.

For more information on the effects of pesticides on wildlife, see Beyond Pesticides Wildlife program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source:  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,  Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists

 

 

 

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17
May

Study of Dramatic Flying Insect Declines Reinforces Earlier Findings

(Beyond Pesticides, May 17, 2022) With public awareness of an ongoing ‘insect apocalypse’ growing, one of the first anecdotes people often note is how many fewer bugs are found splatted onto their car windshield than in the past. In a recent survey, conservation groups in Britain are finding evidence of insect declines in exactly that place, providing scientific backing for these concerning suspicions. Between 2004 and 2021, 58.5% fewer flying insects were squashed onto car license plates. “The results from the Bugs Matter study should shock and concern us all,” says Paul Hadaway, conservation director at Kent Wildlife Trust, which conducted the study alongside UK organization Buglife. “We are seeing declines in insects which reflect the enormous threats and loss of wildlife more broadly across the Country. These declines are happening at an alarming rate and without concerted action to address them we face a stark future. Insects and pollinators are fundamental to the health of our environment and rural economies.”

The survey was conducted primarily through citizen science, utilizing the “Bugs Matter” mobile app, and a sampling grid, referred to as a ‘splatometer’ that is affixed to a car’s license plate. Data was retrieved from trips taken by citizen scientists between June 1 and August 31 in 2004 and 2021. Locations and trip distance was written down in 2004, but automatically tracked via the app in 2021. Trip speed generally averaged under 30 miles per hour, and trip length ranged between an average of 16 to 36 miles.

Analysis of the survey results determined a splat rate of .238 insect splats per mile in 2004, but only .104 per mile in 2021. Within that period, the odds of taking a trip and seeing no insects squashed to one’s license plate increased by 2.9 times. Differences were seen between different areas of the United Kingdom. Scotland witnessed the smallest decline, at 28%, which could be attributed to the region having more wild land and fewer farms and cities. England, on the other hand, saw the greatest declines, at 65%, while Wales recorded losses of 55%. (Data was not available for Northern Ireland).

These results line up with the latest data on the insect apocalypse from peer-reviewed scientific literature. Published in Nature, a recent study found that in the context of climate change, low intensity agriculture and expansive natural habitats provided the best chance to reduce insect losses. The more wildland regions have surrounding their farmland, the better insects are expected to fare. The difference between the results observed in Scotland and England line up well with that modeling.

“This vital study suggests that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade, this is terrifying,” said Matt Shardlow, CEO at Buglife. “We cannot put off action any longer, for the health and wellbeing of future generations this demands a political and a societal response, it is essential that we halt biodiversity decline – now!”

Research published in 2017 rose a major red flag for insect populations worldwide, finding that in German nature preserves, 75% of flying insect biomass had been lost. A systematic review of insect population decline studies subsequently published in 2019 determined that 41% of insect species worldwide are declining. Declines of butterflies, wild bumblebees, and honey bees are specifically linked to hazardous pesticide use in industrial agricultural systems. Worldwide, roughly a quarter of the global insect population has been lost since 1990, according to research published in Science. This research finds worldwide trends in declines in terrestrial insect biomass to be nearly 1% each year (~9% each decade).

As a 2019 review concluded, “We know enough to act now.” Across the globe, data continues to line up with people’s anecdotal experiences of seeing fewer and fewer insects as the years go by. Unless we act soon, ecological amnesia will set it, as subsequent generations will perceive the environment in which they were born as the norm.

Consider the decline of insects in the context of efforts to stop the deaths of eagles, falcons, condors, and other birds of prey in the 1960s from widespread DDT use. Field observations of broken eggs in Peregrine falcon nests in Britain the late 1960s led to populations surveys. In the United States, most longstanding falcon nests were found deserted. Massive increases in pesticide use following World War II was suspected as the cause, and it was confirmed that as DDT bioconcentrated up the food chain, it would be contained in eggshells. DDT concentrations in eggshells correlated in lock step with the thinness of an eggshell, scientifically confirming the issue.

With pollinators and the wider insect world, we are at a similar moment. We know that industrial agriculture and its use of hazardous pesticides, particularly systemic insecticides like the neonicotinoid class, are harming insect life and biodiversity throughout the globe. Scientific data is now so sophisticated we can provide year by year and decade by decade models of insect declines both past and future.

It took 10 years after Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring for DDT to be banned. Yet, it has taken decades for bird of prey populations to bounce back. On the east coast, local populations of Peregrine Falcons were extirpated, and needed to be reintroduced over subsequent decades. It was not until 1999 that populations recovered enough to remove the birds from the endangered species list. Bald eagles were only removed from endangered species status in 2007. It was in early May that wildlife officials and the Yurok Tribe were able to reintroduce California condors into Northern California.

How many readers have anecdotally noticed more birds of prey in their region, but fewer pollinators and other insects?

The lag time between precipitous declines and species recoveries are often decades-long affairs. As we cheer the return of birds of prey we must likewise lament the years lost without them unnecessarily and shortsightedly, and be cognizant of the ongoing harm chemical use is causing to animals that form the basis of all ecological food chains. The work to ensure future generations can experience a world where “the bees are coming back” must start now.

For more information on ongoing insect declines, see Beyond Pesticides article Tracking Biodiversity: Study Cites Insect Extinction and Ecological Collapse. See here for more resources to get engaged and collect crucial ecological information through citizen science projects.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: BugsLife UK press release, BugsLife/Kent Wildlife Trust Technical Report

 

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16
May

Tell Congress that Environmental Laws without Compliance Are Worthless

(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2021) Despite the fact that many more people die from living and working in unhealthy environments than from homicides or traffic crashes, resources put into preventing those deaths have been lacking—even decreasing in recent years.

Tell Congress to double budgets for environmental law enforcement. 

Toxic pesticide residues readily contaminate soils, water (solid and liquid), and the surrounding air at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set standards. Scientific literature demonstrates pesticides’ long history of adverse effects on the environment, including wildlife, biodiversity, and human health. Pesticides can present acute and long-term health impacts worldwide, especially to farmers, 44 percent of whom experience pesticide poisoning every year. Furthermore, a 2020 study attributes approximately 385 million cases of non-fatal unintentional poisonings and 11,000 deaths annually to pesticides. 

The risks to human and environmental health must be met with strong environmental law enforcement. In the case of pesticides, this involves not only enforcement of label restrictions in the field, but also closer attention to ensuring that pesticides are not registered for uses in which risks outweigh benefits—as required by law. The commitment to stronger environmental law enforcement should begin with a doubling of the budget for these activities. President Biden’s 2023 budget proposal, which aims to create more than 1,900 new full-time positions, barely covers the 1,500 jobs the EPA eliminated during the first year and a half of the Trump administration. Instead, a doubling of the staff level will help EPA to reduce the growing divergence between workload and staff.

In addition to EPA, other environmental agencies are in dire need. More investigators at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service, and other agencies are needed to protect wildlife and endangered species at danger from poachers, chemical contamination, development, and climate change. The Fish and Wildlife Service has only about 250 special agents investigating wildlife crimes, while the BLM devotes just 70 people to criminal investigations.

Tell Congress to double budgets for environmental law enforcement. 

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

As you consider President Biden’s budget requests, I ask that you address the need for environmental law enforcement. Despite the fact that many more people die from living and working in unhealthy environments than from homicides or traffic crashes, resources put into preventing those deaths have been lacking—even decreasing in recent years.

Toxic pesticide residues readily contaminate soils, water, and the surrounding air at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set standards. Scientific literature demonstrates pesticides’ long history of adverse effects on the environment, including wildlife, biodiversity, and human health. Pesticides can present acute and long-term health impacts worldwide, especially to farmers, 44 percent of whom experience pesticide poisoning every year. Furthermore, a 2020 study attributes approximately 385 million cases of non-fatal unintentional poisonings and 11,000 deaths annually to pesticides.

The risks to human and environmental health must be met with strong environmental law enforcement. In the case of pesticides, this involves not only enforcement of label restrictions in the field, but also closer attention to ensuring that pesticides are not registered for uses in which risks outweigh benefits—as required by law. The commitment to stronger environmental law enforcement should begin with a doubling of the budget for these activities. President Biden’s 2023 budget proposal, which aims to create more than 1,900 new full-time positions, barely covers the 1,500 jobs the EPA eliminated during the first year and a half of the Trump administration. Instead, a doubling of the staff level will help EPA to reduce the growing divergence between work load and staff.

In addition to EPA, other environmental agencies are in dire need. More investigators at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service, and other agencies are needed to protect wildlife and endangered species at danger from poachers, chemical contamination, development, and climate change. The Fish and Wildlife Service has only about 250 special agents investigating wildlife crimes, while the BLM devotes just 70 people to criminal investigations.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent issue.

 

 

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13
May

As EPA Oversight of Pesticides Shrinks, Workload Doubles—Raising Safety Concerns

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2022) The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting has covered a report, released days ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that acknowledges the agency’s failures to meet its responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and sets out a plan for improving its performance and meeting its obligations. The report, Balancing Wildlife Protection and Responsible Pesticide Use: How EPA’s Pesticide Program Will Meet Its Endangered Species Act Obligations, 2022, notes that these failures have resulted “not only in inadequate protections for listed species, but also, litigation against the Agency that has increased in frequency in recent years” — to the tune of more than 20 lawsuits covering 1,000+ pesticide products. Beyond Pesticides has covered the many chemical assaults on ESA species, as well as a number of lawsuits brought on their behalf — most recently, the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD’s) suit about the threats of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides to fragile species.

Beyond Pesticides reported on a 2019 CBD lawsuit seeking to force the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to initiate rulemaking to prevent most pesticide use in critical habitat for endangered species — an aspect of the ESA that is too frequently not protected. Under ESA, federal agencies (such as EPA) are required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service (of which NMFS is an office) to ensure that any agency actions are unlikely to jeopardize the continued existence of any ESA-listed species or result in the destruction of or negative impacts on critical habitat of such species.

The Midwest Center extracted a startling metric from the recent EPA report: “Since 2005, the number of completed pesticide registrations has more than doubled, while the number of employees overseeing the process has dropped by a quarter.” The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) of 2004 (and its subsequent iterations) aimed to expedite the pesticide registration process, and funnel funds to the agency through fees charged to applicant pesticide manufacturers (though with plenty of exemptions). Despite that, the number of applications in the years since then has far outstripped the ability of agency staff to keep up.

According to the report, for example, in 2005 EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) completed 1,098 PRIA actions (reviews, evaluations, approvals) with 809 staff FTEs (full-time equivalents). With massively reduced staff capacity in 2021 — 603 FTEs — OPP completed 2,556 actions. But that 2,500+ figure came nowhere near addressing what is now a nearly-20-year backlog of Endangered Species Act decisions. The report’s Executive Summary opens with this: “In past decades, the Agency has met those obligations [under the Endangered Species Act] for less than 5% of the thousands of pesticide actions it completes annually under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA),” the federal law that regulates the registration, sale, and use of pesticides in the U.S.

The report also notes that, “EPA’s current ESA priorities are driven almost entirely by litigation settlements and other court-enforceable deadlines. Over the next six years [those] deadlines will require EPA to complete ESA reviews for 18 pesticides — the most the Agency estimates it can handle during this period based on its current capacity and processes. And ongoing litigation and settlement discussions for other lawsuits cover dozens of additional pesticides and will likely fill the Agency’s ESA workload beyond 2030. Even though these litigation deadlines have determined most of the ESA workload for the next decade, that workload is estimated to cover less than 5% of EPA’s future pesticide actions that trigger ESA obligations. Because the Pesticide Program currently lacks the capacity and efficient processes to fully meet its ESA obligations on those remaining pesticide actions, it remains vulnerable to additional lawsuits.”

