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Daily News Blog

23
Oct

Parents Sue Manufacturer of Neurotoxic Insecticide Chlorpyrifos, Corteva (formerly Dow), for Causing Child’s Disabilities

(Beyond Pesticides, October 23, 2020) In central California, what promises to be a landmark series of lawsuits against Corteva (formerly DowAgroSciences), maker of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, is under way, spearheaded by the case Alba Luz Calderon de Cerda and Rafael Cerda Martinez v. Corteva Inc., et al. This first suit, brought by the parents of Rafael Cerda Calderon, Jr. on his behalf, charges that his lifelong disabilities were caused by chronic exposures to chlorpyrifos. The parents are suing for general damages, compensatory damages (due to Rafael, Jr.’s loss of earning capacity), medical care costs, and “punitive damages for the willful, reckless, and recklessly indifferent conduct of the Defendants” in intentionally hiding the dangers of their chlorpyrifos products from customers and the public. As with so many dangerous pesticides, absent effective federal regulation, states, cities, and other entities are taking action to protect people from this compound, and as in this case, individuals are seeking redress for harms suffered. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for a ban on the use of chlorpyrifos because of the grave risks it poses.

The case was filed in mid-September in California Superior Court, Kings County, and names not only Corteva, but also, the cities of Huron and Avenal, Woolf Farming Company, Cottonwest, LLC, John A. Kochergen Properties (successor in interest to Alex A. Kochergen Farms), and an “invisible” pesticide applicator (#1020351) as defendants. Plaintiffs are represented by several law firms, led by Calwell Luce diTrapano PLLC of Charleston, West Virginia. Lead attorney Stuart Calwell reports that the firm is “in the process of reviewing around 200-plus records. We probably got 87 that look like they’re provable cases.” AP News reports that at least 50 additional plaintiffs have emerged, and are in the litigation pipeline for similar harms caused by this toxic pesticide.

Chlorpyrifos was developed by Dow Chemical Company (subsequently Dow AgroSciences and now Corteva) in the 1960s as an alternative to DDT, the notoriously toxic compound that was used widely in the mid-20th century and then banned in 1972. Chlorpyrifos has been used intensively in agriculture (for almond, apricot, cotton, and other crops) in the central California San Joaquin Valley for decades. It is sold under the brand names Lorsban and Dursban.

Chlorpyrifos is a potent neurotoxicant that has particularly nasty effects on babies and children, as Beyond Pesticides has noted: “Pregnant women who live within a mile of agricultural fields treated with insecticides like chlorpyrifos are more likely to have a child develop autism.” It also threatens in utero fetal development: “Women in the second trimester living near chlorpyrifos-treated fields are 3.3 times more likely to have their children diagnosed with autism.” It can cause broad developmental problems, including “decreased cognitive function, lower IQs, attention deficit disorder, developmental delays, and a host of other pervasive developmental and learning disorders in children.”

The lawsuit claims that Rafael Cerda Calderon, Jr. was exposed to chlorpyrifos, both in utero and during his infancy, to thousands of pounds of the compound. The pesticide found its way into the family’s home via the air, the fields and packing houses where his parents worked, and the water they all drank. The young Mr. Calderon’s mother worked in a packing house during the pregnancy, handling lettuce and citrus sprayed with chlorpyrifos; his father worked as a pesticide applicator in agricultural fields, undoubtedly bringing the compound home with him. AP News reports that, in addition, the Huron apartment building in which the family lived during Ms. Calderon de Cerda’s pregnancy was located “near massive, indiscriminate spraying of chlorpyrifos that contaminated the city’s water” — which they used for drinking, cooking, and bathing. When Rafael, Jr. was eight months old, the family moved to Avenal, but did not escape chlorpyrifos: that water supply was also permeated with the pesticide.

The suit asserts that defendants Woolf, Cottonwest, the anonymous applicator #1020351, and Kochergen Properties, in the aggregate and during Rafael, Jr.’s gestation, infancy, and toddler years (2002–2006), applied to areas adjacent to the family’s drinking water sources (the California Aqueduct) or the family’s place of residence, more than 5,400 pounds of chlorpyrifos. The plaintiffs’ complaint says that Rafael, Jr.’s exposure to and harm from chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos oxon began in utero and has been “ongoing and continuous throughout his life.”

As a baby and toddler, Rafael, Jr. exhibited developmental problems, including weakness in his extremities, reduced muscle tone, gross motor delay, deficits in social, language, and fine motor skills, and cognitive and attentional deficits. Born prematurely in 2003, he is diagnosed and lives with autism, a seizure disorder, ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder), and intellectual and cognitive disabilities. As the complaint spells out, “He has ongoing difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, personal hygiene, and attending to his own needs and activities of daily living. It is extremely unlikely that Rafael, Jr. will ever be able to be gainfully employed, or able to live independently, and he is reasonably certain to need some assistance and care for the rest of his natural life.” Plaintiff’s attorney Stuart Calwell comments, as AP News reports, “Young Rafael and others like him were literally awash in this deadly chemical before they were born. Their central nervous systems never had a chance.”

The Modesto Bee reports Mr. Calwell’s comment that, “The neurotoxin is especially dangerous once it enters a household because it can live for years.’ He and his team have spent years testing rural areas populated mostly by farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley. ‘We found the stuff in cars; it gets in the dashboard, it goes anywhere the wind goes. We even sampled a teddy bear and even found it there. So for a child living there, with every breath he takes, he’s getting a little dose. It’s very insidious.’”

Chlorpyrifos harbors a highly toxic “Trojan horse.” When the compound comes into contact with water or sunshine, or is exposed to a chlorine compound (with which most drinking water systems treat water for biologic control), a byproduct called “chlorpyrifos oxon” is created. This oxon byproduct is the active metabolite that is responsible for chlorpyrifos’s mode of action: inhibiting the action of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme critical to normal nerve impulse transmission.

Chlorpyrifos oxon represents 1,0003,000 times the toxic risk to the neurological system in mammals than does chlorpyrifos per se; thus, it has never been registered for use by EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). It is a close chemical relative to the chemical warfare agent Sarin, and can persist in drinking water for a typical 72 hours. That said, chlorine compounds actually retard the degradation of chlorpyrifos oxon, acting as a sort of “preservative” that allows it to persist in water even longer than that “typical” 72 hours.

Attorney Calwell explained (in personal communication with Beyond Pesticides): “The driver of this case is EPA’s failure to appreciate the propensity of the parent compound — chlorpyrifos — to convert abiotically to the oxon in the environment when it is exposed to sunlight, water, chlorine, or other trace compounds. It does not convert only, as Dow has claimed, ‘biotically’ when the pesticide enters an insect; it happens abiotically and broadly in the environment. Abiotic conversion is rampant. Of course, not 100% of chlorpyrifos converts at application, but enough does that it is impossible to make chlorpyrifos ‘safe.’”

Thus, under certain conditions, the toxic impacts of chlorpyrifos can persist for months or years, meaning that people can be exposed nearly constantly to this toxin and its oxon in water, food, homes, cars, and even on everyday household items, including toys. The damage caused by chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos oxon is literally almost incalculable.

Exposure to chlorpyrifos oxon does not happen through “misuse,” but when the pesticide is used according to the EPA-reviewed label instructions. The subject lawsuit claims that Corteva (Dow) knew about the dangers of this byproduct and failed to warn regulators, customers, and the public. The complaint asserts, “Dow claims that the effectiveness of chlorpyrifos as an insecticide depends on the target insect’s biologic ability to convert chlorpyrifos, once ingested, to the oxon. Dow does not disclose that chlorpyrifos is unstable in the environment — particularly in the presence of chlorine or bromine, which catalyze the conversion — and that it quickly begins to convert to an oxon when mixed with water according to label directions, nor does Dow disclose that it will also convert in sunlight during and after application, which Dow knew or should have known as far back as the late 1960s or early 1970s. Unlike chlorpyrifos, the oxon is relatively stable in the environment, especially once it gets indoors, so that its toxic effects persist for months. The practical effect of this reality is that an application of chlorpyrifos to the fields and orchards of California’s Central Valley is an application of the unregistered neurotoxin, chlorpyrifos oxon.”

And yet, this pesticide has continued to be permitted for use by EPA. Mr. Calwell commented (in personal communication) that EPA’s relationship with chlorpyrifos and its manufacturer has been characterized by misdirection and “junk science.” He recalled that the first chlorpyrifos case on which he worked was that of Joshua Herb, a nine-year-old boy who had become a quadriplegic after his home had been treated with Dursban. During the case discovery process, the judge ordered Dow to provide internal paperwork, which showed that the company had withheld from EPA reports of 249 cases of chlorpyrifos poisoning.

That litigation charged that the company failed, for years and in spite of evidence, to consider or test the possibility that chlorpyrifos is a developmental neurotoxicant. Further, it alleged that Dow “contaminated the published information and literature available with bad science, through its negligent, reckless, and willful underreporting and concealment of adverse incidents and its overproduction of studies finding no adverse effects by heavily biased design.” That lawsuit contended that if the company had acted responsibly, it would have removed the product from the market before 2002. Dow was fined by EPA for willful concealment of those reports, and the suit ultimately turned into the “straw that broke the camel’s back” — catalyzing the agreement between EPA and Dow to eliminate residential uses of chlorpyrifos — a de facto federal ban — “in exchange” for the company’s continued ability to sell chlorpyrifos to the agricultural market.

Currently, a California statewide ban stopped sales of the pesticide in February 2020, and prohibits growers from possessing or using it after December 31 of this year. A functional ban on chlorpyrifos in agriculture was proposed during the Obama administration, but had not taken effect when the Trump administration came to power, and was rejected in 2017 by EPA’s then-administrator Scott Pruitt. Since then, multiple lawsuits have been pursued to try to get EPA to ban the dangerous pesticide. The latest twist is that in late September 2020, EPA announced it would continue to permit use of chlorpyrifos, even in the face of the agency’s own scientific findings of dangerousness.

Use of chlorpyrifos is not safe, period. Beyond EPA’s failure to ban, or even strictly regulate, this highly neurotoxic pesticide stands the massive environmental and agricultural injustice this compound’s use represents, particularly in areas of the country where people of color comprise the bulk of agricultural workers. They and their families are put at disproportionate risk from this compound, as this lawsuit against Corteva illustrates painfully.

Beyond Pesticides will continue to monitor scientific, regulatory, and legal developments related to chlorpyrifos. Public and agricultural worker health require that the sale and use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture be banned in the U.S. Further, the comprehensive solutions lie in land and pest management systems that do not rely on toxic chemicals. See Beyond Pesticides pages on Agricultural Justice and Organic Agriculture for more.

Sources: https://www.modbee.com/news/california/article246568668.html, https://apnews.com/press-release/globe-newswire/business-rafael-calderon-government-regulations-lawsuits-crime-68558bd166118a6930c5ba3c90b8c7f0, and https://www.cldlaw.com/storage/app/media/CPF/calderon-complaint-9-16-20.pdf.

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

 

 

 

 

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22
Oct

Continued Skin Contact with Disinfectant Use to Prevent COVID-19 Infection Can Cause Harmful Skin Reactions

(Beyond Pesticides, October 22, 2020) Prolonged dermal (skin) exposure to hazardous disinfectants, via handling and/or residue on surfaces, can induce the risk of adverse skin reactions (i.e., inflammation, burns, necrosis), according to a novel review analysis published in Clinics in Dermatology. Researchers of the review, “Dermatologic reactions to disinfectant use during the COVID-19 pandemic,” examine skin reactions associated with dermal exposure to various disinfectants approved for use against COVID-19 by the European Chemical Agency (ECA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) classifies disinfectants as pesticides, so it is up to the states to delegate training, registration, and enforcement. Many states enforce pesticide training that allows professional applicators to learn how to handle, apply, and store pesticides properly. However, many of these same states do not have professional training for disinfectant use, especially wide-scale applications. Consequently, disinfectant applications are now more pervasive than ever, especially as school reopenings ensues. Considering failure to “Comply with Labeling and Permit Conditions” was the most common pesticide use violation of 2018, according to the California Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR), advocates are urging global leaders to recognize the potential impacts that frivolous disinfectant use can have on the largest human organ, the skin.

Amidst the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), the global demand for disinfectants and sanitizers has increased substantially as a means of preventing illness in residential and non-residential settings. Initially, public health officials considered disinfecting highly trafficked areas as the most effective way to combat COVID-19. This notion has led to improper disinfectant practices in many countries where trucks, drones, or robots disperse massive amounts of disinfectants into public areas. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported a sharp increase in calls to poison control centers regarding illnesses resulting from the use or misuse of toxic disinfectants during the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other infectious disease specialists condemn indiscriminate and vast amounts of disinfectant spraying in public areas as it is both ineffective and a health hazard on contact or when combined with other disinfectants.

As the pressure to reopen public facilities, like schools, restaurants, gyms, etc., increases, the lack of proper disinfection guidelines and monitoring generates concerns, especially as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 includes spraying students with disinfectants. The active ingredients in most disinfectants are harmful because these chemical compounds have corrosive and irritating properties that should never encounter bare skin.

Researchers examined studies related to skin reactions caused by various chemical classes of disinfectants common in consumer products. Furthermore, researchers assessed adverse skin reactions to disinfectant use and the chemicals’ skin penetration ability via transdermal penetration and interactions with skin components that facilitate skin penetration.

There are ten different chemical classes included in the review: alcohols (i.e., isopropanol, ethanol), biguanides (i.e., polyhexanide), α-hydroxy acids (AHA) (i.e., citric acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid), chlorine and chlorine compounds (i.e., sodium hypochlorite/bleach, sodium chloride), metal ions (i.e., silver, nanosilver), aldehydes (i.e., glutaraldehyde), peroxygen compounds (i.e., hydrogen peroxide, peroxyacetic acid), iodophors (i.e., containing iodine and a surfactant/wetting-agent), phenolic compounds (i.e., cresols, hexachlorobenzene, chlorophenols), anionic surfactants (i.e., dodecylbenzene sulfonic acid), and cationic surfactants (i.e., quaternary ammonium compounds).

According to the review, most disinfectants cause some form of acute skin irritation. Although certain disinfectants are less harmful upon dermal contact than others, many of these chemicals cause irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) and allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). ICD is a non-immune response that manifests into a localized skin inflammation by directly damaging the skin following toxic agent exposure. ACD is an immune response to skin contact with a dermal allergen that an individual is already allergic (sensitized) to, causing non-localized skin inflammation and/or systemic bodily response. However, chronic, cumulative exposure to more mild chemical irritants can still elicit a skin reaction.

Alcohols have low transdermal penetration properties, even upon excessive use. Therefore, WHO recommends the use of either ethanol (80%v/v) or isopropanol (70%v/v) upon direct contact with skin via hand rubs. However, some research suggests alcohol-based products can cause ICD and ACD. Studies find an association with pre-irritated skin (e.g., by detergents or water, a cut) and a burning sensation upon contact with alcohol-based antiseptic products. Although allergic reactions, like ACD, to dermal contact with alcohol antiseptic products lack considerable scientific evidence, some studies report allergic reactions such as contact urticarial (hives). Furthermore, solvents in alcohol products may cause mild irritation to the skin due to impurities, aldehyde metabolites, or fragrances.

Although aldehydes, like glutaraldehyde, do not readily penetrate the skin, dermal contact with high concentrations of glutaraldehyde (~20%) can cause ICD and necrosis (death of cells in an organ/tissue). Occupational and experimental exposure to aldehydes frequently causes ACD. Furthermore, upon contact with skin, glutaraldehyde produces a “tanning effect,” triggering yellow-brown skin discoloration due to an alternation of protein structure from chemical crosslinking of proteins like keratin and collagen.

Skin penetration of biguanides like polyhexanide low and ACD is rare. However, research finds increasing reports of ACD incidents over the years, potentially due to the cross-reaction this chemical has with other biguanides like chlorhexidine. Moreover, polyhexanide concentrations above 1.2% are moderate to strong skin sensitizers (allergens), and although rare, can cause anaphylaxis upon exposure to wounded skin.

Chlorine and chlorine compounds concentrations between 5-10% can cause skin reactions that manifest as a burning sensation, pain, redness, edema, blisters, and necrosis. Any concentration of hypochlorite—a chlorine and chlorine compound—above 10% is corrosive and can cause chemical burns. Upon dilution to 0.1%, these chemical compounds have low skin penetrative abilities due to its high reactivity, oxidizing, and alkalinity properties when in contact with proteins on the skin. However, these same properties are what worsens the adverse effect of these chemicals when mixed with other disinfectant products, including sodium hydroxide (exothermic reaction), acetic acid (toxic gas), alcohol (toxic gas), and household cleaners that contain ammonia (toxic gas). Although there is little dermal uptake of poisonous gas by unwounded skin, the gas can still irritate the skin. Furthermore, the oxidizing properties of chlorine dioxide—a highly reactive and unstable chlorine compound—have similar effects in the skin as hypochlorite compounds, but milder due to chlorine dioxide’s rapid degradation.

Iodophors, consisting of iodine complexed with a nonionic surfactant, cause less skin irritation than iodine disinfectants. However, the severity of transdermal penetration is time-dependent, as extensive dermal contact with chemical concentrations at 10% triggers ICD along with chemical burns, pain, blistering lesions, and tissue necrosis. Although pre-wounded skin is more prone to the side effects of iodophor, the continuous release of free iodine acting as a weak oxidant can also trigger side effects. Reports of ACD and allergic reactions to iodophors are rare, and other ingredients in iodophor products may be the culprit.

Although metal ions, like silver and nanosilver, are not readily absorbed via the skin, and ACD is mainly due to other constituent ingredients, topical application of metal ions to a wound may induce ICD, causing localized brown-black skin discoloration.

According to the review, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) have skin penetrative properties that are time-, pH-, and concentration-dependent. At lower concentrations, AHAs have little to no skin reaction and are commonplace in dermatologic practice. Usually, concertation of 10% or less and a pH of 3.5 or higher can cause burning, dermatitis, skin peeling, itching, and moderate sunburns. Skin reactions, including epidermal and dermal thickness, occur at a concentration of 20-40% for citric acid (CA) and glycolic acid (GA) and 12% for lactic acid (LA). AHA may decrease pigment deposition in the skin and induce ACD that trigger hives and skin photosensitivity, with concentrations of GA and CA at 3% or more enhancing ultraviolet (UV) damage to the skin.

The rapid chemical degradation of peroxygen compounds like hydrogen peroxide impedes an assessment of the dermal absorption rate. Although non-threatening, temporary skin bleaching can occur at some concentrations, while only concentrations of hydrogen peroxide at 35% or higher manifest skin reactions like reversible erythema and edema, irreversible skin peeling, and rare vacuolar eruption. Concentrations of hydrogen peroxide at 50% can induce chemical burns that can occur at lower concentrations if the skin experiences prolonged exposure to the chemical. Despite hydrogen peroxides being a strong oxidizing antiseptic, it is generally non-irritating at a concentration of 10% or less. On the other hand, the strong oxidative properties of peroxygen compounds like peracetic acid (PA) cause skin reactions upon repeated exposure, including acute skin irritation, erythema, scaling, and roughness at concentrations as low as 0.1%. The review notes that the regular use of PA at a concentration of 0.2-0.5% during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak triggered skin irritation, burning, and itching lasting up to 5 hours.

Phenolic compounds, like phenol and its chemical derivatives (ortho phenyl phenol [OPP] and ortho-benzylpara-chlorophenol [OBPCP]), have high skin penetrative properties and can trigger ACD skin reaction soon after contact at a concentration as low as 0.1%. Skin exposure to concentrations of OPP and OBPCP at 1% can reduce pigmentation and induce vitiligo. Persistent exposure to 0.5% halogenated (containing one or more added halogen atom) phenol triggers chemical burns and fingertip decomposition.

