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Daily News Blog

29
Jun

Flawed Study Attacks Organic Farming Based on False Assumptions

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2010) Based on a flawed assessment, the authors of recent study out of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada have been attacking organic agriculture as less environmentally friendly than chemical-intensive conventional methods. In their press release, the authors say, “Consumers shouldn’t assume that because a product is organic it’s also environmentally friendly.” However after analyzing the study, Beyond Pesticides determined that this message is flawed and misleads consumers because the study does not actually evaluate an organic system. Instead the study substitutes natural pesticides that are approved in organic systems for synthetic pesticides in a conventional soybean field. The authors warned policy makers against promoting organic agriculture, based on the false assumptions of their study.

“If the goal of their study was to educate consumers as their message to the media suggests, then the authors of this study have shown a surprising lack of knowledge about organic agriculture,” said Beyond Pesticides project director John Kepner. “Organic agriculture is based on pest prevention and soil health. Organic farmers use techniques such as crop rotation and the creation of habitat for beneficial species, with organic-approved natural pesticides only as a last resort. Substituting these chemicals into a conventional system, does not tell us anything about organic agriculture.”

The study, “Choosing Organic Pesticides over Synthetic Pesticides May Not Effectively Mitigate Environmental Risk in Soybeans,” published online June 22, 2010 in the journal PloS One, tested six pesticides and compared their environmental impact and effectiveness in killing soybean aphids in conventional soybean fields. The scientists examined four synthetic pesticides: two conventional products commonly used by soybean farmers (cyhalothrin and dimethoate) and two new “reduced-risk” pesticides (spirotetramat and flonicamid). They also examined a mineral oil-based organic pesticide that smothers aphids and another product containing a fungus (beauvaria bassiana) that infects and kills insects.

The two researchers used the environmental impact quotient, a database indicating impact of active ingredients based on such factors as leaching rate into soil, runoff, toxicity from skin exposure, consumer risk, toxicity to birds and fish, and duration of the chemical in the soil and on the plant. They also conducted field tests on how well each pesticide targeted aphids while leaving their predators, ladybugs and flower bugs, unharmed.

Under their evaluation system, the researchers found the mineral oil to have the greatest impact on the environment because it works by smothering the aphids and therefore requires large amounts to be applied to the plants. While the conventional pesticides used in the study are linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, organ damage, and more, the authors cite the killing of beneficial insects as the reason mineral oil had the worst rating. However, it is unlikely that organic farmers would use mineral oil in the same manner in which the authors did, because their methodology excludes all other organic techniques.

“It’s certainly a misconception to imagine that organic farmers are farming just the same way as pure conventional farmers but substituting organically approved pesticides and fertilizers for synthetic ones,” Simon Jacques, Ontario representative for organic certification program Ecocert, told Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper. “That’s not what’s happening.”

The conclusions of this study should have been limited to the substitution of mineral oil and beauvaria bassiana in conventional systems. However, the authors went as far as warning policy makers about promoting organic agriculture. The authors state, “Generalizations about the relative sustainability of one suite of practices over another are dangerous when integrated into policy: government regulations based on faulty assumptions about agricultural systems are expensive and do not effectively reduce the environmental risks they are designed to mitigate.” The recommendations are not consistent with the scope of the study.

Organic agricultural practices and U.S. organic regulations are constantly changing and improving based on the latest scientific and real world farming data. When problems with current organic inputs are identified, farmers or consumers petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have materials and uses prohibited. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat.

The authors received funding for the study from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The authors acknowledge receiving money from Bayer, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow, BASF, Syngenta, DuPont and others for projects within the past five years.

For more information on the importance of eating organic food for you, workers and the environment, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide and organic food program page.

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28
Jun

New Report Documents Dangers of Drifting Fumigant Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 28, 2010) A new report documents high levels of pesticide drift in the California community of Sisquoc. Poison Gases in the Field: Pesticides put California families in danger, released by Pesticide Action Network North America and local community members, presents results of community air monitoring for fumigant pesticides in the central coast area of California, in Santa Barbara County. Using a simple monitoring device called the Drift Catcher, community members measured levels of a fumigant pesticide above the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) “level of concern” — even when all application rules were followed and no equipment failure occurred.

“While we were monitoring the air, there were no violations of the County’s permit – and yet we found we were still breathing chloropicrin at high levels,” says Deby DeWeese, one of the community members who collected air samples. “Clearly the rules and regulations do not protect our families.”

