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Daily News Blog

12
Aug

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Contribute to Liver Injury, including Toxic PFAS and Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, August 12, 2022) Gestational (during pregnancy) exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like pesticides, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), among others, may increase pediatric (child) liver injury and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) risk, according to a study published in Environmental Health. Past studies associate exposure to EDCs with increased susceptibility to adverse health effects during critical fetal and childhood developmental periods. The World Health Organization (WHO), European Union (EU), and endocrine disruptor expert (deceased) Theo Colborn, Ph.D., classify over 55 to 177 chemical compounds as endocrine disruptors, including various household products like detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides. Endocrine disruption can lead to several health problems, including hormone-related cancer development (i.e., thyroid, breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular), reproductive dysfunction, and diabetes/obesity that can span generations. Because EDCs are ubiquitous because they are found in many products, studies report that these toxic chemical compounds are detectable in infants, children, and pregnant women. Furthermore, pregnant women can readily transfer compounds to the developing fetus through the placenta. Therefore, it is essential to understand the mechanism behind how harmful chemical exposure induces endocrine disruption during critical developmental periods. Researchers note, “Considering the lack of studies on endocrine disruption and pediatric NAFLD, research like this highlights the need to understand the underlying mechanisms that contribute to growing endocrine disease incidents.”

Researchers used the Human Early-Life Exposome population-based cohort study involving 1108 mother and child pairs across 6 European countries to determine how prenatal chemical exposure impacts liver health. The study examined the effect of three organochlorine pesticides, four organophosphate pesticides, five polychlorinated biphenyls, two polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), three phenols, four parabens, ten phthalates, five PFAS, and nine metals on the liver. Using the Bayesian weighted quartile sum and machine regression, researchers compare the associations between liver injury (or cytokeratin 18 [CK-18]) levels and mixtures of EDC groups in maternal blood and urine samples. The results confirm that all EDCs increase the odds of liver injury or liver cell apoptosis, except phthalates and phenols, due to high molecular weight.

Organochlorine compounds (OCs), such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are well-known persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Banned by the Stockholm Convention treaty in 2001 because of persistence, toxicity, and adverse effects on environmental and biological health, these pollutants have a global distribution, with evaporation and precipitation facilitating long-range atmospheric transport, deposition, and bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in the environment. Organochlorines remain in the environment for decades—possibly centuries, post-final application, as OCPs have higher chemical stability and gradual attenuation. However, these chemicals have profound adverse impacts on human health, especially on the endocrine system. Although some, but not all manufacturing and use of specific OCPs have declined in the U.S., OCPs remain a global issue, as much of the developing world still report usage. However, organophosphate insecticides continue to have global uses, despite being associated with neurotoxicity, learning and developmental disorder, and immune/hormone disruption, especially among children.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of over 9,000 human-made chemicals present in various consumer products that people use daily. Although some PFAS compound manufacturing has ceased, these chemicals last forever in the environment as their chemical structure makes them resistant to breakdown. Thus, PFAS contamination is significantly underrepresented and much more perverse that previously thought, polluting storage and transportation containers, food and water resources, and other chemical products. For instance, independent research by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility PEER) finds that widely used insecticide Anvil 10+10 contains high levels of PFAS from contamination. Although EPA does not regulate PFAS in pesticide formulas, the agency lists these substances in the inert ingredient database. However, product labels do not require disclosure of contaminants fundamental for pesticide products through the manufacturing or packaging process. Contamination of a toxic product with other harmful chemicals is glaringly problematic for public health and the environment. Moreover, PFAS chemical residues are persistent in food and drinking water, with over six million U.S. residents regularly encountering drinking water with PFAS levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory of 70 ng/L. Therefore, PFAS are detectable in almost all of the U.S. population—disproportionately afflicting people of color communities—and have implications for human health. 

Since EPA fails to regulate PFAS and other underrepresented EDCs, the depth and scope of the contamination may be difficult to assess. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) classify many EDCs as possible carcinogens based on epidemiological studies identifying instances of kidney, ovarian, testicular, prostate, and thyroid cancer, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and childhood leukemia. Considering EDCs like PFAS are anatomically similar to fatty acids and may impair fatty acid metabolism and lipid synthesis in the liver, there may be an underestimation of toxicity effects on human, animal, and environmental health.

The study demonstrates an increase in pediatric NAFLD disease incidence among children exposed to EDCs during prenatal development. This study adds to the growing body of research demonstrating exposure EDCs during the sensitive pregnancy period may increase the risk for adverse health effects. Particularly, researchers attribute endocrine-induced liver injury and liver cell death during childhood to the growing epidemic of pediatric NAFLD. Similar to this study, mixtures of various EDCs can induce synergism that may increase pesticide toxicity or result in changes to its characteristics, like penetrative abilities. Endocrine disruption can promote obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and elevated liver enzyme, that all have an association with NAFLD. Therefore, gestation represents a window of increased vulnerability to EDC exposure. The researchers conclude, “These results advance the current limited understanding of pediatric NAFLD etiology and support the need for more investigation in this area. Our findings can inform more efficient early-life prevention and intervention strategies to address the current NAFLD epidemic.”

The endocrine disrupting effects of pesticides and other chemicals have extensive documentation. Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent studies on pesticide exposure through our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms that pesticides can cause, see PIDD pages on Endocrine Disruption and other diseases.

One way to reduce human and environmental contamination from pesticides is to buygrow, and support organic. Numerous studies find that levels of pesticides in urine significantly drop when switching to an all-organic diet. Furthermore, given the wide availability of non-pesticidal alternative strategies, families, from rural to urban, can apply these methods to promote a safe and healthy environment, especially among chemically vulnerable individuals or those with health conditions. For more information on why organic is the right choice for consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

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

Source: Scientific Reports

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11
Aug

Acute Kidney Failure Higher Among Farmers: High-Middle-Low Income Countries Suffer Disparities

(Beyond Pesticides, August 11, 2022) A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health finds that Brazilian agricultural workers are more likely to die from acute kidney failure (AKF) than other acute illnesses. Among the agricultural workers, the prevalence of AKF is higher for individuals at younger ages, who are female, and located in regions south of chemical use, particularly rural areas. However, the AKF mortality rate in urban areas is also increasing, but not as fast as in rural areas.

Over six million people in the U.S. have kidney disease (i.e., nephritis [kidney inflammation], nephrotic syndrome (improper protein filtration), and nephrosis). Although many studies find an association between exposure to environmental contaminants like pesticides and chronic kidney disease (CKD), the association between pesticides and acute kidney failure remains unclear. CKD is a risk factor for AKF, and other environmental factors can increase the risk of AKF mortality. Therefore, studies like this highlight the need for comprehensive information regarding co-occurring exposure patterns and disease prevalence that can have global implications. The study notes, “Our findings reinforce the need for more robust epidemiological studies that account for co-exposures and conditions of agricultural work in the relationship between pesticide exposure and kidney health in Brazil.”

To investigate trends in AKF and pesticide exposure, researchers used the death certificate (1980-2014) of agricultural workers in southern and Midwest Brazil in regions of intense chemical use. A joinpoint regression (an analytic tool used to measure epidemiological trends) calculates the changes in AKF mortality rate each year among rural/urban areas. Researchers compare AFK mortality among agricultural workers and the nonagricultural population, adjusting for age, sex, region, education, and race. The results find AKF mortality increases for agricultural workers regardless of region (urban/rural), with the greatest increase occurring between the mid-1990s and 2000s. Moreover, agricultural workers who are younger, female, and living in southern regions with higher pesticide expenses are more likely to die from AKF.

Many studies document pesticides’ impacts on kidney function, finding a range of chemicals linked to kidney damage. Even among the 40 most commonly used lawn care pesticides, 80 percent have associations with kidney or liver damage. These chemicals include widely used herbicides like glyphosate and organophosphate insecticides like malathion. Glyphosate was initially created as a chelating agent (bonding ions and molecules to metal ions) to form strong chemical bonds with metals. In 2013, the Center for Public Integrity highlighted that glyphosate bonds with toxic heavy metals in the environment, such as cadmium and arsenic, forming stable compounds. These compounds are present in food and water for consumption and do not break down until they reach the kidneys. Thus, farmworkers exposed to glyphosate are likely to have these toxic metals in their kidneys. Malathion is an organophosphate class insecticide used primarily for mosquito control. Individuals may encounter malathion through consuming food produced in chemical-dependent agriculture or drinking water, or as a result of drift from pesticide application and public use. A study published in October 2021 found significant associations with malathion exposure, low kidney function, and increased risk of CKD. A 2022 study found that 68 percent of well water sampled in Sri Lanka (south-east Asian) contains at least one pesticide above the global drinking water guidelines, including the organophosphate insecticide diazinon. Individuals that reported drinking well water during their lifetime had a significantly (6.7 times) lower kidney health on average than those who never drank well water. However, organophosphates are also known to have high acute toxicity that can directly impact the onset of AKF, in combination with chronic health effects (e.g., CKD, kidney toxic drug ingestion, iodinated contrast, heart failure, liver diseases, sepsis, diabetes). Therefore, protection from pesticide exposure is critical for those working and living in chemical-intensive agricultural areas.

AKF causes biochemical (biological) abnormalities that alter the metabolic system, and delayed diagnosis and treatment are some of the factors that result in a high mortality rate. Overall, trends in AKF are increasing in southern Europe, South America, and North America with a higher incidence in low-to-middle-income countries. However, in high-income countries, age (elderly) and socioeconomic factors (racial disparities) play more of a role in AKF incidence rates. In low-to-middle-income countries, AKF incidence rates are higher among younger adults and children. Most cases of AKF occur via accident or intentional organophosphate poisoning, as the toxicity makes them lethal substances.

This study is one of the first to assess AKF mortality trends, specifically in rural areas or areas with pesticide use in Brazil. The study concludes, “[R]ural and urban municipalities and municipalities with low, medium and high pesticide-per-capita expenditure in the Brazilian south and midwest experienced an increase in AKF mortality in recent years compared to the whole studied period. These results reinforce the hypothesis that different and ‘traditional’ risk factors can contribute to the development of AKF in urban and rural areas.”

The kidneys are one of the most important organs for filtering waste out of our bodies. However, kidneys are often the main target of pesticide toxicity mediated through oxidative stress. Therefore, we must protect human and ecological health by shifting to organic/regenerative systems to limit exposure to these toxic chemicals. Additionally, buyinggrowing, and supporting organic can help eliminate the extensive use of pesticides in the environment. Organic agriculture has many health and environmental benefits, eliminating the need for chemical-intensive agricultural practices. Considering glyphosate levels in the human body can decrease by 70% through a one-week switch to an organic diet, purchasing organic food whenever possible—which eliminates toxic pesticide use—limits overall exposure (toxic body burden) and resulting adverse health effects. Learn about pesticides’ impacts on human health by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ pages on kidney/renal cancer and diseaseoxidative stress, and other diseases in the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. This database supports the need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. For more information on how organic is the right choice for consumers and farmers, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture

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

Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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10
Aug

Cover Cropping Techniques Increase Organic Farm Sustainability

(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2022) Cover crops added in-between rows of organic corn while they are still growing can provide a range of benefits that improve a farm’s sustainability and lowers its impact on the surrounding environment, according to a study published in Agronomy Journal by scientists at Pennsylvania State University. “The use of cover crops in organic grain systems has many potential benefits,” says study coauthor Sarah Isbell, PhD. “These include improvements in soil quality, increased nutrient retention, prevention of erosion, and suppression of weeds. In organic systems where synthetic inputs are not used, cover crops can be managed to reduce nitrate leaching through soils and supply nitrogen to cash crops.” As demand for organic products continues to increase, and more and more farmers are embracing the organic mantra of “continuous improvement,” research like the present study is critical to the development of new efficiencies and ecologically sustainable practices.

Scientists set out to understand the best method for planting cover crops under organic corn grown for grain or silage (fed to cattle and other animals). Determining a planting time for corn cover crops is difficult because corn is often harvested late in the fall, leaving little time for a cover crop to establish itself before the winter.

To better understand the most effective cover cropping approach, silage, and grain corn were grown under three different methods – without any cover crop, with a cereal rye cover crop planted after corn harvest, and a ryegrass cover crop interseeded between the corn. While the grain plot received typical applications of nitrogen, the silage corn plot was provided a high nitrogen treatment to mimic what would occur if fertilizer was overapplied and thus risked environmental contamination. To gauge the impact of these treatments, scientists looked at the levels of inorganic nitrogen that remained in the soil as well as the soil microbial biomass.

In organic systems, organic forms of nitrogen are converted into plant-available inorganic nitrogen from the action of soil microbes. This contrasts with a chemical farming approach, which applies synthetic forms of industrially manufactured nitrogen produced using fossil fuels. In terms of soil inorganic nitrogen, results show that levels are higher in all fallow, non-cover cropped fields. Both interseeded and post harvest treatments have more than threefold lower levels of inorganic nitrogen, with the interseeded crop having the lowest of all. This indicates that the cover crop is taking up whatever excess nitrogen is left after the corn is produced.

Regarding soil microbial biomass, researchers do not find immediate changes in December after the interseeded cover crop is established, but do find more microbial activity by June. “We found that, in the spring, the interseeded treatments with a high nitrogen application level had higher microbial biomass than other treatments,” Dr. Isbell says, noting that, “It may take several years of cover crop treatments to change the microbial ecosystem.”

In sum, the study provides an endorsement for an approach that could save farmers time and increase the environmental profile of a system that is already embracing ecologically responsible practices. Of critical importance to many farmers, no yield reductions are seen under any cover crop planting system. As Dr. Isbell explains, “Incorporating cover crops into cropping systems in innovative ways, such as interseeding, provides a great opportunity to implement productive farming systems and decrease nutrient pollution.”

Organizations like Rodale Institute, which maintains a long-running farming systems trial, show that organic production systems can boost soil health, crop yield, increase energy efficiency, use less carbon, reduce water contamination, and increase nutrient density of crops when compared to chemical-intensive practices. Enhancing crop diversity results in enhanced productivity, and reduces the need for toxic pesticides by lowering the pest pressure on a cash crop. Oddly it is this approach, enshrined in ecological theory since the 1940s that is viewed as innovative, and even controversial in the 21st century. Rather than time tested methods that embrace natural processes, agriculture in the United States is considered “conventional” when it employs synthetic chemicals, genetic engineering, and monoculture farmland devoid of any biomass but the cash crop.

It is critical that organic embrace innovative methods and continue along its path of continuous improvement in order to maintain and expand the myriad of benefits it provides. Join Beyond Pesticides today in telling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support organic, not undermine it’s credibility and integrity.

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

Source: Crop Science Society of America,  Agronomy Journal

 

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09
Aug

“Inert” Pesticide Ingredients and Failure to Regulate Raise Dangers for All U.S. Residents

(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2022) The most widely used pesticide chemicals in the United States are not listed on product labels, yet pose widespread environmental and public health hazards, according to commentary published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives by two veteran researchers. At issue are adjuvants and so-called “inert” (or “other”) ingredients, chemicals that are added to formulated pesticide products, but do not undergo the same safety reviews as the active ingredient in pesticide products. This donut hole of regulation has permitted, as the commentary shows, millions of pounds of chemicals to be applied in California and throughout the country without proper scientific evaluation of their human health or ecological impact.

Researchers first draw a distinction between adjuvant products and inert ingredients in pesticide products. Adjuvants are materials specifically designed to improve the performance of a pesticide spray and are sold separately from formulated pesticide products. Adjuvants are “tank mixed” with a pesticide prior its application. Inert ingredients are any ingredient within a formulated pesticide product that is not designed to prevent, destroy, or repel a pest. Adjuvants and inert ingredients can be the same material – the difference lies in when they are added to a formulated pesticide product and the claimed purpose of their use. This distinction is important because researchers utilized data from California’s pesticide reporting system for their review. In California, pesticide adjuvants are required to be registered as pesticides, and their use reported to the state on a monthly basis. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not require this, nor does any other state than California. In California and throughout the country, inert ingredients are minimally reviewed by EPA and added to an inert ingredient database. Pesticide manufacturers can use any inert ingredient in EPA’s inert ingredient database without disclosing that material on the pesticide product label. There are no reporting requirements for inert ingredients in any state.  

An evaluation of California’s pesticide reports finds that among all pesticides and adjuvants registered, 37 of the 100 most widely used pesticides in California are adjuvants. Researchers subsequently zeroed in on the most used material, the adjuvant α-(p-nonylphenyl)-ω-hydroxypoly(oxyethylene) (APNOHO). Over 10 million acres of agricultural land in California is sprayed with APNOHO each year. The chemical is a nonionic surfactant, used to increase the penetration of an active ingredient in attempts to improve a pesticide’s performance. In addition to its registration as an adjuvant in over 150 adjuvant products in California, a freedom of information act request to EPA uncovered it being used as an inert ingredient in over 650 federally registered fully formulated pesticides (including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides).

With no oversight of this chemical, APNOHO use in California has more than doubled over the past 20 years, from just over one million pounds per year in 2000 to 2.2 million pounds in 2019. APNOHO and other chemicals in its class are applied to nearly 12 million acres of farmland in California each year. Between its use as an adjuvant and inert ingredient in other states, there is no telling how much of this chemical U.S. residents are being exposed to each year.  

The widespread use of this material raises a range of health and environmental worries. APNOHO is considered an endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemical by the European Union, yet despite a recent damning report from the EPA Office of Inspector, the U.S. lags far behind in its safety evaluations of these concerning impacts. Out of over 1,300 chemicals that require testing, EPA has issued orders for a scant 52. An analysis in the commentary finds that the little data EPA has produced on APNOHO indicates its hormone disrupting activity is more potent than the active pesticide ingredients and known endocrine disruptors methoxychlor and vinclozolin.