Lastly, the review discusses the skin reactions associated with anionic and cationic surfactants. Anionic surfactants, like sodium dodecyl benzenesulfonate, have low transdermal penetration, mainly penetrating the skin via prolonged, repeated exposure, resulting in moderate to severe erythema (rash) and rough skin. Cationic surfactants or quaternary ammonium compounds (“quats”), like benzalkonium chloride (BAC), can readily penetrate the skin, inducing skin irritation and inflammation at concentrations as low as 0.1%. Although rare, the review reports incidents of ACD at remarkably low concentrations (0.01%) and instant hypersensitivity, with hives, swelling, rash, and itchiness at higher concentrations (1 – 10%). New quat formulas, like didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC), harm the skin (in vitro) and may trigger varied hypersensitivity that induces antibody and lymphocyte cell response. Furthermore, DDAC has skin irritant and sensitizer properties potentially stronger than old formula quats like BAC.

The skin responds to numerous external stimuli that can change its morphological (shape/structure), physiological (function), and histological (tissue) properties. Some responses to external stimuli are typical, including skin exposure to sunlight (UV-light) for tanning or water for wrinkling. However, exposure to excessive stimuli, including environmental contaminants, can propagate adverse, permanent changes to the skin. Just as excessive exposure to UV rays can cause skin discoloration and cancer, prolonged dermal contact with disinfectants can cause a plethora of adverse reactions, including skin discoloration and cancer. Considering one of the most prominent routes of pesticide exposure is dermal—compromising 95 percent of all pesticide exposure incidents—and that most disinfectants are potential skin irritants and/or sensitizers (allergens), it is essential to mitigate direct skin contact with these toxic chemicals and enforce proper application protocol.

While EPA has certified a large number of disinfectants as effective against SARS-CoV-2 (List N), many of these chemicals are hazardous and weaken the respiratory, immune, and nervous systems. The most concerning disinfectants in the dermatologist review include quaternary ammonium compounds (“quats”), phenolic compounds, metal ions, chlorine and chlorine compounds, aldehydes, peroxyacetic acid (peroxygen compounds), glycolic acid (AHA), biguanide, and iodophors. All of the said chemicals reside on Beyond Pesticides’ “bad” list of “Disinfectants to Avoid.” Many of these chemical causes a long list of adverse effects—from asthma and other respiratory, problems, to endocrine disruption, infertility, and cancer.

More than a third of U.S. residents participate in high-risk COVID-19 practices, misusing toxic disinfectant cleaners and disinfectants to prevent infection. “Quats” are among some of the most harmful disinfectants, as their “long-lasting” properties have adverse impacts on human health, which has extensive documentation in literature. Some adverse effects comprise mutations, lower fertility, and increase antibiotic resistance. Overuse of quat disinfectants (containing BAC) in ICE detainment centers caused nose bleeds and other adverse health effects. Furthermore, Beyond Pesticides receives questions from concerned teachers asking for less harmful disinfectants to use in the classroom, especially as many are experiencing the adverse impacts of improper disinfectant use (i.e., chemical skin burns, respiratory issues). Since “quats” are in most disinfectant products, it remains ubiquitous in the environment as misuse continues.

Disinfectant products containing phenolic compounds are also concerning due to its wide range of adverse effects. Its derivative (OPP) is possibly carcinogenic, and exposure to phenolic compounds via skin or inhalation can trigger headaches, burning eyes, muscle tremors, skin burns, irregular heartbeat, severe injury to heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs, cancer, and even death. Although some individuals practicing high-risk COVD-19 prevention practices use quats and phenolic compounds, sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach) remains the most widely misused disinfectant. CDC’s report on an increase in poison control calls due to disinfectant misuse notes that a majority pertained to bleach products, a 62% increase from 2019, with a total disinfectant-related call increase by 108.8% between 2019 and 2020. Thirty-nine percent of Americans participate in high-risk COVID-19 prevention practices, washing food with bleach, and using disinfectants on bare skin, with four percent drinking or gargling with diluted bleach solutions or other disinfectants. Bleach misuse can cause respiratory problems (i.e., asthma, wheezing, coughing), skin burns, nervous system, extreme headaches, migraines, and vomiting.

Many of these toxic disinfectants are harmful via more than one exposure route as ingestion and inhalation also trigger potentially more harmful effects. Although chemical disinfectants kill viruses, bacteria, and other microbes via cell wall and protein destruction, they can also irritate and destroy the mucous membranes in animal and human respiratory and digestive tracts upon ingestion or inhalation. Occasionally, this exposure can lead to death in extreme cases. People who have a preexisting condition or are of advanced age, who may have a weakened immune or respiratory system are more vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Many of the products approved as disinfectants have negative impacts on the respiratory or immune system, thus reducing resistance to the disease. When managing viral and bacterial infections, chemicals that exacerbate the risk to vulnerable individuals are of serious concern.

The review concludes that even exposure to disinfectant compounds with non-irritant properties can allow an individual to develop sensitization overtime. Not only can frequent exposure to disinfectants trigger sensitization, but also exposure disproportionately impacts essential workers who apply disinfectants to these frequented areas. Furthermore, the combined use of various toxic disinfectants can act synergistically, enhancing adverse effects on the body. Conveniently, there are many safer disinfectants on EPA’s list N that are effective against the virus, including citric acid, ethanol, isopropanol, L-lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, sodium bisulfate, dodecylbenzene sulfonic acid, and thymol. These chemicals are present on Beyond Pesticides’ “good” list of “Disinfectants to look For” as natural-based substances tend to be safer while still effective at eliminating the virus on surfaces. However, many disinfectant products containing these active ingredients also contain other (inert) ingredients that typically make up most of the product formula. Inert ingredients can be toxic, and EPA does not require manufacturers to disclose ingredients on the product label, so manufacturers choose to participate with individual product reviews. Although EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE), or Safer Choice Program, subdivides products with these active ingredients by evaluating the hazards associated with undisclosed inert ingredients, individuals should use precautions and adhere to label direction to mitigate any unintentional adverse impacts effects. 

The authors of the review provide various safety concerns to consider when using chemical disinfectants:
• Damaged skin is prone to adverse reactions from a direct absorption of disinfectants, and extra care should be given to avoid contact with disinfectants.
• While multiple disinfectants may be used together or formulated as a single product to achieve synergistic effects, an enhanced adverse effect is expected.
• Whenever dermatitis is known, disinfectants that are weak or non-irritants and sensitizers should be prioritized. Patch testing may be considered. It is important to avoid using disinfectants from a similar class that is known to be allergic to the users in consideration of a potential cross-reactivity.
• It is necessary to use protective garments during handling to avoid direct contact from spillage. Even with regular use of protective attires, unnoticeable punctures in the gloves on multiple use and the handling of disinfected surfaces can expose users to contamination. Possible interactions of disinfectants with protective garments may occur.
• For example, glutaraldehyde at 2 – 3.4% may penetrate latex gloves after 45 min and thus, butyl rubber and nitrile rubber gloves are recommended.
• Emphasis is given only on the dermatological reactions in this review but the exposure through other manners such as ocular route and inhalation is often significant and most probably toxic.
•  Chlorine compounds are known to emit chlorine gas during preparation and application. The exposure to the eyes is thus high and toxic.

As various public facilities in the U.S. begin to reopen at higher capacities, and people continue to protect themselves long-term from coronavirus, global leaders and individuals alike must decrease the reliance on toxic chemical disinfectants to safeguard against disease. Public health officials should carefully examine disinfectant practices and products to ensure chemical use does not introduce an unnecessary health threat while elevating the hazards associated with infectious disease crises. In addition to social distancing guidelines and mask requirements, the use of safer disinfection products can reduce human’s and wildlife’s vulnerability to this deadly illness.

Because widely available disinfectants are very hazardous, it is important to learn how to adopt protections from COVID-19 while not exposing yourself, family, school, or workplace to hazardous disinfectants that exacerbate the risks associated with the virus. For more information on safe disinfectants, visit Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on Disinfectants and Sanitizers, including a factsheet on meeting health protection needs for school reopening as schools must have adequate resources to ensure safety.

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

Source: Clinics in Dermatology

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21
Oct

Report Finds Latina Farmworkers Confront Unique Challenges

(Beyond Pesticides, October 21, 2020) Women now account for one in four agricultural jobs in the United States, and these important workers face unique challenges to their health and well-being, as outlined by a report published by Boise State University scientists. Farmworkers, often immigrants, or from communities of color, are frequently referred to as ‘invisible’, despite the essential job they perform getting food to American’s dinner tables. With their struggle and plight outside of the view of mainstream news, it is critical that U.S, residents better understand the lives they lead, and their daily obstacles, to inform how their conditions can be improved.

“In this study, we tried to understand the women that we were working with what their concerns were and what their challenges were rather than coming in and just saying what we thought the concerns were,” Cynthia Curl, PhD, Associate Professor at Boise State University, told Idaho News 6 (IN6).

To better assess the well-being of women farmworkers, researchers conducted mixed method data collection, through surveys, focus groups, and urinary analysis for pesticide body burden. Surveys were received from 70 Latina farmworkers, with 22 participating in focus groups and 11 in semi-structured interviews. An assessment of pesticide levels in the body, also known as body burden, or biomonitoring, were analyzed for 29 women. All farmworkers in this report worked in Idaho.  

Surveys found most women to be in their mid-30s, with two to three children in each household. Pay within these households is abysmal – 70% earned less than $25,000 a year, and nearly 20% made less than $10,000. Women engaged in farm work seasonally, with only 35% reporting to work in the winter. Most had worked in fields for over 10 years, and the vast majority, nearly 90%, lived in their current home for at least the last year. Despite the time spent in the region, nearly half of those surveyed indicate they do not strongly feel part of their community.

Most need to commute more than 10 miles to work, have trouble finding healthy, affordable food, and will skip meals due to financial pressure. Roughly 70% of Latina farmworkers reportedly struggle to find access to affordable health care. Over the previous year, nearly 10% applied pesticides.

“I think it’s also important to keep in mind that these challenges related to food security, providing food for their families and getting child care is in part due to their day to day life and what their work hours look like. Other parts are being in a rural place and not earning a lot of money,” said Rebecca Som Castellano, PhD, Associate Professor at Boise State University, to IN6.

Focus groups provided an opportunity for researchers to go in-depth with workers about their challenges. “It was such a beautiful conversation,” Lisa Meierotto, PhD Associate Professor at Boise State University, said to IN6. “There was one woman who reported that no one had ever asked her these things before. So just the opportunity for women to come together and talk about both the joys they had working in agriculture as well as the challenges they faced.”

Latina farmworkers told researchers how they appreciate working outside, and enjoy working with other women. “Es trabajo pesado. Pero bonito,” (it is difficult work, but beautiful work), one farmworker said, according to the report. Most farmworker women (over 90%) prioritized medical care, good schooling, and stable employment as most important for their well-being. They also discussed difficulty in working while raising young children, and inequality in domestic work, with women shouldering much of the burden for household chores and child-rearing tasks. Single farmworker mothers describe compounding problems with low pay and no support structure leading to problems in paying for rent and groceries.

Sexual harassment and assault were raised as ongoing issues for farmworker women. It was noted that many women, fearing job loss, do not report these incidents to police.

The biomonitoring survey, consisting of 29 women, analyzed urine samples for common pesticide metabolites (breakdown products) from pyrethroid insecticides, the organophosphate insecticide malathion, and the herbicide 2,4-D. Of the 29, 15 women provided two samples, one taken from mid-April to late June when pesticide use is considerably high, and another from January first to early April, when use is much lower. Detectable levels of every metabolite tested were found in every woman who provided a sample. Higher rates were found in samples measured during peak pesticide use. For the malathion metabolite, the highest detection was from women who reported applying pesticides at work but not receiving any training. The report reads, “Collectively, these results suggest that women who are applying pesticides may not be adequately protected from exposures to these chemicals.”

Dr. Curl told the Idaho Press that because women are not often considered primary pesticide applicators, “they don’t get the training and they don’t get clothes in the right size, so that is an added challenge that they may face.”

The report makes four policy recommendations based upon the information gathered. First, that funding for community health services should be continued and increased. Second, that work should be done to increase affordable childcare opportunities. Next, that policies should improve access to safe and affordable housing. Lastly, that growers must ensure all workers have personal protective equipment and are adequately trained if they are required to handle pesticides.

Farmworker safety in the workplace is not protected by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, but by inadequate provisions in federal pesticide law that took years to update and have nonetheless been the target of the Trump administration’s dangerous deregulatory agenda. The average life expectancy for a farmworker is 49 years, compared to 78 for the general population. This is similar to the life expectancy of individuals living in the 1850s. 

It is unacceptable to continue business as usual. Farmworker women and their families deserve equitable, meaningful protections so that they can continue to do the work they love, safely. Tell your Congressional representative today that EPA must act to protect farmworkers. And urge them to support HR3394, the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety, legislation in Congress that would put an end to child farm labor.

For more information on farmworker protections see Beyond Pesticides’ Agricultural Justice webpage.

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

Source: Idaho News 6, Idaho Press, Research Report: Assessment of Risk Factors for Health Disparities among Latina Farm Workers

 

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20
Oct

Combination of Pesticide Exposure, Limited Food Lead to Wild Bee Declines

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2020) The additive stress of pesticide exposure and food scarcity leads to significant declines in wild pollinator populations, according to research published by scientists at University of California, Davis. Although it is well known that insect and pollinators populations are at risk from multiple stressors related to industrial agriculture, comprehensive evaluations are a challenging scientific undertaking. “Just like humans, bees don’t face one single stress or threat,” said lead author Clara Stuligross, a PhD. candidate in ecology at UC Davis. “Understanding how multiple stressors interplay is really important, especially for bee populations in agricultural systems, where wild bees are commonly exposed to pesticides and food can be scarce.”

To better understand the interplay between these two stressors, researchers designed a field study. Mason bee pollinators were provided cages to nest in, and each stressor was separated out. One set of bees were provided high levels of food availability, while another received scant floral resources. Certain cages within each food level were treated with the product Admire Pro, a Bayer Cropscience insecticide containing the neonicotinoid imidacloprid.

Scientists found significant impacts on the factors that deal with mason bees’ reproductive success. This includes the likelihood that a female will nest, the number of offspring a female will produce, and the ratio of male to female offspring.

Taken alone, female mason bees exposed to Admire Pro (imidacloprid) were 10% less likely to nest, and when they did, produced 42% fewer offspring.  Those with access to limited food supplies produced 26% fewer offspring than those with abundant resources.  These stressors were additive, with pesticide exposure and limited floral resources combining to reduce reproduction by 57%, compared to the unexposed group.

The stressors also changed the sex of offspring that were successfully reared. Pesticide exposure led to a 33% reduction in daughters, and resource limitation caused a 48% decline. Synergism between these two stressors also acted additively. “In the bee world, males don’t matter so much,” said co-author Neal Williams, PhD, a pollination ecologist and professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis. “Male numbers rarely limit population growth, but fewer females will reduce the reproductive potential of subsequent generations.”

The mechanisms that led to fewer offspring were multifaceted. Stressed mason bees slowed down the nest construction process (by 32% from the pesticide and 20% from limited food, which acted additively), and spent fewer days nesting (pesticide exposed bees started nesting 3 ½ days later than unexposed pollinators).

One critically important detail noted by scientists was that, even though all the mason bees subjected to pesticide-treated flowers displayed negative responses to exposure, only two of the eight pesticide-treated cages had flowers with detectable levels of imidacloprid. Although not imminently relevant to the present study, it highlights a particularly pernicious aspect of the pollinator crisis. The frequent inability entomologists and beekeepers have in tracing pesticide related bee-kills back to a source allows manufactures like Bayer to skirt responsibility, and spin science to blame beekeepers or factors other than pesticide exposure.

Despite the crisis fatigue that many in the United States and around the world are battling, the trouble with pollinator populations is not abating. A study published earlier this summer found that U.S. pollinator declines, particularly among native wild bees, limits crop yields. As the science shows, neonicotinoids are likely the most significant pesticide stressor for pollinators, and in a world where habitat loss and fragmentation show no sign of abating, America cannot afford to continue to subject it’s critically important wild insects to these combined threats.

The data reveal that it is simply not enough for well-intentioned advocates to plant pollinator habitat. Habitat in and of itself may assist, but it must be free of pesticides in order to truly protect wild pollinator populations. Find resources to help you plant pesticide-free pollinator habitat through the Bee Protective Habitat Guide and the Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory. If you’re interested in advocating for real, meaningful, pollinator protection in your community, reach out to Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or [email protected] for the resources and information you need to convince your local lawmakers to act.

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

Source: UC Davis press release, Proceedings of the Royal Society B

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19
Oct

VOTE early. Bad Government Decisions Kill People and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2020) The COVID-19 epidemic has made clear to the general public what we at Beyond Pesticides have been stressing since our inception—some populations have disproportionate risk of severe outcomes, exposures to toxic chemicals can affect susceptibility to disease, comorbidity increases risk, and bad government can kill you.

As Trump declares that “unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” we are reminded of Erik Jansson, who ran the National Network to Prevent Birth Defects and helped to convene the founding meeting of Beyond Pesticides, and took on then-Administrator of EPA Anne Gorsuch, calling her a “baby killer” because of policies that allowed exposures to toxic chemicals—exposures that endangered children and fetuses. Those were harsh words in the 1980s even when the Reagan administration’s environmental and toxics policies were tied to elevated harm to people, and children in particular. In today’s world, scientists and medical doctors are regularly linking elevated death rates from coronavirus to the federal government’s inadequate coronavirus policy and its attack on science. And, they are pointing to those in charge.

Policies and decisions under the Trump administration that threaten the health of children and the unborn include:

  • COVID-19 misinformation. According to a Cornell University study, Trump is the single largest driver of misinformation around COVID, and, says Scientific American, that misinformation kills people.
  • Poisoning children. In a move that challenges the preponderance of independent peer-reviewed scientific findings on children’s health, EPA stripped away protections that limit children’s exposure to class of chemicals associated with childhood cancer, autism other learning disorders, and asthma. The result of the agency’s actions will be a dramatic increase in the use of synthetic pyrethroids, insecticides found in indoor and outdoor bug sprays, bug bombs, and often used on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Ignoring the recommendations of EPA scientists to ban chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is a cholinesterase inhibitor that binds irreversibly to the receptor sites of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that is critical to normal nerve impulse transmission. In so doing, chlorpyrifos inactivates the enzyme, damages the central and peripheral nervous systems, and disrupts neurological activity. The compound is associated with harmful reproductive, renal, hepatic, and endocrine disrupting effects, and most notably, with neurodevelopmental impacts, especially in children. It is a neurological toxicant that damages their brains and leads to compromised cognitive function, attention deficit disorder, developmental delays, lowered IQs, and a host of other developmental and learning anomalies.
  • Failure to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). EPA Administrator Wheeler “told reporters he believes the agency’s voluntary 70-part-per-trillion health-advisory level for the chemicals is ‘a safe level for drinking water,’ despite the fact that this level is more than six times higher than what the Department of Health and Human Services considers safe.” The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA) says, “[S]cientific evidence suggests that children may be especially vulnerable to PFAS exposure. For many children, exposure begins almost immediately, first through placental transfer and then through breast milk after birth. While medical professionals still recommend breastfeeding because of its many benefits, the idea that something so natural has been tainted with harmful, manmade chemicals is disturbing.”
  • Weakening air pollution regulations. Weakening air pollution regulations serves polluting industries but harms children, whose lungs are still developing and are more exposed through active, outdoor activities. Air pollution levels can also affect developing brains.
  • Disregards scientific consensus on climate change. According to UCSUSA, “[T]he complete failure of this administration to accept climate science and act to reduce carbon emissions is putting our children and future generations at risk. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of a warming world. Extreme heat can cause pregnant women to experience abnormally high blood pressure, liver and kidney damage, and premature births, and children are more susceptible to undernutrition, dehydration, and asthma and other respiratory diseases.”
  • Failure to reduce lead in drinking water and paint. There is no safe level for children of exposure to lead, which is, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a highly potent neurotoxin that even at low doses can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system of children.
  • EPA proposed lowering the age at which farmworker children are allowed to apply pesticides to 16. In 2015, the WPS was revised to set a minimum age of 18 for pesticide application. In 2018, after being sued for not implementing the minimum age requirement, EPA proposed lowering the age to 16. EPA dropped its proposal to lower the age for pesticide handlers after negotiating with Congress. Despite EPA’s reversal, a change in the statute such as that proposed in H.R. 3394 would prevent the agency or the courts from allowing 16-year-olds to be hired to apply pesticides in the future.
  • Dismantling of EPA’s and other regulatory programs. The range of government decisions, or the failure to act, is causing real harm to people, and too numerous to list here, but we can add ignoring EPA scientists’ call for an asbestos ban.   