This May report from EPA follows on a January 2022 EPA announcement of a new “ESA protection policy” in the agency’s evaluation of any new pesticides looking to be registered. In its coverage of that policy shift, The Midwest Center wrote, “The agency said — for the first time — it will take a systematic approach to regulating pesticides’ harmful effects instead of being forced to comply one-by-one by different lawsuits.” In January, EPA said that previously, “in most cases, EPA did not consistently assess the potential effects of conventional pesticides on listed species. This resulted in insufficient protections for listed species, as well as resource-intensive litigation against EPA for registering new (pesticides) prior to assessing potential effects on listed species.” This, of course, does nothing to address the legion of currently registered pesticides that are harming species and habitats across the U.S.

That said, of that EPA announcement, CBD’s Governmental Affairs Director Brett Hartl commented in January: “It’s a pretty big sea change. They know they’re violating the law, but here they’re finally saying, ‘You’re right, we have to impose restrictions when there’s potential for harm.’ That is not nothing.”

An opinion piece in The Revelator places the identified failings of EPA and other federal agencies in an historical context of failures to protect the public, and environmental justice communities, in particular, from “environmental harms caused by corporate polluters, lax oversight, and poor enforcement of existing laws.” It notes broad neglect of monitoring and enforcement activities that are supposed to identify and hold accountable those who perpetrate violations of environmental regulations, and the anemic penalties often meted out to the guilty — historically, “little more than a slap on the wrist — if they’re prosecuted at all.”

Pointedly, John Platt’s editorial specifies the need for “more investigators to detect and stop corporations from poisoning our air, water and bodies,” calls out the Trump administration’s decimation of EPA staff and draconian reductions in enforcement activities, and asserts that all those staff losses at EPA need to be restored ASAP. The “country desperately needs new eco-detectives — trained employees and citizens [sic] who can identify and uncover pollution, poaching and other eco-threats that harm people, wildlife and the planet.” Of EPA’s capacity, and the goals of the new EPA report, he writes, “Under Trump the EPA shed thousands of staff members and dramatically reduced its enforcement of existing laws. Those people need to be back on the beat. President Biden’s 2023 budget proposal aims to create the equivalent of more than 1,900 new full-time positions. That’s a start, but it barely makes up for the 1,500 jobs the EPA shed during the first year and a half of the previous administration. Let’s double that number of new hires.”

In the face of threats from corporate malfeasance, climate change, and wildlife poaching, among other factors, The Revelator piece also advocates for the need for more staffing at a variety of federal agencies. It calls, variously, for more investigators, scientists and researchers, public health specialists, wildlife inspectors (at ports and borders), and environmental prosecutors — across EPA, FWS, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Park Police, and the Department of Justice. Mr. Platt does note that President Biden’s 2023 budget proposes increases in staffing for some of these agencies. He also identifies the need for boosts in staffing at the state level, more environmental journalists, and courage among public employees to whistleblow when the public’s needs are not being served.

In the Balancing Wildlife Protection report, EPA says it is creating a new “vision of success” for its ESA–FIFRA work that would mean the agency “is protecting ESA species and their habitats from pesticide effects to an extent that fulfills its obligations under all federal laws. EPA would be achieving this goal while minimizing impacts to pesticide users, supporting the development of safer technologies to control important public health and agronomic pests, and completing timely pesticide registration decisions. EPA would also become a trusted expert in protecting listed species through its pesticide decisions, using real-world, up-to-date information.”

The agency identifies six challenges to achievement of this vision:

  • the large (and growing) number of necessary FIFRA actions (largely, requests for new registrations and required 15-year review of existing registrations), given OPP’s current staffing at 2013 levels
  • the current ESA-FIFRA process, which tends not to yield protections for listed species that are both practical for pesticide users to implement and sufficiently timely re: the at-risk species
  • the broad geographic spread of FIFRA registrations, which cover many pesticide uses and affect many types of listed species
  • the need to harmonize the FIFRA process with the ESA process: e.g., the current FIFRA process assesses each pesticide on a chemical-by-chemical basis, but this approach is unsustainable across hundreds of pesticides, many of which affect hundreds of listed species
  • the tension among the need for better, more-granular data (which would extend the length of the ESA–FIFRA process), staff capacity, and timely protection
  • the need for strong working relationships among EPA, FWS, NMFS, and the Department of Agriculture; “All four agencies are working toward this goal but still have room for improvement.”

EPA’s proposed workplan is described as a “living document” that will be reviewed and updated, and its progress evaluated, over the next two years. The plan will employ numerous strategies, including a prioritized approach, given time constraints, staffing limits, and the legally mandated ESA–FIFRA protection processes. Per the report: “The top tier includes actions with existing and future court-enforceable deadlines and the registrations of new conventional pesticide active ingredients. The second tier includes the large number of remaining conventional pesticides, without court-enforceable deadlines, that EPA reevaluates every 15 years (i.e., FIFRA registration review). The third tier includes all other FIFRA actions for conventional pesticides (e.g., new uses of existing pesticides) and FIFRA actions for non-conventional pesticides (e.g., biopesticides).”

It is difficult to understand how EPA will enact this new plan absent a significant influx of new funding that could expand staffing. As the report notes, “EPA’s capacity to fully meet its ESA obligations at this time is limited and continues to place listed species at risk and the Agency at considerable risk of ESA lawsuits. Further . . . any future court decision or legal settlement to complete an ESA determination during that time will stretch the Agency’s already very thin program capacity and may undermine EPA’s ability to meet its other ESA commitments. EPA is striving to increase the number of ESA determinations it can complete annually, partly through process improvements described in this workplan and the FY2023 President’s proposed budget that includes an additional $4.9 million and 10 FTE to integrate ESA requirements in conducting risk assessments and making risk management decisions.”

In January 2022, Beyond Pesticides wrote about the emerging changes emanating from EPA in relation to its OPP ESA efforts: “Beyond Pesticides joined with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and three dozen allied groups to lay out what a ‘larger effort’ to reform the Office of Pesticide Programs should resemble. The current action, if properly implemented, would begin to address a single problem within the scope of systemic failure. Reform advocates are urging EPA to focus on holistic reforms that confront climate change, biodiversity collapse, and environmental racism. To rout out industry influence by rejecting corrupt data from pesticide companies and promote alternative assessments that embrace safer pest management systems that do not require toxic chemical use” would be a robust approach.

The new report provides some hope that broad advocacy is having an impact on the current administration’s approach. It would seem to signal a shift in direction, but the proof, as always, will be in “on the ground” changes in agency function that would result in meaningful actions to protect people and the planet from the unnecessary use of toxic pesticides.

Sources: The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, EPA’s Balancing Wildlife Protection report, and The Revelator

 

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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12
May

Environmental Pesticide Exposure Alters Gut Microbes, Increasing Urgency for Organic Transition

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2022) A report published in Environmental Health finds that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of pesticides can alter gut microbial communities, as demonstrated through fecal samples. Over 300 environmental contaminants and their byproducts, including pesticides, are chemicals commonly present in human blood and urine samples. Ample evidence demonstrates that environmental contaminants, including pesticides, negatively affect the human mouth and gut microbes. However, fecal samples provide an accurate representation of the microbial community existing in the gut. These toxicants can alter hormone metabolism, which adversely affects health outcomes. Adverse health effects of environmental contaminants include reproductive and developmental defects, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, and improper immune operation. Although studies show how chemical exposures affect human health, more research is now questioning how these toxic chemicals influence gut health. Therefore, studies like these highlight the importance of evaluating how chemical contaminants deregulate normal bodily function through microbiome changes. The report notes, “Our results highlight the need for future dietary intervention studies to understand effects of pesticide exposure on the gut microbiome and possible health consequences.”

Researchers examined dietary exposure to 186 common pesticide residues in the fecal excrement to determine impacts on the microbiome among 65 twins in the United Kingdom. Gut microbiota composition has associations with dietary habits, different life stages, geographical location, exercise, antibiotics, and disease states. However, researchers investigated if these associations can also impact concentrations of pesticide residues in excrement to indicate gut health alterations. Using metagenomics and metabolomics, researchers measured the metabolic activity of microbes in fecal matter and pesticides in urine excretion to note any bodily changes.

The report finds all urine samples contain pyrethroid or organophosphate insecticide residues, with 53 percent of urine samples containing glyphosate. Individuals who consume more  fruits and vegetables grown with chemical-intensive practices have higher concentrations of organophosphate residues. Although urinary metabolite (pesticide breakdown product) excretion lacks a correlation with gut microbial changes, there are 34 associations between the concentration of pesticide residues and metabolite residues in fecal matter and gut health. Glyphosate excretion in the fecal matter correlates with an increase in bacterial species richness, fatty acid metabolites, and phosphate concentrations in the gut. For pyrethroids, deltamethrin metabolite, Br2CA, has a positive association with phytoestrogens enterodiol (dietary estrogen) and negative associations with specific amino acids in the gut.

The gut microbiome is a group of microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi, that plays a crucial role in digestion, bodily function, detoxification, and immune and central nervous system regulation. Through the gut biome, pesticide exposure can enhance or exacerbate the adverse effects of additional environmental toxicants on the body. Since the gut microbiome shapes metabolism, it can mediate some toxic effects of environmental chemicals. However, with prolonged exposure to various environmental contaminants, critical chemical-induced changes may occur in the gut microbes, influencing adverse health outcomes. Like gut microbes, soil microbes are essential for the functionality of the soil ecosystem. Toxic chemicals damage the soil microbiota by decreasing and altering microbial biomass and soil microbiome composition (diversity). Pesticide use contaminates soil and results in a bacteria-dominant ecosystem causing “vacant ecological niches, so organisms that were rare become abundant and vice versa.” The bacteria outcompete beneficial fungi, which improves soil productivity and increases carbon sequestration capacity. The resulting soil ecosystem is unhealthy and imbalanced, with a reduction in the natural cycling of nutrients and resilience. Thus, plants grown in such conditions are more vulnerable to parasites and pathogens. Moreover, the effects of climate change only exacerbate threats to soil health as studies show a link between global climate change and a high loss of microbial organisms in the soil ecosystem.

The findings add to the growing quantity of environmental studies linking pesticide exposure to metabolic distress and the respective health consequences. Although previous studies suggest pesticide exposure in the environment disrupts the gut microbiome, this report is the first to find an association between pesticide excretion and exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of pesticides. Although most pesticide exposure decreases microbial species richness, some chemicals, like glyphosate, increase bacterial species richness. However, an increase in species richness is not always positive as it cannot measure the function of how these bacteria work together. Studies find functional diversity declines faster with agricultural intensification then species richness. Functional diversity involves the interaction of species based on similarity in behavioral, morphological, physiological, or resource use as it relates more strongly to ecosystem function. Moreover, an increase in species richness in the gut microbiome can allow more resilient bacteria to flourish and outcompete other beneficial bacteria regardless of pathogenic potential. For instance, glyphosate kills bacterial species beneficial to humans and incorporated in probiotics yet allows harmful bacteria to persist, leading to resistance. Similarly, glyphosate-exposed soils contain a greater abundance of genes associated with antibiotic resistance and a higher number of inter-species transferable genetic material. Antibiotic resistance can trigger longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, the need for more expensive or hazardous medications, and the inability to treat life-threatening illnesses. Nevertheless, studies show an organic diet lowers individual exposure to pesticides, demonstrating a significant reduction in bodily pesticide concentration. Therefore, organic can also protect human gut microbe health by reducing the number of toxic chemicals within the body.