Endocrine disruptors pose a growing risk to the American public; one that is increasing due to a lack of regulation by EPA. These materials function by: (i) mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; (ii) blocking hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or (iii) affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, childhood and adult cancers, and other metabolic disorders. 

In addition to effects on the body’s hormonal system, APNOHO is associated with increased risk of birth defects in laboratory and epidemiological studies, including one paper that shows a doubled risk for the birth defect craniosynostosis. The chemical likewise poses significant environmental hazards, with data showing harm to aquatic life greater than that caused by the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid. Researchers note that APNOHO is considered hazardous within other U.S. laws, including the Toxic Release Inventory and Clean Air Act.

To better understand the implications of the widespread use of APNOHO and other inerts and adjuvants, the commentary suggests recommendations both for other researchers and policymakers. For researchers, it is suggested that adjuvants and inerts be included in epidemiological studies, chemical abstract service (CAS) numbers be included for all ingredients in all pesticide products studies  (if unable to discern up front, analytical techniques should be employed to find and identify all ingredients to the greatest extent possible), and all pesticides, inert ingredients, and adjuvants should be evaluated for endocrine-disrupting activity.

Regulators and policymakers are urged to consider health and environmental effects that result from combinations of pesticides, adjuvants, and inert ingredients. It is further recommended that officials in states other than California require registration of pesticide adjuvants. Lastly, the authors note that it has been 25 years since the American Medical Association recommended that pesticide products contain all ingredients on their labels and safety data sheets, making these steps long overdue.

“In the past, improving public access to data about emissions of toxic chemicals has prompted important health and safety improvements,” the authors note, referencing the impact of Toxic Release Inventory data in prompting updates to the Clean Air Act.

Beyond Pesticides is strongly in favor and has been consistently active in efforts to push EPA to fulfill its statutory obligations to review endocrine-disrupting pesticides and increase public health transparency by disclosing all ingredients in pesticide formulations. Take action today to tell EPA to regulate hormone disruption chemicals, and Congress to pass the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), which would require label disclosure of all inert ingredients in a pesticide.

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

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

(Also see: EHP Invited Commentary)

 

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08
Aug

Stop Chemical and Service Industry from Restricting Local Authority to Protect Health and Local Ecosystems

(Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2022) The pesticide industry has selected August as Anti-Democracy Month, as it launches a month-long campaign to undermine local control over pesticides. The National Pest Management Association is encouraging members to lobby members of Congress in August to support H.R. 7266, to “prohibit local regulations relating to the sale, distribution, labeling, application, or use of any pesticide or device” subject to state or federal regulation under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Beyond Pesticides urges you to make August Preserve Local Democracy Month by participating in actions in support of allowing communities to protect themselves from chemical exposure when state and federal regulation is inadequate.

Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing H.R. 7266 and supporting the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), which contains a provision affirming local authority to restrict pesticides.

The fight to defend the authority of local governments to protect people and the environment has been ongoing for decades, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. The Court specifically upheld the authority of local governments to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions under federal pesticide law. In Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, the Court ruled that federal pesticide law does not prohibit, or preempt, local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government throughout their jurisdiction. According to Mortier, however, states do retain authority to take away local control. In response to the Supreme Court decision, the pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed boilerplate legislative language that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances on the use of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended on states across the country, seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording.

Since the passage of those state laws, there have been numerous efforts to prohibit localities from developing policies reflecting the unique needs and values of the people living there. In states that do not prohibit local action on pesticides, an ever-increasing number of communities are stepping up to protect their residents and unique local environment from pesticide poisoning and contamination. Having failed to curtail local action and with a growing number of communities deciding to act, the chemical industry is flexing its muscle with an attack in Congress.

Legislation introduced in April by U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL), who just lost his primary race, would roll back, preempt, and prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting policies that protect resident health and a community’s unique local environments from hazardous pesticides. The bill is a direct attack on the scores of local communities that have enacted common sense safeguards from toxic pesticides, and represents the pesticide industry’s response to the growing momentum of the pesticide reform movement. Health and environmental advocates are expecting Rep. Davis and his partners in the agrichemical industry to attempt to work the provisions of the legislation into the upcoming 2023 farm bill. The industry had previously failed to work prohibitions against local restrictions into the 2018 farm bill, after massive pushback from health advocates, local officials, and Congressional allies.

Rep. Davis’s press release for the bill, in which he was joined with quotes from a range of agrichemical industry leaders, is titled “Davis Introduces Legislation to Prevent Liberal Local Governments from Banning or Restricting Pesticide Use,” striking a partisan tone. Caring about public and environmental health is typically not viewed as a liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican issue. Those monitoring local governments that enact pesticide restrictions do not see partisan motivations; these laws are borne out of concern for children’s health, pregnant women, workers at disproportionate risk, and the immunocompromised, many of whom come to local government meetings to share their stories of pesticide poisoning. Conversations in local communities focus on the potential contamination of drinking water, local recreational swimming areas in waterways, the parks in which residents walk their beloved pets, and stories of locals witnessing a steep decline in pollinators.

The decision to enact a local pesticide policy is one that comes from local community discussion. Yet, Rep. Davis’s bill could stop communities from exercising basic local governance to protect people and the environment. 

The bill would amend federal pesticide law by adding the following provision:

“(d) LOCAL REGULATION PROHIBITED – A political subdivision of a State shall not impose, or continue in effect, any requirement relating to the sale, distribution, labeling, application, or use of any pesticide or device subject to regulation by a State pursuant to this section or by the Administrator under this Act.”

This language is considerably more restrictive than the amendment Rep. Davis and the industry proposed under the 2018 farm bill. Under this new language, by prohibiting a community to “continue in effect” any requirement relating to pesticide use, the bill would overturn any existing restrictions already passed in local communities. With uncertainty over how broadly this bill would be interpreted, all local jurisdictions with pesticide reform policies, including those only applying to public properties, could be reversed with this legislation.  

While traditionally anathema to the ideology of Rep. Davis and his colleagues, this bill represents a massive federal “big government” overreach into local communities.

The impacts for public health and ecological stability would be devastating. Only state agencies and the federal government would be able to regulate pesticide use. With the vast majority of state agencies effectively acting as rubber stamps for pesticide approvals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local jurisdictions would be forced to follow the rulemaking of an agency that has been documented to be captured by industry interests.

Time and time again, EPA has shown itself to be willing to override its mission to protect health and the environment at the behest of agrichemical industry interests. As dozens of local communities act to protect declining pollinator populations by limiting the use of bee toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, EPA is set to reregister them for another 15 years. While local communities across the country are eliminating the use of glyphosate due cancer concerns and legal liability over its health impacts, EPA has denied the chemical’s cancer links and worked hand in glove with agrichemical industry groups to defend its use and stop other countries from enacting bans or restrictions.

With new evidence continuing to emerge on the depths of agrichemical industry corruption within EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, it is little wonder that a large and growing swath of communities are enacting laws that eliminate nearly all synthetic pesticides registered by EPA in favor of organic and minimum risk practices and products.

Scientific research backs up the assertion that laws limiting local protections harm public welfare. The study, “Anti-Community State Pesticide Preemption Laws Prevent Local Governments From Protecting People From Harm,” published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability and supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, finds that state laws prohibiting local protective ordinances “compromise public health and economic well-being” by preventing localities from enacting pesticide use restrictions that are more restrictive than their state’s regulations. In the words of the authors, “By eliminating the ability of local governments to enact ordinances to safeguard inhabitants from health risks posed by pesticides, state preemption laws denigrate public health protections.”

The most frequent justification stated by anti-democracy proponents is the desire for “economies of scale” to prevent a “patchwork” of legislation, which would centralize control and create a “predictable regulatory environment.” Rep. Davis’s press release is littered with similar statements. Based on evidence of industry influence over state policies, however, study authors hold the position that these justifications are a ploy for more perverse economic motivations—to sell their toxic products, increase their stock, and reward their highly paid executives.

According to OpenSecrets, the agricultural services/products industry represented one of the top five industries donating to Rep. Davis between 2019-2020, totaling $160,625 for that period.

Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing H.R. 7266, and supporting the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), which contains a provision affirming local authority to restrict pesticides.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

I am writing to urge you to oppose H.R. 7266, which seeks to deny local communities the power to protect themselves from chemical exposure when state and federal regulation is inadequate. The bill would amend federal pesticide law to prohibit local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions. However, the rights of local governmental jurisdictions under existing pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), have been left to the states since the law’s adoption. In fact, local laws protecting the environment and public health have historically emerged out of local governments, with laws related to recycling, smoking, pet waste, building codes, and zoning.

The rights of local governments to protect people and the environment were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. The Court specifically upheld the authority of local governments to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions under federal pesticide law. In Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, the Court ruled that FIFRA does not prohibit, or preempt, local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. According to Mortier, however, states may restrict local control as a matter of state authority.

Please support the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), which contains a provision affirming local authority to restrict pesticides. PACTPA will provide some desperately needed improvements to FIFRA to better protect people and the environment, including banning some of the most damaging pesticides, restoring balance to protect ordinary citizens by removing dangerous pesticides from the market, and protecting frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure.

Please let me know your position on these bills.

Thank you.

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05
Aug

U.S. Exportation of Banned and Highly Restricted Pesticides Continues to Inflict Serious Harm

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2022) A terrible saga of environmental injustice — and of grieving couples who wanted children but could not have them — is getting new attention via the BBC’s (British Broadcasting Corporation’s) recent coverage of Di-bromochloropropane (DBCP) exposures and impacts on banana plantation workers in multiple Latin American countries. A significant number of those male workers became sterile, and many charge that their exposures to DBCP in the 1970s was responsible. A 1979 ban on uses of DBCP on the U.S. mainland by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not immediately stop manufacturers from exporting the toxic insecticide to (primarily) Central American countries, nor did it stop U.S. fruit companies operating there from using it. Beyond Pesticides wrote in 2020 about the damaging and what some call unethical practice of allowing corporate export of domestically banned pesticides — which practice continues in the U.S.

This BBC investigative report comes on the heels of a piece in The Lancet, United States and United Nations pesticide policies: Environmental violence against the Yaqui indigenous nation, that catalogues the abuse of pesticide export policies on indigenous peoples. The piece finds: “The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is a U.S. statute that allows “pesticides that are not approved – or registered – for use in the U.S.” to be manufactured in the U.S. and exported elsewhere. The UN Rotterdam Convention also allows the global exportation of “banned pesticides.” The ongoing exportation of banned pesticides leads to disproportionately high rates of morbidity and mortality, most notably in Indigenous women and children.”

The authors cite the extent of the export issue from the U.S.: “Export data from U.S. ports found that over 27 million pounds of pesticides forbidden for use domestically were shipped at an average of 32 thousand pounds per day.1 In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that banned pesticides were being produced in 23 U.S. states.”

DBCP was commonly used to kill microscopic nematodes that damage banana plants. The compound was manufactured and sold in the 1970s by U.S. companies, primarily under the brand names Fumazone (Dow Chemical Company) and Nemagon (Shell Chemical Company); other iterations were manufactured by Occidental Chemical Corporation and AMVAC. In the 1960s, Dole Fruit (then Standard Fruit) started using DBCP on banana crops in Latin America; Chiquita and Del Monte followed suit in the early 1970s.

By 1977, EPA had restricted use of the compound on 19 mainland crops, and allowed its use on other crops only within very narrow conditions, and with use of respirators and other protective gear for workers. It then cancelled the registration for DBCP for all uses in this country in 1979 (except for that on pineapple crops in Hawai’i, which was halted in 1985). According to the BBC, “Even though Shell and Dow stopped manufacturing DBCP in 1977, they continued legal exports of their unused stocks of the pesticide to several Central American countries.” Dow and Shell were able, legally, to offload remaining stocks of the insecticide.

Shell says it “had already ceased all sale or manufacture of Nemagon before the EPA” ban; Dow says that “every sale or shipment of DBCP occurred well before October 1979” (when the EPA cancelled DBCP’s registration). Occidental and AMVAC sold DBCP to Panama until 1979; AMVAC continued to sell to Panama as late as 1985. An Occidental officer said, “The sales and uses upon which you are focused date back 40-plus years. . . . According to records that I have seen, the company apparently sold DBCP in bulk to distributors who, in turn, sold the goods into various LatAm [Latin American] countries. The final destination for these goods was often unclear.”

According to BBC reporting, tens of thousands of banana industry workers from Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica have brought litigation against both the manufacturers of DBCP and the companies that used it in their Latin American operations (Dole, Del Monte, and Chiquita). Documents from the lawsuits show that, as early as the 1950s, internal animal studies by Dow and Shell evidenced testicular atrophy and reduced sperm counts due to DBCP exposures. One of the investigators in those studies, Dr. Charles Hine, wrote in a draft report for U.S. regulators that, “repeated exposure to DBCP could affect human reproduction.” Yet the compound was approved for use in 1964 — with no indication on its label that it could represent a threat to male fertility.

For its part, Dow continues to insist that “the dose makes the poison,” and that “Low dose, outdoor, or intermittent exposures will not affect male fertility.” In a statement to the BBC, a Dow spokesperson said that “DBCP had been ‘shown to possibly affect reproductive function of some male workers who handled it directly in very high doses at manufacturing plants.’ . . . [But] “agricultural workers would have potentially experienced significantly lower doses, and no studies of agricultural workers have shown a similar effect from working with DBCP.” Its website states that “there is no credible scientific evidence that Dole’s use of DBCP on banana farms caused any of the injuries claimed in any of the DBCP lawsuits, including sterility.”

Beyond Pesticides suggests that the folks at Dow take a look at the 2019 study by J. Marino, et al., which concluded that its research “evidence suggests that DBCP has significant and occasionally permanent effects on semen parameter and fertility in exposed men.” Or perhaps consider the 2018 research by K. McAbbe, et al., which states flatly, “DBCP is a banned nematicide that has been shown to cause male infertility.”

Workers have repeatedly sought justice in U.S. courts, to no lasting avail. The BBC reports that “there has been only one case in which a U.S. court considered whether the pesticide caused sterility” — the central harm for which plaintiffs have repeatedly sought compensation, often with the hope of securing better healthcare with such funds. In 2007, a group of Nicaraguan litigants was awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages in a case charging sterility as an outcome of exposures. But in 2010, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge overturned that ruling, saying that the company had been a victim of fraud related to plaintiffs’ alleged witness tampering.

The BBC article asserts: “To date, there have been no successful litigations in the U.S by banana workers. Their cases have been dismissed on procedural matters or the companies have settled out of court, making payments to some plaintiffs, but not accepting liability. There are currently just two active cases in the U.S. Scott Hendler, the lawyer pursuing them on behalf of workers from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama, says the companies are ‘resorting to procedural matters again and again.’ He wants a jury to see the evidence. ‘There is no question that DBCP can cause sterility,’ he says. ‘The question is whether each of these individual plaintiffs sustained sufficient exposure in their own right to be a substantial factor in causing their own infertility.’”

Beyond Pesticides has covered some of the history of litigation related to DBCP:

  • In the 2000s, Nicaraguan courts ordered a total of $805 million in damagesto be paid to hundreds of victims by Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, and Occidental Chemical (now OxyChem). The companies refused to pay, saying the courts lacked jurisdiction and had denied them fair trials. In one of those suits, in 2001,a court in Nicaragua ordered Shell, Dole, and Dow to pay $489 million to 500 male banana workers made sterile by DBCP. The companies refused to pay and counter-sued the plaintiffs for fraud, asking for $17 billion in damages. When a U.S. federal court was asked by the plaintiffs to enforce the Nicaraguan court judgment, the U.S. court refused to hear the case.
  • In 2002, a case tried in a Nicaraguan courtresolved when the judge ordered those same three companies to pay $490 million to 583 banana workers adversely affected by the use of the pesticide Nemagon (DBCP). The case was filed in Nicaragua under a law allowing any Nicaraguan worker to sue a foreign company. But Dow called the judgment “unenforceable” because the case was supposed to be moved to a U.S. court; further, defendants’ attorneys argued that the ruling was based on a Nicaraguan law criticized by its own attorney as “unconstitutional.” The companies again refused to pay.
  • A 2005 case against Dole and Dow, brought by 150 Nicaraguans for injury by DBCP from their 1970–1982 work on Dole banana plantations, was found for the plaintiffs by a Nicaraguan court, which awarded them $97 million for the sterility and psychological suffering they had endured. A U.S. District Court in Miami then reversed that judgment, sayingthat it “was rendered under a system which does not provide impartial tribunal or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law, and the rendering court did not have jurisdiction over Defendants.”

Having exhausted options in the U.S., Nicaraguan banana workers brought suit in 2018 in France against Dow Chemical, Occidental Chemical, and Shell Oil, seeking compensation for the 1,200 litigants for health problems caused by the companies’ DBCP products. Plaintiffs argued that the global nature of the pesticide and agricultural markets gave them standing in France, but in May 2022, their attempts were again thwarted when the Paris Trial Court denied the claim, saying the judges had no jurisdiction over the companies.

As noted above, Beyond Pesticides has covered the practice of allowing corporate export of domestically banned pesticides, which happens in the U.S. and some European countries. In 2020, Greenpeace affirmed that the United Kingdom was the biggest European exporter of banned, toxic pesticides to poorer, often so-called “developing” countries, such as Mexico, some on the African continent, Brazil, Ukraine, and Indonesia.