In addition to moves that directly affect the health of children, there are many more that affect the future environment—the environment in which those children will live. Several lists of Trump administration actions that hurt health and the environment are available online, including those compiled by National Geographic, The New York Times, Union of Concerned Scientists, Scientific American, and World Resources Institute. Concern for the far-reaching impacts of the Trump administration on the environment and health and its attacks on science, have prompted some organizations to take a first-ever stand on the presidential election. These include the New England Journal of Medicine and Scientific American.

Of course, these Trump administration policies are supported by the leadership in the U.S. Senate and among leaders in many state legislatures across the country. As we sit on the precipice of existential threats to health and the environment, we appreciate all those who participate in Beyond Pesticides’ Action of the Week. The issues of concern have been covered in our actions, where we thank all those who participate.  

NOW IT’S TIME TO VOTE. NOW IT’S TIME TO ASK OUR FAMILY, FRIENDS,  AND NEIGHBORS TO VOTE.

Remember, many rules have changed during the pandemic, making it harder to figure out how to cast your ballot. This interactive guide can help you ensure your vote is counted.

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16
Oct

Scientists Warn of Another Pandemic If Officials Continue to Ignore Explosion of ‘Antimicrobial Resistance’

(Beyond Pesticides, October 16, 2020) The Lancet has published an article that identifies several of the multiple and interacting crises the U.S. and world face, with a focus on another “looming potential pandemic . . . [a] rise in multidrug-resistant bacterial infections that are undetected, undiagnosed, and increasingly untreatable, [whose rise] threatens the health of people in the USA and globally.” It calls on leaders in the U.S. and beyond, asking that even as they address the current coronavirus pandemic, they also attend to the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) problem, which is a growing threat to public health. The co-authors outline a number of strategies for progress on AMR, including banning of medically important antibiotics in agribusiness, and promoting consumer, and supplier and private sector, awareness and action on food choices. Beyond Pesticides endorses these strategies, but insists that a genuine solution would include the transition to organic agriculture, not least for the health benefits it would provide.

The introduction to the article adds another crisis layer — the climate emergency — and asserts that any resolutions of these crises will, or will not, unfold in a political context: “The outcome of the U.S. election will have far-reaching consequences for planetary health.” Beyond Pesicides monitors and writes about all these issues: how agricultural uses of antibiotics fuel antimicrobial resistance; the contributions of chemical- intensive farming to the climate emergency; factors that exacerbate risks of COVID-19; and the record of the Trump administration that makes the coming election one with very high stakes for human and environmental health. (See more examples here, here, here, and here.)

The growing threat of antibiotic resistance is a major healthcare issue. Beyond Pesticides has written, “Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, the need for more costly or hazardous medications, and the inability to treat life-threatening infections. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of antibiotic use. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.”

The significant role of antibiotic use — in crop, livestock, and even aquaculture production — in the development of antimicrobial resistance has been demonstrated repeatedly. In addition, some pesticides may induce antibiotic resistance in particular pathogens, as dicamba and glyphosate do in certain strains of E. coli and Salmonella eterica. Further, antibiotics used on livestock, which through their waste get broadcast into the environment and onto crops via use of manure as fertilizer, reach consumers in food products. These antimicrobials disrupt gut microbiota that play a role in mediating immune response to pathogens; thus, they may represent an additional risk in the coronavirus pandemic.

Multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections currently claim 700,000 lives annually across the world; such deaths are projected, by 2050, to reach approximately 10 million people per year and cost $100 trillion to the global economy, primarily through loss of those people’s productivity. The U.S. sees 35,000 deaths each year among 2.8 million such infections across the population; this level of morbidity tallies to $20 million in healthcare costs.

The co-authors also discuss how the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) phenomenon that underlies this rise can exacerbate COVID-19 risks. They observe that, across five countries, COVID-19 diagnoses are associated with bacterial infections (with 3.5% diagnosed concurrently and 14.3% post-COVID-19); the prevalence is higher in patients who require intensive care. A cited study from summer 2020 shows that a shocking 72% of COVID patients received antibiotics even when they were not clinically indicated. This misuse of antibiotics absent clinical need is a phenomenon understood to contribute to the problem of AMR. The authors note: “AMR might worsen under COVID-19 due to the overuse of antibiotics in humans, continuing misuse in agriculture, and the dearth of antimicrobials in the development pipeline.”

Those misuses in agriculture include antibiotics used to control certain bacterial diseases in plant agriculture (dominantly, oxytetracycline and streptomycin), but plant uses are vanishingly small compared to those in animal operations. In conventional livestock farming, antibiotics are not used primarily to treat bacterial infections, although that does happen (and products from those animals can go to market). In such operations, antibiotics are misused largely as additives to animal feed to ward off any potential infections and to promote unnaturally rapid growth (the latter of which translates to higher profits). Both of these objectives function as compensation for the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which scientists believe will contribute to the next pandemic. Use of antibiotics is prohibited in all certified organic production; though the standards of the National Organic Program require that sick animals be treated, meat and other products from such animals cannot be sold with the imprimatur of the Certified Organic designation.

In 2019, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) did an AMR threat assessment that showed fewer deaths attributable to AMR compared with 2013, but also, wild increases in several specific, severe, multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections. Examples include a 315% increase in erythromycin-resistant group A. Streptococcus, a 124% increase in drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and a 50% increase in extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae. (Translation: a 50% rise in the presence of an enzyme that confers resistance to common antibiotics such as penicillins and cephalosporins; infections with these enterobacteria often have poor prognoses.)

Unfortunately, the political landscape has a huge impact on these emerging risks. The forward-thinking planning of federal agencies under previous administrations has been walloped by the Trump administration’s devotion to agrochemical and pharmaceutical (and other) industrial interests. As the subject paper lays out, the Obama administration issued a comprehensive plan, in 2015, establishing milestones to reduce antibiotic misuse and accelerate research and development of antimicrobials and vaccines.

Yet those goals have suffered during the past three-plus years. An FDA (Food and Drug Administration) ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock, which went into effect on January 1, 2017 (just before the inauguration), was confounded later that year by USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s) rejection of the World Health Organization’s guidance on limiting antibiotic use in animal feed. USDA asserted that treating, controlling, and preventing” [emphasis by Beyond Pesticides] disease under veterinary supervision constitutes “appropriate use” — undercutting the ban on antibiotics for growth promotion because, when used in feed for disease prevention, antibiotics also promote growth.

The federal government then went on to slash budgets for hospital-based AMR programs; USDA removed federal oversight of meat inspection at pork processing plants; and EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) “condoned expansion of medically important antibiotics such as streptomycin and oxytetracycline as pesticides to maximize crop yields.” Every one of these actions mitigates against solving the AMR problem, to the detriment of public health.

There are additional examples of the Trump administration working against the health of the population. Beyond Pesticides wrote, earlier this year, that the “Trump Administration worked [in 2018] on behalf of a chemical industry trade group [CropLife America] to weaken international guidelines aimed at slowing the crisis. Emails obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act show that officials at . . . USDA worked to downplay the role of industrial agriculture and pesticide use in drug-resistant infections.”

Further, the Daily News Blog entry explained, “Many of the same antibiotics and fungicides used to manage infections on crops are the same used for human medicine. While overuse in the medical field remains a concern, agricultural applications, which likely occur more frequently and on a larger scale, are major contributors to the crisis. . . . A 2018 study published in Nature Sustainability found that Earth has surpassed ‘planetary boundaries’ for pesticide and antimicrobial resistance. ‘Without new approaches, going to hospital in the future will increasingly become a gamble. More patients will get unlucky, and become infected with untreatable or hard to treat bacteria. This is an urgent risk to human society,’ study coauthor Søgaard Jørgensen, PhD, said.”

Among this paper’s recommendations are that the U.S. revive its 2015 AMR National Action Plan by: (1) permanently banning the use of medically important antibiotics in agribusiness; (2) supporting antibiotic stewardship programs; (3) encouraging the development of new antibiotics through bipartisan initiatives (e.g., the DISARM Act and the PASTEUR Act); and (4) investing in innovation to identify and evaluate other anti-infectives. The National Action Plan, which has been updated for the 2020­–2025 period, adds to the original, and takes a One Health approach (as adopted by the UN Interagency Coordination Group on AMR), which recognizes that the health of humans, animals, plants, and the environment are all interrelated.

The researchers conclude that progress on AMR should be framed in the context of pandemic preparedness, and guided, in part, by lessons from COVID-19, to wit: healthcare infrastructure and incidence surveillance must be strengthened, and policies put in place that ensure equitable access, nationally and globally, to diagnostics, antimicrobials, and vaccines. The authors’ perspective is that the U.S. cannot tackle this problem unilaterally, but ought to participate actively in international efforts to coalesce around a set of global solutions and to speed up action on AMR.

They recommend that the U.S. support the “multilateral global architecture” needed, which includes WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health. Failure to do so, they assert, would undermine decades of medical and public health advances, adding that “The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call that global collaboration is the most effective way to tackle global health threats.” Seen through the lens of the coming U.S. Presidential election, the possibility of progress on these would appear possible with one outcome, and at grave risk with the other.

Beyond Pesticides endorses a ban on the use of antibiotics in agriculture of all kinds. Medical and veterinary overuse and misuse contribute to the AMR problem, certainly, but agricultural uses play a disturbing part in this unfolding crisis, which will get worse until it is more effectively addressed. The public must create upward pressure on legislators to become active on this issue; please consider advocating with them, at both federal and state levels, on this issue. If anything has been learned through the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be that action deferred increases the magnitude of the calamity.

Sources: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32063-8/fulltext?dgcid=raven_jbs_etoc_email and https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2820%2932063-8

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

 

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15
Oct

Literature Review: Pesticides Exposure Highly Correlated with Respiratory Diseases

(Beyond Pesticides, October 15, 2020) A review of scientific literature on the correlation between respiratory diseases and pesticides exposure—published in the journal Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine (AAEM), “Influence of pesticides on respiratory pathology—a literature review”—finds that exposure to pesticides increases incidents of respiratory pathologies (i.e., asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]—or chronic bronchitis). The review by researchers at the Iuliu Hatieganu’ University of Medicine and Pharmacy Cluj-Napoca, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, looks at how pesticide exposure adversely propagates and reinforces respiratory diseases in humans. This review highlights the significance of evaluating how pesticide exposure impacts respiratory function, especially since contact with pesticides can happen at any point in the production, transportation preparation, or application treatment process. Researchers in the study note, “Knowing and recognizing these respiratory health problems of farmers and their families, and also of [pesticide] manipulators/retailers, are essential for early diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and preventive measures.” This study results are critically important at a time when exposure to respiratory toxicants increases vulnerability to Covid-19, which attacks the respiratory system, among other organic systems.

The respiratory system is essential to human survival, regulating gas exchange (oxygen-carbon dioxide) in the body to balance acid and base tissue cells for normal function. However, damage to the respiratory system can cause a plethora of issues—from asthma and bronchitis to oxidative stress that triggers the development of extra-respiratory manifestations like rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the rise in respiratory illnesses over the last three decades years is highly concerning, especially as research fails to identify an exact cause for the increase in respiratory disease cases.

Many researchers, including those in this study, suggest an increase in environmental pollutants like pesticides may be responsible for the influx of respiratory diseases. Although numerous studies detail the impacts of direct occupational pesticide exposure on human health, very few investigate how pesticides contribute to respiratory illnesses along the pesticide supply chain—from manufacturing, transportation, and application to cleaning and handling. Additionally, the review details the impact pesticide applications have on nearby communities. Literature reviews like these are significant as it encompasses all previous research on a topic and establishes a platform for current research basis.

In September 2019, researchers searched the ‘Pub Med’ and ‘Web of Science’ online database to find peer-reviewed scientific articles that investigate the relationship between pesticide exposure and respiratory diseases. To identify which studies are eligible for inclusion in the review, researchers used a set list of criteria including classification of pesticides (e.g., group of organisms fought against, mode of action, chemical nature, physical state, and toxicity) and categories of commonly used pesticides.

This review details observations concerning the involvement of pesticides on human health, including exposure, at-risk individuals, poisonings, respiratory impacts, and action mechanisms on the respiratory system. Additionally, the review compares these generalities to respiratory diseases and manifestations historically associated with pesticide exposure.

In September 2019, researchers searched the ‘Pub Med’ and ‘Web of Science’ online database to find peer-reviewed scientific articles that investigate the relationship between pesticide exposure and respiratory diseases. To identify which studies are eligible for inclusion in the review, researchers used a set list of criteria including classification of pesticides (e.g., group of organisms fought against, mode of action, chemical nature, physical state, and toxicity) and categories of commonly used pesticides.

This review details observations concerning the involvement of pesticides on human health, including exposure, at-risk individuals, poisonings, respiratory impacts, and action mechanisms on the respiratory system. Additionally, the review compares these generalities to respiratory diseases and manifestations historically associated with pesticide exposure.

A plethora of studies finds a high positive correlation between pesticide exposure and various respiratory pathologies (asthma, COPD, lung cancer) and manifestations (coughing, allergic rhinitis, laryngeal irritation, wheezing, dyspnea[hyperventilating]).

Lung cancer has a positive association with the total number of days and intensity of pesticide exposure. Prolonged exposure (over 56 days) to the insecticide chlorpyrifos more than doubles the risk of developing lung cancer. The insecticide diazinon also shows a strong correlation between exposure and lung cancer incidences. Additionally, normal to high exposure to the herbicide metolachlor and high levels of exposure to the herbicide pendimethalin increase the risk of developing lung cancer. More than 109 days of carbofuran exposure, one of the most toxic carbamate pesticides, leads to a 3-fold increase in lung cancer incidences. Intensive exposure to the herbicide dicamba, even at low levels, increases lung cancer incidence. Occupational exposure to chlorophenol-related compound (a group of pesticides contaminated with the highly toxic chemical dioxin) during the manufacturing process has a strong association with lung cancer. Chemicals with a weak but a positive association with lung cancer are malathion, atrazine, coumaphos, S-ethyl-N, N-dipropylthiocarbamate, alachlor, trifluralin, and chlorothalonil.

The risk of asthma incidences is seasonal with the spring having greater incidences due to the influx of pesticide use during the springtime. Moreover, those handling pesticides without protective equipment have a much greater risk of developing asthma after exposure. Pesticides that can cause laryngeal and bronchial spasm are primarily organophosphates and carbamates and are known to cause asthmatic episodes.

The review also finds a positive association between sarcoidosis development (a rare disease that causes a group of immune cells to form lumps) and occupational exposure to pesticides. Furthermore, the risk of developing Farmer’s lung—a common allergic disease induced by inhaling biological dust, and a contributor to respiratory morbidity among farmers—increases with exposure to pesticides. These pesticides include dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, lindane, and aldicarb, as well as organochlorine and carbamate pesticides.

The review finds an association between deteriorating lung function and exposure to organophosphorus and carbamate insecticides, alongside other pesticides. Carbamate and organophosphorus insecticides are cholinesterase inhibitors that catalyze the decomposition of select neurotransmitters. Organophosphorus insecticides exposure—even at low levels—can increase pro-inflammatory cytokine production leading to chronic inflammation that alters respiratory function and causes pulmonary fibrosis. Additionally, exposures to organophosphorus and carbamate pesticides have a significant association with both obstructive and restrictive respiratory anomalies. Chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorvos, and malathion, in addition to carbaryl and permethrin, can increase the risk of allergic rhinitis. Furthermore, exposure to glyphosate herbicides and petroleum oil may cause the recurrence of rhinitis episodes.

Common respiratory manifestations among occupational exposure to pesticides are dyspnea, coughing, and expectoration, with coughing being significantly higher in agricultural workers than nonagricultural. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, including dimethoate, malathion, benomyl, mancozeb, and aldicarb, are the cause of many respiratory manifestations. Occupational and nonoccupational exposure to fumigants, such as methyl bromide, can cause respiratory manifestations (e.g., dyspnea, cough, respiratory irritation, and pulmonary lesions) in conjunction with local or systemic systems like fatigue, headache, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal pain, seizures, and impairment of the function of other organs.

Nonoccupational exposure to pesticides from residencies near pesticide processing plants, contact with pesticide-tainted clothes and tools, and household with improper storage and use of pesticides are at greater risk of respiratory illness, including asthma (ranking first) from chronic exposure, and upper and lower airway obstruction from acute exposure.

Lastly, the manipulation of pesticide mixtures has a strong association with dermal and respiratory systems, increasing oxidative stress biomarkers. Respiratory retailers are eight-fold more likely to experience respiratory distress than the general population, especially for retailers that sell manipulated organophosphorus compounds.

The connection between pesticides and associated respiratory risks is nothing new, as a plethora of studies links pesticide use and residue to various respiratory illnesses. Organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos and carbamate pesticides like carbofuran have the most influence on respiratory pathology. Both chemical classes have a similar mode of action as cholinesterase inhibitors, which means that they bind to receptor sites for the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, or AChE, which is essential to normal nerve impulse transmission. In binding to those receptor sites, cholinesterase inhibitors inactivate AChE and preventing the clearing of acetylcholine. The buildup of acetylcholine can lead to acute impacts, such as uncontrolled, rapid twitching of some muscles, paralyzed breathing, convulsions, and, in extreme cases, death. The compromise of neural transmission can have broad systemic impacts on the function of multiple body systems.

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosate insecticide originating from World War II nerve agents. In addition to being highly toxic to terrestrial and aquatic organisms, human exposure to chlorpyrifos can induce endocrine disruption, reproductive dysfunction, fetal defects, neurotoxic damage, and kidney/liver damage. Although chlorpyrifos remains in use in the U.S., states, including Hawaii, California, New York, and Maryland, plan to phase out most of its agricultural use. This phasing out follows after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) negotiated the chemical’s withdrawal from most of the residential market because of neurotoxic effects on children in 2000.

Carbofuran is an carbamate insecticide highly toxic to humans and other animals, killing birds that ingest only one pesticide-treated granule seed. This pesticide can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. A 2009 action to cancel carbofuran food uses ultimately led to the chemical’s ban in the U.S., with EPA risk assessment finding no uses of carbofuran are eligible for reregistration due to its adverse impacts to humans and the environment. Unfortunately, as seen in Maryland, irresponsible and illegal use of pesticides is still responsible for primary and secondary poisonings of wildlife, as some farmers continue to use the poison illegally to kill larger predators and pests, including foxes, coyotes, and raccoons.

Although occupational exposure to both organophosphate and carbamate insecticides have adverse impacts in the respiratory system, these chemical classes also impact individuals non-occupationally, via pesticides drift or contamination. Communities adjacent to chemical-intensive farms or pesticide manufacturing plants experience higher levels of pesticide exposure than neighborhoods that are not. Furthermore, children living in homes near greenhouses which use these insecticides have abnormal nervous system function, including adverse pulmonary effects like asthma.

Previous studies document a significant association between pesticide exposure to chlorpyrifos and carbofuran and lung cancer. The connection between lung cancer and pesticides is of specific concern, as etiological studies often attribute lung cancer to genetics or cigarette smoke and overlook the lung cancer risks associated with pesticide exposure via inhalation of powders, airborne droplets, or vapors. Some studies attribute pesticides—labeled hazardous to inhale—sprayed on tobacco plants to lung cancer and the related mechanisms that cause lung cancer. Upon inhalation, pesticide particles enter the respiratory tract, and the lungs readily absorb the particles into the bloodstream.