The report concludes, “We found that individuals who are regularly consuming organic products had higher healthy eating index values, but that other lifestyle choices are, in all likelihood, also contributing factors. We provide the first evidence of an association between pesticide excretion and changes in gut microbiome metabolism at environmental levels of exposure in the UK population. Our findings highlight the need for future dietary interventional studies to understand the impact of pesticide exposure on gut microbiome composition and function and its health implications.”

To improve and sustain microbial communities, and thus human, animal, and environmental health, toxic pesticide use must stop. Beyond Pesticides challenges the registration of toxic chemicals due to their impacts on soil, air, water, and our health. While legal battles press on, the agricultural system should eliminate the use of toxic synthetic herbicides to avoid the myriad of problems they cause. Instead, Beyond Pesticides holds that safer alternatives are available, and organic practices can protect public health and the environment. In addition to positive impacts on the human microbiomeorganically grown food (i.e., milkmeatstrawberriestomatoes, and a range of other foods) contain a much more diverse bacterial community than their conventional counterparts.

Moreover, purchasing organic food when possible can help curb exposure and resulting adverse health effects. Emphasis on converting to regenerative-organic systems and using least-toxic pest control to mitigate harmful exposure to pesticides should be the main focus. Learn more about soil and gut microbiota and its importance via Beyond Pesticide’s journal Pesticides and You. Additionally, learn more about how pesticides affect human health by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which supports the clear need for strategic action to shift from pesticide dependency.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Environmental Health

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11
May

Study Finds Chemical Exposure Increasing among Pregnant Women

(Beyond Pesticides, May 11, 2022) Pregnant women are being exposed to increasing amounts of dangerous industrial chemicals, according to research published this week in Environmental Science and Technology.  The chemicals in question include pesticides, plastics, and parabens, as well as ‘replacement chemicals’ for substances like phthalates and bisphenols that have gained notoriety for risks to public health. With a range of scientific data highlighting chemical exposures during pregnancy as a critical window of vulnerability, public awareness of these growing threats, and meaningful action by government regulators to reduce exposure is needed.  

The results of this study follow the release of data last year finding over 100 different chemicals in U.S. pregnant women’s blood and umbilical cord samples. For the present study, however, researchers did not merely detect these chemicals, they tracked exposure levels over the course of 12 years. The cohort of 171 women represents a diverse group from seven American states and territories (including New Hampshire, New York, Puerto Rico, Illinois, California, and Georgia), with 20% of women participating Black, one third white, 40% Latina, and the remaining from other or multiple groups. Over the course of the study, routine monitoring was conducted utilizing an advanced diagnostic method that permits analysis of dozens of chemicals from a single urine sample.

Of the 103 chemicals reviewed, over 80% is detected in at least one woman enrolled in the research. One third of the compounds is found in over 50% of women. In particular, the study finds that many women have levels of neonicotinoid insecticides in their urine. Although widely known for their hazards to pollinators, a range of data over the last decade has pointed to concerning impacts on human development from prenatal exposure. Peer-reviewed studies have linked these exposures to autism like symptoms, birth defects in the heart, and birth defects in the brain, per a review by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Body burden of these hazardous chemicals are disproportionate between women of different races and backgrounds. Higher exposure amounts is seen in non-white women, those with less education, and pregnant women who are single. Researchers also note that Latinas encountered higher levels of parabens, bisphenols, and phthalates.

“While pesticides and replacement chemicals were prevalent in all women, we were surprised to find that Latinas had substantially higher levels of parabens, phthalates and bisphenols,” said Jessie Buckley, PhD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and first author of the study. “This could be the result of higher exposures to products with chemicals, such as processed foods or personal care products.”

These data line up with recent research showing that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities are exposed to pesticides at disproportionately higher rates than other communities. Beyond these exposures, current laws result in weaker protection of these communities, including elevated risk factors for pesticide-induced illness, toxic housing, and poor enforcement even when problems are identified.

Overall, many of the chemicals detected are found in higher amounts than previous studies in the peer-reviewed literature. “This is the first time we’ve been able to measure the amounts of chemicals in such a large and diverse group of pregnant women – not just identify chemicals,” said Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, professor and director of the UC San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment and co-director of the UCSF EaRTH Center, and the senior author of the study. “Our findings make clear that the number and scope of chemicals in pregnant women are increasing during a very vulnerable time of development for both the pregnant person and the fetus.”

Pesticide exposure during this critical window of vulnerability is associated with a range of long-term health hazards. A study published late last month found that maternal pesticide exposure during pregnancy can affect sleep patterns later in life. Sleep problems one may be having now can be precipitated by a chemical exposure at the start of one’s life, causing life-long disruption. But this type of otherwise inscrutable health problems that individuals live with is only one example. Exposure during pregnancy can increase the probability of childhood ear infections, risking hearing loss that can set back childhood development and change the course of an individuals life. ADHD is yet another example, with pregnant mothers who have used insecticides at 98% increased odds of having children with ADHD scores in the 90th percentile.

Exposures can likewise result in a range of health impacts. Research finds that early exposure to pesticides in the womb increases the risk of the rare fetal disorder holoprosencephaly. This disorder prevents the embryonic forebrain from developing into two separate hemispheres. Pesticides can result in early births and low birth weight, and evidence is growing that glyphosate in particular is a primary contributor to this phenomenon.

Overwhelming data links prenatal pesticide exposure to increased risk of cancer. Whether it be acute childhood leukemia (see coverage of another study on this health outcome here), nephroblastoma kidney cancer, or brain tumors, the data is consistent and incredibly concerning.

While peer-reviewed science continues to sound the alarm, federal regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continue to allow harmful exposures to continue, and in some cases permitted increases in application rates of chemicals linked to prenatal and early childhood health impacts, like the pyrethroid class of insecticides.

Join Beyond Pesticides in efforts to reform the core principles of pesticide law in the United States by urging your Senator to cosponsor Sen. Cory Booker’s Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act. For more information on the hazards pesticides pose to pregnant women and young children, see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on the Hazards of Pesticides for Children’s Health, as well as the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source:  University of California, San Francisco press release, Environmental Science and Technology

 

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10
May

Chemical No-Till Failure Due to Herbicide Resistance Increases Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(Beyond Pesticides, May 10, 2022) Widespread weed resistance on chemical corn and soybean farms is leading farmers to till their fields more often, significantly increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These findings were published late last month in the journal Nature Food by a team of Iowa State University researchers. With agricultural practices accounting for roughly 10% of U.S. GHG emissions, and 25% of worldwide releases, farming practices that preserve soil health and sequester GHGs are essential for the future of food production.

Tillage is a farming practice that can provide a range of benefits for crop production, but only in the right conditions. A range of tillage practices exist, ranging from yearly conventional tillage, where most crop residue is plowed into the soil, to conservation tillage where some residue remains, and no-till systems where the soil remains covered. Repeated tillage causes significant harm to soil structure and biology, and result in erosion and the release of GHGs like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from soil into the atmosphere. The harms of tillage have led both chemical and organic farmers toward no-till or reduced tillage systems.

Organic no-till farming, as practiced by farming groups like the Rodale Institute, employs the use of cover crops that are grown over the fall and winter, and then matted down over the top of the soil using a machine called a roller-crimper. This process suffocates weeds and creates a rich mulch that can often be directly planted into. Some smaller scale organic farmers may till a single time, lay down cardboard or other weed suppressants, and then establish compost mulch beds in which crops can be grown.

Chemical no-till, on the other hand, generally includes the use herbicides sprayed directly over the top of plants to manage weeds competing with crops. This practice is reliant on genetically engineering row crops (specifically corn or soy) to be tolerant of a particular herbicide, or herbicide-tolerant (HT). Glyphosate-tolerant ‘Roundup Ready’ cropping systems have been the been the most popular over the last 25 years, providing chemical farmers a simple method of crop production without soil tillage.

Whatever gains this system provides in reducing atmospheric GHGs by reduced tillage is, according to researchers, eliminated by increases in tillage that have occurred since 2008, when weed resistance to glyphosate became widespread.

To make this determination, researchers created a land-ecosystem model, used mapping data on environmental changes, and long-term farmer surveys to determine how the chemical no-till model came into widespread adoption subsequently broke down. Corn-soybean cropping systems from the mid 1990s until the mid 2010s were analyzed, with 2008 marking a shift in trends.

From 1998 to 2008, corn and soy acreage under chemical no-till increased by over a combined 10 million hectares, roughly the size of Kentucky. This was associated with a reduction in tillage intensity during that time, which also reduced the GHGs emitted by tillage. However, from 2009 to 2016, as glyphosate resistance spread rapidly across multiple different weeds, researchers found increases in GHG emissions from chemical farmers returning to tillage. Particular areas around the country, like the western corn belt in the Dakotas and Minnesota, represented some of the highest GHG emissions from returning to these practices.

“Our work implies that the benefit of HT crop adoption in reducing tillage has reached its peak, while the emerging weed resistance is found to contribute to intensifying tillage practices,” the study reads. “As weed resistance persists and grows, tillage intensity is anticipated to continue to rise, which would further increase GHG emissions and contribute to global warming.”

The shift from reduced tillage to increased tillage is a product of a cropping system that was always intended to provide short-term profits, rather than promote environmental sustainability. The study authors emphasize that farmer choices in managing herbicide resistance are critical in addressing the issue. But many farmers under contract with large agrichemical companies have a difficult time implementing alternative practices outside of a chemical cropping system. The pesticide and agrichemical industry is generally promoting new, more toxic herbicide products utilizing chemicals like glufosinate, dicamba, and 2,4-D to supplement glyphosate’s diminishing returns.

This approach keeps farmers on a treadmill, delaying what is clearly inevitable, while unnecessarily contaminating food, surrounding soil and farmland, water, and air. “Without an effective strategy to control weeds, tillage intensity could continue to grow in the future and could undermine greenhouse gas mitigation achievements from other agricultural activities,” said study author Chaoqun Lu, PhD in an Iowa State press release .

No-till organic addresses the failures of chemical no-till and has the potential to sequester carbon by retaining soil organic matter. Organic farms in general contain 13% more total soil organic carbon than conventional farms, as well as a higher level of the stable soil compounds fluvic and humic acid, a 2017 study found. According to calculations from the Rodale Institute in 2014, soil sequestration has the potential to store the greenhouse gas emissions of up to 52 gigatonnes of CO2.

While the agrichemical industry continues to make arguments for chemical farming based primarily on the need for higher yields, this short-term, myopic focus loses sight of health and a sustainable future that humanity must create to continue life on earth. Research on organic agriculture shows it can  provide quadruple the performance, synergizing financial, human health, ecological, and socio-economic well-being. See Beyond Pesticides webpage on Organic Agriculture for more information.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Nature Food, Iowa State press release

 

 

 

 

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09
May

With Decision on Insecticide, EPA Betrays Protection of Pollinators. . .Again

(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2022) While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its guidelines for pollinator risk assessments in 2014, the agency continues to either fail to conduct full assessments, or dismiss concerning data it receives. EPA appears to discount threats like the insect apocalypse, evidenced by a 75% decline in insect abundance, which threatens not only global ecosystems, but also food production that depends on animal pollination. As pesticides move through the food web, birds are also at risk. Bird numbers are down 29% since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962.

Tell EPA To Protect Against Other Threats to Pollinators. Tell Congress To Insist that EPA Does Its Job.

The problem is highlighted by EPA’s recent Interim Decision on fenbuconazole, in which the agency notes that, “For larval bees, RQs (risk quotients) exceed the LOC (level of concern) for all pollinator attractive uses including when assessed at the lowest application rate of 0.0938 lb a.i./Acre (RQ = 1.1).” Yet in the same document, the agency declares that “…the benefits of fenbuconazole (e.g., efficacy in management of fungal pathogens) outweigh any remaining risk and that continuing to register fenbuconazole provides significant benefits, including its ability to increase crop yields and help with resistance management.” While the agency added additional restrictive language on spray drift, it implemented no new precautionary measures for pollinators. With the only indications that this chemical is dangerous to pollinators deep in EPA’s dense review documents the public rarely if ever reads, the agency continues to fail pollinators, farmers, and the public.  