This practice continues to be legal here; the EPA website notes: “Pesticides that are not approved — or registered — for use in the United States may be manufactured in the United States and exported.” EPA requires only some documentation that shows that the foreign entity doing the purchasing (of a specific product and shipment) knows the compound is not legal in the U.S., and then EPA notifies whatever national health and environment officials exist in the receiving country.

In 2019, Truthout captured well the pernicious nature of how policies that allow toxic pesticide exports can play out. “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.”

Beyond the ethical violations that such practices are, they can create a perverse “circle of poison,” as banned compounds are exported, used in other countries, and then return as residues on imported foods to pollute the domestic food supply. And such policies send a message that American lives (or British, or French, etc.) are more important than those of the largely “brown” populations of the countries that use these toxic imports. This exacerbates the existing reality that many BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) in the U.S. and globally already endure higher levels of pesticide exposures and consequent health anomalies than do dominant white populations.

The 2015 documentary film, “Circle of Poison,” featuring Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman and luminaries such as Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, and President Jimmy Carter), focuses on the toxic pesticide export issue. It “shows how the global pesticide industry is politically powerful, shaping regulations (or lack thereof) and the conditions of food and farming around the world.”

For banned pesticides such as DBCP — sometimes called “legacy” chemicals — the fates of agricultural workers thousands of miles away, who suffered infertility through no fault of their own as long as 50+ years ago, may seem (increasingly) remote. Certainly the U.S. judicial system has been, ultimately, indifferent to their plights. But it is critical to remember that legacy chemicals are “gifts that keep on giving,” whether DDT from the ‘40s and ‘50s, DBCP in the ‘70s, or PFAS chemicals used for the past 90 years (among others). But in addition, the creation and deployment of toxic legacy chemicals are not all “in the past”; this is a “rolling admissions” situation because we continue to use — and export — toxic chemicals whose impacts may show up now, or may show up in a decade or more.

It is a harmful and cynical experiment we are conducting in our continued allowance of toxic pesticides (and other chemicals) being pumped out into products, the environment, and our bodies, with insufficient understanding of how they may harm us and Nature. And in truth, in some cases, government officials, more-or-less “captured” by industry interests, allow this even when the damaging effects are well understood.

It may be too late for Isabel Coba and Rafael Martínez González — just two of thousands of workers who expected to have children and then found themselves infertile — to find justice. Certainly, it is too late for the many workers from the 1960s and 1970s who have already died. But it is not too late to stop the threats to current and coming generations of agricultural workers who may suffer exposures to toxic pesticides that we in the U.S., or in various European countries, have found unacceptable for use inside our own nations. We must insist to our legislators and federal agencies, and to EPA in particular, that the export of domestically un- or deregistered pesticides must stop.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-62120058

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

 

 

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04
Aug

Glyphosate Weed Killer Crosses Blood-Brain Barrier, Linked to Alzheimer’s and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases

(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2022) An Arizona State University (ASU) study shows that the popular herbicide glyphosate can infiltrate the brain through the blood (blood-brain barrier), increasing neurological disease risk. The blood-brain barrier filters various molecules entering the brain from the circulatory system. However, the permeation of glyphosate molecules elevates the expression of TNFα and the accumulation of soluble beta-amyloid (Aβ) proteins in the brain and has associations with immune, inflammatory, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

More than 6 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s, and cases are expected to double by 2050. Although Alzheimer’s research has focused heavily on finding genetic causes of the disease, fewer than half of cases are genetic. Thus, researchers are now evaluating how environmental contaminants may increase disease risk. Over 300 environmental contaminants and their byproducts, including pesticides, are chemicals commonly present in human blood and urine samples and can increase neurotoxicity risk when crossing the brain barrier. Therefore, studies like this highlight the importance of understanding how chemical accumulation in the body can impact long-term health and disease prognosis. The study notes, “Brain glyphosate correlates with increased TNFα levels, suggesting that exposure to this herbicide may trigger neuroinflammation in the brain, which may induce changes that are seen in neurodegenerative disorders. […] Collectively, given that a large subset of the population may be exposed to this chemical agent, these results raise awareness of the detrimental effects glyphosate exposure may have on the brain and human health.”

Several studies demonstrate that glyphosate is detectable in the brain tissue of animals. However, this research investigates if persistent exposure to glyphosate leads to detectability in brain tissue and how the chemical’s presence affects TNFα levels in the brain. Using urine, plasma, and brain samples from mice in the study, researchers examined gene expression associated with dose-dependent exposure to glyphosate. Moreover, the study employs a novel one-step glyphosate extraction method using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry  (LC-MS)-based quantification to measure the level of glyphosate and its breakdown product aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in brain tissues. The results confirm that glyphosate infiltrates brain tissue, elevating TNFα levels and soluble Aβ, causing cell death among exposed cortical neurons. The novel one-step glyphosate extraction method provides the first evidence of dose-dependent glyphosate accumulation in the brain. Moreover, the extraction method finds a small amount of AMPA in brain tissue, indicating glyphosate is also breaking down in the body. Therefore, glyphosate exposure has implications for neurodegenerative diseases like AD, resulting from elevated protein levels and expression.

The nervous system is an integral part of the human body and includes the brain, spinal cord, and a vast network of nerves and neurons, all of which are responsible for many bodily functions—from sensation to movement. However, exposure to chemical toxicants, like pesticides, can cause neurotoxic effects or exacerbate preexisting chemical damage to the nervous system. The impacts of pesticides on the nervous system, including the brain, are hazardous, especially for chronically exposed individuals (e.g., farmworkers) or during critical windows of vulnerability and development (e.g., childhood, pregnancy). Mounting evidence over the past years shows that chronic exposure to sublethal (low) levels of pesticides adversely affects the central nervous system (CNS) and neural receptors such as connections between nerves, the brain, enzymes, and DNA. Specifically, researchers identify agricultural chemical exposure as a cause of many adverse CNS impacts and neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’samyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, advocates say it is essential to avoid toxic chemical exposure to lessen potential acute and chronic health risks.

The study highlights that glyphosate crosses the blood-brain barrier in vitro (in an artificial environment outside the body), but this study verifies this in vivo (in a living organism). Glyphosate exposure increases inflammatory cytokine proteins in the blood, especially TNFα. The overexpression of the TNFα protein has associations with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases. Although this study adds to the growing body of research surrounding pesticide neurotoxicity, it is the first to demonstrate that glyphosate successfully crosses the blood-brain barrier, accumulating in the brain in a dose-dependent manner. However, this is not the first time that toxic compounds transfer from the blood to other organs and vice versa. Several studies find pesticide compounds in a mother’s blood can transfer to the fetus via the umbilical cord. Furthermore, a 2021 study finds that pregnant women already have over 100 detectable chemicals in blood and umbilical cord samples, including banned persistent organic pollutants (POPs). However, 89 percent of these chemical contaminants are from unidentified sources, lack adequate information, or were not previously detectable in humans.

Pesticides themselves, mixtures of chemicals such as Agent Orange or dioxins, and therapeutic hormones or pharmaceutical products possess the ability to disrupt neurological function. These chemicals can pass through the skin (dermal) and mucosal membranes, including the lungs (inhalation) and gut (ingestion), and into blood circulation. For instance, studies suggest pesticide formulants (adjuvants), such as POEA (polyoxyethylene tallow amine), have neurotoxic activity. POEA is present in some glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup and has higher nervous system toxicity than the active ingredient (glyphosate).

The study concludes, “While there are many correlations between glyphosate and various illnesses, our goal is to shed light on the correlation between glyphosate application and AD [Alzheimer’s diseases]. Future work will focus on uncovering the molecular overlap between glyphosate exposure and AD pathology. Specifically, we will focus on determining if glyphosate exposure is capable of exacerbating amyloid [Aβ] pathology and inducing cell death, in vivo in mouse models of AD.”

There is a lack of complete understanding of the etiology of pesticide-induced diseases, including predictable lag time between chemical exposure, health impacts, and epidemiological data. Pesticides themselves can possess the ability to disrupt neurological function. Pesticides’ impact on the nervous system, including the brain, are hazardous, especially for chronically exposed individuals or during critical windows of vulnerability and development. Therefore, studies related to pesticides and neurological disorders can help scientists understand the underlying mechanisms that cause neurodegenerative diseases. Although occupational and environmental factors, like pesticides, adversely affect human health, regulatory reviews are plagued by numerous limitations in defining real-world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD) and Daily News Blog. The adverse health effects of pesticides, exposure, and the aggregate risk of pesticides showcase a need for more precise research surrounding occupational and residential pesticide exposure in order to make complete determinations and the importance of fully recognizing uncertainty in regulatory decisions that are precautionary. Existing information, including this study, supports the clear need for a strategic shift away from pesticide dependency. For more information on the effects of pesticide exposure on neurological health, see Beyond Pesticides’ PIDD pages on brain and nervous system disorders, including dementia-like diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and other impacts on cognitive function

Alzheimer’s disease has no cure, but preventive practices like organics can eliminate exposure to toxic AD-inducing pesticides. Organic agriculture represents a safer, healthier approach to crop production that does not necessitate pesticide use. Beyond Pesticides encourages farmers to embrace regenerative, organic practices. A compliment to buying organic is contacting various organic farming organizations to learn more about what you can do. 

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

Source: Arizona State University, Journal of Neuroinflammation

 

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03
Aug

Scientific Literature Review Again Connects Pesticides and Male Fertility Problems

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2022) A systematic review of scientific studies on pesticides and fertility finds exposure associated with lower semen quality, DNA fragmentation, and chromosomal abnormalities. Published in the journal Andrology, the review is yet another warning from a long string of researchers sounding the alarm over the connection between global fertility and toxic chemical exposure. With data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  indicating roughly 1 in 5 couples are unable to conceive after a year of trying, and trends continuing to slope downwards, it is critical that contributing factors be identified so that protective changes can be made.  

After screening over 1,300 studies, researchers narrowed their review down to 64 papers assessing semen parameters and DNA integrity after pesticide exposure. Each study is analyzed for its design, the pesticide investigated,  the population studied, controls, and reproductive effects determined.

Pesticides are evaluated for their impacts to sperm quality and DNA integrity based on their chemical class. Organochlorine insecticides, which are all banned but still persistent in soil, air, water, and food in the United States, include a range of impacts to sperm quality. Higher levels of DDT or its breakdown metabolite DDE are associated with lower semen count, and motility and morphology below normal threshold values established by the World Health Organization (WHO). (Under WHO threshold values, a sub-fertile condition is defined by values lower than the fifth percentile of the general population.) Several studies find that as organochlorine concentrations increase in individual males, sperm parameters also fall. In addition to sperm quality, organochlorines are associated with chromosomal aberrations in several studies, including effects such as sperm disomy, where sperm have extra or missing chromosomes. This can result in viable offspring, but those offspring are at greater risk of abnormalities.  

Organophosphate, the class of insecticides that replaced the organochlorines as they were phased out, also present a range of deleterious impacts. These chemicals include pesticides like malathion, still widely used, and chlorpyrifos, which is only now being phased out of agricultural use. Effects on sperm parameters are particularly pronounced for individuals in farming regions or with a history of occupational pesticide work. However, studies on the general population also show cause for concern, finding total sperm count and concentrations inversely related to urinary metabolites of organophosphate insecticides. Apart from sperm quality, the literature reveals several studies showing organophosphate exposure resulting in missing or extra chromosomes in sperm, with particular attention paid to diethyl phosphate, a non-specific organophosphate metabolite.

Synthetic pyrethroids are also singled out in the scientific literature for their links to sperm damage. These are the insecticides that are replacing the organophosphates, as they are being phased out for their myriad health hazards. Unfortunately, the game of whack-a-mole played by the pesticide industry with EPA’s allowance has not resulted in chemicals that are safer for long-term human fertility. Like organophosphates, occupationally exposed individuals are particularly affected, with pyrethroid factory workers showing higher rates of sperm abnormalities and lower motility than non-exposed individuals. Factory workers are also more likely to exhibit DNA fragmentation in their sperm. Another concentration-dependent relationship is found, with individuals reporting higher levels of urinary 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA), a non-specific pyrethroid metabolite, having a lower sperm counts, disomy, and a greater chance of exhibiting sperm morphology below WHO thresholds.

Beyond these three classes, scientists did find evidence of negative associations with carbamate class insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides, but the low number of studies does not allow for extensive analysis. Mixtures of various pesticides are cited as having similar effects to the three main pesticide classes investigated though firm results were difficult to specify due to lack of complete information. In general, occupationally exposed workers are most at risk, with chronic exposure being associated with greater sperm defects.

The results of the study are concerning in light of steadily declining sperm counts. A 2017 study found that sperm counts since 1973 have fallen by nearly 60%.  One author of that study, Shanna Swan, PhD, captured public attention regarding sperm declines through her book Countdown, which goes into great depth regarding the impact of environmental chemicals on human fertility.  Watch Dr. Swan’s talk, Modern Life and the Threat to the Future, at Beyond Pesticides’ 2021 National Forum, Cultivating Healthy Communities.

Researchers have been sounding the alarm on the impact of pesticides on fertility for decades. In 2013, a previous literature review evaluating pesticide impacts on fertility found pesticides strongly associated with declines in sperm count. As she recounted in a presentation at Beyond Pesticides’ 2021 National Pesticide Forum Dr. Swan’s own work is borne out of efforts to try to disprove a paper published in 1992 by Carlsen et al., which highlights significant declines in sperm quality since the late 1930s.

As the human civilization grapples with a range of cascading crises, from climate change to the insect apocalypse and global biodiversity crisis, we may be missing the chance to address one of the most critical aspects to the continuation of humanity as we now know it. For more information on the fertility crisis, see Dr. Swan’s presentation to the National Pesticide Forum on Beyond Pesticides’ Youtube page.

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

Source: Andrology

 

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02
Aug

U.S. Senators Urge Fish and Wildlife Service to Phase Out Pesticide Use in America’s Wildlife Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2022) Members of the United States Senate are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to phase out the use of toxic pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges in order to protect declining wildlife species and the country’s unique natural resources. Led by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), the senators sent a letter to FWS Director Martha Williams urging FWS to “expeditiously begin a rulemaking process to phase out the use of agricultural pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges.” The move comes at a time when native wildlife and the ecosystems humans rely upon are under greater threats than ever before from climate change, habitat destruction, and the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides.

“The Refuge System was established to provide sanctuary for listed threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and other wildlife,” wrote the senators in a letter to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Martha Williams. “The Refuges’ migratory sanctuary and breeding grounds are especially critical for North American birds, as they have faced precipitous population declines; there are 3 billion fewer breeding birds in North America than there were in 1970. Unfortunately these birds and other threatened species are being put at risk by pesticide use in the Refuges that were designed to protect them.” 

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 (GE) crops and related herbicide-tolerant herbicides on wildlife refuges in the southeast. This move was followed a year later by the FWS Pacific Region restricting the use of neonicotinoids, which are often applied to the seeds of GE crops, in their refuge areas.

Under the Obama Administration in 2014, the former Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System officially phased out the use of genetically engineered crops and neonicotinoids insecticides on all US wildlife refuges. The decision, as outlined in a memorandum by former Chief James Kurth, was based on the fact that neonicotinoid use, and the harms associated with it, “is not consistent with Service policy…[]based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices and not on agricultural practices.”

Despite these important restrictions, other toxic agricultural pesticides registered by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continued to be sprayed in these sensitive and protected sites. A report by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) found that in 2016 alone over 270,000 acres were sprayed with more than 490,000 pounds of hazardous pesticides.  

These concerning statistics did nothing to phase the new, industry-friendly Trump administration. In 2018, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a memorandum reversing the 2014 restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides, allowing use on a “case-by-case basis.”

This industry-friendly reversal unnecessarily exposes a broad range of threatened and endangered wildlife to chemicals that do not belong anywhere near protected natural areas. As the Senators write, these chemicals “leach into the surrounding groundwater and soil and are picked up by native flowering plants and pollinators.” Not only does this threaten non-target organisms, the Senators note, but also the 53 million annual human visitors to U.S. Wildlife Refuges.

In 2019, CBD and CFS sued FWS and the Interior Department. “It’s frankly astounding that anyone would promote spraying dangerous pesticides on wildlife refuges but if anyone would, it’s the pesticide pushers in the Trump administration,” said CBD senior attorney, Hannah Connor, at the time. “This is nothing but a shameless giveaway to the pesticide industry with no regard for our nation’s most vulnerable wildlife.” A year later, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit, allowing rampant contamination of some of the nation’s otherwise most pristine sites.

An update to CBD’s report was released, finding pesticide use expand 34% from 2016, to more than 363,000 acres of wild lands. Use of the most dangerous pesticides increased by more than 70% within this time frame.

To remedy the situation, the Senators are calling for the Refuge System to go further than before, and work to eliminate all toxic pesticide use in favor of the least-toxic, yet still effective minimum risk products on the market compatible with organic land care. The letter to FWS also asks for provisions that permit pesticide use on non-native species only for a limited basis and if compatible with a Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan. “As for a short-term fix,” the Senators say, “We ask that the 2014 memorandum issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Chief James Kurth be reinstated, phasing out neonicotinoids.”

In addition to Senator Booker, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) signed on to the letter.

Help support the efforts of these Senate champions by joining calls to urge FWS to reinstate Refuge System protections. Further support Senator Booker’s steadfast efforts to protect American children and the wider environment from toxic pesticides by urging your own Senators to join in cosponsoring the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act.