Working in close contact with pesticides throughout one’s lifetime increases the risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other respiratory issues like asthma. Just as lung cancer, etiological studies often attribute COPD risk to genetics or cigarette smoking, with cigarette smoke exposure causing eight out of ten cases of COPD. However, the increasing rate of COPD incidences indicates an external cause of COPD development besides the aforementioned risk factors, including poverty, dietary factors, and occupational exposure to chemicals like pesticides. Furthermore, studies find pesticide exposure not only triggers asthma attacks, but also causes asthma as exposure to insecticides before the age of five can increase in the risk of asthma diagnosis, with toddlers twice as likely to become asthmatic. Although significant disparities in asthma morbidity and mortality disproportionately impact low-income populations, people of color, and children living in inner cities, COPD has the potential to cause the same disparity in the future.

In the U.S., over 25 million people live with asthma, over 14 million individuals live with COPD, and millions of individuals live with lung cancer. The increasing rate of respiratory pathology, since the 1980s, demonstrates a need for better environmental policies and protocols surrounding contaminants like pesticides. Although EPA administers the Clean Air Act to regulate air pollution and reduce environmental contamination levels in the atmosphere, the Trump administration is dismantling many environmental regulations, putting air quality and human health at risk. Considering respiratory diseases represent a major health issue for agricultural workers—who often experience pesticides exposure at higher rates due to occupation—it is essential to understand the association between pesticide exposure and respiratory pathology, or the study of causes and effects of respiratory diseases. Furthermore, with a new report finding an association between air pollution and higher death rates (9%) related to the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), global leaders must eliminate excessive pesticides use to mitigate the impacts respiratory diseases have on human health.

The connection between common and chronic respiratory diseases and exposure to pesticides continues to strengthen, despite efforts to restrict individual chemical exposure or mitigate chemical risks using risk assessment-based policy. Although the etiology of respiratory diseases encompasses several circumstances, including smoking patterns, poverty, occupation, and diet, studies show that relative exposure to chemicals like pesticides can occur within each circumstance, making chemical exposure ubiquitous. Additionally, pesticide drift is an omnipresent issue impacting communities surrounding farming operations, and dust may harm humans, plants, and aquatic systems.

It is vital to understand how exposure to pesticides can increase the risk of developing acute and chronic respiratory problems, especially if the Trump administrations’ regulatory rollbacks increase the persistence of toxic chemicals in the environment. 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 away from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms of pesticide exposure, see PIDD pages on asthma/respiratory effectscancerendocrine disruption, and other diseases. Additionally, buyinggrowing, and supporting organic can help eliminate the extensive use of pesticides in the environment. Organic agriculture has many health and environmental benefits, which curtail the need for chemical-intensive agricultural practices. Regenerative organic agriculture revitalizes soil health through organic carbon sequestration while reducing pests and generating a higher return than chemical-intensive agriculture. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers who grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

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

Source(s): AAEM

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14
Oct

Insecticide Linked to Testicular Cancer, With Latinos Disproportionately Affected

(Beyond Pesticides, October 14, 2020) Exposure to certain endocrine disrupting pesticides increases the risk men, and Hispanic men in particular, will contract testicular cancer, according to research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved. The data show that living near the use of the insecticide acephate presents the greatest cancer risk. “Testicular cancer rates have been rising for decades and are rising especially quickly among Hispanics in the United States,” said Scott Swartz, an MD candidate in University of California Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, to Healio. “Given that Hispanics are disproportionately exposed to many endocrine-disrupting pesticides in California, we were interested in investigating the potential effects of nearby endocrine-disrupting pesticide application on testicular cancer among Hispanics in California.”

Using public health databases, researchers assessed a group of 381 men diagnosed with testicular cancer while 15 to 19 years old, during the years 1997-2011. This cohort was compared to a control group of 762 otherwise healthy men of similar age, race and ethnicity during the same time. California’s Pesticide Use Report system was used to analyze agricultural pesticide applications within 1.8 miles of a study participant’s home during the year before they were born.

Roughly half of both the control group those diagnosed with testicular cancer lived within a location where an endocrine-disrupting pesticide was applied in the year prior to their birth. However, out of the 15 endocrine disrupting pesticides applied, 13 were sprayed in greater amounts near Hispanic individuals than non-Hispanic individuals. Acephate was found to have the strongest link to testicular cancer, and presented consistently elevated risks to Hispanic men. “The connection between acephate and testicular cancer was particularly strong among Hispanics, suggesting that increasing endocrine-disrupting pesticide application and exposure could be a possible driver of increasing testicular cancer rates,” Mr. Swartz said. Mr. Swartz indicated to press that the findings could translate to acephate accounting for 5-10% of testicular cancers among California’s Hispanic population.

Acephate is an organophosphate insecticide, in the same chemical class as chemicals like the well-known neurotoxin chlorpyrifos. These insecticides inhibit proper nerve functioning, leading to paralysis and death in exposed insects. While a large enough dose will cause similarly acute effects in humans, chronic, low levels of exposure can cause a range of adverse health outcomes, from cancer, to birth defects, reproductive and developmental problems. Researchers often look at exposures in the womb or at a young age because these are considered ‘critical windows of vulnerability’ during which even small amounts of a pesticide can create long-term damage.

Chemicals with the capacity to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system by mimicking hormones in the body are particularly pernicious. In the case of endocrine disruptors, science shows that lower amounts can result in worse health impacts than exposure to higher amounts, a phenomenon known as ‘non-monotonic dose response.’ The scientific literature on these chemicals has upended traditional toxicology, which goes by the oft-repeated phrase, ‘the dose makes the poison.’ Endocrine disruptors reveal this mode of thinking to be outdated, and dangerous to ignore.

But the United States is ignoring chemicals that disrupt an individual’s hormones. While the European Union has begun to curtail use of endocrine disruptors, the United States has yet to complete a screening program it was first assigned by Congress in the mid-90s, let alone institute regulatory requirements.

These decisions at the top, in regulatory bodies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead to real world impacts. People get sicker, and need to spend more money, time, and energy on their care, or caring for a loved one, putting the United States at a global public health disadvantage. And as the present study shows, these adverse impacts are disproportionately affecting individuals in minority and underserved communities, further exacerbating already existing inequalities in public health and health services.

Regulating highly toxic endocrine disruptors isn’t an issue that we need to lobby Congress to pass.; it’s an issue of enforcement, and EPA fulfilling its established goal of environmental protection. The agency has the statutory authority to restrict chemicals that display hormone disrupting properties but continues to drag its feet. Rather than establish new measures to protect public health, this EPA is eliminating tests that could help suss out adverse effects and trigger important protections. Take action today to ask your elected member of Congress to demand EPA tests and acts on endocrine disruptors, as required by law. For more information about the link between pesticides and adverse health effects like testicular cancer, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

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

Source: Oncozine, Healio

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13
Oct

Stop Continued Degradation of Science: Tell Congress to Insist that EPA Thoroughly Test All Pesticides for Health Hazards

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2020)  As the prestigious journal Nature publishes an article titled “How Trump Damaged Science — and Why It Could Take Decades to Recover,” the Trump Administration’s EPA is again damaging science, particularly science used to protect our health.

EPA is proposing to drop toxicity tests that look at lethal effects of acute exposures to pesticides through the skin. Given pesticide exposure patterns, this represents a dramatic step backwards in determining the harmful effects of pesticide products on the market and in wide use. The move is part of EPA’s effort to eliminate animal testing of pesticides—a move that should be replaced by the ban of unnecessary toxic pesticides. Reducing toxicity testing must take place only with the use of the precautionary principle.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to Insist that EPA thoroughly test all pesticides for health hazards.

Aly Cohen, MD, FACR and Fred vom Saal, PhD point out in their new book, Non-Toxic Guide to Living in a Chemical World, “Human skin is the largest organ in the human body; it acts like a sponge, absorbing substances directly through its many intricate layers right into the bloodstream.” Farmworkers are routinely exposed to pesticides on their skin, and children playing on athletic fields sprayed with pesticides are also exposed through their skin. 

Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York City, who was interviewed for the Nature article said of Trump’s actions concerning the coronavirus, “He has sabotaged efforts to keep people safe.” The article summarizes the effects of this administration, “As he seeks re-election on 3 November, Trump’s actions in the face of COVID-19 are just one example of the damage he has inflicted on science and its institutions over the past four years, with repercussions for lives and livelihoods. The president and his appointees have also backpedalled on efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, weakened rules limiting pollution and diminished the role of science at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Across many agencies, his administration has undermined scientific integrity by suppressing or distorting evidence to support political decisions, say policy experts.”

With the damage done by the executive branch, Congress must assert its oversight role to prevent laws that protect public health and the environment—laws that, after decades, have cleaned up our air, water, and land—from being completely undone.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to Insist that EPA thoroughly test all pesticides for health hazards.

Letter to Congress

I am writing to ask you to assert oversight over the actions of the executive branch that continue to disregard science and threaten our health.

As the prestigious journal Nature publishes an article titled “How Trump Damaged Science — and Why It Could Take Decades to Recover,” the Trump Administration’s EPA is again damaging science, particularly science used to protect our health.

EPA is proposing to drop toxicity tests that look at lethal effects of acute exposures to pesticides through the skin. Given pesticide exposure patterns, this represents a dramatic step backwards in determining the harmful effects of pesticide products on the market and in wide use. The move is part of EPA’s effort to eliminate animal testing of pesticides—a move that should be replaced by the ban of unnecessary toxic pesticides. Reducing toxicity testing must take place only with the use of the precautionary principle.

Aly Cohen, MD, FACR and Fred vom Saal, PhD point out in their new book, Non-Toxic Guide to Living in a Chemical World, “Human skin is the largest organ in the human body; it acts like a sponge, absorbing substances directly through its many intricate layers right into the bloodstream.” Farmworkers are routinely exposed to pesticides on their skin, and children playing on athletic fields sprayed with pesticides are also exposed through their skin.

Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York City, who was interviewed for the Nature article said of Trump’s actions concerning the coronavirus, “He has sabotaged efforts to keep people safe.” The article summarizes the effects of this administration, “As he seeks re-election on 3 November, Trump’s actions in the face of COVID-19 are just one example of the damage he has inflicted on science and its institutions over the past four years, with repercussions for lives and livelihoods. The president and his appointees have also backpedalled on efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, weakened rules limiting pollution and diminished the role of science at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Across many agencies, his administration has undermined scientific integrity by suppressing or distorting evidence to support political decisions, say policy experts.”

With the damage done by the executive branch, Congress must assert its oversight role to prevent the undoing of laws intended to protect public health and the environment—laws that, after decades, have cleaned up our air, water, and land.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

 

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12
Oct

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day Today

Five ideas for celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020,
National Museum of the Native American, Smithsonian

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2020) Fourteen states, the District of Columbia, 130 cities and towns, and numerous school districts across the country are officially honoring Indigenous People today. Many of the 14 states have officially changed the holiday’s name from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (South Dakota uses the name Native Americans Day.) In some cases, states have added the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day alongside Columbus Day.

When New Mexico passed legislation last year changing “Columbus Day” to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Navajo Nation issued the following statement:

“In 1937, the federal government declared Columbus Day as a holiday without input from Native Americans and without knowing the true history of Native Americans. For many years, Indigenous people have protested Columbus Day because it celebrates colonialism, oppression, and injustice inflicted on Indigenous peoples,” said President Jonathan Nez. “Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day allows citizens to recognize our rich heritage and serves as a step toward healing and growth.”

As Good Housekeeping Magazine points out, “There are over 600 Native Nations in the United States, and 6.8 million Americans identify as Native American. That’s about 2% of the country’s total population. And this year, with Native Americans disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing that population’s history and cultural identity is even more important.” Pesticide exposure exacerbates the health conditions—respiratory, immunological, and neurological illness—that increase vulnerability to the coronavirus. Beyond Pesticides has urged the transition to organic land management to eliminate hazardous pesticide use in food production and the management of lawns, parks, playing fields, and school yards. Beyond Pesticides is also advocating changes to federal and state pesticide law which ignores disproportionate risk to people of color, including hazardous exposure patterns, comorbidities, and preexisting conditions.

President Nez said, “[I am] hopeful that the passage of the bill will also inspire educators throughout the state to teach the true history of Indigenous peoples so that the younger generations will know the challenges that were overcome by our people.”

New Mexico State Representative Derrick J. Lente (D), a co-sponsor of the legislation that was signed into law last year by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), noted that Indigenous people have greatly contributed to New Mexico’s rich and vibrant cultural history. “This day is an act of restorative justice for our Indigenous communities, and it is a time to reflect on our understanding of our country’s history, both the good and the bad,” Mr. Lente said.

Beyond Pesticides has been honored to work with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California to pilot a rangeland management program that replaces toxic herbicide use with a holistic land management system with goats. Beyond Pesticides’ organic land management program in 2016-2017 with the Washoe Tribe and its Washoe Tribal Environmental Protection Department (WEPD) brought 450 goats to tribal lands for a managed goat grazing project.

The program was launched as a pilot, an alternative to using herbicides for managing invasive weeds, including Perennial Pepperweed, Hoary Cress, Canada Thistle, Russian Knapweed and others. Goat grazing has been demonstrated to be an effective tool because the herd eats unwanted vegetation then cycles nutrients back into the soil, thus fertilizing.  After drinking, goats deliver water to dry sites one pint at a time, thus irrigating. With 1,800 hooves, the goats are also aerating, mulching, and tilling the soil.

See the goat grazing session from Beyond Pesticides 36th National Pesticide Forum (2018), Organic Neighborhoods: For healthy children, communities and ecology.

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

 

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09
Oct

New Insecticides Escalate Indiscriminate Harm to All Organisms

(Beyond Pesticides, October 9, 2020) A new study demonstrates that emerging “novel” insecticides can cause significant, sublethal harm to beneficial organisms at typical “real life” exposure levels. As neonicotinoid insecticides have come under fire for their terrible impacts on a broad variety of beneficial insects — including their major contributions to the decline of critical pollinators — more such “novel” pesticides are being brought to market in response. The study results, the co-authors say, “confirm that bans on neonicotinoid use will only protect beneficial insects if paired with significant changes to the agrochemical regulatory process. A failure to modify the regulatory process will result in a continued decline of beneficial insects and the ecosystem services on which global food production relies.” Beyond Pesticides would add that the study outcome points, yet again, to the grave recklessness of the pervasive “addiction” to chemical pesticides in agriculture. The solution to this chemical morass is known, doable, and scalable: a transition to organic, regenerative agricultural practices that get everyone off the “toxic treadmill.”

Neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) are the class of chemical pesticides most commonly used worldwide, both on crops and as seed treatments. They are systemic, meaning they infiltrate all tissues of a plant, and are environmentally persistent (in plants and in soils); they can also contaminate freshwater sources. As the study paper notes, “Field-realistic applications of neonicotinoids can have significant sub-lethal impacts on beneficial insects, with knock-on effects on ecosystem services. This has resulted in bans and restriction on neonicotinoid use globally, most notably in the European Union.” Here in the states, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has permitted broad use of neonics, and is currently reviewing all neonicotinoid pesticides. This study addresses the substance of one of Beyond Pesticides’ critiques of EPA’s regulatory failures on neonics: the insufficiency of the agency’s risk assessment procedures in accounting for sublethal impacts of the compounds.

The study’s researchers discovered that two novel pesticides, flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor, share the same mode of action as neonics, although they are (nominally) from different chemical classes than are neonics. This research focused on these two compounds because, given that both Dow Agrochemicals’ sulfoxaflor (classified as a butanolide) and Bayer CropScience’s flupyradifurone (classified as a sulfoximine) are somewhat effective on pest species that resist neonics, these novel insecticides are considered to be candidates to replace neonics in geographic regions with significant levels of neonic resistance, and where neonic compounds are restricted or banned.

Sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone, like neonics, are systemic insecticides. Flupyradifurone can persist in soils for months or years, whereas sulfoxaflor’s half-life in soil is two or three days. Research data reviewed by the subject study suggest that beneficial insects will be exposed to these compounds at relatively high concentrations in agricultural environments. This can happen during spray applications to seeds or fields, or indirectly, when insects (or birds or other organisms) feed on such seeds, as well as on plant tissue, pollen, or nectar.

The research was conducted by Harry Siviter, PhD and Felicity Muth, PhD of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin; the subsequent paper was published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences in late September, 2020. The researchers’ meta-analysis extracted useful data from 19 of the 26 studies they reviewed, and paid particular attention to impacts on beneficial insects — dominantly, on bee species — and evaluated outcomes related to organism mortality, reproduction, and behavior. In addition, the scientists evaluated impacts on predator species, such as such as wasps, lacewings, and beetles.

The researchers learned that flupyradifurone can have lethal impacts at field-realistic levels, with some kinds of bees being more vulnerable than others; further, and unsurprisingly, exposures to the compound were more likely to be harmful in combination with other environmental stressors, such as poor nutrition, pathogens, or other agricultural chemicals. The co-authors note that the lethality of sulfoxaflor, which is toxic to bees at high levels of exposure, may vary at lower doses, depending on the interactions with other environmental factors. But given certain combinations of those variables, sulfoxaflor exposures at field-realistic levels appear to increase bee mortality.

The study also shows that sulfoxaflor has negative impacts on bee reproduction similar to those of neonics, particularly reduced reproduction (egg laying) and poor larval development, and that flupyradifurone exposures impair bees’ flight behavior, foraging success, and bodily temperature regulation. Findings included impacts on beneficial predators, including a huge increase (40–60%) in the mortality of flupyradifurone-exposed rove beetles, and 100% mortality of exposed insidious flower bugs (also known as pirate beetles).

Sulfoxaflor shows harmful effects on many taxa: hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants), coleoptera (beetles), and hemiptera (cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers). At field-realistic exposure levels, for example, the parasitic activity of some wasps was reduced, and mortality increased; lacewings showed increased mortality and reduced fertility; ladybug larvae suffered 100% mortality; and pirate beetle mortality was 96% within 24 hours of exposure to sufoxaflor.

Both compounds, which act on the nervous systems of organisms, have been registered for use throughout the European Union (EU), where use of neonics is significantly constrained. EPA first registered sulfoxaflor in 2013, and amended the registration in 2016 to create some limitations on its use. In 2015 it issued a cancellation order for all uses of sulfoxaflor, but then granted some emergency exemptions for its use. In 2019, EPA effectively restored all previously registered uses, functionally “canceling the cancellation,” and even expanded uses of the chemical insecticide.

EPA registered flupyradifurone for use in 2015, after which the Pesticide Research Institute commented, “Despite the safety claims in the registration notice, the available data suggest that flupyradifurone may possess many of the undesirable attributes associated with neonicotinoids.” Indeed, in June 2020, Beyond Pesticides wrote about outcomes of an Oregon State University study that showed that both “sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone . . . were found to increase apoptosis (cell death) and increase oxidative stress in exposed honey bees. The study . . . [paper writes], ‘With the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for use of both flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor, and with the growing concern regarding pollinator health, it is important to better understand any potential negative impacts (especially sub-lethal) of these pesticides on bees.’ However, this statement begs the question ‘why [were] these two new bee-toxic pesticides . . . approved by EPA in the first place.’”

The authors conclude: “Novel insecticides have significant sublethal impacts on beneficial insects, demonstrating that, in its current form, the regulatory process does not safeguard beneficial insects from detrimental effects of agrochemical use. Thus, simply replacing neonicotinoids with novel chemical insecticides is unlikely to reduce negative consequences on beneficial insects.” In their paper, the researchers make several recommendations EPA should include in its regulation of pesticides:
• mandatory assessments of sublethal effects on wild bees

  • assessments of novel insecticides on non-bee beneficial insects
  • assessments of interactions between agrochemicals and other anthropogenic stressors

They conclude: “Flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor can have significant negative sub-lethal impacts on beneficial insects, confirming that (i) in its current form, the regulatory process is failing to detect the sub-lethal but significant negative impacts of novel insecticides on beneficial insects, and (ii) bans on commonly used insecticides will only protect beneficial insects if replacement insecticides do not have similar sub-lethal impacts. Whether an insecticide will ever exist that controls pest species while having no impact on beneficial insects is unknown. However, a failure to modify the regulatory process and consider the sub-lethal impacts of novel insecticides will result in the continuing cycle of insecticides being licensed for use without a full understanding of their potential impact on beneficial insects.”