Exposure to this commonly used fungicide considered to be ‘slightly toxic or nontoxic’ to pollinators makes male mason bees less likely to find a mate, jeopardizing future generations of critically important pollinators. This determination comes from research recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by scientists at Germany’s University of Würzburg. The timing of these findings comes after the EPA reapproved uses of fenbuconazole late last year without completing all required studies on pollinator health effects.

EPA’s action on fenbuconazole follows other actions by the agency that threaten pollinators, such as neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides. Despite EPA’s own findings of evidence of serious threats posed by neonics to pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife, it issued interim decisions on them in January 2020 that disregard the science on the pesticides’ impacts and it appears that the agency is prepared to finalize these registrations late in 2022. This would, barring further action, extend the use of these harmful compounds for 15 years.

EPA’s history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in findings of ludicrously small or no risk continues with its announcement that allows the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion—another example of an irresponsible federal agency falling far short, as the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse and deadly pesticide-induced diseases. Malathion poses a threat to 97 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Kirtland’s Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Bats, who are valuable pollinators, insectivores, and seed dispersers, are at high risk from pesticide exposure.

After registering over 300 products containing synthetic pyrethroid pesticides within the last six years, EPA has done nothing to safeguard endangered species from exposure to these toxic chemicals, despite a legal requirement to do so. Synthetic pyrethroid insecticides are synthesized derivatives of pyrethrins, which compared to their natural counterpart take significantly longer to degrade in the environment and thus pose longer term risks to humans and wildlife. The chemicals interfere with the proper function of the body’s sodium channels, resulting in harm to the central nervous system. Symptoms of poisoning include headache, nausea, incoordination, tremors, and facial swelling, with severe incidents causing diarrhea, convulsions, paralysis, and death. “The EPA admits pyrethroids’ wide-ranging harm to wildlife but still rubberstamps hundreds of pesticide products containing them without assessing their risks to endangered species,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

To help avert ecosystem collapse, EPA must complete pollinator assessments and ban pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides, shown to imperil populations of insects and other pollinators.

Tell EPA To Protect Against Other Threats to Pollinators. Tell Congress To Insist that EPA Does Its Job.

Letter to EPA (Administrator, Assistant Admininstrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs):

While EPA updated its guidelines for pollinator risk assessments in 2014, the agency continues to either fail to conduct full assessments or dismiss concerning data it receives. EPA appears to discount threats like the insect apocalypse, evidenced by a 75% decline in insect abundance, which threatens not only global ecosystems, but also food production that depends on animal pollination. As pesticides move through the food web, bird numbers are down 29% since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962.

The problem is highlighted by EPA’s recent Interim Decision on fenbuconazole, in which the agency notes that, “For larval bees, RQs (risk quotients) exceed the LOC (level of concern) for all pollinator attractive uses including when assessed at the lowest application rate of 0.0938 lb a.i./Acre (RQ = 1.1).” Yet in the same document, the agency declares that “…the benefits of fenbuconazole (e.g., efficacy in management of fungal pathogens) outweigh any remaining risk and that continuing to register fenbuconazole provides significant benefits, including its ability to increase crop yields and help with resistance management.” While the agency added additional restrictive language on spray drift, it implemented no new precautionary measures for pollinators. With the only indications that this chemical is dangerous to pollinators deep in EPA’s dense review documents the public rarely if ever reads, the agency continues to fail pollinators, farmers, and the public.  

Exposure to this commonly used fungicide makes male mason bees less likely to find a mate, jeopardizing future generations of critically important pollinators, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by scientists at Germany’s University of Würzburg. These findings come after the EPA reapproved uses of fenbuconazole late last year without completing all required studies on pollinator health effects.

EPA’s action on fenbuconazole follows actions on other pesticides that threaten pollinators, such as neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides. Despite EPA’s own findings of evidence of serious threats posed by neonics to pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife, interim decisions in January 2020 disregard the science on the pesticides’ impacts, and it appears that the agency is prepared to finalize these registrations late in 2022, extending the use of these harmful compounds for 15 years.

EPA’s history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in findings of ludicrously small or no risk continues with its announcement that allows the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion—another example of an irresponsible federal agency falling far short, as the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse. Malathion poses a threat to 97 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Kirtland’s Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Bats, who are valuable pollinators, insectivores, and seed dispersers, are at high risk from pesticide exposure.

After registering over 300 products containing synthetic pyrethroid pesticides within the last six years, EPA has done nothing to safeguard endangered species from exposure to these toxic chemicals, despite legal requirement to do so. The chemicals interfere with the proper function of the body’s sodium channels, resulting in harm to the central nervous system.

To help avert ecosystem collapse, EPA must complete pollinator assessments and ban pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides, shown to imperil populations of insects and other pollinators.

Letter to U.S. House of Representatives and Senate:

While EPA updated its guidelines for pollinator risk assessments in 2014, the agency continues to either fail to conduct full assessments or dismiss concerning data it receives. EPA appears to discount threats like the insect apocalypse, evidenced by a 75% decline in insect abundance, which threatens not only global ecosystems, but also food production that depends on animal pollination. As pesticides move through the food web, birds numbers are down 29% since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962.

The problem is highlighted by EPA’s recent Interim Decision on fenbuconazole, in which the agency notes that, “For larval bees, RQs (risk quotients) exceed the LOC (level of concern) for all pollinator attractive uses including when assessed at the lowest application rate of 0.0938 lb a.i./Acre (RQ = 1.1).” Yet in the same document, the agency declares that “…the benefits of fenbuconazole (e.g., efficacy in management of fungal pathogens) outweigh any remaining risk and that continuing to register fenbuconazole provides significant benefits, including its ability to increase crop yields and help with resistance management.” While the agency added additional restrictive language on spray drift, it implemented no new precautionary measures for pollinators. With the only indications that this chemical is dangerous to pollinators deep in EPA’s dense review documents the public rarely if ever reads, the agency continues to fail pollinators, farmers, and the public.  

Exposure to this commonly used fungicide makes male mason bees less likely to find a mate, jeopardizing future generations of critically important pollinators, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by scientists at Germany’s University of Würzburg. These findings come after the EPA reapproved uses of fenbuconazole late last year without completing all required studies on pollinator health effects.

EPA’s action on fenbuconazole follows actions on other pesticides that threaten pollinators, such as neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides. Despite EPA’s own findings of evidence of serious threats posed by neonics to pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife, interim decisions in January 2020 disregard the science on the pesticides’ impacts, and it appears that the agency is prepared to finalize these registrations late in 2022, extending the use of these harmful compounds for 15 years.

EPA’s history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in findings of ludicrously small or no risk continues with its announcement that allows the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion—another example of an irresponsible federal agency falling far short, as the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse. Malathion poses a threat to 97 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Kirtland’s Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Bats, who are valuable pollinators, insectivores, and seed dispersers, are at high risk from pesticide exposure.

After registering over 300 products containing synthetic pyrethroid pesticides within the last six years, EPA has done nothing to safeguard endangered species from exposure to these toxic chemicals, despite legal requirement to do so. The chemicals interfere with the proper function of the body’s sodium channels, resulting in harm to the central nervous system.

To help avert ecosystem collapse, please ensure that EPA completes pollinator assessments and bans pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides, shown to imperil populations of insects and other pollinators.

Thank you.

 

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06
May

Pesticides Used in Farmed Fish Operations Threaten Health of Swimmers

(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2022) A December 2021 report commissioned by the trade group Salmon Scotland concludes that the use of pesticide products by the nation’s salmon farms represents potential risk to “wild” swimmers (those who swim in open ocean waters). The report’s primary finding is that the use of insecticide products containing azamethiphos (an organophosphate), deltamethrin, and hydrogen peroxide to control sea lice in farmed fish contaminates sea water and, thus, threatens swimmers in the areas around the farms. Beyond Pesticides has reported on pesticide use in aquaculture, and most recently, on developing resistance — in the parasitic lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) that endanger both wild and farmed fish populations in the North Atlantic — to some of the chemical treatments used by aquaculturists to combat the parasite.

The intense exploitation of wild fish and other marine creatures for human food (and as an ingredient in animal feeds) has caused, in recent decades, depletion of fish and seafood stocks across the world. The aquaculture industry — in which various aquatic species (fish, shellfish, and some plants) are bred, raised, and harvested in the open ocean — has grown rapidly as a response. Since the 1960s, the farming of salmon in the Atlantic has grown such that now, 70% of global salmon production is from ocean farming, and in the U.S., 90% of salmon sold is farmed. Other marine food farming industries that dominate U.S. markets include those that produce tilapia, shrimp, and shellfish (scallops, mussels, clams, and oysters). Asia is the source of more than 90% of all farmed fish/seafood, with China alone representing roughly 58% of production.

Aquaculture operations generate a host of sustainability issues: sea water pollution from the farms’ waste, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals; increased levels of disease in farmed populations; increased use of chemical “controls,” and the inevitable resistance to those compounds among pests (such as sea lice); and a rise in genetically engineered species and the spread of that DNA into wild populations, among others. The “escapes” of farmed fish, due to pen damage from harsh local conditions or predators, are common. This points to yet another problem in this industry: the release of genetically engineered farmed salmon into the wilds of the ocean mean that some wild salmon will breed with them and weaken the genetics. For example, when wild Atlantic salmon breed with escaped farmed salmon, their descendants mature earlier and grow faster than in the wild species, undermining wild populations’ ability to survive and reproduce in their natural habitat.

Beyond Pesticides wrote about the Scottish farmed salmon industry in 2020: “Atlantic salmon . . . are raised in what are, essentially, pens suspended in open sea lochs (arms of the sea that are narrow or partially landlocked) on Scotland’s west coast and Northern Isles. Many of these are in relatively remote areas, so are somewhat ‘hidden’ from public scrutiny. The fish in these pens live under very crowded conditions, with far greater density than do wild salmon. They are fed processed feed that is usually laced with various pharmaceuticals and/or insecticides used to ward off diseases and pest infestations, such as the sea lice, which tend to break out in such crowded conditions. The fish also discharge thousands of tons of feces and food waste into the surrounding sea (as well as pesticide and pharmaceutical residues). The food and fecal matter ratchet up the nitrate levels in the nearby marine ecosystem, which has deleterious effects on ocean plants and organisms. The pesticides and other pharmaceuticals can harm local ecosystems and marine life.”

WCA, the consultant company that produced the report for Salmon Scotland, indicates that the contamination of marine waters (by the products listed above) happens whether the treatments are done “in situ” at the site of a salmon pen, or on board special treatment boats. In either case, post-treatment, the water containing the insecticide products is then dumped into the sea. One might wonder if this is a significant risk, ocean contamination aside — as in, how many folks actually swim in the ocean? It turns out that the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) Outdoor Swimming Society boasts 100,000 members!

WCA assigned a metric — to each of the three ingredients in the pesticide products (deltamethrin, azamethiphos, and hydrogen peroxide) — to represent the relative risk identified. A risk factor of “1” or below was characterized as “showing no reason for significant concern or action.” Deltamethrin was determined to be present at levels of negligible concern; azamethiphos was assigned .8; but hydrogen peroxide clocked in at 27.7. The report concludes that levels of azamethiphos and deltamethrin “in the treatment baths can be considered safe,” but that levels of hydrogen peroxide in salmon cages can be 28 times higher than those considered safe for swimmers.