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

Source: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) press release, Letter to FWS Director

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01
Aug

Take Action: USDA Action Limits Environmental and Scientific Authority on National Organic Board

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2022) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just renewed the charter of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), with changes that threaten the balance on the board created by law. Organic production is successful, with sales topping $63 billion, and still growing. Organic production not only brings healthful food to it consumers, but also reduces the amount of toxic chemicals released to the air, soil, and water. And it helps to reduce climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. To ensure rigorous oversight of USDA and robust advice and management of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, the NOSB was created to ensure balanced representation from organic stakeholders, including consumers, conservationists, farmers, a scientist, retailer, and certifier. The growth of the organic brand is attributable in great part to public trust in the standards and processes that govern oversight over the USDA organic label.

Tell USDA to classify all NOSB members as “Representatives” to protect the integrity of organic production. Tell Congress to ensure that USDA follows the letter and spirit of the organic law.

The success of organic derives from consumer trust in the organic label, and that trust depends on a system in which the USDA national organic program (NOP) receives direction from a board composed of a balanced group of stakeholders—producers, processors, retailers, certifiers, scientists, environmentalists, and consumers—the NOSB. The composition of the NOSB is laid out in the Organic Foods Production Act. While many organic consumers do not know about the NOSB, they would certainly know about controversies if not resolved within the board’s debates—such as the decision to prohibit antibiotic use on apples and pears for fire blight.

USDA’s new NOSB charter changes the classification of two categories of members—environmentalists and the scientist—from “representatives” to “special government employees” (SGEs). As stated by USDA, “The most important point to emphasize is that SGEs ARE Government employees.” As government employees, not only do SGEs have greater disclosure requirements, but there are additional restrictions on the number of days they can work in a year (even though an NOSB position is a volunteer position) and their actions both during their service and afterwards. In addition, as government employees, such NOSB members may not feel free to criticize USDA when appropriate.

Classifying some NOSB members as “Representatives” and some as SGEs creates an imbalance in the NOSB, whose composition was carefully selected to provide a balance of interests. If some NOSB members are SGEs, who are restricted to working no more than 130 days per year, the imbalance is accentuated.

The balance on the NOSB needs to be restored, in order to maintain public trust in the USDA organic label.

Tell USDA to classify all NOSB members as “Representatives” to protect the integrity of organic production. Tell Congress to ensure that USDA follows the letter and spirit of the organic law.

Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Adminstrator Jenny Tucker, National Organic Program:

I am writing to express my concern about the revised charter for the National Organic Standards Board, which undermines the balance created by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The growth of the organic brand is attributable in great part to public trust in the standards and processes that govern oversight over the USDA organic label. This change undermines that trust.

The new charter reclassifies environmental and scientist members of the NOSB as special government employees (SGEs) instead of ”Representatives.”

First of all, in case you are not aware of the work done by this volunteer board, NOSB members work far more than the maximum 130 days per year allowed by SGEs.

Organic production is successful, with sales topping $63 billion, and still growing. Organic production not only brings healthful food to it consumers, but also reduces the amount of toxic chemicals released to the air, soil, and water. And it helps to reduce climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil.

The success of organic derives from consumer trust in the organic label, and that trust depends on a system in which the USDA national organic program (NOP) receives direction from a board composed of a balanced group of stakeholders—producers, processors, retailers, certifiers, scientists, environmentalist, and consumers—the NOSB. The composition of the NOSB is laid out in the Organic Foods Production Act. While many organic consumers do not know about the NOSB, they would certainly know about controversies if not resolved within the board’s debates.

In the report accompanying OFPA, the Congressional authors of the bill said, “The membership of this Board was carefully selected to provide a balance of interests. … As a result the Committee restructured the Board so that the farmers and handlers involved in organic production receive six representatives, equal to the consumer and environmental organizations, which together also receive six representatives.” This language makes it clear that members of the NOSB are representatives of their various classes, and that the balance of interests that they represent is essential.

SGEs are treated differently under the law from representatives. As stated by the USDA, “The most important point to emphasize is that SGEs ARE Government employees.” As government employees, not only do SGEs have greater disclosure requirements, but there are additional restrictions on their actions both during their service and afterwards. In addition, as government employees, such NOSB members may not feel free to criticize USDA when appropriate.

Classifying some NOSB members as “Representatives” and some as SGEs creates an imbalance in the NOSB, whose composition was carefully selected to provide a balance of interests. If some NOSB members are restricted to working no more than 130 days per year, the imbalance is accentuated.

Finally, the Federal Advisory Committee Act requires the FACA committee to file the charter and renewals, not USDA, which raises the issue of the validity of the new charter.

Please ensure that the charter reverts to the former classification of NOSB members.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

I am writing to express my concern about the revised charter for the National Organic Standards Board, which undermines the balance created by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The growth of the organic brand is attributable in great part to public trust in the standards and processes that govern oversight over the USDA organic label. This change undermines that trust.

The new charter reclassifies environmental and scientist members of the NOSB as special government employees (SGEs) instead of ”Representatives.”

First of all, in case you are not aware of the work done by this volunteer board, NOSB members work far more than the maximum 130 days per year allowed by SGEs.

Organic production is successful, with sales topping $63 billion, and still growing. Organic production not only brings healthful food to it consumers, but also reduces the amount of toxic chemicals released to the air, soil, and water. And it helps to reduce climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil.

The success of organic derives from consumer trust in the organic label, and that trust depends on a system in which the USDA national organic program (NOP) receives direction from a board composed of a balanced group of stakeholders—producers, processors, retailers, certifiers, scientists, environmentalist, and consumers—the NOSB. The composition of the NOSB is laid out in the Organic Foods Production Act. While many organic consumers do not know about the NOSB, they would certainly know about controversies if not resolved within the board’s debates.

In the report accompanying OFPA, the Congressional authors of the bill said, “The membership of this Board was carefully selected to provide a balance of interests. … As a result the Committee restructured the Board so that the farmers and handlers involved in organic production receive six representatives, equal to the consumer and environmental organizations, which together also receive six representatives.” This language makes it clear that members of the NOSB are representatives of their various classes, and that the balance of interests that they represent is essential.

SGEs are treated differently under the law from representatives. As stated by the USDA, “The most important point to emphasize is that SGEs ARE Government employees.” As government employees, not only do SGEs have greater disclosure requirements, but there are additional restrictions on their actions both during their service and afterwards. In addition, as government employees, such NOSB members may not feel free to criticize USDA when appropriate.

Classifying some NOSB members as “Representatives” and some as SGEs creates an imbalance in the NOSB, whose composition was carefully selected to provide a balance of interests. If some NOSB members are restricted to working no more than 130 days per year, the imbalance is accentuated.

Finally, the Federal Advisory Committee Act requires the FACA committee to file the charter and renewals, not USDA, which raises the issue of the validity of the new charter.

Please ensure through your oversight that the charter reverts to the former classification of NOSB members.

Thank you.

 

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29
Jul

With Industry Support, a Republican U.S. Senator Introduces Bill to Codify Easier Access to Ag Pesticides–As If It Wasn’t Easy Enough

(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2022) Perhaps attempting to capitalize on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ability to regulate carbon emissions, Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas (R) has filed a bill in the Senate that seeks to limit the agency’s ability to regulate pesticide use. The so-called EPA Transparency for Agriculture Products Act of 2022 is touted, on Senator Marshall’s website, as “a comprehensive bill to prevent . . . EPA . . . from overregulating essential pesticides that the ag industry heavily depends upon.” In truth — and perversely, given that he is a medical doctor — the bill aims to provide more license to use toxic pesticides that harm human health, the environment broadly, and ecosystems already under assault from toxic, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Couched in language about “feeding the world,” the bill’s central concern seems to be financial impacts or challenges that farms (a good portion of which, let us remember, are giant, well-resourced agribusinesses) may face because of EPA pesticide regulations. Those regulations, of course, are promulgated by the agency to protect people, organisms, ecosystems, and natural resources from harmful impacts and risks from pesticide use (however well or poorly the agency manages to do that for specific pesticides).

The bill purports to “ensure pesticide registrations and rulemaking is (sic) based on proven science.” What it appears to do is throw monkey wrenches into EPA’s processes. How? By giving agro-industrial interests more rein and weight; by inserting economic considerations into EPA’s review processes (NB: this is not part of the agency’s mission or charge); by pulling into review processes “input” from other federal agencies; by dragging out effective dates of regulatory action; and by setting short deadlines for registration reviews, i.e., telling EPA it cannot employ more than two 60-day extensions for review of a label or labeling change, and then making approval of any such label automatic if EPA fails to take action on it before the final deadline (functionally, the end of 120 days of extension).

Among the bill’s over-reaching features is a requirement that the director of the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) conduct an “interagency review of any proposed interim, interim, or final registration decision regarding nonvoluntary, more restrictive changes to a pesticide label under a registration review.” Another is stringing out the effective date by which an interim or final registration decision (issued as part of a registration review of nonvoluntary, more restrictive changes to a pesticide label, including a revocation or cancellation of a registration) shall take effect to “one year after the date on which the interim decision or final decision, as applicable, and any comments submitted by the Secretary of Agriculture, are published in the Federal Register.”

Further, the bill wants to make EPA use industry data as part of its basis for registration review processes: “The Administrator shall base any decision issued as part of the registration review process on Department of Agriculture agronomic use data, commercially available agronomic use data, and industry agronomic use data” [emphasis by Beyond Pesticides].

The bill also seeks to constrain judicial purview over cases involving pesticides:

  • In issuing a decision that would result in more restrictive changes to a pesticide label, including a revocation or cancellation of a registration, the court shall allow the continued use of the registration through the following growing season.
  • Before issuing a decision that would result in more restrictive changes to a pesticide label, including a revocation or cancellation of a registration, the court shall conduct a de novo review to determine whether there is a viable and affordable alternative to control the same target pest.

In addition, Senator Marshall’s bill wants to boost the role of economic considerations in agency review of pesticides. It would add to a section of FIFRA (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the statute that governs the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides) the mandate that the Agriculture Science Committee of EPA’s Science Advisory Board “review any decision or advice issued by the Scientific Advisory Panel (A) to determine whether the decision or advice would have an economic impact of more than $100,000 on the agricultural industry; and (B) if the decision or advice would have an economic impact of more than $100,000 on the agricultural industry, to consider and describe that economic impact.”

Again, this “consideration of economic impacts” is not part of EPA’s mission, which is “to protect human health and the environment.” In addition, that $100,000 figure is laughable when applied to “the agricultural industry.” Virtually any change could have that level of impact, given that there are approximately two million farms in the country, as well as all the adjunct businesses that are considered part of the “industry.”

Senator Marshall extolled the bill on his website, saying, “At a time when Kansas’ farmers and ranchers are coping with record inflation and broken supply chains, the last thing they need is the EPA revoking or severely limiting traditional farming tools and methods. Access to safe, effective pesticides is vital for allowing farmers to continue to efficiently and sustainably feed, clothe, and fuel the world.”

To approximately no one’s surprise, agrochemical and agro-industrial groups were immediately “all in” on this bill, and fell over themselves offering glowing commentary for use by the senator on his website. A few examples:

• The president of the Kansas soybean association said, “It’s simple, farmers need critical crop protection tools like glyphosate to feed the world. Farmers use it on 40% of all acres in the US and it enables more than $50 billion dollars of production annually. We appreciate this bill that will provide farmers with continued access to these and other crop protection tools prospectively.”

• The CEO of the Kansas Corn Growers Association offered this: “EPA is using regulatory tricks to drastically limit farmers (sic) use of critical inputs like Atrazine. A recent proposal would restrict its use on corn in almost all of Kansas leaving no cost-effective way to control herbicide resistance. EPA should refocus its attention on sound science and transparency is key to that.”

• The president of the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association and CEO of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association said, “Thank you, Senator Marshall for standing at the forefront in defense of our nation’s farmers who depend on these indispensable crop protection products allowing them to reliably feed, fuel and clothe the world.”

Prior to filing this bill, the senator was involved in a Zoom call in January with EPA Administrator Michael Regan and other agency officials to “discuss the problematic direction EPA is head (sic) with decisions that restrict access to safe and necessary crop protection products.” In February, he and other conservative senators (Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Joni Ernst of Iowa) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Regan that called on him “to redirect the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs away from their current propensity for overly precautious, blanket bans and severe restrictions of necessary crop protection tools back towards a regular, risk-based regulatory process.” They specifically advocated for more lax regulation of chlorpyrifos, dicamba, glyphosate, and triazine herbicides (such as atrazine and simazine) — all very toxic and problematic pesticides for human and environmental health — and criticized EPA’s approach to Biological Evaluations required under the Endangered Species Act.

In a May 2022 hearing in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, Senator Marshall stressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack his insistence on the importance of the “crop protection” herbicide glyphosate; he urged Sec. Vilsack to “stand up to the Environment Protection Agency’s position on glyphosate that will restrict farmers’ access to the pesticide.” Then, in June 2022, Senator Marshall and conservative Republican senators Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and James Lankford of Oklahoma sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to “defend” glyphosate and other pesticides.

The senator and his ilk appear, through this bill, to want to reduce significantly the constraints and limits on pesticide regulation. In placing conventional agriculture’s “need” for toxic pesticides at the heart of this bill and above the well-being of people and the natural world, the senator betrays not only disregard for that well-being, but also, a distinct lack of understanding of the broader agricultural universe in the U.S.

As Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman has pointed out, “The information on ‘need’ comes from those who are dependent on chemical-intensive management practices and, in fact, have established management practices that increase dependency over time. On the other hand, the fact that there is a burgeoning organic market not reliant on toxic chemicals does not seem to factor into the calculation of ‘need.’ The bottom line is that there has to be a concerted and affirmative effort to wean agriculture from its toxic chemical dependency if this country is going to protect people and Nature from health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency. This legislation takes us in the wrong direction and leads us down a path with dire consequences. We should be making it more difficult to use fossil-fuel-based, toxic chemicals in agriculture, not easier.”

Beyond Pesticides has written about the relationship between the climate emergency and the toxic chemical (and plastic) pollution crisis here and here. Advancing a livable future requires a rapid realignment on both the toxics and climate fronts. Senator Marshall — who is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, so one might think he would have a sense of the devastating impacts pesticides can have on a developing fetus — appears ignorant, willfully or otherwise, of these realities. The senator, who refers to himself on his website as “Doc Marshall,” has perhaps forgotten the oath he took as a medical student, one of the promises of which is primum non nocere — first, do no harm.

Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, recently captured the stakes of what we are up against: “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.” One is hard pressed not to conclude that the senator and his Republican compatriots — inexplicably — favor the latter choice.

Sources: https://www.wibw.com/2022/07/21/new-bill-aims-safeguard-pesticides-farmers-epa/ and https://www.marshall.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/new-sen-marshall-bill-aims-to-maintain-availability-of-vital-crop-protection-tools/#:~:text=(Washington%2C%20D.C.%2C%20July%2021,ag%20industry%20heavily%20depends%20upon

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

 

 

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28
Jul

Two Common-Use Organophosphate Pesticides in Drinking Water Put Nearly Everyone at Cancer Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2022) A report published in Chemosphere finds organophosphate (OP) insecticides readily contaminate drinking water resources, threatening human, animal, and ecological health. OPs have a wide range of biological uses—from insecticides to flame retardants—that make these chemicals ubiquitous, significantly contributing to ecosystem contamination. These compounds have a global distribution, with evaporation and precipitation facilitating long-range atmospheric transport, deposition, and bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in the environment. OPs are highly toxic, and residues are consistently present in human and animal blood, urine, tissues, and milk. Considering 90 percent of Americans have at least one pesticide compound in their body, primarily stemming from dietary exposure, including food and drinking water, advocates maintain that current restrictions on their use must adequately detect and assess total chemical contaminants. 

Water is the most abundant and crucial 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 and a decrease in water quality/drinkability. Thus, researchers note, “ This study develops new knowledge in the field of monitoring and evaluation of drinking water quality. The developed method can facilitate water utilities to solve the pollution of OPPs in the world in drinking water resources.”

Using gas chromatography (GC), the study analyzes 385 water samples from eight water source sites for residues of two common-use organophosphate insecticides, malathion, and diazinon. Statistical analysis and a risk-modeling approach by an automatic Monte-Carlo procedure measured trends and changes in OP concentration and carcinogenic (cancer) risk. The study finds water resource sites with a lower pH (more acidic) and near agricultural areas tend to contain higher concentrations of OP residues. Moreover, the concentration of OPs in water resources differ during the seasons, with spring and winter concentrations much higher than summer or fall. Regarding carcinogenicity, malathion has a high cancer risk in all scenarios with concentrations above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted limit of 1.0E-6, while diazinon has a high cancer risk in all scenarios, but low age population (e.g., children).

Organophosphate (OP) insecticide use is widespread, while industry promotes the chemicals as having greater efficiency and lesser environmental persistence. However, OPs are a class of insecticides known to have adverse effects on the nervous system, having the same mode of action as nerve agents for chemical warfare. OPs originate from the same compounds as World War II nerve agents, producing adverse effects on the nervous system. Chemical exposure can cause a buildup of acetylcholine (a chemical neurotransmitter responsible for brain and muscle function) and can lead to acute impacts, such as uncontrolled, rapid twitching of some muscles, paralyzed breathing, convulsions, and, in extreme cases, death. The compromise of nerve impulse transmission can have broad systemic impacts on the function of multiple body systems. In addition to being highly toxic to terrestrial and aquatic organisms, human exposure to organophosphates can induce endocrine disruption, reproductive dysfunction, fetal defects, neurotoxic damage, and kidney/liver damage. Exposure can increase vulnerability to deadly diseases, including COVID-19. Moreover, OPs are one of the leading causes of intentional poisoning globally, as pesticide toxicity makes them potentially lethal substances.