These are valid conclusions and recommendations. Yet they also seek to “modify” the prevailing paradigm that synthetic and toxic chemical pesticides can represent any kind of “safe” approach to agricultural and other land management problems. Beyond Pesticides has — for decades — written about the failing of this paradigm and the institutions that execute its activities, and pointed the way to precautionary, safe, and nontoxic approaches to all manner of pest problems. What the public lives with, and eats and breathes and drinks from, is a dominant agricultural system that has become terribly dependent on these chemical inputs (pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, primarily) that cause documented harms to human, and to wildlife and ecosystem, health.

It is time to get off the “toxic treadmill” that has the agrochemical industry — in response to the burgeoning problem of resistance to pesticides, or to “bad press” on a pesticide, or occasionally, to actual harms — going back to its laboratories to search for more “novel” or tweaked chemical compounds to throw at the problem. The subject study evidences the folly of this approach, as Beyond Pesticides wrote back in June: “This process is familiar and frustrating to those who continue to fight against the decline of pollinators: the chemical industry introduces and EPA approves new toxic pesticides marketed as ‘safer’ to the specific problem caused by its older products, only to find out through independent and academic research that the problem is not solved in the least.”

This is an entropic and unsustainable approach, and must be replaced by organic and regenerative systems that are, by their very nature, precautionary and therefore, protective of health and environment. Join Beyond Pesticides to support the voices of advocates, and to bring critical information to farmers, land managers, and policy makers about how to transition off of the toxic treadmill and adopt genuinely protective and effective practices.

Source: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.1265

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

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08
Oct

Common Fungicide Causes a Decrease in Antioxidant Responsible for Defense Against Diseases like COVID-19

(Beyond Pesticides, October 8, 2020) Research from the University of Wisconsin—Madison (UWM), suggests that fludioxonil—a commonly used agricultural fungicide—decreases the human body’s ability to defend itself against illnesses, like COVID-19, and promotes disease permanency. Tristan Brandhorst, a Ph.D. scientist at UWM, notes that a pesticide-induced reduction in the antioxidant glutathione could be responsible for this lack of bodily defense against disease. Although many studies examine how pesticides adversely affect the human body (i.e., cancer, respiratory issues, etc.), very few studies assess how pesticides reinforce chemical disruption patterns that reduce levels of vital chemicals needed for normal bodily function.

The steady rise in U.S. pesticide use, including disinfectants, threatens animals and humans, as exposure to indiscriminate dispersal of pesticides cause a whirlwind of health risks. As the total U.S. COVID-19 cases rise above 7.5 million, global leaders need to understand extensive pesticide spraying is not a viable solution to prevent illness and causes more chronic harm from exposure in the long run. Dr. Brandhorst stresses the need for proper reevaluation of pesticide risks stating, “The issue needs more study, [and] might also warrant a reworking of how [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] evaluates pesticides.”

Amidst the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), the global demand for pesticides, including disinfectants and sanitizers, has increased substantially as a means of preventing illness in domestic and community settings. Additionally, the increasing pervasiveness of moist environments from severe weather events like hurricanes increases the amount of mold and mosquito pests in some areas, causing higher inputs of fungicides and insecticides to combat the issue. However, exposure to these toxic pesticides can weaken the body’s immune response to illnesses, creating an environment for underlying condition (like respiratory issues such as asthma, or endocrine disruption problems like diabetes) to flourish among vulnerable individuals.

In 2019, Dr. Brandhorst (in the lab of Bruce Klein, Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and UW School of Medicine and Public Health) led a research study to discover the mode of action (or ability to cause harm) fludioxonil has on fungi. An initial 2018 analysis pointed to the uncertainty about how fludioxonil causes fungi cell death, claiming that this ambiguity merits a reevaluation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its potential impacts on non-target organisms. However, Dr. Brandhorst recently discovered that the chemical causes metabolic shock to fungi, hindering glucose transport across the cell membrane. Additionally, further analysis finds that exposure to fludioxonil decreases glutathione levels in non-fungal cells, promoting “the ability of [the fungicide] fludioxonil to act on a sugar-metabolizing enzyme common to all cells, and to produce the damaging compound methylglyoxal.”

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems fludioxonil safe for use, claiming “no harm will result to the general population, including infants and children, from aggregate exposure to fludioxonil residues,” the previous findings suggest that the chemical can cause more potential to harm non-fungal cells than previously thought.

The solicitude over chemical exposure from pesticides and human health is hardly a new issue as a plethora of studies demonstrates the risks associated with toxic chemical exposure. Specific concerns arise over fungicides like fludioxonil as its ubiquitous use in agricultural and residential settings puts human and animal health at risk. Furthermore, studies regarding climate change note that changes to moisture and temperature conditions promote the spread of fungi as global warming may cause fungi to become significantly more heat-tolerant. Heat-tolerant fungi not only increase pesticides use to combat spread but also increases fungi’s ability to infect a host with higher body temperatures as the difference between environmental and body temperature will decrease. Additionally, extreme weather conditions associated with climate change like flooding from hurricanes, or drought, can promote fungus growth, specifically mold, resulting in more extensive fungicides use.

Exposure to fungicides can manifest various adverse health effects, including reproductive dysfunction, birth/developmental effects, kidney/liver damage, and cancer. Furthermore, some researchers suggest excessive use of fungicides can promote more drug-resistant fungal infections in humans as these fungicides are structurally similar to medical antifungal medications. In addition to containing potentially dangerous compounds, fungicide use in agriculture is often in conjunction with other chemical pesticides to increase potency. However, the synergy between fungicides and other pesticides can further worsen the adverse effect of chemical exposure has on human and animal health. Since humans and animals encounter these pesticides through a wide variety of applications, it is essential to understand how these chemicals work to cause toxicity in humans and animals.

Although previous studies report that fludioxonil disrupts hepatic (liver), endocrine, and neurological systems, the mode of action by which this fungicide causes these issues only recently came to light. According to research by Dr. Brandhorst, fludioxonil may impede the antioxidant glutathione from protecting the body from illnesses while prompting disease endurance. This research adds to previous reports which associate glutathione disruption and oxidation with fludioxonil exposure. Glutathione is a natural antioxidant important in blood pressure and glucose regulation, preventing the formation of free radicals which damage cells in hypertension and diabetes mellitus. However, the endocrine disruption properties of fludioxonil can cause intracellular glutathione deficiency resulting in oxidative stress that influences the development of diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease, cancer, diabetes, and more. A decrease in glutathione biosynthesis and/or an increase in depletion of the intracellular glutathione pool can impair oxidation-reduction homeostasis and promote oxidative stress that may account for individual susceptibility to a disease like COVID-19.

An observational study of COVID-19 patients in Russia finds that many of the patients already have a glutathione deficiency that makes them susceptible to COVID-19. However, Dr. Brandhorst warns that the mechanism by which fludioxonil damages cells is not singular, but multifactorial, damaging cells in a variety of ways. Since fludioxonil decreases glutathione levels, world leaders must limit exposure to this fungicide to mitigate the severity of disease prevalence among vulnerable individuals.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) registration of fludioxonil came with the assumption that the absence of an enzyme in one group of organisms protects the overall health of all other organisms. However, EPA mistakenly made a similar assumption in assessing glyphosate/Roundup, which caused it to ignore the impacts of that herbicide on the human gut microbiota. Although EPA considers a wide range of potential health risks from pesticides, there is no requirement to assess glutathione depletion from a pesticide since “it does not kill you” but “makes you weak,” according to Dr. Brandhorst. If these research results are replicated then, “all this work done [by EPA] to prove that fludioxonil is safe is invalid.”

As the U.S. COVID-19 cases continue to rise, world leaders must establish policies that manage viral and bacterial infections, without exacerbating the risk to both animals and humans in the process of avoiding or controlling the threat. In the case of COVID-19, we have measures of protection—both practices and products—that can prevent infection without using toxic products that increase risk factors. Additionally, the negative impacts on human and environmental health from pesticide use include the mounting resistance issues thatdemonstrate the ineffectiveness of pest management in chemical-intensive agriculture. Individuals and government officials alike should assess all risks associated with pesticide use, including chronic risk from chemical depletion in the body. Advocates maintain that EPA must have a complete understanding of the mode of action of any pesticide it registers and should include as a part of its registration review new information in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. EPA’s failure to respond to current science is viewed as a major shortcoming of its risk assessment process.

It is essential that when EPA weighs the risks and benefits of pesticide use it does not allow harm to those disproportionally affected by these chemicals—people of color, including essential workers and farm and landscape workers, who may suffer elevated exposure to the virus. An evaluation of the contribution of pesticide use and exposure to health outcomes of COVID-19 is urgently needed. To learn more about how the lack of adequate regulations of pesticide use, including fungicides, can impact human and environmental health, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides and You article “Highly Destructive Pesticide Effects Unregulated.” Additionally, Beyond Pesticides advocates for a precautionary approach to pest management in land management and agriculture, with a transition to organic methods. Lastly, learn how to protect yourself from COVID-19 safely by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on Disinfectants and Sanitizers for more information. 

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

Source: E&E News

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07
Oct

Baltimore Becomes Latest Maryland Locality to Restrict Toxic Pesticides on Public and Private Property

(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2020) This week the Baltimore, Maryland City Council passed an ordinance restricting the use of toxic pesticides on public and private property—including lawns, playing fields, playgrounds, children’s facility (except school system property [golf courses are exempt]—following an approach similar to legislation first spearheaded by Montgomery County, MD in 2015. While the legislation, 20-0495, An Ordinance Concerning Pesticide Control and Regulation, generally limits inputs to the allowed materials under federal organic law, it provides for allowances for glyphosate by the Department of  Recreation and Parks. If signed by the Mayor, as expected, Baltimore City will become the most recent Maryland jurisdiction to exercise its authority to regulate pesticide use on private property, after a ruling of the state’s highest court.

Language in the Baltimore ordinance tracks a similar framework to the Healthy Lawns Act passed in Montgomery County, Maryland. Any pesticide that is not compatible with organic land care—allowed under certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or considered minimum risk by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—is subject to the bill’s restrictions. Use can only occur under limited exceptions, such as to manage particularly invasive species, as well as health or economic threats. Bee-toxic neonicointoids are banned from landscape use, and only permitted in a completely enclosed environment, such as a greenhouse or indoor space. Application of the weed killer glyphosate requires prior authorization from the city’s Commissioner of Health, with a determination that its use is necessary to address a “threat.” The same is true for the insecticide chlorpyrifos, however no legal uses of this highly toxic neurotoxicant are affected by this legislation, since golf courses are exempt from the bill. The Parks Department exemption is subject to a “limited use and application” of glyphosate based on a “written integrated vegetation management plan.”

However, because of the exemption for the Parks Department, some advocates feel that the loophole in the legislation, especially for glyphosate (identified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer), is unacceptable and encouraged a prohibition. Two groups, Maryland Pesticide Education Network and the Smart on Pesticide Coalition, withdrew support for the legislation after the language was amended with the glyphosate loophole for public property. Regarding the waiver for Parks, Bonnie Raindrop with Smart on Pesticides Maryland and Central Maryland Beekeepers Association said, “Instead of promoting an organic approach to protect our babies, bees and bay, this bill pushes us backwards, by continuing an outdated industry definition of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).” Restrictions on private property applications of toxic pesticides were generally left intact in the final legislation.

Although the legislation passed by the Council does require annual reporting and subjects violators to civil and criminal penalties, critical components for public education were removed from the original legislation.

Unlike language passed in Montgomery County, the Baltimore bill does not establish a citywide public education program, nor does it require retailers to provide signs and information at point of sale. However, after originally establishing a start date six months after passage, the version passed by council members does not take effect until mid-2022. Although this is a longer time frame than some advocates wished, it should provide additional time for the public to be made aware of the law’s requirements.

Baltimore’s ability to pass a law restricting toxic pesticide use to private property was upheld by the Maryland courts after the chemical and lawn care industry lost their legal challenge to Montgomery County’s Healthy Lawns Act. A 2017 ruling by Sixth Circuit Court of Montgomery County Judge Terrence McGann, now retired from the court, struck down that law, but it was quickly appealed by the County Council. Beyond Pesticides joined with local groups to file an Amicus brief defending the right of Montgomery County and other local jurisdictions in Maryland to enact laws that protect their unique local environments from toxic pesticides. After years of court proceedings the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the Circuit Court decision and upheld Maryland localities right to restrict pesticides on all property in its jurisdiction. The industry appealed the decision but was met with a swift dismissal from the state’s highest court (the Maryland Court of Appeals).

Local communities in Maryland wishing to protect their residents, particularly sensitive populations such as children and pregnant mothers, and communities disproportionately harmed by pesticide use, are now empowered to do so under state law. Baltimore follows a recent opt-in to the Montgomery County law from the community of Gaithersburg, MD. The Prince Georges County Council is also currently considering passage of Ordinance CB-08-2020, which tracks closely these recently passed policies.

Advocates within the state of Maryland are strongly encouraged to engage with their local leaders to pass a strong pesticide policy. Beyond Pesticides has supported the efforts in Gaithersburg, Baltimore, and Prince George’s County through expert testimony and comments (1,2,3). For those outside of Maryland, even if you’re in a state with explicit preemption of local authority to restrict pesticides on private property, you can still pass meaningful laws that fight back against unnecessary pesticide use on public land. To get started, see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawn and Landscape Tools for Change.

As Beyond Pesticides’ Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies shows, there is strong demand for local rights over pesticide enforcement. Over 150 communities in 23 states have enacted some form of pesticide reform. Help make your community the next: take the pledge that you’ll fight for a pesticide-free, organic community.

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

Source: Baltimore City Council

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06
Oct

Pesticide Trade Group Wrote U.S. Government Policy to Undermine International Efforts to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2020) Despite the rapid rise of antibiotic resistance in the United States and throughout the world, new documents find the Trump Administration worked on behalf of a chemical industry trade group to weaken international guidelines aimed at slowing the crisis. Emails obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act show that officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) worked to downplay the role of industrial agriculture and pesticide use in drug-resistant infections.

“From everything we’ve seen, it’s clear that this administration believes rolling back regulations and protecting industry profits is more important than protecting public health,” said Nathan Donley, PhD, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, to the New York Times (NYT). “But what these emails show is that the Department of Agriculture isn’t just soliciting their input. They’re seeking their approval on what the government’s position should be.”

Ray McAllister, PhD, of the pesticide industry trade group Croplife America, sent an email in March of 2018 to U.S. officials, wanting to “make certain” that the United Nation’s (UN) Codex Alimentarius, a set of international guidelines and standards established to protect consumer health, made no mention of how fungicides contribute to antibiotic resistance. Neena Anandaraman, DVM, with USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist, deferred to Dr. McAllister and allowed him to provide line edits to the document, saying “We aren’t crop experts,” rather than deferring to other experts in the federal government. Dr. McAllister further suggested changes that eliminate any connection between crop production and the transmission of human pathogens.

According to NYT, other countries on the Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance were outraged by the industry-fueled changes, which resulted in significant delays. USDA told NYT, “It is the normal course of business for U.S.D.A. to solicit input from industry when developing a technical document in order to understand current practice in the United States.” While touching base with industry for their viewpoint is not in itself problematic, it becomes significantly different when that industry is allowed to establish U.S. policy.

There is overwhelming evidence that agricultural pesticide use is contributing to antibiotic resistance.

A 2015 study found that the herbicides glyphosate, 2,4-D, and dicamba all have the potential to induce antibiotic resistance in Salmonella and E.coli. In a 2014 study from the United Kingdom, strains of Aspergillus fungi resistant to azole fungicides were found primarily in rural, agricultural areas.

That is unsurprising, as many of the same antibiotics and fungicides used to manage infections on crops are the same used for human medicine. While overuse in the medical field remains a concern, agricultural applications, which likely occur more frequently and on a larger scale, are major contributors to the crisis.

A 2018 study published in Nature Sustainability found that Earth has surpassed “planetary boundaries” for pesticide and antimicrobial resistance. “Without new approaches, going to hospital in the future will increasingly become a gamble. More patients will get unlucky, and become infected with untreatable or hard to treat bacteria. This is an urgent risk to human society,” study coauthor Søgaard Jørgensen, PhD, said in a press release.

Yet, despite these concerning data, the U.S. government listened to those producing, profiting, and perpetuating toxic chemicals, rather than safety and reform-minded experts. It is a trend Beyond Pesticides has reported on very often as of late; last month a similar story found that the U.S. acted on behalf of Bayer to stop Thailand’s government from banning glyphosate.

Help stop the pesticide industry from running our federal agencies by contacting your federal elected officials. Start by telling your U.S. Senator to cosponsor the Farm System Reform Act, a bill introduced by Senator Cory Booker which would eliminate factory farming, and make important strides in combating antibiotic resistance. Follow up with a phone call to their offices, and mention Croplife’s iniquitous influence in U.S. decision making. Although the draft UN guidance contains blatant omissions relating fungicide and other crop pesticide use to antibiotic resistance, there may still be time to revise the document before it is finalized later this year.

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

Source: New York Times, Center Biological Diversity

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05
Oct

Again: Trump Administration Needs to Listen to Science to Protect Farmers and the Environment (Instead of Special Interests)

(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2020)  Another example of trading health and environmental protection for the support of special interests, EPA announces the misleading and fraudulently named, “EPA Supports Technology to Benefit America’s Farmers.” This time, EPA announces plans to “streamline the regulation of certain plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs).” Named to sow confusion, PIPs are plants engineered with pesticides in them. PIPs are known in general for two problems arising from incorporating pesticidal ingredients into crops: residues that cannot be washed off and production of crop-eating insects that are resistant to the incorporated pesticide that blankets the agricultural landscape. 

Tell Congress that EPA needs to listen to science, not pesticide manufacturers and biotech companies that are causing problems for farmers and the environment.

This time, EPA is proposing to exempt from regulation certain PIPs created by biotechnological techniques that are cisgenic (using genes derived from sexually compatible species), such as CRISPR. The distinction that EPA seeks to make between cisgenic plants and transgenic plants (in which the gene of interest may come from any species) is not supported by science. In fact, cisgenic techniques make use of genetic material other than the targeted genes, and that may come from species that are not sexually compatible with the crop. The bottom line: these genetically engineered organisms introduce havoc into biological systems and the local ecology.

According to an analysis by Les Touart, PhD, Beyond Pesticides’ senior science and policy manager, ”Experiments confirm that cisgenesis can result in significant unanticipated changes to a plant. The results of these experiments show that a trait introduced via a cisgene can result in plants that differ in unanticipated and dramatic ways from their conventionally bred counterparts. The differences observed would have important implications relevant to health and ecological risk assessments.”

Two important confounding aspects that EPA ignores are the likely move by the biotech industry to use multiple genetic manipulations—EPA has never been good at assessing risks of multiple stressors—and pleiotropy. Pleiotropy is the fact that a single gene controls more than one trait, so that introduction of a genetic change may have unanticipated impacts.

The other important effect of the use of PIPs is the certain development of resistance in pest organisms. Resistance creates severe economic impacts on farmers and the food production system because it leads to crop failures and requests to use more toxic compounds on for so-called pest emergencies. These resistance events, of course, are predictable outcomes that should not qualify for emergency use of unregistered pesticides under a loophole in the federal pesticide law. Because PIPs present a constant exposure to the pesticide, they present a constant selection pressure for resistance. Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) arising from its incorporation as a PIP in corn has resulted in the loss of effectiveness of this biological insecticide and the use of more toxic insecticides as a replacement. (See Beyond Pesticides’ draft comment on PIPs to EPA.)