At high concentrations, hydrogen peroxide is harmful if ingested and toxic if inhaled; it can cause skin burns, eye damage, and irritation of respiratory system membranes. In light of the report’s sanguine comments about the safety of azamethiphos and deltamethrin, Beyond Pesticides calls attention to these facts: deltamethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that is an irritant to human tissue, disrupts the human endocrine system, and is toxic to bees and to fish and aquatic organisms; and azamethiphos, which is permitted for use in salmon aquaculture in Norway, Ireland, Scotland, and Chile, is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (which action compromises immune and metabolic function), a mutagen (causing genetic mutations), and a neurotoxicant.

Though the first two compounds get a “pass” in this study, Beyond Pesticides points out that this evaluation — as is true for many pesticide evaluations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on this side of the pond — fails to assess risks of exposures to two, or all, of these compounds in combination. The lack of attention to potential synergistic impacts speaks to the ongoing failures of classic toxicological risk assessment as employed by most regulatory agencies.

According to inews.co.uk, the 220+ UK salmon farms (operated by eight companies) discharged more than 10.5 million gallons of hydrogen peroxide into sea waters between 2016 and 2021. The report authors also assert that their assessment of potential risk to swimmers was based on a series of “worst case assumptions” for the average adult swimmer, and that “characterisation of dilution and dispersion factors are likely to be required to be taken into account to demonstrate that discharges of hydrogen peroxide are safe for open-water swimmers.”

Per inews.co.uk, Salmon Scotland maintains that the “‘worst-case’ estimate in [the] report ‘would never occur in real life.’ The pesticide would be dispersed and diluted in the water, it argued, and swimmers kept a ‘safe distance’ from industrial sites and vessels.” The trade association further asserts that levels of hydrogen peroxide used in the salmon treatments “would fall below the ‘no effect’ level 30 minutes after use and ‘generally’ within 200-–300m. . . . There would be ‘very few, if any’ people who would swim for two hours in Scottish coastal waters.”

The report has garnered significant attention in the context of the consideration by a regional Scottish authority, the Argyll and Bute Council, of a proposal from Mowi, the world’s largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon, for a new farming operation off the west coast of Scotland’s Isle of Arran. Advocates have maintained that the “poisons” — pesticides and other chemicals — evacuated (or leaked) into seawater by salmon farms could threaten the health of ocean swimmers, and have demanded regulatory action to reduce or eliminate fish farm chemical pollution

Scotland’s Coastal Communities Network, a coalition of 23 organizations advocating for the marine environment, insists that pesticides risk swimmers’ health. Spokesperson for the group, John Aitchison, commented: “The industry’s own report shows that swimmers will be harmed if they swallow very small amounts of water containing two of the poisons being dumped by fish farms. The risk is especially high for women and children who were not mentioned in the report. No other industry is allowed to dump all its pesticides in the sea.” He was also quoted in Beyond Pesticides’ 2020 coverage of increased use of pesticides on Scottish salmon farms early in the Covid pandemic: “We do not want them to discharge any more pollution. . . . The need to dump even more pollution in the sea during this crisis shows that it must give up its open nets and adopt closed-containment methods to capture its pollution instead, as any other responsible industry would do.”

Fish farms are rough analogues to terrestrial CAFOs — concentrated animal feeding operations. Both crowd too many creatures into too little space; both feed animals with processed food laced with pharmaceuticals and/or insecticides or parasiticides in efforts to “control” the diseases and pest problems that inevitably arise in such living conditions; and both create unnatural concentrations of excreta that move “downstream” to the surrounding environment, whether on land or in oceans, and contaminate and impact nearby ecosystems and water quality.

In addition, on land, these operations create fertile conditions for viruses and bacteria to evolve and jump from animal to human populations — potentially launching more human pandemics. This dynamic may be possible from marine farming, as well. A sensical, precautionary, and protective approach would be to raise animals in sufficiently large, more humane, and more-natural conditions, such as those required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards. Such practices would obviate much of the need for the chemical “fixes” operators of these facilities employ.

It is important for the public to know that what Beyond Pesticides’ wrote in its 2018 coverage of the salmon farming industry is, unfortunately, evergreen: all “Atlantic salmon” sold in the U.S. is farmed. That is why it often has a slight gray tinge, is oilier and less firm than wild salmon, and lacks the rich taste of the wild varieties. “Organic” salmon — which consumers may see offered in some supermarkets — is certified in accordance with European Union regulations. But the public should know that, although it may cost roughly the same as genuine wild salmon, it has the same “environmental baggage” as farmed “Atlantic salmon.” “Organic” fish farming significantly contributes to marine pollution by adding synthetic pesticides and antibiotics to the marine environment, contravening what consumers expectat of organic food production systems.

For the public, there are alternatives to participating in this industry. One is not consuming farmed salmon. Another is purchasing only wild varieties, though that increases pressure on already stressed wild stocks. A third, for those who want to continue eating this fish, is to eat only wild salmon, but to reduce the frequency of consumption. The same approaches can apply to other farmed marine foods, although in the U.S., it is increasingly challenging to find any shrimp or tilapia, for example, that is not farmed.

Given what conventional agriculture, whether marine or terrestrial, has wrought in its impacts on human health, ecosystems, and natural resources, concerned consumers now must pay close attention to the provenance of their provisions. In addition, pressure must be exerted on elected leaders, federal and state regulatory bodies, and even the local grocery, to shift food production to systems that don’t cause such degradation, disease, and destruction. Please follow Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News Blog, its journal Pesticides and You, its Facebook page (@BeyondPesticides) and Twitter account (@ByondPesticides), and reach out to us ([email protected] or 202.543.5450) for how to advance the transition to an organic and sustainable food future.

Sources: https://inews.co.uk/news/wild-swimmers-face-toxic-pesticide-health-risk-in-lochs-and-sea-from-220-scots-salmon-firms-report-warns-1605298 and https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21746810/document-22585306.pdf

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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05
May

First Report of Environmental Pollutant Risk Among Tropical Mammals Across the Globe

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2022) A report published in Biological Conservation finds environmental pollutants, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and particulate matter, adversely affect tropical terrestrial wildlife. Specifically, these contaminants can interact with one another, altering the chemical landscape of the ecosystem, and causing changes in the endocrine and microbiome systems of mammals.

Since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), global attention to the danger of pesticides has increased, with environmental agencies banning the use of legacy pesticides like organochlorines for their devastating toxic—sometimes lethal—effects. However, these chemicals can remain in the environment for decades and interact with various current-use pesticides, including organophosphates, neonicotinoids, and pyrethroids. Although many studies demonstrate that environmental pollution plays a significant role in premature deaths among humans, there is a lack of research on how environmental pollution directly affects tropical species mortality. Considering human and wildlife habitats tend to overlap, and chemical pollutants can drift from chemically treated areas, wildlife populations are more likely to experience similar health effects.

With the number of chemicals in the ecosystem growing, studies like these highlight the need for pesticide policies that protect human health in addition to the integrity of the chemical landscapes accommodating wildlife. The researchers note, “Using this [study] background and building on past conservation success, such as mending the ozone layer and decreasing acid rain, we tackle the difficult issue of how to construct meaningful policies and conservation plans that include a consideration of the chemical landscape. We document that policy solutions to improving the chemical landscape are already known and the path of how to construct a healthier planet is discernible.”

The researchers assess how severe the effects of environmental contaminant exposure are among terrestrial mammals in the tropics. To evaluate severity, researchers consider how environmental pollutants interact with one another, the bodily function of mammals (i.e., endocrine and microbiome systems), and the environment itself to produce unanticipated negative impacts. Lastly, researchers determine how to improve policies and conservation efforts when considering the chemical landscape with a catalog of safety data on 10,000 chemicals that predict the toxicity of the range of substances in consumer products for which information is lacking.

With a specific focus on pesticides, the report reinforces that exposure to these toxic chemicals affects wildlife mortality, with sublethal effects weakening species fitness and reproductive rate. Pesticide pollution is increasing in tropical regions, especially in low- and mid-income countries that are home to a high diversity of species. Although countries with higher incomes, like the European Union and the U.S., restrict these environmentally toxic chemicals, mid-and low-income countries import and manufacture these same chemicals without similar restrictions. For instance, DDT is a legacy pesticide that can persist in the environment for decades. Although many high-income countries ban the use and manufacturing of DDT, low- and mid-income countries many still use the product, leading to further environmental contamination and loss of tropical mammal species like the Brazilian Free-Tail Bat. Moreover, there is a lack of research on how chemical pollution from sources like pesticides harms human and wildlife health. Various chemical pollutants are endocrine and microbiome disruptors, ubiquitously dispersed in the tropic and commonly present in mammalian tissue. Exposure can result in changes in sexual reproduction, masculinization and feminization of sex organs, aggressive temperament, and neurological and developmental delays. The researchers note, “The true contribution of chemical pollution, including pesticides, to health outcomes in both humans and wildlife, is likely underestimated because the adverse effects of many environmental contaminants are poorly understood, and interactions among chemicals are rarely investigated.”

Chemical pollution’s detrimental effects on wildlife are not a new phenomenon and can disrupt wildlife productivity via direct or indirect impacts. Insects, other terrestrial and aquatic organisms, and marine and terrestrial mammals can all experience weakened immune function upon pesticide exposure. For instance, studies find pesticide exposure can limit immune response in honey bees, causing early onset of infection or increased probability of mortality from infection. Reports demonstrate that neonicotinoid insecticide exposure impairs honey bees’ ability to groom Varroa mites, responsible for a disease known as deformed wing virus (DWV). Additionally, California sea lions are experiencing high rates of urogenital carcinoma (UGC) cancer from the combined effect of toxic “legacy” pesticides like DDT and the viral infection Otarine herpesvirus-1 (OtHV1). According to multiple studies, exposure to the weed killer glyphosate (patented as an antibiotic) changes the bacterial composition of the gut microbiome in cattle, rodents, and honey bees. Like glyphosate, atrazine can cause gut microbiome disruption, resulting in sex-specific shifts in microbiota. Atrazine is notoriously associated with endocrine disruption among amphibians and reptiles, resulting in reproductive and behavioral changes. Even among humans, exposure to endocrine-disrupting pesticides impacts hormone regulation promoting metabolic diseases like diabetes.

This report is the first to evaluate the severity of environmental pollutant exposure among tropical terrestrial mammals. However, current research likely underestimates the harms of pollutants as of the over 140,000 synthetic chemicals within the ecosystem, less than 5,000 have proper testing for toxicity and safety. Animals and individuals can encounter these chemicals through products (e.g., cosmetics, disinfectants), food, soil, other animal tissue, and the air itself. However, tropical regions contain more threatened and endangered species that are more sensitive to rapid changes in ecosystem structure and chemical bioavailability than temperate regions. For instance, between 2002 and 2019, ~60 million hectares (ha) of tropical forest were lost, resulting in habitat fragmentation that puts wildlife at risk. The researchers highlight that forest edges can contain 56 percent higher concentrations of pollutants, and with fragmented areas, wildlife is more likely to encounter pesticides in chemically treated areas that were once forest habitats. The researchers caution, “Society is not effectively adopting a precautionary principle, rather it is allowing new chemicals and forms of environmental contaminants to be generated in huge quantities and only responding well after the negative consequences of these actions are made apparent, if even then.”

The researcher suggests solutions to generate a path toward a healthier planet and equitable future for people and wildlife:

  • Provide credible scientific information to the public and policymakers.
  • Create and coordinate teams and networks for monitoring wildlife health.
  • Develop a long-lasting foundation that continuously monitors the impacts of environmental contamination and generates science-based policy options. 
  • Adequate training and mobilizing scientists in developing countries to gather local community information.
  • Produce and communicate information that will effectively inform policy decisions and motivate action through salient, credible, and legitimate resources.

The globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk and an increasing rate of biodiversity loss. Environmental advocates say it is essential for government agencies to research how previous and ongoing use of chemical pollutants can impact present-day species. Likewise, collaborative, global monitoring of chemical pollutants can help leaders identify the effect on vulnerable species and the most effective unified global strategy. Animals and humans occupy the same space, so both will experience similar declines in general health, fitness, and well-being. Therefore, pesticide use should be phased out and ultimately eliminated to protect the global wildlife and reduce the number of dangerous pesticides exposed to threatened species, such as tropical mammals. Advocating for local and state pesticide reform policies can protect wildlife from pesticide contamination. For more information on pesticide impacts on wildlife, visit Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife page.

Furthermore, buyinggrowing, and supporting organic can help eliminate the extensive use of pesticides on crops located in wildlife refuges. Organic agriculture has many health and environmental benefits that eliminate the need for chemical-intensive agricultural practices in these sanctuaries. For more information on why organic the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.  

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Mongabay, Biological Conservation

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04
May

Climate Change and Industrial Agriculture Are Supercharging the Insect Apocalypse

(Beyond Pesticides, May 4, 2022) Agricultural intensification and climate change are driving unprecedented losses in insect abundance and biodiversity, placing key ecosystem functions like food production in peril. The findings of this research, published in Nature by scientists at University College London, UK, are the first to elucidate the interactions between major drivers of the ongoing insect apocalypse. As civilization moves deeper into a time in which the impacts of a rapidly warming planet meet the devastating effects of habitat loss and rampant chemical use, it becomes ever more critical that action be taken now to avert the worst outcomes for the future of life on the planet. While the solutions are in reach, tremendous public action is needed to stop the fossil fuel and agrichemical industries from their short-sighted pursuit of profit at any cost, climate advocates say.

To conduct their analysis, scientists utilized both short-term studies and the Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity in Changing Terrestrial Systems (PREDICTS) database, which contains insect biodiversity sampling comprising twenty years of information (1992 to 2012). Species richness and total abundance were reviewed for nearly 20,000 insect species, including dragonflies/damselflies, moths and butterflies, flies, true bugs, beetles, bees and wasps, and grasshoppers/crickets from every biome on earth save the tundra. To determine how the synergy between climate change and industrial agriculture affected species, scientists grouped sites from their dataset into four classes based on the level of land intensity (primary vegetation, secondary vegetation, low intensity farming, and high intensity farming). Changes in mean and maximum temperatures, based on a baseline from the early 20th century, were likewise calculated.

The interaction between climate change (at a standardized temperature anomaly of 1 standard deviation) and high intensity agriculture diminished total insect abundance by 50%, and species richness by 27%. Lower intensity agriculture reduced these impacts, with declines in insect abundance of 30%, and species richness of 23%. Researchers define high intensity agriculture as industrial, chemical dependent systems with large fields, monocrops, and high amounts of mechanization or animal confinement. Low-intensity sites are those not using high amounts of pesticides or cropped in monocultures.

Scientists conducted further analysis to determine of other factors could buffer these declines. It was found that having significant natural land cover near low intensity agricultural sites had the potential to lower species declines. When low intensity agriculture was surrounded by 75% natural habitat, losses in insect abundance dropped only 7% and richness 5%. However, significantly higher reductions were seen when only 25% of natural habitat surrounded farmlands. High intensity agriculture shows no buffering of insect declines with nearby natural lands. Additionally, at the highest modeled levels of climate change, natural land likewise provides no mitigating effects.

As the authors note, climate warming is predicted to accelerate, and agricultural intensification is predicted to increase throughout this century. “If this agricultural expansion is associated with a reduction in the availability of natural habitats within production landscapes or a move toward higher-intensity agriculture, our results indicate that large declines in insect biodiversity will occur, particularly as climate warming accelerates,” the study notes.

The insect apocalypse is worded so bombastically because the impacts are unimaginably deleterious for human civilization as we now know it. Food production relies on the services insects provide: pollination, pest control, soil quality, decomposition, and a stable food web. While these interacting crises are occurring, the public is continuously inundated with misinformation from industries profiting on the crisis to create deliberate confusion and enervation. Arguments are made that high intensity, industrial chemical agriculture is the only way to feed the world, and the fossil fuels are the only way to provide energy. Scientific data is now spelling out exactly what we are in for if we continue to endorse these dangerous myths.

For more information on the ongoing insect apocalypse, see Beyond Pesticides article Study Cites Insect Extinction and Ecological Collapse, as well as previous Daily News articles on the subject.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Nature

 

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03
May

Fungicide Found to Jeopardize Male Pollinator’s Ability to Find a Mate, as EPA Ignores Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, May 3, 2022) Exposure to a commonly used fungicide considered to be ‘slightly toxic or nontoxic’ to pollinators makes male mason bees less likely to find a mate, jeopardizing future generations of critically important pollinators. This determination comes from research recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by scientists at Germany’s University of Würzburg. The timing of these findings comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reapproved uses of fenbuconazole, the fungicide in question, late last year without completing all required studies on pollinator health effects.

Horned mason bees (Osmia cornuta), a solitary bee species, have a complex mating process that includes a range of “pre-copulatory behaviors” used by male bees attract females. Males create thoracic vibrations with their flight muscles, rub the eyes of female bees with their antennae, and emit a distinct odor from their body. If the female likes the presentation, she will mate with the male. Otherwise, she will move him to the side and wait for another male to try to win her affection.

To see how this process was influenced by pesticide exposure, researchers conducted a range of different experiments. For the first, newly emerged male and female bees were tagged in a laboratory setting, and male bees were exposed to either none, 50%, or 100% of field application rate for the fungicide product Indar 5EW, containing a solution of fenbuconazole in order to mimic bees caught in a spray event. Five male bees from each group were placed in a flight cage with a single female and their activity was observed. Researchers used a total of 68 males, many of which were used more than once to mimic field conditions where males mate with multiple females. A second experiment tested mating pairs by allowing a virgin female to interact with either five males in the control group of five males exposed to 100% field rate of the fungicide. Once a mating pair was established they were removed and observed separately. Scientists likewise analyzed the thoracic vibrations initiated during precopulation, and as well as the cuticular hydrocarbons (odors) of the bees within the first experiment.

“If the fungicide has an effect on male quality signals, this should increase the likelihood that pesticide-exposed males will be rejected by females,” lead author of the study, Samuel Boff, PhD, explains. As indicated, the pesticide did appear to affect the ability of exposed males to mate. Results from the first experiment found exposed males to have significantly fewer successful copulations than the unexposed control bees.  Unexposed bees mated 16 times, while 50% exposed mated five times and 100% exposed mated six. The fungicide did not stop the male bee’s attempt to mate, merely their success after initiating their mating dance. For the second experiment regarding mating pairs, control males were again 20% more likely to mate than the fungicide-exposed group.

While no difference was seen between the length of time control and exposed males conducted thoratic vibrations, the frequency of the vibrations was higher in the control group. Control and exposed bees also exhibited marked differences in the odors they emitted, likely influencing their overall success.

Resources like University of Massachusetts Extension and University of California rate the active ingredient fenbuconazole as slightly toxic or nontoxic to pollinators not requiring any bee precautions unless indicated on the label. But the team of European researchers are calling for deeper investigations before such broad labels are messaged to the public. “Our study shows that the early stages of bee reproduction must be included in the risk assessment of pesticides,” says Professor Thomas Schmitt, PhD, chair of animal ecology and tropical biologist at University of Würzburg.

While EPA updated its guidelines for pollinator risk assessments in 2014, the agency continues to either fail to conduct full assessments, or dismiss concerning data it receives. In its recent Interim Decision published on fenbuconazole, the agency notes that “For larval bees, RQs (risk quotients) exceed the LOC (level of concern) for all pollinator attractive uses including when assessed at the lowest application rate of 0.0938 lb a.i./Acre (RQ = 1.1).” Yet in the same document, the agency declares that “…the benefits of fenbuconazole (e.g., efficacy in management of fungal pathogens) outweigh any remaining risk and that continuing to register fenbuconazole provides significant benefits, including its ability to increase crop yields and help with resistance management.” While the agency added additional restrictive language on spray drift, it implemented no new precautionary measures for pollinators. With the only indications that this chemical is dangerous to pollinators deep in EPA’s dense review documents the public rarely if ever reads, the agency continues to fail pollinators, farmers, and the public.  

As Dr. Boff notes, “The decline in bee populations in agricultural landscapes could therefore be explained by the effect of pesticides on insect mating behavior.” Yet, regulators at EPA have made clear that the benefits associated with killing wild pollinators outweigh the risk of crop loss.

Help create a future where pollinators do not dwindle but thrive by supporting the Saving America’s Pollinators Act. This bill would create a separate process outside of EPA’s industry-driven reviews with an independent board of experts to determine whether additional restrictions are necessary for pesticides with evidence of toxicity to pollinators or their habitat. Take action today by urging your member of Congress to join as a cosponsor.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Journal of Applied Ecology, ScienceDaily, EPA Registration Review-Fenbuconazole

 

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02
May

No Mow May—Support Organic Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2022) Lawns occupy 40 million acres, or 2% of the land in the U.S. Their maintenance typically involves pesticides and fertilizers that kill pollinators and soil life and wash into streams, where they do more damage. Lawn maintenance also involves a lot of mowing. While mowing is an effective way to encourage grasses over most broadleaved plants, it also has broader ecological impacts.

The 3,600 species of bees in the U.S. and Canada range from large bumblebees to tiny sweat bees. There are many things you can do in your yard and community to protect these bees—starting with managing lawns and landscapes organically and planting flowers favored by bees and other pollinators. This one—No Mow May—requires less work.

Participate in No Mow May. Manage your landscape organically. Plant flowers for pollinators. Send a message to your mayor. 

No Mow May began with research by Plantlife in the UK and was taken up by property owners in Appleton, WI, who demonstrated that “homes that participated in No Mow May had more diverse and abundant flora than regularly mowed green spaces throughout the city.”

May is the month when many bees emerge from hibernation throughout the U.S. and seek sources of pollen and nectar. By allowing your lawn to grow during May, more flowering plants will bloom, feeding the bees and other pollinators. The longer grass also provides a more diversified habitat for ground beetles and some butterflies. Mowing may still be advisable if ticks are a problem (mow paths!) or ground-nesting bees are present.

One obstacle that many people face in taking a break from mowing is that some communities have weed ordinances that prohibit tall vegetation. After years of fines for allowing his grass on his Prairie Street lot to grow, Michael Almon of Lawrence, KS collaborated with the Lawrence Sustainability Advisory Board in drafting a new natural landscaping ordinance to replace the old weed ordinance. See Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change for help in changing your city’s outdated ordinance.

Participate in No Mow May. Manage your landscape organically. Plant flowers for pollinators. Send a message to your mayor. 

Letter to mayors:

Lawns occupy 40 million acres, or 2% of the land in the U.S. Their maintenance typically involves pesticides and fertilizers that kill pollinators and soil life and wash into streams, where they do more damage. Lawn maintenance also involves a lot of mowing. While mowing is an effective way to encourage grasses over most broadleaved plants, it also has broader ecological impacts.

The 3,600 species of bees in the U.S. and Canada range from large bumblebees to tiny sweat bees. There are many things we can do in our yard community to protect these bees—starting with managing lawns and landscapes organically and planting flowers favored by bees and other pollinators. But one—No Mow May—requires less work.