The Sisquoc monitoring, conducted during and after a soil fumigation in April 2008, found the pesticide chloropicrin in about half of the 57 air samples collected. Two samples had chloropicrin levels higher than DPR’s 24-hour level of concern for children, and the 19-day average level at one sampling site exceeded DPR’s level of concern for multiday exposure. Average levels over the 19-day period were 23 to 151 times higher than acceptable cancer risks.

“What’s striking about these results is what they imply about fumigation in general,” says PANNA Staff Scientist Karl Tupper. “Sisquoc is not unique in terms of how close fumigated fields are to people’s homes. The application we monitored was typical as well””there were no blunders and the amount of chloropicrin used was not abnormally high.”

“So if this is happening in Sisquoc, it’s surely happening in other California communities, and it will certainly happen with methyl iodide if it’s registered,” concludes Mr. Tupper.

California regulators are currently proposing to allow the use of a new, extremely volatile fumigant pesticide””methyl iodide. The proposal comes despite findings of DPR’s own Scientific Review Committee, whose experts reported in February that any agricultural use of methyl iodide would be harmful to public health. The proposal is open for public comment until June 29th.

Fumigant pesticides are used to sterilize soil prior to planting. After sulfur and crop oil, more fumigants are applied in California than any other pesticide, about 35 million pounds per year in California. “Sustainable farming is all about building healthy soil,” says organic farmer Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm. “I’ve been growing strawberries for 25 years, and fumigant pesticides are the last thing I’d put in my soil.”

Fumigants are highly volatile, making them prone to drift. Health effects linked to exposure can include headaches, vomiting, severe lung irritation, and neurological effects. Some fumigants are linked to cancer, reduced fertility, birth defects and higher rates of miscarriage.

“The situation in Sisquoc illustrates exactly why the use of methyl iodide must not be allowed. Accidents happen. Rules aren’t always enforced. And even when soil fumigation goes smoothly, bystanders still end up breathing toxic chemicals,” says PAN Executive Director Kathryn Gilje.

Take Action: Tell the California Department of Pesticide Regulation that the risks posed by methyl iodide are too great and, as proof by the state’s thriving organic market, alternatives exist. Comments are due June 29, 2010, by e-mail to [email protected], or to Pesticide Registration Branch, Department of Pesticide Regulation, P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, California 95812-4015.

Support organic farming and protect farmers, farmworkers, and their families and neighbors from toxic chemicals. Organic agriculture does not allow the use toxic chemicals that have been shown to cause a myriad of chronic health effects, such as cancer, endocrine disruption and a series of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease.

For more information on organic versus conventional agricultural practices, see Beyond Pesticides’ new guide, Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience, urging consumers to consider impacts on the environment, farmworker and farm families’ health —in addition to personal health impacts posed by pesticide residues— when making food choices.

Source: Pesticide Action Network North America

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25
Jun

Studies Find “Pristine” National Parks Tainted by Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 25, 2010) Two new studies published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology confirm that the majority of toxic contamination threatening national parks originates from agricultural pesticides and industrial operations. In one study an international group of scientists conducted research from 2003-2005 and detected elevated concentrations of various dangerous pesticides in all eight of the national parks and preserves.

The other study collected samples of air, water, snow, sediment, lichens, conifer needles, and fish at remote alpine, subarctic, and arctic sites. Researchers found that these samples contained four current-use pesticides including dacthal (DCPA), chlorpyrifos, endosulfans, and y-hexachlorocyclohexane (HGH) as well as four historic-use pesticides including dieldrin, a-HCH, chlordanes, and hexachlorobenzene (HCB). Pesticide concentrations in snow are highest in Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Parks. Concentrations in vegetation are mostly dominated by endosulfan and dacthal, and are highest in Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Glacier, and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Fish samples also show elevated concentrations of dieldrin and DDT (one of the first pesticides to be banned in 1972 because of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring).

Cold temperatures in alpine or arctic ecosystems tend to concentrate pesticides, which can also bioaccumulate in the local ecosystem and food web. These combined factors pose “potential risks for indigenous people and subsistence food consumers that rely on fish and meat from cold ecosystems,” according to Staci Simonich, Ph.D., an associate professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at Oregon State University, and lead investigator on both studies. Dr. Simonich stated, “Pesticide pollution is now so routine that we’ve had to look at museum specimens to find baseline data that existed prior to pesticide use. But it still seems surprising that such remote and supposedly pristine areas are not all that pristine.”

The research confirms the findings of previous studies completed by the National Park Service, but also helps provide a better understanding of which pesticides are most likely to accumulate and require better regulation.