Simultaneous with this proposal, EPA has issued a proposal to address the development of resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in PIP corn and cotton. The proposal does not address or impact the biology of pest populations developing resistance, but only the recognition and identification of such resistance. Science shows that continued reliance on chemical or PIP insecticides only continues the cycle of pests developing resistance and continued need for new chemistry or technologies. Options not considered in EPA’s new resistance management framework include organic management practices, which uses crop rotation and the employment of biological control measures and enhancements. 

Even in chemical-intensive agriculture, crop rotation is a good management option because it reduces the possibility of existing pests developing resistance to a particular insecticide by breaking the cycle of continual exposure that causes selection pressure. Crop rotation is more advantageous than use of refuges (buffers where the insecticides are not used), which have failed results due to ongoing pesticide dependency. Likewise, a variety of biological controls as alternatives to reliance on insecticide treatments are available and can be encouraged with proper management for lepidopteran pests resistant to Bt crops. EPA’s resistance proposal, therefore, only serves as a façade while the agency allows the use of more genetically engineered crops. (See Beyond Pesticides’ draft comment on resistance management to EPA.)

Tell Congress that EPA needs to listen to science, not pesticide manufacturers and biotech companies that are causing problems for farmers and the environment.

Letter to Congress

I am writing to ask you to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop harming farmers and the environment by ignoring the science of pest management and pesticide dependency. In another example of trading health and environmental protection for the support of special interests, EPA misleadingly announces, “EPA Supports Technology to Benefit America’s Farmers,” to “streamline the regulation of certain plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs).” PIPs are known for two problems arising from incorporating pesticidal ingredients into crops: residues that cannot be washed off and production of crop-eating insects that are resistant to the incorporated pesticide.

EPA proposes to exempt from regulation certain PIPs created by cisgenic biotech techniques such as CRISPR that use genes derived from sexually compatible species. The distinction that EPA seeks to make between cisgenic plants and transgenic plants (in which the gene of interest may come from any species) is not supported by science. In fact, cisgenic techniques make use of genetic material other than the targeted genes, which may come from species that are not sexually compatible with the crop.

According Beyond Pesticides’ senior science and policy manager, Les Touart, PhD, ”Experiments confirm that cisgenesis can result in significant unanticipated changes to a plant. The results of these experiments show that a trait introduced via a cisgene can result in plants that differ in unanticipated and dramatic ways from their conventionally bred counterparts. The differences observed would have important implications relevant to health and ecological risk assessments.”

Two important confounding aspects that EPA ignores are the likely move by the biotech industry to use multiple genetic manipulations—EPA has never been good at assessing risks of multiple stressors—and pleiotropy. Pleiotropy is the fact that a single gene controls more than one trait, so that introduction of a genetic change may have unanticipated impacts.

The other important effect of the use of PIPs is the certain development of resistance in pest organisms. Because PIPs present a continuous exposure to the pesticide, they present a constant selection pressure for resistance. Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) arising from its incorporation as a PIP in corn has resulted in the loss of effectiveness of this biological insecticide and the use of more toxic insecticides as a replacement—often through the use of a loophole in the pesticide law that identifies the predictable resulting insect resistance and population explosion as an emergency.

EPA has also issued a proposal to address the development of resistance to Bt in PIP corn and cotton. The proposal does not address or impact the biology of pest populations developing resistance, but only the recognition and identification of such resistance. Science shows that continued reliance on chemical or PIP insecticides only continues the cycle of pests developing resistance. EPA fails to consider agricultural practices used in organic agriculture, including crop rotation and biological control. Crop rotation is always a good management option because it reduces the possibility of existing pests developing resistance to a particular insecticide by breaking the cycle of continual exposure that causes selection pressure. Likewise, a variety of biological controls are available that can be encouraged to manage lepidopteran pests resistant to Bt crops. EPA’s resistance proposal, therefore, only serves as a façade while the agency allows the use of more genetically engineered crops.

Please tell EPA to listen to scientists, not the companies it is supposed to regulate. Ecology and toxicology support the need for incentives to adopt organic agriculture.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

 

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02
Oct

EPA Dismisses Disproportionate Harm to Farmworker Children from Neurotoxic Insecticide Chlorpyrifos, Leaves in Food Supply, Rejects Scientific Method

(Beyond Pesticides, October 2, 2020) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) September 22 announcement asserts that, “despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects [of the insecticide chlorpyrifos] remains unresolved,” as reported in The New York Times. This conclusion contradicts both ample scientific evidence and the agency’s own findings. Beyond Pesticides has repeatedly advocated for a ban on the use of chlorpyrifos because of the grave risks it poses.

This organophosphate pesticide is used on approximately 60 different crops, including almonds, cotton, citrus fruits, grapes, corn, broccoli, sugar beets, peaches, and nectarines. It is also commonly employed for mosquito-borne disease control, and on some kinds of managed turf, including golf courses. Exposure to the pesticide has been identified repeatedly as problematic. Most residential uses were taken off the market in 2000, after the manufacturer, DowDupont (now Corteva) was faced with EPA action.

Chlorpyrifos is a cholinesterase inhibitor that binds irreversibly to the receptor sites of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that is critical to normal nerve impulse transmission. In so doing, chlorpyrifos inactivates the enzyme, damages the central and peripheral nervous systems, and disrupts neurological activity. The compound is associated with harmful reproductive, renal, hepatic, and endocrine disrupting effects, and most notably, with neurodevelopmental impacts, especially in children. It is a neurological toxicant that damages their brains and leads to compromised cognitive function, attention deficit disorder, developmental delays, lowered IQs, and a host of other developmental and learning anomalies.

Beyond Pesticides has long reported on the multitude of twists and turns in EPA’s actions on chlorpyrifos (see background and a timeline of developments here). The gist of the saga is that the agency has dragged its feet for years on stricter regulation of this pesticide. In 2015 the EPA proposed to revoke food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos, which would effectively have banned use of the pesticide in agriculture (all residential uses having been proscribed in 2000). The agency took this step after its own studies demonstrated that exposure to the pesticide could harm brain development in children. In proposing the ban, EPA stated: “The agency is unable to conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure from the use of chlorpyrifos meets the safety standard of . . . the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Accordingly, EPA is proposing to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos.” 

EPA had not yet enacted this ban by 2017, at which point the Presidential election and change in administration had happened, and Trump’s EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, reversed that decision, resulting in a slew of legal challenges. In the Summer of 2019, those lawsuits culminated in a directive from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordering the agency to ban the pesticide within 60 days. Almost immediately, the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) requested a rehearing before an en banc panel of the court’s 11 judges; the request was — unusually — granted. The en banc panel effectively vacated the earlier ruling.

Cue more legal challenges from environmental and public health groups, and in April of 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court again issued an order for EPA to take action on a ban, this time within 90 days. By then, Mr. Pruitt was out and Andrew Wheeler had become EPA Administrator. Pursuant to the court’s directive, the agency announced in July of that year that it would not ban the compound, thus allowing the continued use of the highly toxic pesticide.

This past July, following more lawsuits to try to force a chlorpyrifos ban, EPA argued before a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court that it understands that chlorpyrifos can have neurodevelopmental impacts, but that the level of exposure that is dangerous is unclear. It also claimed that lack of public access to the raw data for a pivotal study out of Columbia University (see more, below) prevented EPA scientists from assessing its findings on chlorpyrifos independently. It should be noted that the Columbia researchers have made offers to share the information privately with EPA, and the agency has rejected these.

This most-recent announcement — allowing continued use of chlorpyrifos because of what EPA calls “unresolved science” on the neurotoxicity of the chemical — needs to be understood, as The New York Times reports, in the context of the Trump EPA’s industry-friendly agenda and related machinations. In 2018 under Mr. Pruitt, and in process in 2020 under Administrator Wheeler, the agency has promulgated a new rule that limits the scientific research that can be used in decision making on pesticides. EPA claims that this brings greater transparency to what it likes to call “secret science” — research studies that cannot or do not make publicly available their underlying data. The so-called “secret science” rule, though not yet finalized, would guide EPA staff to give less weight or credence to, or to ignore outright, such research. The New York Times writes, “This controversial policy would eliminate many studies that track the effects of exposure to substances on people’s health over long periods of time, because the data often includes [sic] confidential medical records of the subjects.”

EPA’s announcement may be a first test of this new rule, used to rationalize EPA’s rejection of the Columbia study, the outcomes of which spurred EPA’s original move to ban the pesticide. That work, by the Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia, was part of a series of prospective cohort studies of urban populations of color that linked chlorpyrifos to early childhood developmental delays, decreased mental and motor development, attentional and hyperactivity problems, and altered brain anatomy and lowered IQs, among other impacts.

In its review of chlorpyrifos, EPA asked, over a period of years, for access to the raw data that underlay the Columbia study. Herein lies the underbelly of this proposed rule: much good research happens only when participants can be assured of privacy protection. Critics of this EPA limitation on “acceptable” science note that it will undoubtedly make it even more difficult for researchers to recruit subjects; many people do not want their data shared publicly, however “depersonalized” it is promised to be. In addition, this change would have significant impact on longitudinal studies. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy commented, “The best studies follow individuals over time, so that you can control all the factors except for the ones you’re measuring. . . . But it means following people’s personal history, their medical history. And nobody would want somebody to expose all of their private information.”

For all of EPA’s touting of transparency, in reality, this policy change responds to the pesticide industry’s desires by making it harder for EPA to use epidemiological studies based on confidential medical records, such as the work out of Columbia. E&E wrote in 2018 about the influence of the pesticide industry on the Trump EPA, noting that the agency’s rationale on the emerging new “secret science” rule echoed closely the arguments that officials from CropLife America, an industry trade group, had been making in their multiple closed-door meetings with then-Administrator Pruitt and current Administrator Wheeler.

In 2016, E&E reported, “CropLife America asked the Obama EPA to scrap its proposed [chlorpyrifos] ban and any other regulations that rely on Columbia’s chlorpyrifos research, which has produced several additional papers published in peer-reviewed journals. ‘Neither EPA nor interested stakeholders . . . have [sic] been granted access to the Columbia Study’s underlying data,’ CropLife said. ‘Thus, EPA could not have adequately evaluated the data to determine its validity, completeness, and reliability.’” DowDuPont, a manufacturer of a chlorpyrifos product branded as “Dursban,” is a CropLife America member.

E&E reported that in 2017, “Asked to elaborate on the ‘transparency reasons’ for EPA needing the [Columbia] data, [Jack] Housenger [former director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs] acknowledged it was largely to address industry concerns. ‘If you’re taking action on a chemical company’s compound, they want to be able to say, “Hey, we looked at these data and our scientists say this,” he said. Companies often told Housenger ‘we want to be able to analyze these data and defend our chemical.’”

Erik Olson, a senior director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted that the EPA and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) have kept chlorpyrifos on the market for years past when it should have been removed. He said in 2018, “There has been a long history of EPA and other agencies using published, peer-reviewed scientific literature to make decisions. It’s really only been recently that the chemical industry has been pushing very hard to ask — or demand, frankly — that agencies request and reanalyze all of the data from all the studies. [EPA] line scientists have long been fine with — in fact, supported — banning chlorpyrifos. It’s been some of the people in management that have been pretty tight with the chemical industry and took on some of those arguments.”

Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous, proven neurotoxicant that has dire impacts on children, making EPA’s action to allow its continued use a failure of both its protective mission and ethics. Further, it is an environmental justice failure, given that risks of exposure fall disproportionately on low-income African American and Latino families, including farmworker families, who are at the greatest risk of harm. In light of EPA’s failures, states are taking action, and Corteva has announced it will cease production by the end of 2020 because of declining sales. Yet state efforts, which are to the good, are nevertheless uncoordinated, patchwork attempts to do what EPA refuses to do: protect the public from harm.

Beyond Pesticides advocates the adoption of organic agriculture and pest management practices that eliminate the use of toxic materials. See our organic program page and ManageSafe.

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

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/climate/epa-pesticide-chlorpyrifos-children.html

 

 

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

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01
Oct

Court Rejects Case to Reinstate Environmental Protections on U.S. Wildlife Refuges, as Report Shows Increasing Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, October 1, 2020) A federal judge on September 24, 2020 dismissed an  environmental lawsuit seeking to reinstate a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule, killed by the Trump Administration, which banned the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, genetically engineered (GE) crops, and adopted a precautionary approach to pest management. The decision comes on the heels of a Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) analysis that reports a 34% increase in the pesticide use on U.S. national wildlife refuge acres over a two year period from 2016-2018.

This analysis is an update to CBD’s 2018 report, No Refuge, which is the first of its kind to offer comprehensive details of agricultural pesticide spraying in national wildlife refuges. Wildlife refuges act as a sanctuary, providing habitat and protection essential for the survival and recovery of species nationwide. However, pesticide spraying in or around wildlife refuges threatens the survivability and recovery of species that reside there as many of these pesticides are highly toxic to human and animal health. Analyses like these are significant, especially since the globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

In 2012, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups, led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Center for Food Safety, won a court battle to halt genetically engineered crops, and related herbicide-tolerant herbicides, on wildlife refuges in the southeast. This led to a grassroots campaign and public pressure from advocates and environmental groups, resulting in a FWS decision to adopt a national phase out of GE crops and ban neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticide use on national wildlife refuges. However, in 2018, FWS reversed the prohibition of GE crops and neonicotinoids via a memorandum, which allows the refuge system to make decisions on the use of GE crops and neonics on a case-by-case basis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

With the increasing rate of biodiversity loss, advocates say it is essential for government agencies to enforce policies that eliminate pesticide use in wildlife refuges, not only to protect the well-being of animals, but humans as well. Hannah Connor, J.S.D., senior attorney at CBD notes, “It’s beyond senseless that we’re spraying even larger areas of America’s cherished national wildlife refuges with dangerous pesticides known to harm wildlife. We’re in the midst of a wildlife extinction crisis, and these places were set aside specifically as safe sanctuaries for some of our most endangered animals. The last thing they need is to have these poisons dumped on them.”

The U.S. has 568 national wildlife refuges—from forests and wetlands to various waterways—all of which play a vital role in protecting thousands of species, including over 200 endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) oversees refuge management and permits private farming on refuges to help prepare seedbeds to increase seed germination for native habitats and provide food for migratory birds and other species. However, the recent rise of industrial-scale commercial farming is now commonplace in wildlife refuges, exposing these sensitive habitats and its wildlife dependents to highly toxic pesticides that jeopardize abiding health.

To determine the extent of pesticide use in commercial agriculture on national wildlife refuge land, researchers examined pesticide use data in wildlife refuges obtained from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) public records via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

U.S. FWS data demonstrate a 34% increase in the number of acres to which agricultural pesticides were applied from 2016-2018, encompassing 363,000 acres of refuge land treated with 350,000 pounds of pesticides. Furthermore, the data reveals an increase in aerial spraying of pesticides by 35%. Lastly, wildlife refuges have experienced an over 70% higher level of dangerous pesticide inputs, including an 89%, 74%, and 100% increase in the most harmful of the pesticides dicamba2,4-D, and paraquat, respectively. The five national wildlife refuges complexes with the most pesticide contamination from agricultural pesticide applications include the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex (California and Oregon), Central Arkansas Refuges Complex (Arkansas), Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Mississippi), West Tennessee Refuge Complex (Tennessee), and Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Tennessee). 

The impact of pesticides on wildlife—including mammals, bees and other pollinators, fish and other aquatic organisms, birds, and the biota within the soil—is extensive. A plethora of studies document how exposure to these toxic chemicals cause reproductive, neurological, renal, hepatic, endocrine disruptive, and developmental anomalies, as well as cancers, in a wide range of species. There are policies in place to protect wildlife from harm, such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, which protects ecosystems on which threatened and endangered species depend. However, a 2013 report by the National Academy of Sciences detected shortcomings in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) evaluation and analysis of pesticides on endangered species, with the agency regularly  disregarding the ESA’s requirement to confer with federal wildlife agencies on how to take precaution to protect threatened and endangered species from pesticide harms. Therefore, EPA, and other federal government agencies, including FWS, reformed the pesticide review process to meet the pesticide approval requirements for the ESA. 

GE crops perpetuate the use of neonicotinoids and other harmful pesticides as many of these crops are resistant to the pesticides used on them, forcing farmers to use more chemicals to treat persistent pest issues.

Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds widespread pesticide contamination of surface waters throughout the U.S. Scientists warn that neonicotinoids, and other pesticides, pose a direct threat to both insect and non-insect wildlife, including birds, aquatic animals, and other wildlife, which absorb pesticide sprays and vapors through respiration, as well as orally via food.

The reversal of the GE crop and neonicotinoid ban in national wildlife refuges are only a few of the many recent rollbacks on environmental regulations, which do little to protect ecosystem health that marine and terrestrial species, including humans, require. In March 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised their methods for “biological evaluations” (BE) to assess pesticide risks to endangered plant and animal species. However, these newly revised methods allow extensive harm to many of the most endangered plants and animal species nationwide. Additionally, 2019 regulations for the ESA, set forth by the Trump administration, “weaken the consultation process designed to prevent harm to endangered animals and their habitats from federal agency activities, curtail the designation of critical habitat and weakens the listing process for imperiled species, and eliminate all protections for wildlife newly designated as ‘threatened’ under ESA.”

Two of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S. (chlorpyrifos and malathion) have harmful effects on 97 percent of all species listed for protection under the ESA. In light of this, advocates maintain that government agencies must adopt policies that protect the vulnerable species from pesticide exposure. 

Although pesticide-treated acres in wildlife refuges increased and the total pounds of pesticides used per acre declined, the data obtained from the FWS does not account for the full calendar year. This lack of accountability means the data certainly underestimates total pesticide use since most of the pesticide-use decline was at one refuge—the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Most concerning are the range of hazardous pesticides commonly used on wildlife refuges, including dicamba, 2,4-D, and paraquat. Although these three chemicals are highly toxic to fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and other animals—causing everything from birth and reproductive defects to cancer—they remain in use on wildlife refuges.

Additionally, a recent ruling by FWS allows an expansion of hunting and fishing in wildlife refuge areas. Not only does this expansion put extra stress on species already affected by pesticide exposure, but it also exposes hunters and anglers to pesticides that contaminate soils, waterways, and bioaccumulate inside of game animals. Hence, FWS must provide timely protection to the most critically imperiled species and their habitat by eliminating toxic pesticide use from chemical-intensive farming. CBD researchers concur with the organization’s previous 2016 analysis, maintaining that “continuing protection for species and their habitats are, therefore, crucial to preserving and maintaining the nation’s treasured natural heritage. By opening refuges to intensive farming that utilizes toxic pesticides, the Service has failed to carry out its primary purpose of protecting wildlife.”

The use of pesticides should be phased out and ultimately eliminated to protect the nation’s and world’s wildlife and reduce the number of dangerous pesticides exposed to species in wildlife refuges. Additionally, Beyond Pesticides has long fought against GE crops and pesticide use on refuges and has long advocated for federal regulations that consider all potential impacts of pesticides to ecosystems and organisms.Current administration regulations fail to consider the environment holistically, thus creating a blind spot that limits our ability to adopt widespread change that improves ecosystem health. With the Trump administration dismantling many environmental regulations, it is vital to understand how pesticide use on wildlife refuges can increase biodiversity loss, especially due to the increasing amount of dangerous pesticide use in these areas. The administration has now declined protection for more than 60 species and protected only 18 — the lowest of any president at this point in an administration. However, 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 on wildlife refuges. Organic agriculture has many health and environmental benefits, which can eliminate the need for chemical-intensive agricultural practices in these sanctuaries. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.  