No Mow May began with research by Plantlife in the UK and was taken up by property owners in Appleton, WI, who demonstrated that “homes that participated in No Mow May had more diverse and abundant flora than regularly mowed green spaces throughout the city.”

May is the month when many bees emerge from hibernation throughout the U.S. and seek sources of pollen and nectar. By allowing our lawns to grow during May, more flowering plants will bloom, feeding the bees and other pollinators. The longer grass also provides a more diversified habitat for ground beetles and some butterflies. Mowing may still be advisable if ticks are a problem (mow paths!) or ground-nesting bees are present.

One obstacle that many people face in taking a break from mowing is that some communities have weed ordinances that prohibit tall vegetation. Fortunately, many communities are taking a more enlightened approach now. Please let me know whether our city promotes pollinator habitat.

Thank you.

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29
Apr

Texas AG Tells Fed Endangered Habitat Should Not Stand in Way of Border Wall

(Beyond Pesticides, April 29, 2022) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’s) plan to list a rare milkweed species, and the areas in which it grows in south Texas, as critical and endangered has garnered political pushback from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. In February, FWS announced its intention to list 691 acres of prostrate milkweed habitat in order to protect it, given its critical role in supporting monarch butterfly populations. But Attorney General (AG) Paxton sent a letter to FWS saying that the critical and endangered determination “would further destabilize Texas’s border, hindering the construction of the border wall,” and that it would risk security on the border with Mexico. FWS countered with a press release stating that, “This listing and critical habitat proposal is based on the best available science, including a species status assessment that included input and review from academia and state agencies.”

The 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) mandates that federal agencies, in consultation with FWS and/or the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, ensure that any actions in which they engage (whether authorizing, implementing, or funding) are unlikely to jeopardize the existence of a listed species, or have negative impacts on its habitat. The nonprofit Endangered Species Coalition cites the efficacy of the ESA, and some related difficulty: “The Endangered Species Act has been successful in keeping more than 99% of species under its wing from going extinct. . . . Species for which critical habitat have been designated are twice as likely to be trending toward recovery than those without. . . . But long delays in adding animal and plant species to the endangered list have heightened the perils and made recovery more difficult.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Pesticide Programs implements some portions of the ESA; see Beyond Pesticides’ ESA archive here.

The FWS proposal on the prostrate milkweed and its habitat arises on the heels of a 2020 lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to prod the agency to make protective determinations on 241 plant and animal species considered by CBD to be “trending toward extinction, including the prostrate milkweed and more than 35 others in Texas.”

The 691 acres at issue are in Starr and Zapata counties — located on the border with Mexico and near to the Gulf Coast — which are located along one of two important monarch migration flyways. The annual Fall migration path runs along this Texas coast eco-corridor from approximately the third week in October through mid-November each year. In early Spring, the monarchs arrive in Texas from their overwintering grounds in Mexico, and find emerging milkweed on which to lay their eggs before they die. The larvae develop, and the next generation of monarchs continues the migration northeast to repopulate the Eastern U.S. and Southern Canada.  

As covered by Border Report, “If the prostrate milkweed were to make the list, then the area where it grows . . . would be exempt from border barrier construction. And that could halt the construction of a border wall that the state of Texas currently is building outside of the town of La Grulla. . . . [Texas] is funding millions of dollars to build its own wall, which is nearly 2 miles long and the first phase nearly complete. . . . Texas Gov[ernor] Greg Abbott has said the state plans to build more sections of wall throughout Starr County.”

AG Paxton’s letter, sent on the closing day of the FWS comment period on the proposal, also asserted, “The [endangered] designation determination must . . . account for the potential implications to border security, which implicates national security, Texas’s security and economy, and other public policy priorities, such as combatting human and drug trafficking, which are rampant in areas near the border.” He also cited costs to ranchers of “tens of thousands of dollars to repair cut fences and gates destroyed by human smugglers transporting undocumented persons through their ranches.”

Marianna Treviño-Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center (located in the next county east of Starr County) commented on the AG response to the FWS proposal: “The federal government has the ability to waive every law, including the Endangered Species Act, covering plants and animals for border wall construction. The state doesn’t have that authority, so if the state wants to continue building, they risk running amok, running afoul of the Endangered Species Act for their plans if the prostrate milkweed is listed.” She also noted to Border Report that the National Butterfly Center was to re-open on April 23 after a three-month closure due to security threats by far-right organizations. Ms. Treviño-Wright also commented on the political nature of the pushback from the state, noting that she “hopes the federal agency will decide to list the prostrate milkweed on the endangered species list to help butterflies, and to prevent future border wall construction, which she says is not necessary and militarizes the border region.”

FWS added, in defense of its proposal, “This listing and critical habitat proposal . . . will help raise awareness about the threats to this plant and inspire diverse partnerships on its behalf.” CBD’s Senior Conservation Advocate Michael Robinson noted that a federal ESA designation for the prostrate milkweed would also require federal officials to develop a recovery plan for the listed species. The prostrate milkweed (and other milkweeds) are host plants for monarch butterflies, but the plant’s shrubland habitat has been negatively impacted by the introduction of non-native buffelgrass — which is planted for livestock forage and displaces native flora — as well as by encroaching development.

More milkweed habitat destruction from border wall construction would likely threaten the very existence of the species in these Texas monarch flyway counties, according to advocates. The Endangered Species Coalition asserts that, “Construction and maintenance for roads, utilities and the oil and gas industry also destroy these plants, and additional border wall construction on the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge threatens to uproot more of them.” State botanist with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Texas, Christ Best, elaborated on the threat of buffelgrass, saying it is “a tough and invasive grass . . . that spreads far beyond where it is planted. . . . Seems like every year they’re putting in new cable or waterlines or power lines. Every time you disturb the soil, buffelgrass just jumps in and takes over.”

Monarch butterfly populations certainly do not need more challenges to their survival. They have suffered from multiple human assaults on their well-being: profligate use of toxic pesticides; habitat destruction; and climate change impacts that cause or exacerbate wildfires, droughts, and severe storm events, and can impair breeding, migration, and hibernation.

It is not only the monarchs themselves, but their food and host plants that are affected by the same forces. Insects and pollinators broadly are also extremely vulnerable. (In January 2021, Beyond Pesticides wrote about research published in Biological Conservation showing that 41% of insect species are declining and 30% are endangered, with an overall rate of insect decline at 2.5% each year.) Beyond Pesticides has covered many of these issues; learn more here, here, here, and here.

Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, made the case for the importance of protecting rare and endangered species, comparing “the importance of diverse habitats and species resilience to screws on a plane. You can lose some screws on a plane and probably make it fine and land and then they’ll fix it. At some point, if you lose enough screws on the plane, it’s going to crash. It’s the same thing with ecosystems.”

Beyond Pesticides’ latest edition of Pesticides and You, Retrospective 2021: A Call to Urgent Action, lays out the case for protecting species, ecosystems, and the humans who depend on them. The organic solutions to the many problems highlighted in the issue — based on the importance of healthy ecosystems and public health protection — are within reach. The data signal to us all the imperative for urgent action to phase out pesticides within a decade. The well-being of monarch butterflies, prostrate milkweed, and every one of us will turn, in large part, on our ability to achieve this protective milestone. If you are ready to join the movement for a healthier, sustainable, livable future, please contact us: [email protected] or 202.543.4791.

Source: https://www.borderreport.com/hot-topics/the-border-wall/rare-milkweed-species-could-threaten-border-security-operations-in-south-texas/

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

 

 

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28
Apr

Glyphosate Breakdown Product, Associated with Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage Among Children

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2022) A study in Environmental Research finds that glyphosate’s primary metabolite (breakdown product), aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), induces DNA damage through oxidative stress among subpopulations of primary school children. Although pyrethroid and chlorpyrifos metabolites can induce oxidative stress, this study is the first to investigate AMPA’s association with adverse health effects, rather than solely the effects of the active ingredient, glyphosate, in Roundup and other formulations.

Glyphosate is the most commonly used active ingredient worldwide, appearing in many herbicide formulations, readily contaminating soil, water, food, and other resources. Chemical use has been increasing since the inception of crops genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate. However, studies demonstrate glyphosate is among the most prevalent pesticide contributors to human, biotic, and ecosystem harm. According to research, herbicide toxicity to invertebrates has doubled since 2004. Although research links glyphosate exposure to cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma, much less research considers the effects that metabolites have on children who are more vulnerable to chemical exposure. Ecological and health risk assessments primarily focus on active ingredients in pesticide products, overlooking the potential impacts of metabolites. Thus, studies like these highlight the need to assess the implications of metabolite exposure to protect human, animal, and environmental health. The study notes, “Our results indicate that [Cypriot] children are co-exposed to a mixture of pesticides likely originating from both dietary and non-dietary sources. On average, these pesticide exposures appear at higher levels than those typically measured in other EU populations. The population health risk associated with such mixture exposures needs to be further investigated.”

The researchers in this study investigated the health of children aged 10 to 11 in Cyprus, using the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) to measure urinary concentrations of glyphosate, AMPA, and pyrethroid and chlorpyrifos metabolites. Using an immunological assay, researchers identified oxidative stress using biological markers to assess lipid and DNA damage. Additionally, parents filled out questionnaires gathering data on demographic characteristics, pesticide usage, and diet.

The results find that AMPA, but not glyphosate, has a positive association with DNA damage via oxidation. Moreover, the metabolites of pyrethroids (3-PBA) and chlorpyrifos (TCPy) are also associated with DNA damage and oxidative stress. Lipid damage from oxidative stress did not occur among these pesticides. However, the results suggest parental education levels influence urinary pyrethroid levels.

Decades of extensive glyphosate herbicide use (e.g., Roundup) have put human, animal, and environmental health at risk. The chemical’s ubiquity threatens 93 percent of all U.S. endangered species, resulting in biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption (e.g., soil erosionloss of services, and trophic cascades). Exposure to glyphosate has implications for the development of various health anomalies, including cancerParkinson’s disease, and autism. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies glyphosate herbicides as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” stark evidence demonstrates links to various cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. EPA’s classification perpetuates adverse impacts, especially among vulnerable individuals, like pregnant women, infants, children, and the elderly. Not only do health officials warn that continuous use of glyphosate will perpetuate adverse health effects, but that use also highlights recent concerns over antibiotic resistance. Agrochemical company Bayer/Monsanto patents glyphosate as an antibiotic. Exposure hinders enzymatic pathways in many bacteria and parasites. However, studies find glyphosate exposure disrupts the microbial composition in both soil and animals—including humans—discerningly eliminating beneficial bacteria while preserving unhealthy microbes. Moreover, resistance to pesticides is also growing at similar rates among genetically engineered (GE) and non-GE conventionally grown crops. This increase in resistance is evident among herbicide-tolerant GE crops, including seeds genetically engineered to be glyphosate-tolerant.

This study is one of the first to identify oxidative stress from AMPA exposure among children in a nonoccupational setting. However, glyphosate and its formulations have long been associated with oxidative stress and strong evidence of genotoxicity. Moreover, glyphosate degrades relatively quickly in the environment, between five and 20 days, leaving behind AMPA, which is highly persistent with a half-life of 151 days. Therefore, researchers attribute higher rates of AMPA concentration in children’s bodies to relative availability in the environment compared to glyphosate. Additional studies find that 100 percent of adults and children have detectable levels of AMPA in urine samples, with children exhibiting a five times higher bodily concentration than adults. Therefore, researchers suggest that a shift to organic can mitigate exposure to these toxic chemicals, especially among vulnerable populations like children.  