Eating conventionally produced foods supports harmful agricultural practices that create long-range persistent organic pollutants. These dangerous pesticides can travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles to accumulate in the very same beautiful areas we aim to preserve as well as endanger the well-being of the flora, fauna and people that live nearby. Support the health of our national parks by eating organic (see our new Eating with a Conscience Guide) and promoting organic lawncare!

Snow on Sequoia Trees, photo courtesy of National Park Service

Snow on Sequoia Trees, photo courtesy National Park Service


Source: Science Daily

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24
Jun

Food Guide Urges Organic Choices to Protect Environment and Workers

(Beyond Pesticides, June 24, 2010) Our food purchases have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat. Beyond Pesticides launched its Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide, which shows consumers why, according to the group, “food labeled organic is the right choice.” Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, said, “In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers, and stewardship of the earth.”

The Eating with a Conscience guide explains to consumers the effect they are having on health and the environment when they purchase food grown with chemical-intensive methods, even if a large number of residues do not remain on the finished food product. The group points to USDA organic certification as “the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health.”

“Organic practices under the Organic Foods Production Act eliminate commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic, pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife,” said Mr. Feldman.

Recent media attention has focused consumers on purchasing foods that are often referred to as “clean,” but grown with toxic chemicals that show up as residues on their food in small amounts or are not detectable. While this approach is helpful to consumers in alerting them to hazardous residues on food, those very same “clean” food commodities can be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife.

For example, while conventional onions grown with toxic chemicals show low pesticide residues on the finished commodity, Eating with a Conscience explains that there are 63 pesticides with established tolerances for onions: 26 are acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 60 are linked to chronic health problems (such as cancer), 8 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 54 are poisonous to wildlife. While not all listed pesticides are applied to every onion, they may be used in the production of all onions, making it impossible at the point of sale to identify which specific chemicals are used.

With its Eating with a Conscience guide, Beyond Pesticides is asking consumers to, when possible, buy organic food and make the “right food choice —good for you, the environment and workers.” View the database here.

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23
Jun

Supreme Court Ruling Offers Some Protection from GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2010) The Supreme Court ruling in Monsanto v Geersten Seed Farms on June 21, 2010 appears to favor the St. Louis-based biotech giant, but may offer some protection from genetically engineered (GE) crops. In a 7 to 1 decision, the high court overturned a lower court injunction on the planting of GE alfalfa, yet planting the crop still remains illegal until USDA completes assessing its environmental review. Interestingly, Justice Steven G. Breyer recused himself because his brother District Judge Charles Breyer had issued the original ruling, while Justice Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself despite having worked as a Monsanto attorney for two years.

In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and several other farming and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed suit on behalf of Geerston Seed Farms. The suit led to a U.S. District Court ruling that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by approving the sale of GE alfalfa without requiring an environmental impact statement (EIS). Monstanto was forced to stop selling the seed until a comprehensive EIS is prepared and assessed. A draft EIS was prepared in 2009.

This was the first ever moratorium in the U.S. on a genetically engineered crop. The ruling was upheld in two appeals. The Supreme Court, however, sided with Monsanto and ruled the District Court had overstepped its authority by prohibiting the USDA from pursuing any partial approval of the crop. Justice John Paul Stevens was the only dissenter saying, “It was reasonable for the court to conclude that planting could not go forward until more complete study … showed that the known problem of gene flow could in reality be prevented.” USDA said it intends to release an EIS in time for spring planting next year.

Though Monsanto’s Steve Welker is quoted in the company’s press release calling the ruling, “exceptionally good news,” in practical terms, the ruling is more of a victory for Monsanto’s opponents. The Supreme Court did agree with the lower court’s ruling that the USDA violated NEPA when it approved planting of GE alfalfa. This ruling made GE alfalfa illegal to plant, thus making a ban unnecessary. The Court agreed with CFS that gene flow is a serious environmental and economic threat.

“The Justices’ decision today means that the selling and planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal. The ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate EIS is prepared by USDA and they officially deregulate the crop. This is a year or more away according to the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further litigation if the agency’s analysis is not adequate,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of CFS. “In sum, it’s a significant victory in our ongoing fight to protect farmer and consumer choice, the environment and the organic industry”

Alfalfa is our nation’s fourth largest crop. Grown on 23 million acres, and used primarily for forage, it is the first perennial crop to be genetically modified. It is estimated that before the ban over 260,000 acres of GE alfalfa had been planted in the U.S. by 5,500 growers. GE alfalfa presents a unique risk to organic growers: unlike wind pollinated crops such as corn, alfalfa is pollinated by bees. This results in higher risk of cross pollination between GE alfalfa and unmodified varieties. Growers of GE corn are required to plant a buffer of unmodified corn around their fields to keep pollen carrying engineered genes from contaminating other growers’ fields or wild plants. These regulations have reduced, but not eliminated, the incidence of cross fertilization in corn. In alfalfa fields, these regulations would be even less successful, since bees can carry pollen up to five miles from their hive.