This study represents one of the few to implement the Monte-Carlo (a simulation of multiple risk scenarios, as distinct from EPA’s standard single-point risk estimates) approach to assess the carcinogenic risk of OPs after considering various factors such as chemical concentration distribution, variability, and uncertainty. Although most OP uses in the U.S. are now agricultural, toxicity experts recommend a ban on all OPs for agricultural use. EPA and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider over 40 OPs that are moderately or highly hazardous to human health. EPA classifies some commonly used OPs like malathion, a popular mosquito control, and tetrachlorvinphos, a common flea and tick killer in pet collars and shampoos, as probable carcinogens. in August 2021, adopting a position that had be advanced by the agency in the waning days of the Obama Administration. States, including Hawaii, California, New York, and Maryland, had already adopted planned phase-outs of chlorpyrifos use, to different degrees, in agriculture following evidence of neurotoxic effects on children. However, other OPs remain in use despite their notorious toxicity. Moreover, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports demonstrating that pesticides like OPs are ubiquitous in the aquatic environment and a pervasive contaminant of freshwater ecosystems (e.g., surface and groundwater), which serve as drinking water sources for half of the U.S. population. The research concludes, “[T]hese results are expected to help federal and local governments adopt new guidelines for water quality assessment to prevent drinking water shortages or waterborne diseases that endanger human health. Besides, this indicates that immediate actions must be performed to reduce these levels and to ensure the quality of the drinking water.”

The use of toxic pesticides should be phased out and 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 regulations that consider 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 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, nurture fertility, reduce surface runoff and erosion, reduce the need for nutrient input, and eliminate the toxic chemicals that threaten 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

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

Source: Chemosphere

 

 

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27
Jul

Monarchs Listed as Endangered by International Safety Group, while U.S. Fails to Take Meaningful Action

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2022) As monarch butterfly numbers continue to drop throughout the United States, an international conservation group is listing the migratory monarch butterfly as endangered. The move by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) places pressure on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to prioritize protections for this rapidly dwindling iconic species. “Today’s Red List update highlights the fragility of nature’s wonders, such as the unique spectacle of monarch butterflies migrating across thousands of kilometres,” said Bruno Oberle, PhD, IUCN Director General. “To preserve the rich diversity of nature we need effective, fairly governed protected and conserved areas, alongside decisive action to tackle climate change and restore ecosystems. In turn, conserving biodiversity supports communities by providing essential services such as food, water and sustainable jobs.”

Migratory monarch butterflies are under threat from a range of factors harming both their western and eastern populations. Logging and deforestation have destroyed much of their overwintering grounds in Mexico and California. Climate change has subjected the butterflies to temperature anomalies and extremes, severe weather, and wildfires. Herbicide use has eliminated millions of acres of breeding habitat by killing off milkweed plants that monarchs require to rear their young. What little milkweed is left has been found to be ubiquitously contaminated with toxic pesticides.

Western monarch populations numbered over 10 million as recently as 1980. Their populations have shrunk by an astounding 99.9%. Imagine only one person out of every 1,000 making it through the last 40 years. One recent count along the California coast recorded only 2,000 butterflies.

A study funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that monarchs have an extinction risk of 86% within the next 50 years. Within only 20 years, the risk is still 72%. “This study doesn’t just show that there are fewer monarchs now than 35 years ago,” said study author Cheryl Schultz, PhD, an associate professor at Washington State University Vancouver. “It also tells us that, if things stay the same, western monarchs probably won’t be around as we know them in another 35 years.”

Eastern monarch populations are in a similarly dire state. This population migrates from the U.S. East and Midwest to overwintering grounds in Mexico each year. After numbering nearly 1 billion butterflies in the 1990s, recent counts place the population at roughly 93 million. A 2018 study published by a research team at University of Florida found that this population has declined by 80% since 2005. Two years after that study was published, the 2019/2020 eastern monarch count conducted by citizen scientists found another 53% reduction. Eastern monarchs are counted by the number of acres they occupy at their overwintering grounds. In 2019/20, this number was 7 acres, down from 15 acres the prior year. Scientists have determined that 15 acres is the minimum threshold necessary to prevent total migratory collapse. A report from the World Wildlife Fund estimates that at the current rate of decline, the eastern monarch migration could collapse within 20 years.

Despite all of these concerning data, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to officially place monarchs on the endangered species list. FWS indicates that listing monarchs is “warranted but precluded by higher priority actions…” Government officials say they “will develop a proposed rule to list the monarch butterfly as our priorities allow.” This decision itself comes after five years of waiting on a petition to consider the species for listing.

IUCN’s move is a recognition that more action must be taken to address precipitous monarch declines. FWS is relying upon state, local and non-governmental actions, but a coordinated federal strategy that protects the critical habitat of the monarch butterfly throughout the United States is an urgent requirement. Advocates say that FWS is likely delaying due to the massive changes that will need to be enacted to stop development, logging, and toxic pesticide use within the monarch’s migration pattern. Yet as ICUN’s Director General notes, protecting species like the monarch provides multiple economic benefits. The advantages gained by conserving these iconic species will always be worth the short-term costs and disruptions their protections warrant.  

We must stop monarchs from oblivion. Tell US Fish and Wildlife to officially list monarch butterflies as endangered species, so that they have access to additional protections needed to recover the population. As action from the federal government is increasingly unreliable due to the propensity to place short-term economics over long-term environmental and financial benefits, individual, local, and state actions are still critical components in safeguarding the remaining monarch population. See Beyond Pesticides’ BEE protective webpage for steps you can take to safeguard monarch and other dwindling pollinator species.

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

Source: IUCN press release, Associated Press

 

 

 

 

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26
Jul

Inspector General Finds Secret EPA Meetings with Industry and Use of Untested Science to Lower Cancer Risk for Dangerous Fumigant

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2022) Secret meetings with industry, the elevation of unqualified individuals to decision-making roles, using an untested scientific approach, failing to conduct a simple literature review, and an overall absence of public transparency. This is how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) conducted its cancer review for the potent fumigant pesticide 1,3-Dichloropropane (1,3-D; brand name: Telone), according to a report from EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). EPA’s actions allowed a product once considered to pose a 1 in 10,000 risk of cancer to Americans to increase exposure by 9,000% (from 7.7 μg/m3 to 690 μg/m3). “These departures from established standards during the cancer assessment for 1,3-D undermine the EPA’s credibility, as well as public confidence in and the transparency of the Agency’s scientific approaches, in its efforts to prevent unreasonable impacts on human health,” the OIG report states. Yet, even with the agency’s failings laid out in clear view, EPA’s lackluster response to OIG’s corrective actions in this case add insult to its injurious actions against public health.

OIG initiated a review of EPA’s cancer assessment for 1,3-D after the submission of multiple complaints. 1,3-D is a highly toxic fumigant used on a variety of crops, but primarily on potatoes, tobacco, strawberries, peanuts, and tomatoes to manage nematode pests in soils. The chemical has increased in use by roughly 40% over the last 20 years, with almost 37 million pounds used on 300,000 acres across the United States each year. EPA first classified 1,3-D as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” in 1985. The chemical retained that designation until the primary manufacturer, Dow Chemical Company (recently transferred to a subsidiary called Salt Lake Holding LLC), requested EPA conduct the current cancer re-evaluation. EPA review resulted in 1,3-D being downgraded from “likely” to “suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity.”

As part of this new evaluation, a Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC) within EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs is tasked with determining whether to update a chemical’s cancer classification. The process is relatively straightforward, and includes a literature search, statistical analysis, draft review, CARC vote and final posting on the pesticide’s review docket. Yet OIG found a range of serious discrepancies from the start.

One of the most basic steps – searching the open scientific literature for relevant studies on the chemical – was not properly conducted. While EPA searched for “1,3-D” and “Telone,” the full chemical name “1,3-Dichloropropene” was not included, and no one raised a red flag when only eight search results were found. OIG notes that EPA rejected consideration of all eight of these studies, and did not provide a reason, failing to follow its own guidelines. “Therefore, the OPP should have provided the rationale and methodology for excluding each study in 1,3-D’s draft human health risk assessment, but it did not,” the report notes.

In addition to this basic failing, EPA utilized a novel approach to evaluate 1,3-D’s carcinogenicity. Rather than following a process in place since 1978, EPA utilized an untested scientific approach outside of EPA’s guidance documents. At issue is how to determine the highest exposure that can occur without harming an animal long-term or causing other non-cancer effects. This value allows scientists to determine a pesticide’s carcinogenicity. Rather than the traditional maximum-tolerated-dose approach, EPA utilized an approach called kinetically-derived maximum dose (KMD). This method is so new that without guidance determining how EPA applies the information it analyzes, third parties have no way to independently evaluate EPA’s determinations. OIG notes that even after EPA applied the approach, it has participated in symposiums questioning the value of the KMD and noting its rarity in assessments. Independent scientific literature has a range of assessments on this method, with one recent study including a recommendation “to abolish the KMD concept for selecting top doses in toxicity testing.”

Not only did EPA apply a novel process to evaluating the carcinogenicity of 1,3-D, OIG interviews with EPA CARC officials reveal that members lacked knowledge on how to implement the KMD approach.  “Some believed that not all members possessed the appropriate scientific expertise for using and implementing the KMD approach for evaluating the evidence of the carcinogenic potential of 1,3-D,” the report indicates.

OIG notes that “novel, precedent-setting, or controversial influential scientific information” by the agency should be subject to external peer-review. The report quotes from EPA’s own guidelines which explain that novel scientific procedures can “undercut the scientific credibility of a risk assessment.”

Beyond the nuts and bolts of the opaque process OIG was able to reconstruct, lies the failure of EPA officials to record meetings with chemical’s primary manufacturer. Between 2016 and 2018, as EPA was in the midst of its cancer review for 1,3-D, officials met with Salt Lake Holding LLC/Dow Agrosciences at least five times. “No information from these meetings appeared in the pesticide-registration review docket, even though some of these meetings included discussions on the application of KMD for the 1,3-D cancer assessment,” the report reads. EPA claims that its cancer-related meetings were not required to go on the pesticides’ registration review docket because those actions are separate. OIG rejected that argument out of hand, referencing the fact that EPA incorporated the cancer determination into its review documents.

At the end of its report, OIG made nine recommendations for corrective action by EPA. The agency accepted the recommendation to update the document with past meeting information, and issue guidance to clarify when meetings are reported to the docket. It also agreed to update CARC’s standard operating procedures, take steps to ensure individuals with the appropriate expertise are represented at each CARC meeting, and that the committee is regularly monitored and assessed to ensure it is following internal standards. EPA agreed with OIG over the need to require external peer review of risk assessments using novel approaches that set precedent for future risk assessments.

EPA also agreed to re-conduct a comprehensive literature search on 1,3-D. Yet the review conducted exemplifies EPA’s attitude both before and after the OIG report. In a corrected memo published the 1,3-D’s docket, EPA ascribes the mistake to a “transcription error.” Despite OIG finding over 100 studies, EPA explains that “no changes were necessary or made to our analysis or conclusion.” Rather than corrective, this response continues the agency’s disdain for independent, peer-reviewed literature in favor of untested, novel approaches influenced by industry without any external peer-review.  

The recommendations EPA rejected from OIG bring this disdain into sharp relief. EPA rejected the idea that KMD represented a novel approach, and indicated the information was used merely to “interpret” tumor findings in mouse carcinogenicity studies. EPA is thus refusing to issue guidance on how to conduct KMD analysis, and instead proposed to link to a non-EPA, third-party website for guidance.  OIG rejected this proposal and considers its recommendation for EPA to issue its own guidance unresolved.

EPA also rejected OIG’s recommendation to conduct an external peer review of the 1,3-D cancer risk assessment. The agency’s reasoning? That “the external peer review sponsored by the registrant meets the intent of the recommendation to conduct an external peer review.” In other words, EPA is indicating that the review conducted by Dow Agrosciences for chemical they intend to sell for profit is an acceptable form of peer-review. OIG’s response is as follows: “While the registrant-sponsored peer review appears to have many similarities to a peer review that would be conducted by the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel, it lacks specific elements—such as independence from the regulated business, a preparatory public meeting to consider the scope and clarity of the draft charge questions for the peer review, an opportunity for written public comments to be considered by the peer review, and public participation for oral comments during the peer review meeting. These elements are needed to improve the transparency and scientific credibility of the 1,3-D cancer-assessment process. Thus, Recommendation 8 is unresolved.”

EPA’s response to being caught playing fast and loose with a highly carcinogenic chemical shows that no lessons are being learned. Advocates are fed up with EPA’s behavior, as it perverts its mission to comply with as little as possible to protect public health while continuing to satisfy industry stakeholders and their executive compensation. “These are not honest mistakes but carry the earmarks of deliberate malfeasance,” stated Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and a former EPA enforcement attorney, noting that this fits a pattern of industry manipulation of EPA’s chemical regulation process. “This example of misconduct is egregious but, unfortunately, is not isolated.” PEER and other advocates raised the alarm about 1,3-D, and were joined in their concern by eight Attorney’s General, which urged EPA to revise its health risk assessment for 1,3-D.

For those that may consider this issue outside of their concern, note that a recent study focusing on the Western United States determined fumigant pesticides to be the class of chemicals most closely linked to county-level cancer rates. Regarding the cancer connection to fumigant use, study co-author Naveen Joseph, PhD, University of Idaho noted, “We have not seen it expressed in a fumigant like this before, and it’s absolutely striking.”

EPA was recently cited by a federal judge for its dangerously inept cancer review of glyphosate, holding that EPA unlawfully concluded that glyphosate does not pose a cancer risk. The court criticized EPA for its “disregard of tumor results;” its use of “bare assertions” that “fail[] to account coherently for the evidence;” making conclusions that do not “withstand[] scrutiny under the agency’s own framework,” and “fail[ing] to abide by” its own cancer guidelines. In sum the court noted EPA’s “inconsistent reasoning” made its decision on cancer “arbitrary,” and struck it down. The agency has a long history, such as with the synthetic pyrethroids, of uncritically accepting industry-created health models over those time-tested by peer-reviewed science.

It’s time for meaningful change to our federal pesticide laws. While EPA continues to function as protective agency in many other areas, advocates say the agency is not just failing, but antagonistic to its mission to protect public health and the environment from toxic pesticides. To remedy this, industry influence within the Office of Pesticide Programs must be rooted out and cleaned up. Only through pressure to our public officials can this occur. Take action today to tell your Senators to support needed reforms to EPA through the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act and Saving America’s Pollinators Act.

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

Source: EPA OIG, PEER press release

 

 

 

 

 

 

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25
Jul

Help Stop Collapse of Ocean Life, Part of the Biodiversity Decline Crisis

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2022) We have seen pesticide use, habitat destruction, and climate change result in dramatic losses of insect biodiversity and biomass—an “insect apocalypse” that is resulting in cascading impacts on other species that depend on them. A preliminary report on two years of water sampling from sites in the Atlantic Ocean near the United Kingdom (UK), by a team from the Global Oceanic Environmental Survey Foundation (GOES), suggests that plankton populations may have plummeted by 90% since baseline 1940 levels. Just as insects are crucial as the basis of terrestrial ecosystems, plankton are the base of aquatic and marine food chains. The authors of the report conclude, “An environmental catastrophe is unfolding. We believe humanity could adapt to global warming and extreme weather changes. It is our view that humanity will not survive the extinction of most marine plants and animals.”

Tell EPA to protect our oceans and our lives. Tell Congress to ensure that EPA does its job.

Action is needed now to stop the ongoing plankton apocalypse. Researchers blame chemical pollution from pesticides, farm fertilizers, and oil spills in the water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to protect human health and the environment from these threats.

The same chemicals that contribute to the insect apocalypse on land are contributing to the loss of keystone aquatic and marine organisms. For example, neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been detected in rivers, streams, and lakes in 29 states, present detrimental impacts on keystone aquatic organisms and result in a complex cascading impact on ecosystems. In its 2017 risk assessment for the most widely used neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, EPA found, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” The agency evaluated an expanded universe of adverse effects data and finds that acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) toxicity endpoints are lower (adverse effects beginning at 0.65 μg/L (micrograms per liter)-acute and 0.01 μg/L-chronic effects) than previously established aquatic life benchmarks (adverse effects from 34.5 μg/L-acute and 1.05μg/L-chronic effects). In its 2017 risk assessment, EPA finds risks from imidacloprid exposure to ecologically important organisms not previously evaluated as part of its regulatory review. Despite its acknowledgement that current benchmarks are not adequately protective, EPA describes its review process as requiring studies of the most sensitive organisms and a range of publicly available environmental laboratory and field studies.

The same industrial agriculture that is supported by EPA’s registration of toxic pesticides and results in emissions of climate-changing nitrogen oxides and loss of soil health is also a major contributing factor to nitrate run-off and the need for petroleum-based chemicals whose production results in oil spills. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is within the power and authority of EPA to reverse the threats to biodiversity and human existence.

Tell EPA to protect our oceans and our lives. Tell Congress to ensure that EPA does its job.

Letter to EPA Administrator:

We have seen pesticide use, habitat destruction, and climate change result in dramatic losses of insect biodiversity and biomass—an “insect apocalypse” that is resulting in cascading impacts on other species that depend on them. Now researchers, in a preliminary report, are finding a similar phenomenon in the oceans, with a 90% reduction in plankton. They conclude, “An environmental catastrophe is unfolding. We believe humanity could adapt to global warming and extreme weather changes. It is our view that humanity will not survive the extinction of most marine plants and animals.”