It is essential to understand the effects widely used pesticides and their breakdown products may have on the health of current and future generations. Beyond Pesticides challenges the EPA registration of chemicals like glyphosate in court due to their impacts on soil, air, water, and our health. However, emphasis on converting to regenerative-organic systems and using least-toxic pest control can mitigate harmful exposure concerns. Public policy must advance this shift rather than continue to allow unnecessary reliance on pesticides. Considering glyphosate levels in the human body can decrease by 70% through a one-week switch to an organic diet, purchasing organic food whenever possible—which never allows glyphosate use—can help curb exposure and resulting adverse health effects. Learn more about pesticides’ impacts on human health by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. Moreover, Beyond Pesticides provides tools, information, and support to take local action: check out our factsheet on glyphosate/Roundup and our report, Monsanto’s Roundup (Glyphosate) Exposed. Contact us for help with local efforts and stay informed of developments through our Daily News Blog and our journal, Pesticides and You. Additionally, check out Carey Gillam’s talk on Monsanto’s corruption on glyphosate/Roundup at Beyond Pesticides’ 36th National Pesticide Forum.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Environmental Research

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27
Apr

Pesticide Concentration through Metamorphosis Contaminates Birds and Bats

(Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2022) Pesticides can accumulate in aquatic fly larvae, be retained through metamorphosis, and represent a source of chronic pesticide exposure to birds and bats, according to research published in Environmental Science and Technology earlier this month. As population declines among these critical wildlife continue to mount, findings like these highlight the complex ways in which human activities are further stressing natural systems. Pesticide reviews conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are limited to an outdated set of studies conducted by the pesticide industry, and generally reject and dismiss emerging science from independent literature. This myopic focus on industry studies has brought widespread contamination to the natural world that necessitates wholescale changes at EPA through Congressional action.

With widespread acknowledgement that older pesticide chemistries, such as organochlorines like DDT and aldrin, bioconcentrate in living organisms, researchers aimed their study at present use fungicides and herbicides that have not yet undergone similar scrutiny. This includes seven fungicides—azoxystrobin, boscalid, cyflufenamid, fluopyram, tebuconazole, pyrimethanil, and trifloxystrobin—and two herbicides—napropamide and propyzamide. The study notes that formulated end use products, rather than technical grade active ingredients, were used in order to best mimic real world exposure conditions.

Larvae of the nonbiting midge, Chironomus riparius, were subsequently exposed to three different levels (low, moderate, high) of each of the aforementioned pesticide products in a microcosm for 14 days. A control group was left unexposed. Scientists found that all larvae exposed to any level of pesticide accumulated that pesticide in their body by the end of the test. The control group did not bioconcentrate any pesticide.

Exposed midge larvae were then allowed to metamorphosize into adults. After this process, researchers again tested the level of pesticide concentrated in the flies. Adult flies in the medium and high exposure levels all retained pesticides in their bodies, and five of the nine pesticides (trifloxystrobin, tebuconazole, boscalid, propyzamide, azoxystrobin) were also found in adult midges exposed to the lowest treatment levels.

Sex-specific differences were found among the level of pesticide retained through metamorphosis. In general, females retained higher pesticide levels than male flies. However, the level in female flies generally decreased over the course of their life, likely as a result of metabolic processes and egg laying. Male flies generally retained the same concentration over the course of their life. Researchers did note that certain pesticides, such as propyzamide and tebuconazole, increased in concentration in adulthood, which the authors attribute in part to bioamplification due to body mass loss after metamorphosis.

To determine how this contamination moves up the food chain, researchers estimated the flux of pesticides that would make its way into the environment from the low treatment level, in order to provide the most realistic and conservative estimate. It was determined that roughly 10-94 parts per billion of pesticide per year is moving from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems as a result of this process. This is a significantly higher amount than other studies not including these data have estimated moving from waterbodies to land, which generally indicate between 0.4  to 27 ppb. Ultimately, the researchers find that bats and birds feeding on contaminated midges could result in low to moderate chronic pesticide exposure.

“Considering the declines in bird and bat populations coinciding with increased pesticide use in recent decades, a better understanding of the potential dietary exposure to organic pesticides is of great relevance,” the authors note.

The ability for pesticides to “pass through” pest or prey species and result in harm to species higher up in the food chain is not a new phenomenon. It is perhaps most widely known in the context of DDT’s ability to bioaccumulate up the food chain and result in thinning egg shells for birds of prey. Recent studies have highlighted this process occurring in agricultural settings with the use of neonicotinoid seeds. Scientific studies have reported slugs unaffected by the pesticide killing predator beetles due to high levels of bioconcentrated insecticide.

Pesticides do not simply stay where they are sprayed. They make their way into every facet of an ecosystem, with impacts that are difficult to discern, yet have critical implications for long-term fitness and sustainability. Despite this, regulators at EPA have consistently failed to look comprehensively at the broader ecosystem effects and trophic cascades that can occur from even low levels pesticide contamination in the environment. As a result, advocates are urging Congress to reform EPA through legislation like PACTPA and SAPA, which while aimed at protecting children and pollinators, would enact important reforms that would safeguard overall public health and environmental sustainability. Take action today to urge your member of Congress to cosponsor PACTPA and push for broader reforms to pesticide law.

For more information about the ways pesticide contamination can cascade through ecosystems, see Beyond Pesticides wildlife webpage and the article in Pesticides and You: Pesticide Use Harming Key Species Ripples Through the Ecosystem.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Environmental Science and Technology, ScienceDaily

 

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26
Apr

CDC Study: Pesticide Use Does Not Reduce Risk of Lyme, Other Tick-Borne Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2022) Using pesticides to reduce the number of ticks in residential areas does not translate to lower rates of tick-borne disease in humans. This finding is the culmination of research overseen by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which have been studying the effectiveness of pesticides to manage tick bites and tick borne-diseases for over a decade. While earlier research focused on direct pesticide applications to individual household lawns, the most recent publication, under early release in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, represented a broader, neighborhood-wide implementation of control measures. Yet in both instances, pesticide use did not play a role in reducing tick-borne disease. The studies are a stark warning for states and communities considering vector disease spray campaign for ticks in a similar manner to mosquito spraying. “The bottom line is that toxic pesticide use is not the answer to tick bites or tick-borne disease,” said Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman. “To manage ticks, we must embrace ecological solutions that work with natural processes and education campaigns emphasizing personal protection.”

Researchers set out to test two methods of broad area tick control in 24 residential neighborhoods in Dutchess County, NY. The first method, called the tick control system (TCS), includes the use of bait boxes that attract rodents. Exiting the bait box, rodents encounter brushes that coat them with the insecticide fipronil in attempts to kill any ticks present and prevent future ticks from latching. This system aims to stop ticks from feeding on a white footed mice, the primary disease vector for Lyme disease. The other method employed a biological insecticide called Met52, a spray utilizing a fungus that claims to kill ticks in the environment.

Although fipronil represents a highly toxic pesticide that can cause environmental harm even at very small amounts, this study design is an improvement on the hazards to study subjects in previous studies supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prior research on tick disease from individual household lawns employed sprays of the synthetic pyrethroid bifenthrin, which is a possible carcinogen, and has been linked to neurotoxicity and a range of developmental problems. Families enrolled in the study did not know whether bifenthrin was applied to their lawns, and Beyond Pesticides expressed concerns that they were not provided full information about the hazards associated with the chemical.

The present study, while well-designed, likewise kept certain residents in the dark regarding whether the application to their property was real or a placebo. The questionable ethics of the study notwithstanding, four treatments were established, as the authors indicate, “[i] placebo TCS boxes and placebo Met52, [ii] placebo TCS boxes and active Met52, [iii]active TCS boxes and placebo Met52,[iv] and active TCS boxes and active Met52.” All neighborhoods active in the study had high incidence of Lyme disease and moderate density of one- or two-family homes.

Bait boxes were placed in areas frequented by small mammals, and Met52 was applied via truck-mounted high-pressure sprayers (placebo groups received water for this application) twice per year during peak nymphal tick activity. Introductory and bi-weekly surveys were provided to participating households, and researchers recorded information on general tick abundance, tick burden on rodents, pet tick encounters and disease, and human tick encounters and disease.

The number of ticks collected in neighborhoods was reduced by 53% after using TCS, but reductions from Met52 were not found to be statistically significant. The number of ticks reported on white-footed mice was also reduced by roughly half due to TCS boxes, but Met52 again showed no statistical reduction. The number of ticks found on pets was not reduced to a statistically significant level, but incidence of disease was half of what it was in prior years for both TCS and Met52 applied neighborhoods. For humans, however, no statistical reduction in tick encounters was experienced, nor was there any reduction in the number of reported tick-borne diseases during the study period.

Researchers indicate that the differences seen between humans and pets could relate to the way they act when outside, with pets potentially spending more time in areas where ticks frequent. They also note, “The observed effect of the active interventions on TBDs [tick-borne diseases] in outdoor pets should be interpreted cautiously.” Authors did not confirm the presence of tick- borne disease in pets through veterinarians, but instead relied on survey results from participants.

With years of data now available showing no evidence that pesticide use will reduce the rate of tick-borne illnesses in people, individuals must re-double personal preventive methods. Ticks can move about one’s body for a long period of time before finding a spot they want to bite – often around the head, ears, and other creases or warm areas of the body. It takes between 24 to 48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease after a bite.** This makes regular tick checks and tick removal of paramount importance. In areas that are potential tick habitats, wear light-colored clothing that covers the body (especially your legs) because it makes it easier to spot ticks so they can be removed before they bite. Although many folks balk at the idea of wearing long-sleeved clothing in the warmer months of the year, consider the range of materials available, such as sun-protective shirts and pants that can provide a thin but effective barrier. Use unscented deodorant, soap and shampoo, save for pine tar soap, which has a natural pine scent which can keep ticks from biting once they have been picked up. Similarly, you can try using least-toxic herbal repellents such as oil of lemon eucalyptus and essential oils. Most importantly, after you have walked through high grass in a tick infested area, check the entire body for ticks and shower to wash off any ticks that have not yet become embedded. This practice is essential for hikes and in residential areas of high tick activity. Treat it like any other personal care routine, like brushing and flossing – and make it a regular part of your outdoor activities. 

Much like bed bugs, which are notoriously difficult to control with pesticides, ticks can find cracks, nooks, crannies and a myriad of other hiding spots that pesticides cannot reach. And merely killing ticks that may latch onto mice does not appear to make enough of an impact to lower disease rates. Future research by CDC should study the impact of more focused ecological interventions on tick populations, which may include surveys of tick-eating insects, birds, and mammals, and their impact on tick populations, the efficacy of installing possum houses, or surveys of mouse-eating reptiles, birds, and mammals and how they impact the mouse population vector of Lyme disease.

As tick populations rise, there is increasing pressure on Homeowner Associations (HOAs), cities, counties and other local jurisdictions to spray pesticides to manage ticks populations. Pesticide companies likewise will often use mailers or go door to door selling pesticide sprays with a promise of a safer yard. Yet with two strong studies from CDC showing these practices to be ineffective, residents across the country are encouraged to push back strongly against pesticide use suggestions for ticks. Those receiving a spray are less likely to take personal protective measures, thinking that the pesticide will do its job. Harming one’s self, neighbors, wildlife and local ecology with toxic sprays for a false peace of mind is not acceptable.

For more information on managing tick-borne disease, see Beyond Pesticides daily news article on the previous CDC study, as well our ManageSafe entry on ticks.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Emerging Infectious Diseases (early release)

**A 2015 review found that there is no minimum tick attachment time for Lyme transmission. CDC indicates that the risk under 24 hours is “extremely small,” but caution should be made to remove a tick as soon as possible after attachment. Lymedisease.org provides resources for what do to after a tick bite. Apart from Lyme, some tick-borne diseases are transmitted rapidly after attachment.

 

 

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