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity Press Release, Center for Biological Diversity Analysis

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30
Sep

Neonicotinoid Insecticides Trigger Neurodegeneration and Can Blind Insects at Low Doses

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2020) Low doses of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides are known to disrupt insect learning and behavior, but new science is providing a better understanding of how these effects manifest at a cellular level. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this study finds that the neonic imidacloprid binds to brain receptors, triggering oxidative stress, reducing energy levels, and causing neurodegeneration.

“Although many studies have shown that low doses of insecticides can affect insect behavior, they have not uncovered whether insecticides trigger changes at the cellular and molecular levels,” said lead author Felipe Martelli, PhD, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “The goal of this work was to have a better understanding of the effects of low doses of the common insecticide imidacloprid at the cellular, physiological and behavioral levels.”

Researchers used the fruit fly Drosophilia melanogaster, a common experimental organism, as it contains a number of nicotinic acetylchloline receptors, the primary site of action for imidaclorpid. The neonic binds to these receptors, which regulate a number of physiological processes, such muscle contraction. Binding closes these channels, leading to the range of harm researchers observed through their study.

Larval fuit flies were exposed to imidacloprid for two hours at 2.5 parts per million (ppm), less than 3% of the application rate insects are likely to encounter in the field. At this rate, test-reared flies display reduced movement, but do not die. However, scientific observation found that, although the flies are not dying, the neonic exposure induce a sequence of compounding negative health effects.

“We discovered that imidacloprid did bind to the nicotinic receptors in the larvae’s nervous system, causing a long, enduring influx of calcium ions into the neurons. Having too much calcium inside the neurons damaged the mitochondria, the energy-producing structures of the cell. This led to the accumulation of significant amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals inside the brain that triggered a cascade of damaging events that spread to many other tissues,” Dr. Martelli said.

ROS leads to an imbalance in the development of lipid droplets throughout the fly’s organ systems. “Lipids are much more than energy storage. They play many important roles in the body, from being a crucial part of the integrity of cell membranes to working as messenger molecules or in hormone synthesis,” said Phillip Battenham, PhD, of the University of Melbourne. “In addition to lipid alterations, we also observed that imidacloprid triggered changes in the activity of genes related to metabolism, energy production, detoxification and the immune response. The overall physiology of the larvae was systemically impaired.”

Scientists were able to confirm that imidacloprid is causing these impacts by successfully treating some larvae with an antioxidant known to mediate the effects being observed.

Harmful effects are also seen in adult fruit flies exposed to the neonic. A dose of 4 ppm, known to cause death in 50% of exposed flies within a month, was used, and researchers observed the flies for the first 10 days of exposure. Dosed flies performed poorly on tests assessing their climbing ability and recovery after disturbance – indications of neurodegeneration. Vision was significantly impacted, with damage to mitochontrial photoreceptors effectively rendering the flies blind.

“When we looked closer at the light-sensing cells in the adult fly’s retina, we found that glial cells, which provide support and protection to neurons, had progressively accumulated vacuoles and a significant number of defective mitochondria, indications that the glia were dying,” said Hugo Bellen, PhD, of Baylor University and Texas Children’s Hospital.

As with the larva, an antioxidant treatment was able to decrease the extent of damage caused by imidacloprid exposure. “It is concerning that even at low doses, insecticides can cause neurological damage, disrupt energy production and compromise the immune system of insects,” Dr. Batterham said. “Those problems can make it more challenging for insects to adapt to other stresses, such as climate change or infections. Our findings emphasize the importance of better understanding the mechanisms of action of insecticides, in particular on beneficial insects.”

Pollinators are perhaps the most well known victim of exposure to systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, but as the global Task Force on Systemic Insecticides shows the entire invertebrate world, and therefore the ecosystems that depend upon them, is at risk. Further evidence finds these chemicals are directly harming a range of other life, including amphibians, birds, and mammals, including humans, as indirect effects move up the food chain.

It is not too late to intervene and stop the use of these harmful substances. Call your member of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the Saving America’s Pollinator Act, which would eliminate neonic use in the United States. Become active in your community and state by gathering together with like minded friends and neighbors, and reaching out to your elected officials about this issue. Get familiar with the science through Beyond Pesticides past daily news posts as well as the Bee Protective webpage.

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

Source: PNAS, Baylor College of Medicine press release

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29
Sep

Biological Management Has Added Billions in Benefits to Agricultural Economies

(Beyond Pesticides, September 29, 2020) While the green revolution is often heralded in conventional agriculture circles as the key agricultural innovation of the last century, new research finds that biological controls likely had a bigger beneficial impact on world crop production. The study, Ecological Pest Control Fortifies Agricultural Growth in Asia–Pacific Economies, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, makes the case that the introduction of predators to manage non-native pest species was just as important as the introduction of new cereal grain varieties.

“Our work constitutes an empirical demonstration of how insect biological control helped solidify the agrarian foundation of several Asia-Pacific economies and, in doing so, places biological control on an equal footing with other biological innovations such as Green Revolution germplasm,” said study co-author Michael Furlong, PhD, of the University of Queensland, Australia.

The study, focusing in on the Asia-Pacific region between 1918-2018, relied primarily on the BIOCAT database, a record cataloging “classical biological control” introductions. Of 252 unique interventions reviewed within individual countries, pest predators established themselves in 96. Of those roughly 4 in 10 introductions that were able to maintain populations over the long term, 48% achieved full or partial pest control.

The success of these programs had critically important implications for agricultural economies in the region. “Biological control delivered durable pest control in myriad Asia-Pacific agriculture sectors, permitting yield-loss recoveries up to 73%, 81% and 100% in cassava, banana and coconut crops respectively, said Dr. Furlong. “The ensuing economic dividends are substantial, as pest-induced losses up to US $6.8, $4.3 and $8.2 billion annually for the above crops were offset (at respective values of $5.4-6.8 billion, $1.4-2.2 billion and $3.8-5.5 billion/year, for a conservative to high impact scenario range). As many of the underlying programs were run on a shoestring, the rate of return on biological control science is extraordinary.” Overall, the authors indicate that biological controls have brought approximately $20 billion to Asia-Pacific economics on an annual basis.

While, for example, rice yields in Indonesia increased by 303% from its 1961 baseline, yields in banana and cassava grew 1,222% and 323% respectively. Cassava yields were saved in large part due to the introduction of Anagyrus lopezi, a parasitic wasp that preyed on the non-native cassava mealybug. In Papua New Guinea, the country’s banana crop was experiencing 30% yield loss due to the banana skipper Erionota thrax, but was able to reduce pest pressure below economically damaging levels through introduction of the parasitoid Cotesia erionotae.

“Not only does [our work] spotlight [biological control’s] transformative impacts – especially in light of increasing global reliance on chemical pesticides – but it also celebrates the century-long achievements of dedicated, yet often, unacclaimed insect explorers and biological control pioneers.”

Biological control is not without its detractors. Many point to introductions like the cane toad, released in the 1930s to manage Australia’s sugar cane beetles. The poisonous amphibian never established in cane fields and became an invasive pest in its own right. The authors acknowledge this history, noting how “a small number of ill-advised introductions” from the middle of the 20th century led to “a more risk-adverse attitude,” which “eclipsed its myriad societal benefits.”

The present studies highlights the value of these past approaches, both in terms of economic and environmental benefits. Not only can biological interventions save agricultural sectors, their use can also supplant the industrial chemical approach that harms public health and adversely impacts ecological stability.

“By thus placing agro-ecological innovations on equal footing with input-intensive measures, our work provides lessons for future efforts to mitigate invasive species, restore ecological resilience and sustainably raise output of global agri-food systems,” said lead study author Kris Wyckhuys, PhD.

Biological approaches are needed now in many sectors. After years of testing, officials in California are beginning to release Tamarixia radiata wasps to manage Asian citrus psyllids, which cause citrus greening that has devastated the citrus industry. Past reports indicate many New Jersey communities have used copepod crustaceans, voracious predators of mosquito larvae, to control mosquito-borne disease. Goats have also been used across the country as biological weed management at airports, cemeteries, and to restore soil and improve land quality. These techniques provide a viable management approach that does not require the regular, repeated use of toxic pesticides.

Support an ecological approach to food production by purchasing organic whenever possible. Organic land management prioritizes mechanical, cultural, and biological means of managing pests before considering even least-toxic pesticide products. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides Daily News biological control archives.

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

Source: Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International press release, Nature Ecology and Evolution

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28
Sep

Tell USDA to Strengthen Organic Enforcement and Allow More Time for Public Comment

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2020) These comments are due by October 5 at 11:59 pm EDT. Separate comments to the National Organic Standards Board are due October 1 at 11:59 EDT.

After hearing for years about inadequate enforcement of the rules governing organic production, USDA has issued a massive draft rule on strengthening organic enforcement (SOE). The draft rule presented to the public constitutes an impressive and far-reaching rewrite of the regulations implementing the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). However, unlike the process by which the initial regulations were established in 2002, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was only consulted on a portion of the elements in this draft rule. Public engagement was, thus, also limited.

USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) is accepting comments on its draft rule via Regulations.gov. Please use this opportunity to remind USDA of the proper public process while commenting on the proposed rule itself. Please join us in asking for an extension of the pubic comment to facilitate fuller public scrutiny.

Tell USDA that strengthening organic enforcement starts with the National Organic Standards Board.

USDA must involve the NOSB and public as required by law.

Section 2119 of OFPA states the Secretary shall establish the NOSB to advise the Secretary on “… the implementation of this title.” Furthermore, the law states, “The board shall provide recommendations to the Secretary regarding the implementation of this title.” [emphasis added]

The promulgation of the original rule was preceded by a thorough discussion by the NOSB, intended by Congress to be a diverse panel of expert stakeholders, with abundant opportunity for public input from the most knowledgeable and experienced community and industry participants. This process was clearly fulfilling the intent of Congress.

Although the current draft SOE rule includes many meritorious elements, a number of them have not been discussed publicly. Given the narrow time window for public comments, concurrent with stakeholders and public interest groups working on formal comments pursuant to the upcoming NOSB meeting, and taking into account the impact this pandemic has had on the productivity of many organizations, a wide discussion within the organic community has not been possible—although a number of separate stakeholder constituencies have been discussing this rule in isolation without benefit of widely sharing their knowledge and perspectives.

Thus, an extension of the comment deadline is necessary to allow an opportunity for the organic community to collaborate on this proposal prior to proceeding to final rulemaking. Such an industry-wide discussion must be orchestrated by the NOSB and we recommend scheduling a third meeting during 2021 for that purpose.

Improvements in Organic Enforcement are Needed

As a starting point, Beyond Pesticides and its investigative arm OrganicEye, in general, support the detailed comments submitted by the National Organic Coalition (NOC). Furthermore, we also support the comments related to strengthening oversight on imports submitted by the Organic Farmers Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM).

In addition, we would emphasize the following points:

  1. There is no reason for a 10-day delay in communicating electronic certificates. They are electronic! They should be transmitted simultaneously with shipment. Twenty-four hours is more than adequate. 
  2. This rule is massive and, despite many meritorious elements, adds, in the aggregate, tremendous additional regulatory burdens. As such, it deserves additional time to be thoroughly and thoughtfully evaluated, including through public discussions, before public comment closes. 
  3. Regarding a recommendation on accreditation of organic certifiers by the NOSB in October 2018,  it is time to look at risk-based oversight of certified operations, rather than putting honest farmers through the ringer every year with inspections and audits while massive fraud is being simultaneously perpetrated by malefactors. Although OFPA requires annual inspections, farmers and small processors who have demonstrated a high level of compliance and low risk should be given the option of yearly virtual inspections, using artificial intelligence and a national database to compare acreage, production, and sales, along with more comprehensive, periodically staggered, full site inspection/audits. This will free up resources in the certification and inspection sector for a much more aggressive approach to unannounced inspections, testing, and full, comprehensive audits. It should be noted that the IRS does not audit every taxpayer every year. Holding the hammer of unexpected and comprehensive audits ensures a high level of compliance.
  4. A new, more efficient, and focused approach to inspections and audits of certified organic operations must be coupled with more aggressive penalties, enforcement action, and monitoring. It has become standard practice for NOP to negotiate settlements with alleged perpetrators, leaving some in business without substantive penalties. For the current or proposed regulatory oversight to be effective, prosecution of willful violators to the full extent of the law is needed as an effective deterrent.
  5. USDA should mandate strict criteria for residue testing and unannounced inspections, including assisting in the selection of audit targets based, in part, on complaints and other reports from the public. The draft rule allows for far too much discretion by certifiers. Given that certified entities hire their certifier, clear criteria are especially important. Establishing enforcement requirements for certifiers is also critical if USDA reduces the emphasis on annual inspections/audits and shifts to more random and risk-based auditing.

How to Submit Comments

  1. Navigate to the gov comment page
  2. Enter your comment and identifying information. You may copy, paste, and edit the points below. See our video tutorial for steps in doing this.
  3. Press the “Submit” button.

Here are points you may want to include:

  • This rule is massive and, despite many meritorious elements, adds, in the aggregate, tremendous additional regulatory burdens. As such, it deserves additional time to be thoroughly and thoughtfully evaluated, including through public discussions, before public comment closes. This should be facilitated by the National Organic Standards Board.
  • I support the detailed comments submitted by the National Organic Coalition (NOC) and the comments related to strengthening oversight on imports submitted by the Organic Farmers Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM).
  • There is no reason for a 10-day delay in communicating the electronic certificates. They are electronic! They should be transmitted simultaneously with shipment. Twenty-four hours would be more than adequate.
  • Consider risk-based oversight of certified operations rather than putting honest farmers through the ringer every year with inspections and audits while massive fraud is simultaneously perpetrated by malefactors. Farmers and small processors who have demonstrated a high level of compliance and low risk should be given the option of yearly virtual inspections, using artificial intelligence and a national database to compare acreage, production, and sales, along with more comprehensive, periodically staggered, full site inspection/audits. This will free up resources in the certification and inspection sector for a much more aggressive approach to unannounced inspections, testing, and full, comprehensive audits. Note that although the IRS does not audit every taxpayer every year, the hammer of unexpected and comprehensive audits ensures a high level of compliance.
  • A new, more efficient, and focused approach to inspections and audits must be coupled with more aggressive penalties, enforcement action, and monitoring. It has become standard practice for NOP to negotiate settlements with alleged perpetrators, leaving some in business without substantive penalties. Willful violators need to be prosecuted to the full extent of law, as a deterrent, for any current or proposed regulatory oversight to be effective.
  • USDA should mandate strict criteria for residue testing and unannounced inspections, including assisting in the selection of audit targets based, in part, on complaints and other reports from the public. The draft rule allows for far too much discretion by certifiers. Given that certified entities hire their certifier, clear criteria are especially important. Establishing enforcement requirements for certifiers is also critical if USDA reduces the emphasis on annual inspections/audits and shifts to more random and risk-based auditing.

Tell USDA that strengthening organic enforcement starts with the National Organic Standards Board.

In separate comments, please don’t forget to submit comments on NOSB proposals by October 1 at 11:59 pm EDT. Click on the link below to see our analysis and suggested comments.

While you are visiting Regulations.gov, please remember to tell the National Organic Standards Board to support core organic values.

 

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25
Sep

Where Do Pesticides Banned in Europe Go? Mostly to Poorer Countries, While Two-Thirds of Those Sent to Richer Counties Head for the U.S.

(Beyond Pesticides, September 25, 2020) An investigation has revealed that companies in the United Kingdom (UK), as well as in some European Union (EU) countries, are exporting massive amounts of pesticides — banned in their own jurisdictions — to poorer countries. More than 89,000 (U.S.) tons of such pesticides were exported in 2018, largely to countries where toxic pesticide use poses the greatest risks. The UK has been the largest exporter (15,000+ tons, or 40% of the total in 2018); other significant exporters include the Netherlands, France, Spain, German, Switzerland, and Belgium. Among the countries receiving the bulk of these dangerous pesticides are Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, and Ukraine. Despite a flurry of attention to this problem in the U.S. in the early 2000s, little has changed, worldwide, to stop this practice of selling domestically banned pesticide products to parts of the world that continue to allow their use. This is an unethical practice that compounds the risks to workers in developing countries, who already endure heighted threats to health and local ecosystems.

The investigation was conducted by Unearthed, a Greenpeace UK journalism arm, and Public Eye, a Swiss NGO (non-governmental organization) that investigates human rights abuses by Swiss companies. The collaborators discovered that in 2018, these exported pesticides were sold to 85 different countries, 75% of which were low- and middle-income countries — many in the global south. The report notes that, “Two-thirds of the . . . exports to richer nations were destined for one place: the U.S., which has some of the most permissive pesticide regulations among high-income countries and is itself a major exporter of banned agrochemicals to LMICs. . . . Swiss-based, Chinese-owned Syngenta was by far the biggest exporter of banned agrochemicals among manufacturers.”

The EU, with its 28 member states, has the most-protective and comprehensive pesticide regulations of any major agricultural producer. But as the EU moves ahead on increased regulation and bans of pesticide products it deems dangerous for human health and/or the environment in its member countries, it simultaneously is adding to the number of banned pesticide products it allows for export. Nina Holland, an advocate with the Brussels-based NGO Corporate Europe Observatory, said: “The fact that this practice is only set to increase, with new chemicals including pollinator-killing substances like fipronil being added to the list, is completely in contradiction with the new [European] Commission’s ambitions when it comes to reducing the harm done by pesticides.”

Unearthed notes that, “Loopholes in European law mean chemical companies like Bayer and Syngenta can continue making pesticides for export long after they have been banned from use in the EU to protect the environment or the health of its citizens.” The companies and countries that sell these banned products insist that countries have the right and ability to control what pesticides can be used in their jurisdictions.

But public health and environmental advocates, as well as U.N. officials, insist that sales of pesticides known to be so dangerous as to be banned by wealthier, generally Western countries, constitute a double standard based on placement of a “lower value on lives and ecosystems in poorer countries.” Spokesperson for the Permanent Campaign Against Pesticides and for Life, Alan Tygel, cut to the chase: “If a pesticide is banned for causing cancer in the EU it will cause the same problems in Brazilian people.”

Indeed, prior to the release of the Unearthed/Public Eye report, UN special rapporteur on toxics Baskut Tuncak said, in a statement endorsed by 35 other experts on the UN Human Rights Council: “Wealthier nations often create ‘double standards’ that allow the trade and use of banned chemicals in parts of the world where regulations are less strict.” [The statement] added that the “‘racialised nature of these standards cannot be ignored’ as the dangers were ‘externalised’ to ‘communities of African descent and other people of colour.’ This shifting of the dangers posed by toxic chemicals to communities of colour was a ‘grave concern’ that could also be found within rich countries, with ‘respect to the siting of polluting industries and the dumping of hazardous waste. In nearly every case there is no legitimate public interest justification. These loopholes are a political concession to industry, allowing their chemical manufacturers to profit from inevitably poisoned workers and communities abroad, all the while importing cheaper products through global supply chains and fueling unsustainable consumption and production patterns. It is long-overdue that states stop this exploitation.’”

Mr. Tuncak previously called out pesticide companies doing business in Switzerland during a review of the pesticide impacts in the country, saying that “pesticide companies’ behavior is ‘seriously deficient’ regarding human rights (especially those of children), and that the Swiss government should act more aggressively to phase out use of these hazardous chemicals.”

The preponderance of the 2018 UK exports were products containing paraquat, Syngenta’s herbicide that not only is acutely toxic — even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges that a sip of this Restricted Use pesticide can be fatal — but also, is linked to numerous health problems, including reproductive, neurotoxic, and renal and hepatic impacts; is toxic to birds, fish, and bees; and is a likely carcinogen. Tragically, toxic pesticides have come to be a significant method of attempted suicide in poorer countries, such as China and India — and Sri Lanka, until the country acted in the 1990s to ban import of many of the most dangerous pesticides. The suicide rate in that country fell, after those bans, by 50% between 1995 and 2005, and after a second round of restrictions between 2008 and 2011 (including a ban on paraquat), fell again by another 21% between 2011 and 2015.