Action is needed now to stop the ongoing plankton apocalypse. Researchers blame chemical pollution from pesticides, farm fertilizers, and oil spills in the water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to protect human health and the environment from these threats.

The same chemicals that contribute to the insect apocalypse on land are contributing to the loss of keystone aquatic and marine organisms. For example, neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been detected in rivers, streams, and lakes in 29 states, present detrimental impacts on keystone aquatic organisms and result in a complex cascading impact on ecosystems. In its 2017 risk assessment for the most widely used neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, EPA found, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” The agency evaluated an expanded universe of adverse effects data and finds that acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) toxicity endpoints are lower (adverse effects beginning at 0.65 μg/L (micrograms per liter)-acute and 0.01 μg/L-chronic effects) than previously established aquatic life benchmarks (adverse effects from 34.5 μg/L-acute and 1.05μg/L-chronic effects). In its 2017 risk assessment, EPA finds risks from imidacloprid exposure to ecologically important organisms not previously evaluated as part of its regulatory review. Despite its acknowledgement that current benchmarks are not adequately protective, EPA describes its review process as requiring studies of the most sensitive organisms and a range of publicly available environmental laboratory and field studies.

The same industrial agriculture that is supported by EPA’s registration of toxic pesticides and results in emissions of climate-changing nitrogen oxides and loss of soil health is also a major contributing factor to nitrate run-off and the need for petroleum-based chemicals whose production results in oil spills. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is within the power and authority of EPA to reverse the threats to biodiversity and human existence.

EPA must re-evaluate its risk-benefit analysis to recognize the existential threats posed by toxic pesticides and the industrial agriculture they support. EPA must, instead, promote organic agriculture that does not create such threats.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

We have seen pesticide use, habitat destruction, and climate change result in dramatic losses of insect biodiversity and biomass—an “insect apocalypse” that is resulting in cascading impacts on other species that depend on them. Now researchers, in a preliminary report, are finding a similar phenomenon in the oceans, with a 90% reduction in plankton. They conclude, “An environmental catastrophe is unfolding. We believe humanity could adapt to global warming and extreme weather changes. It is our view that humanity will not survive the extinction of most marine plants and animals.”

Action is needed now to stop the ongoing plankton apocalypse. Researchers blame chemical pollution from pesticides, farm fertilizers, and oil spills in the water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to protect human health and the environment from these threats.

The same chemicals that contribute to the insect apocalypse on land are contributing to the loss of keystone aquatic and marine organisms. For example, neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been detected in rivers, streams, and lakes in 29 states, present detrimental impacts on keystone aquatic organisms and result in a complex cascading impact on ecosystems. In its 2017 risk assessment for the most widely used neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, EPA found, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” The agency evaluated an expanded universe of adverse effects data and finds that acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) toxicity endpoints are lower (adverse effects beginning at 0.65 μg/L (micrograms per liter)-acute and 0.01 μg/L-chronic effects) than previously established aquatic life benchmarks (adverse effects from 34.5 μg/L-acute and 1.05μg/L-chronic effects). In its 2017 risk assessment, EPA finds risks from imidacloprid exposure to ecologically important organisms not previously evaluated as part of its regulatory review. Despite its acknowledgement that current benchmarks are not adequately protective, EPA describes its review process as requiring studies of the most sensitive organisms and a range of publicly available environmental laboratory and field studies.

The same industrial agriculture that is supported by EPA’s registration of toxic pesticides and results in emissions of climate-changing nitrogen oxides and loss of soil health is also a major contributing factor to nitrate run-off and the need for petroleum-based chemicals whose production results in oil spills. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is within the power and authority of EPA to reverse the threats to biodiversity and human existence.

EPA must re-evaluate its risk-benefit analysis to recognize the existential threats posed by toxic pesticides and the industrial agriculture they support. Please use your oversight to ensure that EPA instead promotes organic agriculture that does not create such threats.

Thank you.

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22
Jul

Report Rings Alarm of Plummeting Plankton Population, Threatening Ocean Life and Beyond

(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2022) A preliminary report on two years of water sampling from sites in the Atlantic Ocean near the United Kingdom (UK), by a team from the Global Oceanic Environmental Survey Foundation (GOES), suggests that plankton populations may have plummeted by 90% since baseline 1940 levels. Just as insects are crucial as the basis of terrestrial ecosystems, plankton are the base of aquatic and marine food chains. As reported by Scotland’s Sunday Post, the reasons include chemical pollution in the ocean from plastics, synthetic fertilizer runoff, and pharmaceuticals. Beyond Pesticides adds that intensive use of synthetic pesticides also contributes to inhospitable conditions for the variety of plankton in our oceans. The researchers warn, “An environmental catastrophe is unfolding. We believe humanity could adapt to global warming and extreme weather changes. It is our view that humanity will not survive the extinction of most marine plants and animals.”

The GOES website asserts, “The story that appeared on the front page of the Sunday Post was based on research and reports from www.GoesFoundation.com. We have just completed the largest Citizen Science project to map microplastic as well plankton productivity across the equatorial Atlantic. The results were so bad, we released an observational report to get the story out. . . . The Sunday Post picked up on this report, and published the information.” Thus, the newspaper’s story was based on that observational report, and not on the study itself. (See more, below.)

There is important background for understanding the GOES report: (1) “plankton” is actually a “catch-all” term that encompasses a wide variety of small and microscopic plant, animal, bacterial, and fungal organisms floating in seas or freshwaters; they comprise, chiefly, diatoms, protozoans, small crustaceans, and the eggs and larval stages of larger animals; and (2) plankton are critical to life on Earth because they form the base of the food chain; they are consumed by krill, which are eaten by fish, which are then consumed by larger ocean creatures, and by terrestrial animals — including billions of human beings.

In addition to their functions in the food chain, some kinds of plankton help oceans absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and even assist in the creation of clouds though their emission of diethyl sulfide (a primary precursor for production and growth of aerosol particles that can seed the formation of cloud droplets in the marine atmosphere). Overall, plankton do best in slightly alkaline conditions; thus, the rapidly acidifying oceans are increasingly problematic for them.

The barrage of pollution that enters our oceans has multiple impacts, but as the Sunday Post explains, the huge amount of CO2 that seawaters absorb from the atmosphere is the primary driver of acidification. Add to that a toxic brew of the remnants of human activity — microplastics, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fertilizer and pesticide runoff, and personal care products (such as sunscreens and cosmetics) — and marine life is endangered. “Once the water reaches a tipping point of acidity, vast amounts of plankton will simply dissolve.” Much lower plankton counts in the recent samplings indicate that this threat is already extreme. The GOES team expected, based on earlier studies, to find something on the order of five pieces of plankton per 10 liters of water; what they found was an average of fewer than one.

Howard Dryden, PhD, marine biologist and former Scottish Government adviser, led the GOES team’s research. He commented, “Of course, we need to continue to reduce CO2 emissions but even if we were carbon-neutral, it [would] not stop ocean acidification. . . . indeed, we will have catastrophic climate change because we have not fixed the primary root cause — the destruction of nature by toxic chemicals and substances such as plastic.” Dr. Dryden continued, “We have two choices. We can choose to wake up, understand and address the real issue or choose the game-over button for humanity come 2050.”

The GOES website explains this perhaps more digestibly: “We now know that even if we became carbon neutral by the end of the decade, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will still pass 500ppm [because of “baked-in” emissions], and oceanic pH will drop below pH 7.95 by 2045. . . . The solution is therefore not just CO2 mitigation, but the regeneration of marine life by the elimination of [ocean] pollution.” The site also points at an obvious solution, noting that 60% of all oceanic life is planktonic, with a “doubling” time of just three days — whereas “terrestrial ecosystems take 60 years to double in mass. So, if we take the toxic brakes off the marine life, then it could bounce back very quickly. However, failure to act to eliminate toxic chemical and particle pollution . . . will affect everyone over the next 25 years.”

He added, in comments to the Sunday Post, “Based on our observations, plankton numbers have already crashed and are now at the levels that I predicted would not happen for another quarter of a century. Given that plankton is the life-support system for the planet and humanity cannot survive without it, the result is disturbing. It will be gone in around 25 years. Our results confirmed a 90% reduction in primary productivity in the Atlantic. Effectively, the Atlantic Ocean is now pretty much dead.” (See below for Dr. Dryden’s correction to this misquote.)

Many, including Beyond Pesticides, would take issue with the statement that “destruction of nature by toxic chemicals” is the root cause of climate change. It is well established that the burning of fossil fuels and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions (primarily CO2 and methane) are the primary drivers of our warming planet. But his level of concern may be warranted, given that the profligate and global use of all kinds of chemicals is contributing massively to the decline not only of marine environments, but also, of our terrestrial habitats and organisms.

From Beyond Pesticides’ perspective, it is tough to escape the analogy between loss of plankton and other marine life and what is happening to terrestrial insect and pollinator populations, about which we have written extensively (see, e.g., here and here). Chemical pollution of many kinds, including that from pesticides, has emerged as a massive threat to humanity and ecosystems; pesticide use, along with other stressors (notably, climate change and habitat destruction) is having devastating impacts, both direct and indirect, on insect populations, wildlife, biodiversity broadly, human health, freshwater systems, and ecosystem integrity.

We have noted the role of keystone species, such as the mayfly, in the stability and integrity of ecosystems. “Protection of the nation’s waterways is fundamental to healthy ecosystems. The importance of the mayfly to aquatic habitats is demonstrated by its ability to convert sediment nutrients into food for many species of fish and others when they are eaten. Without this critical keystone species, an important food source and nutrient recycler would be lost. With the disruption or loss of important aquatic ecosystem functions, such as nutrient cycling, water filtration, and a host of other functions, including providing habitat, adverse effects are felt throughout both aquatic and terrestrial systems.” The oceans’ plankton could credibly be considered “über-keystone species” for their function as the basis of the marine (and a significant part of the terrestrial) food chain.

The Sunday Post article has generated criticism in some quarters. Seaver Wang, PhD, co-director of the Climate and Energy Program at California’s Breakthrough Institute — who seems to have conflated the actual research report with what was reported by the Sunday Post — was biting in a Tweeted comment. “The finding is bogus, full stop. I don’t even need to read the report. We’ve had a thing called the Continuous Plankton Recorder [CPR] for 60+ years. [Beyond Pesticides notes that the research used historical data from the CPR in its analyses.] In general, any sweeping trans-oceanic finding like this is immediate cause for skepticism. The ocean + marine life are heterogenous. A sizeable chunk of my dissertation research was on marine plankton in the western North Atlantic. We sampled phytoplankton blooms off the New England coast 2015 and 2017 with abundances of hundreds of millions of cells/liter. Oceans ain’t empty guys. Also, ‘13 vessels and more than 500 data points’ for a finding this sweeping in its assertions is enough to make any microbial oceanographer fall off their lab bench laughing.”

The Sunday Post wrote that the research team “has compiled and analysed information from 13 vessels and more than 500 data points. . . . GOES has been collecting samples from the Atlantic and the Caribbean from its yacht, Copepod. Setting out from Scotland, it sailed along French and Portuguese coasts before crossing the Atlantic. . . . In addition to their own samples, the GOES researchers have provided monitoring equipment to other sailing boat crews so that they can perform the same trawls and report back with their results.”

But the GOES website does note the misrepresentation in the Sunday Post’s coverage, which was picked up and amplified broadly: “The Sunday Post picked up on this report and published the information; please note that [the report] only referred to the area of the Equatorial Atlantic . . . not the whole Atlantic Ocean, although data now coming back from the Azores is just as bad. The findings are also based on a review of peer reviewed papers by the IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] and Government reports such as IPEN [International Pollutants Elimination Network]. . . . We have effectively joined the dots that have been missed.”

Beyond Pesticides encourages a serving of salt with Dr. Wang’s analysis, given his (presumably) not having read the actual report, and his affiliation with the Breakthrough Institute. The institute is described by Wikipedia (another grain of salt . . .) as being aligned with an “ecomodernist” philosophy that “advocates for increased use of natural resources through an embrace of modernization, technological development, and increasing U.S. capital accumulation, usually through a combination of nuclear power and urbanization. Since its inception, many environmental scientists and academics outside of the institute have disagreed with Breakthrough’s environmental positions.” We take no position on the institute, but simply point out that a hyperfocus on technology and development tends to go hand-in-hand with unintended consequences, including for the natural world.

Ars Technica decried the quality of the Sunday Post’s reporting, and critiqued the research itself, in a piece titled, “Beware of bad science reporting: No, we haven’t killed 90% of all plankton.” Calling the article’s headline — “Our empty oceans: Scots team’s research finds Atlantic plankton all but wiped out in catastrophic loss of life” — “breathless,” Ars Technica (AT) wrote, “The article then goes on to predict the imminent collapse of our biosphere. There’s just one problem: The article is utter rubbish.”

Specifically, AT makes these points:

  • the newspaper used as its source a preprint, non-peer-reviewed manuscript
  • the small sample size, and lack of information about how and when samples were collected; AT notes that time of day (or night), and the depths at which samples are taken, can both affect the “count”
  • lack of information about the magnification used to determine the presence of plankton in samples; insufficient, low-power magnification would likely miss some of the smallest zooplankton

AT reported an update (to its original July 19 article); it noted that Dr. Dryden had reached out to express dismay at having been misquoted by the Sunday Post. He told AT that the newspaper should have reported a “90% reduction in marine plankton in the Equatorial Atlantic, not the whole Atlantic. . . . The issue is that the findings are accurate and what is stated in the report are [sic] true. We are the first to identify the . . . drop in Plankton. We are working with some academic institutes to prepare a formal peer reviewed report, but this takes time. . . . The results should of course be verified independently, and it should be opened up to proper debate. This may be one of the few chances we [and others] have . . . to pick up the issues and deal with them. If we fail to act and eliminate PCC pollution, microplastics and forever chemicals then we are all going to suffer.”

Beyond Pesticides certainly concurs that our oceans are in big trouble from multiple sources of pollution that are impacting marine ecosystems and organisms. Indeed, the GOES report’s introduction notes that we have lost 50% of all marine life in the past 70 years, and that loss is rising by roughly 1% each year we continue to allow “business as usual.”

This Daily News Blog article presents coverage of this research, though it currently lacks peer review, because it raises very serious concerns that align with other findings about chemical (and plastic) pollution in aquatic environments. Results from even small studies can point to problems that have not yet been fully (or geographically broadly) studied; we ignore such “early warnings” at our peril.

At minimum, concerted efforts both to survey the status of other areas of the Atlantic Ocean (and other seawaters), and even more importantly, to curtail the flow of noxious chemical, plastic, and other pollution into our oceans, should be undertaken immediately. Beyond Pesticides Executive Direct Jay Feldman says of the GOES report, “Reports like this should be a red flag that moves scientists to gather more information, and quickly.”

Sources: https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/humanity-will-not-survive-extinction-of-most-marine-plants-and-animals/ and https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/07/no-the-oceans-are-not-empty-of-plankton/

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

 

 

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21
Jul

Pesticide Exposure Driving Liver Disease through Hormone Disrupting Mechanisms

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2022) Research published in Scientific Reports finds an association between the increasing emergence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and exposure to endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals, like organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). It is well-known that traces of legacy (past-use) pesticides, like organochlorines, remain in the environment for decades—possibly centuries, post-final application, as OCPs have greater chemical stability and gradual attenuation. However, these chemicals have profound adverse impacts on human health, especially on the endocrine system. Obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and elevated liver enzyme resulting from endocrine disruption contribute to NAFLD and can lead to liver cirrhosis. Although some, but not all, manufacturing and use of specific OCPs have declined in the U.S., OCPs remain a global issue, as much of the developing world still reports usage. Considering the lack of studies on OCP-induced endocrine disruption and NAFLD, research like this highlights the need to understand the underlying mechanisms that contribute to growing endocrine disease incidents.  

The study determined that there is an association between OCP exposure and NAFLD using the fatty liver index (FLI), a predictor of lipid (fat) accumulation in the liver. The researcher collected blood serum to measure the concentration of OCPs, specifically evaluating detectable chemicals, including DDE, oxychlordane, trans-nonachlor, and mirex. Additionally, the study investigated the relationship between liver enzymes and advanced liver fibrosis (scarring)associated with NAFLD and OCP exposure. The study finds all detectable OCPs pose a risk for NAFLD. Oxychlordane, a metabolite (breakdown product) of the OCP chlordane, is most significantly associated with NAFLD risk with the highest FLI and levels of liver enzymes, followed by trans-nonachlor, DDE, and mirex. Researchers note that OCPs are lipophilic, which dissolve into body fat and linger for several years, adversely affecting the hormonal system, metabolic function, and brain development. Thus, OCPs tend to accumulate more in individuals with higher BMIs, putting them at greater risk of NAFLD.

Pesticides are pervasive in all ecosystems, soils, water (solid and liquid), and air, frequently at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Long-range atmospheric transport and condensation significantly contribute to the global contamination of environmental pollutants like OCPs. Although many OCPs are well-known persistent organic pollutants (POPs) banned by the Stockholm Convention treaty in 2001, the properties of OCPs allow these substances to remain in the environment long after use, threatening environmental and biological health. These pesticides cause various adverse effects, from respiratory issues, nervous system disorders, and birth deformities to various common and uncommon cancers. Moreover, OCPs can accumulate in regions void of industrial or agricultural activities, like glacier tops and remote territories. For instance, the U.S. banned DDT and most other highly hazardous OCPs by the late 1980s, as some pesticides exceed the EPA guidelines for human subsistence on fish and wildlife, persisting in soil and water sedimentsglacier meltwater runoff, and bioconcentrate in food webs. Exposure to DDT and DDE increase the risk associated with diabetesearly onset menopausereduced sperm countendometriosis, and obesity. Past studies indicate DDE exposure has multigenerational health effects on obesity, diabetes, and breast cancer occurrences. Considering that 90 percent of Americans still have at least one pesticide biomarker in their body, including OCPs, advocates urge that government officials assess the ubiquitous nature of pesticides impacting all ecosystems and the health of their inhabitants for future human, animal, and environmental well-being.

This study is one of the first to use FLI to analyze the association between OCP exposure and NAFLD. The researchers suggest that FLI is a better indicator for NAFLD as diseases (e.g., hepatitis) affecting liver enzyme levels do not impact FLI analysis like traditional ALT (liver enzyme) blood tests. Oxychlordane, a metabolite of chlordane, has the highest dose-dependent associations with NAFLD prevalence of all OCPs in the study. However, researchers indicate that all OCPs induce NAFLD through oxidative, disrupting detoxification or lipid metabolism in the liver. Although organochlorine use ended in many Western nations, developing countries still encounter these chemicals through use or imports from other manufacturing nations. Current-use pesticides also contaminate the ecosystem via drift, runoff, and leaching. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is becoming the most prevalent form of liver disease, impacting at least 25 percent of the globe. Therefore, the impact of both current and past use of pesticides on human, animal, and environmental health, especially in combination, is critical to any safety analysis. The study concludes, “Our results showed that OCP exposure was associated with NAFLD prevalence, some of which showed a linear dose-dependent relationship. Although most pesticides have been deprecated, periodic monitoring for NAFLD appears necessary in developing countries where pesticides are still used or in areas in which pesticides have been used in the past. Further studies using in vivo experiments are needed to clarify the mechanism of the influence of OCPs on the pathogenesis of NAFLD.”

The endocrine disrupting effects of pesticides and other chemicals have extensive documentation. The World Health Organization (WHO), European Union (EU), and endocrine disruptor expert (deceased) Theo Colborn, Ph.D., classify over 55 to 177 chemical compounds as endocrine disruptors, including various household products like detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides. Endocrine disruption can lead to several health problems, including hormone-related cancer development (i.e., thyroidbreastovarian, prostate, testicular), reproductive dysfunction, and diabetes/obesity that can span generations. Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent studies on pesticide exposure through our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms that pesticides can cause, see PIDD pages on Endocrine Disruption and other diseases.

One way to reduce human and environmental contamination from pesticides is to buygrow, and support organic. Numerous studies find that levels of pesticides in urine significantly drop when switching to an all-organic diet. Furthermore, given the wide availability of non-pesticidal alternative strategies, families, from rural to urban, can apply these methods to promote a safe and healthy environment, especially among chemically vulnerable individuals or those with health conditions. For more information on why organic is the right choice for consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

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

Source: Scientific Reports

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20
Jul

Post-Hurricane Flood Cleanup in Houston Exposed Residents to Range of Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2022) Flood cleanup in Houston after Hurricane Harvey increased resident exposure to a range of pesticides and other industrial chemical compounds, according to a study published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU). The findings are particularly concerning for a community already subject to some of the highest rates of environmental contamination in the country. “Houston is one of our most industrialized cities,” said study co-author Kim Anderson, PhD, of OSU. “When we look a year after the storm, we see that several neighborhoods that are closer to industrial zones — socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods — had higher concentrations of chemicals right from the get-go, and that was only exacerbated when the hurricane came in.”

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Southern Texas as a category 4 hurricane in 2017. Widespread flooding resulted in damage to chemical plants and oil refineries throughout the city, including 13 of the astounding 41 Superfund sites present in the city of Houston. Clean up and remediation efforts brought concern among residents that chemicals from these industrial sites were being mixed with floodwaters, exposing individuals to a range of hazardous compounds.

To better understand what chemicals individuals were coming in contact with and their level of exposure, scientists utilized silicone wristbands originally developed by Dr. Anderson. The wristbands are able to passively sample chemicals the wearer becomes exposed to in the environment. Scientists were able to get approval for their study within a week, and subsequently began distributing silicone wristbands within three weeks, timing their use as clean up efforts were still underway. “At that point, flooding was still occurring. I think that’s a huge strength of this study,” said co-author Diana Rohlman, PhD, associate professor at OSU. “From the public health perspective, that’s the data people want: ‘I’m actively flooded, actively cleaning my house; what am I being exposed to right now?'”

Research participants wore the silicone wristbands for seven days. Researchers then took the wristbands back to the lab, where over 1,500 potential chemicals, including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), personal care products, flame retardants, phthalates, pharmaceuticals, and other industrial compounds were screened.

To compare the results recorded post-hurricane clean up to a baseline level of exposure for Houston residents, researchers followed up with a certain subset of study participants one year later. Overall, 172 individuals participated in the initial testing, and 238 in the follow-up testing. Within those groups, 99 Houston residents participated in both the initial screening and the follow-up.

Post hurricane clean-up resulted in Houston residents being exposed to 162 different chemicals. Of these, 41 were pesticides, 25 PAHs, 14 flame retardants, 36 personal care products, 10 phthalates, four PCBs, two pharmaceuticals, and 30 other industrial compounds. During the next year’s follow-up, researchers still found Houston residents exposed to 137 different chemicals. Within these two groups 101 chemical compounds overlapped. However, most concerning is that for 75% of the compounds detected at both times, including personal care products, pesticides, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, and industrial compounds, levels of these chemicals were significantly higher during flood clean up.

Scientists note that it is difficult to specify health risks based on the sampling, as many of the chemicals detected do not have health guidelines or a much toxicological research behind them. As a result, they recommend in an OSU press release that those cleaning up after floods wear personal protective equipment when working in questionable standing waters.

The pesticides detected, including the insecticide chlorpyrifos, mosquito larvicide methoprene, synergist piperonyl butoxide and a range of synthetic pyrethroids, all present hazards to human health. Yet, beyond individual chemical toxicity, there is concern regarding the potential synergistic effect of multiple simultaneous chemicals.  

While the range of contaminants detected after Hurricane Harvey is particularly concerning within highly industrialized Houston, it is possible that similar levels of contamination would be seen in every highly industrialized urban city area subject to flooding. A 2019 study looking at urban runoff from heavy rains in 17 states found most samples containing over 73 different chemicals per site, with pesticides accounting for the most frequently detected chemical group.

While hurricanes are often associated with widespread damage to buildings and other infrastructure, the toll on public health must be further investigated as climate change continues to exacerbate the size and intensity of hurricanes hitting the United States. For more information on the risk pesticides pose to waterways, see Beyond Pesticides Threatened Waters program page.

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

Source: Oregon State University press release, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

 

 

 

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19
Jul

Banned Pesticides Still Present in the Environment Linked to Hearing Loss

(Beyond Pesticides, July 19, 2022) Banned pesticides still persistent in the environment pose an increased risk of hearing impairment for U.S. adults, according to research published this month in Scientific Reports. Although regular use of DDT and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) no longer occurs in the United States, exposure to these persistent chemicals can still occur through a range of sources, including air, water, sediment, soil and food. As new science continues to find harmful health effects of older pesticides, advocates say new laws are needed to ensure long term hazards don’t arise from the more than 1,200 active ingredients currently registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with little to no independent scientific oversight.

Hearing loss affects nearly 40 million (~15%) American adults over age 18. While it is clear that common causes like aging and noise exposure can result in hearing loss, there has been increasing attention to the role environmental contaminants may be playing in hearing disorders. To explore any potential connection, researchers analyzed data from the long-running U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Blood serum levels of the organochlorine insecticides HCB, p, p’-DDE (a breakdown product of DDT), trans-nonachlor, and dieldrin were compared against audiometry examinations conducted on American adults aged 20-69. Risk was determined by analyzing the level of organochlorines in one’s blood against the prevalence of hearing loss, indicated as pure-tone average greater than 20 decibels in one’s better ear. Researchers worked to address confounders that would otherwise be related to hearing loss, including age, sex, race, education level, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, tobacco smoking, firearm noise exposure, and loud noise or music exposure.

All of the pesticides tested were connected to hearing loss in a basic analysis conducted in the study. More complex modeling showed that HCB and DDE had the strongest associations to hearing loss, particularly affecting individuals under the age of 60. Results show that the risk of hearing loss increases alongside higher levels of organochlorine measurements in one’s blood serum.

Scientists posit a range of explanations for the chemical connection to hearing loss. Oxidative stress, impacts to gene receptors, and/or epigenetic changes have the potential to explain how pesticide exposure results in hearing loss. Other possible factors include effects on the thyroid or harm to cochlear outer hair cells.

Past research finds that, beyond harm to U.S. adults, the effects of pesticides on our auditory system has disproportionate impacts on sensitive populations like farmworkers and young children. Infants exposed to organochlorines at environmentally relevant concentrations are at an increased risk of hearing deficits, per a 2015 study. And mothers who use any sort of insecticide during pregnancy have been found to have their infants experience increased occurrences of Otitis Media, an ear infection that can result in hearing loss, according to research published earlier this year. A 2020 study found that simultaneous exposure to pesticides noise from agricultural machinery results in a significantly higher risk of hearing loss.

While EPA does conduct reviews on the health and environmental impacts of pesticides prior to their registration, many public health and conservation advocates consider these reviews incomplete due to glaring data gaps and a deliberately myopic review of adverse impacts. Pesticide end-use products are not tested, with risks extrapolated from tests on a single active ingredient, and very specific toxicity tests give the public good idea of the acute toxicity of an active ingredient but fail to adequately consider a range of long-term chronic harm and non-target effects. Despite the increasing prevalence of data and rates of hearing loss, pesticides are not required to be tested for their impacts on the auditory system.

With EPA is consistently failing to capture the full range of health and environmental impacts that can occur from the pesticides it approves for use, the task falls to independent science and scientific studies to convey this pertinent information to the public. In the context of a failing EPA, while independent science must fill in the gaps on pesticide dangers, it is up to local advocates and politicians to translate these concerns into on-the-ground protections. EPA’s lack of meaningful regulations necessitate action at the state and local level to fill in the gaps in protections left by a deficient federal regulatory approach.

Take action today to begin the process of creating these important protections from pesticide exposure in your community. Join Beyond Pesticides in asking your mayor or county executive to convert to organic land management in your local parks, playing fields, and other public places.

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

Source: Scientific Reports

 

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18
Jul

Take Action: Male Fertility Harmed by Pesticides and EPA Dysfunction

(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2022) The failure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet its statutory responsibility to protect people and wildlife from the dire consequences of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals must end. A study published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology adds urgency to the need to eliminate endocrine-disrupting pesticides. The authors find that prepubescent exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including pesticides, impairs male reproduction through the interruption of testicular homeostasis and development of reproductive Leydig cells, and can have multigenerational effects. This adds to the long list of scientific articles showing EPA neglect of the devastating effects of widely used pesticides.

Tell EPA that pesticide use cannot continue without findings of no endocrine disruption. Tell Congress to ensure that EPA does its job.

More than 50 pesticide active ingredients have been identified as endocrine disruptors that mimic the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; block hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or affect the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, childhood and adult cancers, and other metabolic disorders. Similar effects are found in other species. In spite of legal requirements and the flood of research, EPA issues Proposed Interim Decisions (PIDs) on pesticide registrations, making no human health or environmental safety findings associated with the potential for endocrine disruption, or identifying additional data needs to satisfy Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program requirements in the PIDs. EPA cannot make findings of no unreasonable adverse effects without findings concerning endocrine disruption. EPA continues to register pesticides posing unreasonable health effects.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a damning report on the agency’s progress in protecting the population from potentially damaging endocrine disruption impacts of exposures to synthetic chemical pesticides (and other chemicals of concern) that shows the situation to be even worse than previously reported. The OIG’s summary statement says, “Without the required testing and an effective system of internal controls, the EPA cannot make measurable progress toward complying with statutory requirements or safeguarding human health and the environment against risks from endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” As a result, according to the OIG, “we have yet to see EPA use endocrine disruption findings in pesticide registration decisions.”

It is not only humans who are affected. Hermaphroditic frogs, polar bears with penis-like stumps, panthers with atrophied testicles and intersex fish with immature eggs in their testicles have all been linked to endocrine disruption. The popular herbicide atrazine chemically castrates and feminizes exposed male tadpoles. The mosquito-killing S-methoprene larvicide alters early frog embryo development. Distorted sex organ development and function in alligators is linked to the organochlorine insecticide dicofol. The ubiquitous antibacterial chemical triclosan alters thyroid function in frogs, while its chemical cousin triclocarban enhances sex hormones in rats and in human cells. In her book, Our Stolen Future, Dr. Colborn states that the decline of animal species can no longer be simply explained by habitat destruction and human disturbance, but also by reproductive failures within populations brought on by the influence of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), EPA must screen all pesticide chemicals for potential endocrine activity. To ensure timely follow-through, EPA was given a timeline by Congress to: develop a peer-reviewed screening and testing plan with public input not later than two years after enactment (August 1998); implement screening and testing not later than three years after enactment (August 1999); and report to Congress on the findings of the screening and recommendations for additional testing and actions not later than four years after enactment (August 2000).

Despite these deadlines, EPA is stalled and ignoring its responsibility. It started a screening program (Tier 1) and reported results in 2009. Since, according to EPA, Tier 1 Screening (which looks at high exposure chemicals) is not sufficient to implicate a chemical as an endocrine disrupting chemical, but acts as a tool for defining which chemicals must undergo Tier 2 testing, the only stage that can influence regulatory decision-making. Indeed, it is unclear when or how EPA will move forward with Tier 2 testing, and how, if at all, any Tier 2 findings will be used to inform actual regulation.

EPA now issues Proposed Interim Decisions (PIDs) on pesticide registrations, making no human health or environmental safety findings associated with the potential for endocrine disruption, or identifying additional data needs to satisfy Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program requirements in the PIDs. EPA cannot make findings of no unreasonable adverse effects without findings concerning endocrine disruption.

Tell EPA that pesticide use cannot continue without findings of no endocrine disruption. Tell Congress to ensure that EPA does its job.

Letter to EPA Administrator and Office of Pesticide Programs

I am writing to ask you to act now to meet a statutory responsibility mandated to protect people and wildlife from dire health consequences.

A study published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology adds urgency to the need to eliminate endocrine-disrupting pesticides. The authors find that prepubescent exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including pesticides, impairs male reproduction through the interruption of testicular homeostasis and development of reproductive Leydig cells, and can have multigenerational effects. This adds to the long list of scientific articles showing EPA neglect of the devastating effects of widely used pesticides.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a damning report on the agency’s progress in protecting the population from potentially damaging endocrine disruption impacts of exposures to synthetic chemical pesticides (and other chemicals of concern) that shows the situation to be even worse than previously reported. The OIG’s summary statement says, “Without the required testing and an effective system of internal controls, the EPA cannot make measurable progress toward complying with statutory requirements or safeguarding human health and the environment against risks from endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” As a result, according to the OIG, “we have yet to see EPA use endocrine disruption findings in pesticide registration decisions.”

In 1998, following a mandate in the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996, EPA established a program to screen and test pesticides and other widespread chemical substances for endocrine disrupting effects. Despite operating for 23 years, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), established to carry out the act, has made little progress in reviewing and regulating endocrine-disrupting pesticides.

To ensure timely follow-through, EPA was given a timeline by Congress to: develop a peer-reviewed screening and testing plan with public input not later than two years after enactment (August 1998); implement screening and testing not later than three years after enactment (August 1999); and report to Congress on the findings of the screening and recommendations for additional testing and actions not later than four years after enactment (August 2000).

Despite these deadlines, EPA is stalled and ignoring its responsibility. EPA has issued Proposed Interim Decisions (PIDs) on pesticide registrations making no human health or environmental safety findings associated with the potential for endocrine disruption, or identifying additional data needs to satisfy Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program requirements in the PIDs. EPA cannot make findings of no unreasonable adverse effects without findings concerning endocrine disruption. In the absence of such findings, EPA must cancel and suspend the registration of each pesticide lacking data or findings.

Please ensure that your agency meets its responsibility to protect the health of people and wildlife.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

I am writing to ask you elevate a critical public and environmental health issue –the regulation of endocrine disrupting pesticides. The failure of EPA to meet its statutory responsibility to protect people and wildlife from the dire consequences of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals must end. For over a decade, EPA ignored the vast wealth of information on endocrine disruption from independent academic researchers funded by the U.S. and other governments in Europe and Asia. And, EPA has simply not carried out its statutory mandate to regulate endocrine disrupting pesticides.

A study published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology adds urgency to the need to eliminate endocrine-disrupting pesticides. The authors find that prepubescent exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including pesticides, impairs male reproduction through the interruption of testicular homeostasis and development of reproductive Leydig cells, and can have multigenerational effects. This adds to the long list of scientific articles showing EPA neglect of the devastating effects of widely used pesticides.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a damning report on the agency’s progress in protecting the population from potentially damaging endocrine disruption impacts of exposures to synthetic chemical pesticides (and other chemicals of concern) that shows the situation to be even worse than previously reported. The OIG’s summary statement says, “Without the required testing and an effective system of internal controls, the EPA cannot make measurable progress toward complying with statutory requirements or safeguarding human health and the environment against risks from endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” As a result, according to the OIG, “we have yet to see EPA use endocrine disruption findings in pesticide registration decisions.”