U.S. companies also participate in this export practice, as Beyond Pesticides began noting more than 15 years ago (see here and here). In the U.S. it is legal, even when dangerous pesticides have been banned or highly restricted by EPA, for companies to continue to sell them abroad.

Truthout captures the situation: “When the federal government bans a pesticide, pro-industry loopholes allow agrochemical companies to recoup lost profits by manufacturing the same pesticide for use abroad. . . . With no comprehensive global regulatory framework to guide policy for transport, storage and use, the U.S. consciously subjects vulnerable agricultural workers overseas to chemicals known to cause harm and death, and widens international dependence of agriculture on pesticides. Every registered pesticide has a ‘tolerance’ . . . how much residue can remain on a food product before it is deemed unsafe for human consumption. Pesticides deemed too dangerous or unregistered with the EPA cannot be sold in the U.S. . . . While the U.S. is required to inform countries when a pesticide is not registered in the U.S., there is no assurance that the receiving official will forward the data to the user of the chemical. Agrochemical companies can satisfy labeling requirements simply by placing labels on shipping containers rather than on the product container. . . . Given the reality of how these pesticides are actually used (without appropriate protective equipment, lack of proper disposal, etc.), halting exportation is critical.“

The pesticides that U.S. companies export can even end up in the U.S. food supply when pesticide manufacturers whose chemicals fail to maintain EPA approval and registration at home, continue to produce these dangerous products and sell them abroad. Many of these pesticides end up in the domestic food supply when crops grown in those countries are exported to the U.S., threatening public health and safety both at home and abroad. The bigger-scale problem is what these toxic exports do to people and ecosystems in recipient countries. More than a decade ago, Beyond Pesticides wrote about the dangers of pesticides to farmworkers in “developing” countries: “Each year, millions of developing world farmers are poisoned by pesticides, many of which are banned or strictly controlled in the West.”

Way back in 2002, an investigator for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Fatma Zora Ouchachi-Vesely, called the U.S. practice of exporting to other countries harmful pesticides that are banned in the U.S. “immoral.” Government officials told her that international free-trade agreements “allow for pesticides be exported without regulation to countries that demand them, whether or not they are banned within the United States.”

Such demand, some NGOs claim, is the result of promotional campaigns by companies that profit from pesticide sales. Ms. Vesely noted that users of these pesticide products are not well informed about them: not only do the recipient countries often not have the capacity to get appropriate information to users, but also, when these chemical products are sold “on the ground” in recipient countries, they often have no or insufficient labeling, or labels are not translated to local languages. Ms. Vesely added, “Even if something is marked ‘poison’ it tends to be shipped in large amounts, then transferred to smaller containers without proper labeling for local sale and use. And the people actually using the products often cannot read anyway.”

A 2015 documentary film, “Circle of Poison” (which features Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman and luminaries such as Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, and President Jimmy Carter), focuses on this toxic export issue. Mr. Feldman identifies the crux of the issue here in the U.S.: “Pesticides, known toxicants, are registered by EPA with the understanding that they can be used only in compliance with label instructions; the label is the law. However, when pesticides are exported, neither EPA nor any other federal agencies make any effort to determine whether the destination countries have the infrastructure to ensure enforcement of restrictions. When I was in Haiti, I saw U.S.-banned pesticides being sold in bags with no product labeling, or accompanying instructions, precautions, restrictions, etc. This means that the risk calculations that EPA makes, as weak as they are, do not even apply to use of these chemicals that lack labeling information. Use of these highly toxic substances ought to be governed by an enforcement system that controls their use. The widespread use of such pesticides with so few controls has direct adverse effects on people and the environment in the recipient countries, and has dire global impacts.”

A recent Daily News Blog entry covered the phenomenon of toxic pesticides, both in current use and banned, being released from the surfaces of Arctic glaciers as those glaciers melt in a warming atmosphere. This represents another chapter in the chronicle of problems related to wanton pesticide use, and underscores the pressing need for better pesticide policies worldwide — especially when a toxic pesticide is banned for use in a given nation or jurisdiction, but not for production and export to other countries.

A related, global issue is the “chemical time bomb” problem of waste from banned pesticides in various countries, as Beyond Pesticides covered in 2018 (as well as in 2004 and again nearly a decade ago). “Stockpiles have accumulated because some products have been banned for health or environmental reasons, leaving stocks (aka waste) that are often stored inadequately, and which deteriorate and migrate to contaminate the environment and put people at risk. Those affected are very often in poor, rural communities that may be unaware of the threat in their midst.”

One might reasonably wonder: are any governments tackling this matter? Congress made an attemptin 1991 — to address this issue with the Circle of Poison Prevention Act. Introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the bill would have put strict controls on exports of hazardous chemicals, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Advocates maintain that the U.S. must revisit and remedy this dangerous problem, and must also cease the practice of pressuring other countries to weaken their own pesticide regulations. The most recent example of that was the collaboration of the U.S. government with the agrochemical giant Bayer in pressuring Thailand to abandon its plan to ban glyphosate. The country ultimately succumbed to pressure, and rather than banning glyphosate, chlorpyrifos, and paraquat, restricted glyphosate use and delayed enforcement of bans on the other two toxic pesticides.

France will, in 2022, become the first EU country to prohibit the export of banned pesticides. A spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has said that the Netherlands plans to use an upcoming meeting with other European environment ministers to “explore a European export ban for these substances,” adding that global ban was needed because, absent that, manufacturers will just switch to other exporting countries in response to a patchwork of national bans. The point underscores Beyond Pesticides argument that stricter regulation and, ideally, bans of toxic pesticides need to happen at the highest governmental levels because industry, like water, will always find a path around obstacles such as state or local prohibitions.

Mr. Tuncak asserts a bolder approach for the countries included in the report, saying, “The European Union as a whole needs to demonstrate leadership to other countries around the world on this issue. From there I think we can move towards an even broader consensus on ending this abhorrent practice of discrimination and exploitation.”

Beyond Pesticides’ commitment to agricultural justice, as well as to human rights, protection of farmworkers, and public and ecosystem health includes the legal export of dangerous pesticide products to other countries. Advocacy for a far-less-toxic world must include action on this discriminatory and unethical practice, which endangers wealthier nations when tainted crops return to their shores, but critically, has disproportionate impacts on poor nations and the people of color who live in many of them. So-called “first world” nations must enact controls over this practice, and support stronger controls and better pesticide education in less-well-resourced countries.

Source: https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2020/09/10/banned-pesticides-eu-export-poor-countries/

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

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24
Sep

U.S. Geological Survey Finds Mixtures of Pesticides Are Widespread in U.S. Rivers and Streams

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2020) A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project, reveals the presence of pesticides is widespread in U.S. rivers and streams, with over almost 90 percent of water samples containing at least five or more different pesticides. Pesticide contamination in waterways is historically commonplace as a 1998 USGS analysis revealed pesticides are commonly found in all U.S. waterways, with at least one pesticide detectable. Thousands of tons of pesticides enter rivers and streams around the U.S. from agricultural and nonagricultural sources, which contaminate essential drinking water sources, such as surface water and groundwater. As the number of pesticides in waterways increases, it has detrimental impacts on aquatic ecosystem health, especially as some pesticides work synergistically with others to increase the severity of the effect. Reports like these are a significant tool in determining appropriate regulatory action to protect human, animal, and environmental health. USGS concludes, “Identification of primary contributors to toxicity could aid efforts to improve the quality of rivers and streams to support aquatic life.”

Water is the most abundant and important chemical compound on earth, essential to survival and the main component of all living things. Less than three percent of that water is freshwater, and only a fraction of that freshwater is groundwater (30.1%) or surface water (0.3%) readily available for consumption. However, ubiquitous pesticide use threatens to reduce the amount of available freshwater as pesticide runoff, recharge, and improper disposal tends to contaminate adjacent waterways, like rivers, streams, lakes, or underground watersheds. With rivers and streams only accounting for 2% of surface waters, it is essential to protect these vulnerable ecosystems from further degradation, including aquatic biodiversity loss, a decrease in water quality/drinkability. Researchers in the report note, “[The] primary objective of this study was to characterize pesticide mixtures found in stream water samples at 72 sites across the United States in watersheds with agricultural, developed, and mixed land uses during 2013–2017.” Additionally, researchers aim to understand the “potential toxicity to aquatic life from the pesticide mixtures and evaluate the occurrence of drivers of potential mixture toxicity.”

To assess national water quality, researchers collected water samples from watershed sampling sites established in 1992 by the National Water Quality Network (NWQN) – Rivers and Streams, based on land-use type (agricultural, developed/urban, and mixed). From 2013-2017, researchers collected water samples from each watershed site monthly, increasing collection frequency in months with greater pesticide runoff, like rainy seasons. Researchers assessed pesticide levels in water samples using direct-aqueous injection liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry to analyze a total of 221 pesticide compounds in filtered (0.7 μm) water samples at the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory. To evaluate pesticide toxicity, researchers applied a Pesticide Toxicity Index (PTI) to measure the potential toxicity of pesticide mixtures to three taxonomic groups – fish, cladocerans (small freshwater crustaceans), and benthic invertebrates. PTI score classification encompasses three levels to represent approximate screening levels of predicted toxicity: low (PTI ≤ 0.1), chronic (0.1 < PTI ≤1), and acute (PTI > 1).

The results find that during 2013-2017 at least five or more pesticides present in 88% of water samples from NWQN sampling sites. Only 2.2% of the water samples have no pesticide concentrations above detectable levels. The median number of pesticides present per water samples from each land-use type is highest in agricultural settings with 24 pesticides, and lowest in mixed (both agricultural and developed land) settings with seven pesticides. Developed areas fall in the middle, amassing 18 pesticides per water sample. Pesticides in water samples are potentially acutely to chronically toxic to aquatic invertebrates and chronically toxic to fish. Of the 221 pesticide compounds analyzed, 17 (13 insecticides, two herbicides, one fungicide, and one synergist) are primary drivers of toxicity in aquatic taxonomic groups. According to the PTI analysis, one pesticide compound contributes to >50% of the sample toxicity, while other present pesticides only contribute minimally to toxicity. For cladocerans, the main pesticide compounds driving toxicity are the insecticides bifenthrin, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorvos, dicrotophos, diflubenzuron, flubendiamide, and tebupirimfos. The herbicide atrazine and the insecticides bifenthrin, carbaryl, carbofuran, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorvos, fipronil, imidacloprid, and methamidophos are the main drivers of potential pesticides toxicity for benthic invertebrates. Pesticides that have the most chronic impact on fish include the herbicide acetochlor, the fungicide degradant carbendazim, and the synergist piperonylbutoxide.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) “assesses the occurrence and behavior of pesticides in streams, lakes, and groundwater and the potential for pesticides to contaminate our drinking-water supplies or harm aquatic ecosystems,” via its National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) reports. Previous USGS reports demonstrate that pesticides are ubiquitous in the aquatic environment and a pervasive contaminant of freshwater ecosystems. Many of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S. are detectable in both surface and groundwater, which serve as drinking water sources for half of the U.S. population. Furthermore, pesticide-contaminated rivers and streams can discharge polluted water into oceans and lagoons like the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), where a mixture of over 20 different pesticides are present in 99.8% of GBR samples. However, these chemicals can have adverse health impacts, not only on aquatic organisms but terrestrial organisms which rely on surface or groundwater. Many of these chemicals cause endocrine disruption, reproductive defects, neurotoxicity, and cancer in humans and animals, and most are highly toxic to aquatic species. Additionally, water quality surveys usually detect the presence of more than one pesticide compound in waterways and the possible toxicity on marine organisms. However, neither USGS-NAWQA nor EPA’s aquatic risk assessment evaluates the risks a mixture of pesticides can pose to the aquatic environment.

Pesticide contamination in surface and groundwater raises another issue of deficient waterway monitoring and regulations that allow pesticides to accumulate in waterways. One of the ways the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protects human and environmental health is by regulating pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and point source pollution in waterways as sanctioned by the Clean Water Act. However, EPA’s recent rollbacks on waterway regulations do little to protect aquatic ecosystem health, which marine, and terrestrial species, including humans, require. Previously, USGS-NAWQA has criticized EPA for not establishing sufficient water quality benchmarks for pesticides. According to NAWQA, “Current standards and guidelines do not completely eliminate risks posed by pesticides in waterways because: (1) values are not established for many pesticides, (2) mixtures and breakdown products are not considered, (3) the effects of seasonal exposure to high concentrations have not been evaluated, and (4) some types of potential effects, such as endocrine disruption and unique responses of sensitive individuals, have not yet been assessed.”

The results of the study demonstrate 17 different pesticides are primary drivers of aquatic toxicity. Organophosphate insecticides are most responsible for chronic cladoceran toxicity, while imidacloprid insecticides cause chronic toxicity in benthic invertebrates. Organophosphates are a class of insecticides know to have adverse effects on the nervous system, having the same mode of action as nerve agents for chemical warfare. Exposure to imidacloprid insecticides can have adverse effects on the reproductive system and are highly toxic to various aquatic species. Although dichlorvos, bifenthrin, and methamidophos are rarely present within samples, when these chemicals are present, they exceed chronic and acute toxicity thresholds for aquatic invertebrates. However, researchers state toxicity indexes could underestimate the potential impact on aquatic life as past research finds that “short-term, potentially toxic peaks in pesticides frequently are missed by weekly discrete sampling.”

Aquatic invertebrates, including benthic organisms and cladocerans, are an essential part of the food web, consuming excess nutrients in the water, as well as being a food source for larger predators. However, the effects of pesticide contamination in waterways can have a bottom-up influence on the aquatic invertebrates, killing off beneficial invertebrates whose nerve system is similar to the terrestrial insect targets. Additionally, many benthic invertebrates are larvae of terrestrial insects, which are not only indicators of waterway quality and biodiversity but provide various ecosystem services such as bio-irrigation, decomposition, and nutrition. It is essential to mitigate the impacts that potentially toxic pesticides have on aquatic organisms in rivers and streams by regulating pesticide inputs, especially in regions where agrochemical use is more widespread.

The report reveals the number of pesticides in samples varied annually by site, with agriculture sites bearing the highest levels of pesticide use, including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, with severe seasonal influxes from May-July. Midwestern and Southern regions have the highest median number of pesticides per water sample due to the abundance of agricultural land use. These findings are consistent, with previous research suggesting water sources near agricultural regions tend to have higher levels of contaminants, especially during springtime, when agrochemical runoff is more rampant. A February 2020 USGS reporting on a collaborative sampling project (conducted with EPA) for pesticides in waterways detected 141 pesticides in seven Midwest streams and 73 in seven streams in the Southeast. Already, the Trump Administration waives the requirement of the multinational chemical company Syngenta-ChemChina to continue monitoring Midwest waterways for the presence of the weedkiller atrazine through 2020. Additionally, the administration’s replacement of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule will significantly weaken the protection of several U.S. waterways and wetlands, and by forsaking prohibitions on activities that threaten waterways from a variety of pollution harms. As the implications of climate change worsen, increasing instances of rainfall, and thus runoff, as well as glacial ice melt, which entraps legacy pesticides no longer in production, lack of specific pesticide monitoring can cause toxic chemicals to accumulate and synergize in the aquatic environment, further polluting water sources.

The use of pesticides should be phased out and ultimately, eliminated to protect the nation’s and world’s waterways and reduce the number of pesticides that make their way into your drinking water. Additionally, Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for protective federal regulation that considers potential synergistic and additive threats, to ecosystems and organisms, from admixtures of pesticides — whether in formulated products or “de facto” in the environment. Unfortunately, current administration regulations fail to consider the environment holistically, thus creating a blind spot that limits our ability to enact widespread change that truly improves ecosystem health. However, advocating for local and state pesticide reform policies can protect you and your family from pesticide-contaminated water. Furthermore, organic/regenerative systems conserve water, nurtures fertility, reduces surface runoff and erosion, reduces the need for nutrient input, and critically, eliminates the toxic chemicals that threaten so many aspects of human and ecosystem life, including water resources. For more information about pesticide contamination in water, see the Threatened Waters program page and Beyond Pesticides’ article Pesticides in My Drinking Water? Individual Precautionary Measures and Community Action. Tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it must do its job to protect health and the environment.

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

Source: USGS Press Release, USGS Report

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23
Sep

Bayer Coordinated with U.S. Government on Pressure Campaign to Stop Thailand from Banning Glyphosate

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2020) Multinational agrichemical corporation Bayer coordinated with the U.S. government to pressure Thailand to drop plans to ban glyphosate use, according to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). CBD is now suing the Trump Administration after it refused to release additional documents pertaining to the pressure campaign. The incident is the latest example of an administration that has allowed corporate interests to dictate American governmental action on toxic pesticides.

The documents reveal that the October 2019 letter that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary Ted McKinney sent to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pushing back on the country’s plan to ban glyphosate came shortly after emails Bayer sent to U.S. officials. In September and October 2019, Bayer’s Jim Travis asked the U.S. to act on its behalf in defense of the company’s glyphosate products. Emails reveal that Mr. Travis also collected intelligence on the personal motivations of Thailand’s deputy agriculture minister, including whether she was “a diehard advocate of organic food; and/or staunch environmentalist who eschews all synthetic chemical applications.”

Reports indicate that the U.S. government brought up the issue of glyphosate during trade talks in the context of considerations to revoke Thailand’s trade preferences. The White House specifically created talking points to refute any “concern that action related to Thailand has another cause.”

A draft of a letter sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue two days before Thailand’s reversal on glyphosate is part of CBD’s legal complaint, as it is was completely redacted by the U.S. government.

Bayer asserted to Reuters that its public sector engagements are “routine, professional, and consistent with all laws and regulations.” The paper reports that Thailand’s action would have prohibited US exports from reaching Thailand, a market worth roughly $1 billion dollars.

As Thailand reversed its decision on glyphosate, it continues to come under pressure for targeting two other highly toxic pesticides, chlorpyrifos and paraquat. In the case of those chemicals, the U.S. and Brazil each launched separate complaints to the World Trade Organization. Like the Trump administration, the Bolsonaro administration has been accused of corrupt practices in favor of the agrichemcial industry.

Using the weight of the US government to intervene in foreign countries on behalf of chemical companies would be a scandal even if taken by itself. But the Trump administration has made practices like these standard. The list of incidents is nauseating: from former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Dow Chemical inspired chlorpyrios reversal, delay of farmworker protections, cuts to EPA staff, reversal of bee-toxic pesticide restrictions on wildlife refuges, lack of EPA enforcement, allowance to let Bayer Monsanto write the rules on dicamba, the registration of new bee-toxic pesticides opposed by beekeepers, cuts to independent scientific research, weakening of pesticide protections for endangered species, weakening of pesticide protections for the nation’s waterways, and proposal to plant genetically engineered crops on National Wildlife Refuges. These are just a small sample of the actions the Trump Administration has taken over the last four years – all of them have the potential to increase the profits of the agrichemical industry. Yesterday, Beyond Pesticides reported that EPA will reregister the potent endocrine disruptor atrazine despite significant hazards from its use, and long-established bans in developed countries like the EU.

Opening up the government to act only for the most moneyed, and powerful corporate interests is a concern not only for our health and environment, but the future of our democracy. EPA received over 280,000 comments on its decision to reregister glyphosate, with the vast majority opposed. It is critical that those concerned about continued use of toxic chemicals in our environment continue to exercise their democratic right to petition their government. Beyond Pesticides is suing EPA over this decision.

Bayer knows the dangers its glyphosate products pose to its bottom line, and recently agreed to settle with cancer victims with the creation a $10 billion fund. It, alongside industry umbrella groups like Croplife America, will continue to do everything possible to leverage a pliant administration to protect its products. Meanwhile countries like Mexico show that glyphosate use can and should be eliminated. Keep up pressure on EPA and the federal government, but also advocate for protections from toxic pesticides in your own state and community. The more land under organic management and production, the more straightforward it will be to eliminate the use of toxic and unnecessary chemicals like glyphosate, both here at home and abroad. See Beyond Pesticides’ organic program page.

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

Source: Center Biological Diversity, Reuters

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