Endocrine disruptors are linked to infertility and other reproductive disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and early puberty, as well as to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and childhood and adult cancers. This is a public health tragedy that cannot be ignored.

Since EPA announced it was ready to begin testing both active and “inert” (usually the majority of the undisclosed product ingredients that make the solution, dust, or granule) pesticide ingredients for potential endocrine disrupting effects in 2009, the protocols EPA proposed to use have become significantly outdated, having been first recommended in 1998. In the interim, science has progressed such that it offered more sophisticated assumptions than those that informed the EPA test designs. 

In 1998, following a mandate in the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996, EPA established a program to screen and test pesticides and other widespread chemical substances for endocrine disrupting effects. Despite operating for 21 years, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), established to carry out the act, has made little progress in reviewing and regulating endocrine-disrupting pesticides. As of 2019, the program has stalled entirely.

To ensure timely follow-through, EPA was given a timeline by Congress to: develop a peer-reviewed screening and testing plan with public input not later than two years after enactment (August 1998); implement screening and testing not later than three years after enactment (August 1999); and report to Congress on the findings of the screening and recommendations for additional testing and actions not later than four years after enactment (August 2000).

Despite these deadlines, EPA is stalled and ignoring its responsibility. That has real costs. Please use the power of your office to push EPA to meet its statutory responsibility to protect the health of people and wildlife.

Thank you.

 

 

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15
Jul

UN: Short-Term Economic Gains Harming Well-Being and Integrity of Nature

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2022) Nature is too often sacrificed to a global and outsized focus on short-term profits and economic growth, according to a new report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report warns that policy making, broadly, does not reflect the value of Nature’s roles in supporting human life and activity, never mind all the peripheral benefits (aesthetic, emotional, spiritual) people derive from the natural world. The report calls on leaders in all sectors to integrate the contributions of Nature in development and deployment of policy in a more-comprehensive way — as Le Monde writes, “beyond being ‘a huge factory.’” Beyond Pesticides offers a seminal reminder from Fred Kirschenmann, PhD: the prevailing philosophy of maximum efficient production for short-term economic return at the expense of Nature causes havoc in the world and will not work in the future; instead, we must develop a broad ecological conscience that guides all that we do.

The report’s Summary for Policymakers was approved on July 11 by representatives from 139 Member States; the report itself is the culmination of four years of effort by 82 collaborating scientists and experts from multiple disciplines. The same member representative approved an additional IPBES report that urges the member governments to sustainably manage the wild plant and animal species on which the world’s populations depend for their survival.

IPBES co-chairs Patricia Balvanera, Brigitte Baptiste, Mike Christie, and Unai Pascual noted, according to the UN’s press release, that examples of “embedd[ing] [N]ature into policymaking are ‘in short supply.’” The press release asserts that, although “economic and political decisions have predominantly prioritized market-based values of nature . . . they do not adequately reflect how changes in the natural world affect people’s quality of life.”

As Le Monde reports, for example, re: the biodiversity crisis: “According to IPBES, the value that is predominantly attributed to biodiversity, its market value, does not reflect the value of its contribution to humanity. And furthermore, doing so does not allow us to face the huge challenge of the loss of biodiversity. With their limited vision of what nature gives us, the political and economic decisions being made today are, on the contrary, ‘a key factor’ in the origin of the crisis.” An IPBES webpage leads with this headline about the values assessment: “Decisions Based on Narrow Set of Market Values of Nature Underpin the Global Biodiversity Crisis.”

Looking to history to explain some of this situation, we find that a combination of factors is likely at work, not least of which is the Industrial Revolution and its massive impacts — made possible by the extraction and burning of (finite) fossil fuels. Reaching farther back in time, we recall the Enlightenment (and biblical) notions that humans are somehow separate from, and destined to dominate and subdue, Nature. Dr. Kirschenmann argues that these led to people focusing dominantly on humans and their enterprises, and — detrimentally — less and less during the past half millennium on the natural world and its welfare.

From that paradigm — and fertilized by cheap energy, the rising power of corporations during the past 100 years, and their influence on government — have flowed particular approaches to human activity, including specialization, a focus on productivity, and the neurochemical and economic “feel-goods” of short-term profit. Those approaches are easily recognized in what they have wrought — most of the woes and crises of modernity, including:

  • galloping climate change
  • chemical saturation of humans, other organisms, and the natural world
  • depleted resources (which were always finite, but which human hubris has often chosen to ignore)
  • massive economic inequality
  • increasing “brittleness” in systems’ ability to be resilient to a variety of assaults
  • emerging civil and economic tensions and crises (historically followed by civil unrest)
  • the rise of oligarchic and authoritarian figures in the political landscape

The UN IPBES report is an attempt to call humanity’s, and pointedly, global leaders’, attention to these matters, and to advocate for the integration of valuations of Nature into decision making. The authors began with a deep dive on valuations of Nature. The Summary for Policymakers identifies four “values-based leverage points” — undertaking valuation, embedding values in decision making, policy reform, and shifting societal goals — that co-authors say may catalyze a transformation to a sustainable and just future.

The more-academic work on the valuations of nature that informed the IPBES report (available in the “Contrasting Approaches to Values and Valuation” document) asserts that the current discursive paradigm tends to emphasize the split between anthropocentric (instrumental) and non-anthropocentric (intrinsic) aspects of Nature. Largely, people cleave to one or the other of those frameworks in their thinking. The authors write, “[M]uch of the policy discourse on the need for valuation of nature’s contributions to people heavily relies on either a one-dimensional value lens (value-monism) that derives from a utilitarian economic perspective or on an environmental ethics stance of nature-human relationships, furthering the instrumental vs. intrinsic dichotomy.”

Instead, they argue, what’s needed in human thinking, and in policymaking, is “value pluralism” — a more dynamic and relational understanding of Nature’s values, i.e., one that emphasizes the value of the interactions between people and nature, and those among individuals in society. IPBES co-chair Mike Christie explains the focus on values assessment by saying that “‘valuation is an explicit and intentional process” that hinges on “how, why and by whom” the valuation is “designed and applied.’” Co-chair Brigitte Baptiste added that “recognizing and respecting the worldviews, values, and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities allows policies to be more inclusive, which also translates into better outcomes for people and nature.”

The press release proffers that “‘Living from, with, in, and as nature’ means providing resources that sustain people’s livelihoods, needs and wants, including food and material goods. . . . It also focuses on non-human life, such as the intrinsic rights of fish in a river to ‘thrive independently of human needs,’ and sees the natural world as a ‘physical, mental and spiritual part of oneself.’”

Beyond Pesticides has written about the value of Nature’s ecosystem services and threats to them, including the fragility of ecosystems to chemical assaults. We have covered the biodiversity and climate crises, and the outsize corporate and industry influence on policy at EPA and other federal agencies. We have written about a precautionary approach that would go far in addressing the environmental crises that seriously threaten not only human health, but all life on Earth. And we have researched, written about, and advocated endlessly for the huge role that the transition to organic regenerative agriculture would play in resolution of multiple of the threats humanity faces.

What every one of those arenas has in common is what this IPBES report identifies: governmental, corporate, and institutional prioritizing of short-term economic gains over the well-being and integrity of Nature and its elegant, complex, and life-sustaining systems. Drawing again from the article by Dr. Kirschenmann in his 2015 article in Pesticides and You, we offer other thoughts of his.

“This is what we have to do now. It’s not enough any longer for us simply to care about our fellow humans. We have to care for all of the life in the biotic community of which, as Aldo Leopold said, we are simply plain members and citizens. [Beyond Pesticides adds that this means all of Nature, including non-biotic elements.) We are not the dominators. We are not the culture. We are not the conquerors. . . . So, we have to find our place in [Nature], because if it is not all healthy and if it doesn’t all have the capacity for self-renewal, then none of it will include us.

“This is the new consciousness that we have to develop. Leopold recognized . . . . that was a huge challenge. . . . He understood there wasn’t much that he could do as an individual to make this happen. He finally concluded that this had to become part of a social evolution.”

This UN report is testament to the need for, and a call to enact, such evolution with all speed. Yet, this is a huge lift, and Beyond Pesticides is but one actor in a huge landscape of people and organizations clamoring for changes in “business as usual,” which are at the root of our multiple crises. Please — please — become engaged with Beyond Pesticides or with any other environmental, health, civic, and/or justice organization that recognizes the dangerous follies of our current approaches to policy making. Bringing to policy an ethic of “value pluralism” that integrates the importance of Nature and its integrity is not only critical, but also, one path forward to a functional, equitable, livable future.

Source: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/07/1122322

 

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

 

 

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14
Jul

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Impair Juvenile Male Fertility Development and Threatens Future Reproductive Health

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2022) A study published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology finds prepubescent exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including pesticides, impairs male reproduction through the interruption of testicular homeostasis and development of reproductive Leydig cells. Endocrine disruptors are xenobiotic (i.e., chemical substances like toxic pesticides foreign to an organism or ecosystem). Many reports demonstrate that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals can adversely affect human, animal—and thus environmental—health by altering the natural hormones in the body responsible for conventional reproductive, physical, and mental development. Scientists and health officials already associate pesticide exposure with a decrease in male fertility, including reduced sperm count, quality, and abnormal sperm development.

The presence of pesticides in the body has implications for human health, especially during vulnerable life stages, such as childhood, puberty, pregnancy, and old age. Therefore, it is essential to understand how exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment affects future reproductive success and health. The researchers note, “Recent studies revealed that exposures to EDCs during so-called critical windows of susceptibility (prenatal, prepubertal, pubertal, and aging periods) could disrupt healthy patterns of testes development and homeostasis, which can be demonstrated as an impaired testicular function later in life. However, much more work is needed to understand better the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying EDC-induced effects in the male reproductive system during these critical periods of development.”

This study investigates how endocrine-disrupting chemicals play a role in the dysregulation of testicular gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC) in Leydig cells (the primary source of testosterone or androgens in males), resulting in reproductive toxicity. After evaluating cellular function and GJIC function through an assay, the researchers found methoxychlor, triclosan, triclocarban, lindane, and DDT immediately disrupt GJIC in Leydig cells through relocation of the protein connexin 43 (CX43) with prolonged (>24hours) exposure interrupting protein homeostasis (balance). The imbalance impairs the early stages of steroidogenesis (steroid generation) in prepubescent Leydig cells, impairing reproductive health later in life, post-puberty.

The ubiquity of pesticides in the environment and food supply is concerning as current measures restricting pesticide use and exposure do not adequately detect and assess total environmental chemical contaminants. For instance, 90 percent of Americans have at least one pesticide biomarker (including parent compound and breakdown products) in their body. The scientific literature demonstrates pesticides’ long history of severe adverse human health effects (i.e., endocrine disruption, cancer, reproductive/birth problems, neurotoxicity, loss of biodiversity, etc.). Most concerning is exposure to past and current-use pesticides, as these chemicals display endocrine-disrupting effects. The World Health Organization (WHO), European Union (EU), and endocrine disruptor expert (deceased) Theo Colborn, Ph.D., classify over 55 to 177 chemical compounds as endocrine disruptors, including various household products like detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides. Endocrine disruption can lead to several health problems, including hormone-related cancer development (i.e., thyroid, breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular), reproductive dysfunction, and diabetes/obesity  that can span generations. Therefore, studies related to pesticides and endocrine disruption help scientists understand the underlying mechanisms that indirectly or directly cause infertility, among other health issues.

This study finds that endocrine disrupting chemicals impact protein accumulation in reproductive cells, rather than produce cytotoxic (toxic to living cells) effects. The accumulation of proteins because of EDC exposure deregulates junctional and non-junctional functions responsible for male reproductivity. Moreover, accumulation of protein CX43 in the endosomes from the junctional membrane of Leydig cells contribute to tumor formation. The study attributes the immediate dysregulation of testicular GJIC and CX43 function to EDCs that alter genomic signaling pathways and stimulates steroidogenesis disruption. Although this study specifically evaluates EDCs’ impacts on male fertility, this study is not the first to demonstrate the sex-specific effect of pesticide exposure. In 2017, scientists presented a study at the 99th meeting of the Endocrine Society, demonstrating instances of early onset puberty in boys after exposure to common pyrethroid insecticide, which exhibits endocrine disrupting properties that interfere with the proper regulation of the human body’s hormonal system. Furthermore, a 2021 study demonstrates that exposure to current-use pesticides, like organophosphates, poses a greater health risk to women. In addition to impacts on fertility, the study warns, “Testicular GJIC and connexin dysregulation, especially during critical early stages of development, could partly participate in the etiopathology of human subfertility and infertility and testicular cancer.”

Pediatricians agree that young children should avoid pesticide exposure during critical periods of development. Various pesticide products act similarly or in conjunction with other chemicals. Individuals can encounter these substances simultaneously, resulting in more severe health outcomes. Therefore, advocates urge that policies enforce stricter pesticide regulations and increase research on the long-term impacts of pesticide exposure. Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent studies on pesticide exposure through our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms that pesticides can cause, see PIDD pages on Endocrine Disruption, CancerBirth/Fetal Effects, and other diseases.

Beyond Pesticides advocates a precautionary approach to pesticide regulation and preventive practices in land management and agriculture by transiting to organicBuyinggrowing, and supporting organic helps to eliminate the extensive use of pesticides in the environment and your diet. For more information on how organic is the right choice for consumers and the farmworkers who grow our food, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture

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

Source: Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology

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13
Jul

France Enacts Sweeping Restrictions on Pesticide Use in Public and Private Landscaped Areas

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2022) A new law in France bans the use of lawn and landscape pesticides in both public and private areas frequently used by the public. The law, which came into effect at the beginning of this month, applies throughout the country and extends the scope of a previous decree that restricted pesticide use on green spaces in public areas. As it stands, France’s previous approach is set to be adopted by the entirety of the European Union under its Farm to Fork initiative goals of reducing overall pesticide use by 50% by 2030. This new law, which tracks most similarly to restrictions enacted in most Canadian provinces and by certain U.S. cities like South Portland and Portland, ME, highlights the importance of extending pesticide restrictions to most all outdoor spaces to ensure health and environmental safety.

The new restrictions apply to a laundry list of sensitive sites where pesticide use can unnecessarily harm individuals or the wider public:

  • Private residential properties, including their outdoor areas
  • Hotels, hostels, lodgings, camping sites and residential leisure parks
  • Cemeteries
  • Allotments [community gardens];
  • Amusement, entertainment and recreation parks with a variety of activities and facilities;
  • Areas accessible to the public in areas intended for commercial and service activities;
  • Private access roads, green areas and rest areas in workplaces;
  • Areas for public use in educational establishments;
  • Health establishments, nursing homes and health centers, including their green spaces, forests, roads or pathways accessible or open to the public;
  • Social and medical establishments, except establishments that are providing or participating in vocational training, or providing assistance through work that could potentially lead to the use of these products, including their green spaces, their forests, their roads, or their promenades accessible or open to the public;
  • The homes of childcare assistants and the homes of childcare assistants who take in minors, including their green spaces;
  • Aerodromes assigned primarily to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, with the exception of areas where treatment is necessary for reasons of aeronautical safety or airport security; and,
  • Sports facilities.

Pesticides considered low risk and/or allowed in organic farming are not subject to the restrictions, as these represent the least-toxic yet still effective products on the market. Only a limited set of exemptions to use more toxic products are permitted under the decree, including against harmful or non-native species, and the need to combat a serious health hazard that cannot be controlled by other means. Sports fields “for which no alternative technical solution makes it possible to obtain the quality required within the framework of official competitions” are granted a limited exemption to use a list of pesticides created by French officials responsible for sports and entertainment.

These restrictions, now in force throughout the country, provide an important example for U.S. residents awash in pesticide use from all angles. Beyond Pesticides regularly receives calls from individuals indicating they were poisoned in nearly every area included in the bullet points above. In the case of highly sensitive areas like health establishments, nursing homes, and childcare facilities, the restrictions protect children and the elderly from unnecessary exposure both inside and outside the establishment.

As the EU works to address the health risks of pesticides, stop their movement into waterways, and reverse pollinator and insect decline through legally binding targets for its member states, the United States is lagging far behind. The U.S. government has been antagonistic toward EU pesticide regulations and the Farm to Fork initiative, with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack confidently understating that it is “a path very different from the one the U.S. is pursuing.”

While certain states, like Connecticut and New York, have enacted strong limitations on pesticide use around sensitive sites like schools, most of the country is left unprotected from hazards pesticides frequently used on their public parks, playing fields, and school grounds, let alone hotels, cemeteries, and their workplaces. In the United States, pesticides are sprayed in and around hospitals, and even prominent cancer facilities, with the endorsement of hospital administrators.  

While over 200 American cities and counties have enacted some level of pesticide restrictions, only a small portion of them apply to private property. Those that do are in certain states that did not pass pesticide preemption laws put forward by the American Legislative Exchange Council and the pesticide industry. In these states, such as Maine and Maryland, local governments have stepped in to protect their residents and unique local ecology by enacting restrictions on both public and private property.

France’s actions show the value of rejecting the pesticide industry’s efforts to argue a false equivalence between economic concerns and protection of health and the environment. It is possible to maintain beautiful green spaces without pesticides at costs that on par with chemical-intensive practices. But beyond that fact is the critical importance of placing people, the environment, and long-term sustainability above the motives of profit and exploitation. For more information on the benefits of organic land care practices, see Beyond Pesticides program page on Nontoxic Lawns and Landscapes.

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

Source: Connexion France

 

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