Glyphosate is a known carcinogen, neurotoxin, irritant, and has been found to kill human embryonic cells, and can cause kidney and liver damage. Glyphosate is also harmful to the environment, particularly aquatic life and water quality and has been linked to intersex frogs, and is lethal to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment. Furthermore, the spread of glyphosate resistance is a growing concern: Monsanto is now acknowledging the prevalence of glyphosate resistant weeds. In addition to a shoddy environmental record, Monsanto has also been criticized for its business practices, and is currently undergoing an antitrust probe by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the use of GE crops and supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. For other studies and more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ GE Program and Organic Program pages.

Sources: New York Times
Huffington Post

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22
Jun

Take Action: Public Comment Needed on EPA’s Strategic Plan

(Beyond Pesticides, June 22, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this month that it is seeking public comment on its draft five-year strategic plan, which the agency says will help advance Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priorities and EPA’s overall mission to protect human health and the environment. Administrator Jackson’s seven priorities are; taking action on climate change, improving air quality, protecting Americas waters, cleaning up our communities, assuring the safety of chemicals, expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice, and building strong state and tribal partnerships.

In accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA), EPA submitted the agency’s 2006-2011 Strategic Plan to Congress on September 29, 2006. Now, the agency is releasing its Draft FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan for public review and comment through July 30, 2010.

GPRA requires agencies to develop a five-year Strategic Plan for what they intend to accomplish, measure how well they are doing, make appropriate decisions based on the information they have gathered, and communicate information about their performance to Congress and to the public. It includes a mission statement and sets out long-term goals and objectives; Annual Performance Plans, which provide annual performance commitments toward achieving the goals and objectives presented in the Strategic Plan; and Annual Performance and Accountability Reports, which evaluate an agency’s progress toward achieving performance commitments.

To comply with certain GPRA requirements and further enable the agency to manage for results, EPA has built a framework that aligns planning, budgeting, and accountability in an integrated system. EPA says that they continue to look for ways to improve our planning and priority-setting both in terms of our annual planning and budgeting and our longer-range strategic planning and look forward to hearing comments and suggestions. The draft plan identifies the measurable environmental and human health benefits the public can expect over the next five years and describes how EPA intends to achieve those results. It proposes five strategic goals and five cross-cutting fundamental strategies that aim to foster a renewed commitment to accountability, transparency and inclusion.

EPA’s Draft Strategic Plan identifies five goals:
Ӣ Taking action on climate change and improving air quality
”¢ Protecting America’s waters
Ӣ Cleaning up our communities
Ӣ Ensuring the safety of chemicals and preventing pollution
Ӣ Enforcing environmental laws

According to the draft, one of EPA’s highest priorities over the next five years is to “ensure the safety of chemicals and pesticides used in this country.” To do this, EPA says it will be taking a more integrated approach to managing chemical and pesticide risk reduction and is focusing on consumers, workers, and sensitive subpopulations like children. EPA is enhancing its ability to measure the effects of chemicals and pesticides on human health and the environment by introducing new measures to reduce the concentration of targeted chemicals and pesticides in the general population, children, and low-income communities.

EPA says that their pesticide review process will place emphasis on the protection of potentially sensitive groups, such as children, by reducing exposures from pesticides used in and around homes, schools, and other public areas. The agency also says that it is critically reviewing its worker safety and certification and training regulations to ensure that they are fully protective.

Also mentioned in the draft are EPA’s plans to address the risks of nano-scale materials during new chemical review, develop significant new use rules for nano-scale materials not subject to new chemical review, and improving data collection efforts. In addition, EPA is undertaking a new testing program to identify whether chemicals have the potential to interact with the endocrine system.

More broadly, EPA says it is looking to determine the best tools to apply to specific problems. For example, under a new drinking water strategy, the agency is exploring how to use the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ensure that drinking water is protected from pesticides and industrial chemicals and that chemicals found in drinking water are being screened for endocrine disrupting properties using the authorities of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), and FIFRA.

Some highlights include:
Ӣ Reduce the number of moderate to severe incidents affecting workers exposed to acutely toxic pesticides by a certain percent by 2015. The six pesticides of concern are: chlorpyrifos; diazinon, malathion; pyrethrins; 2,4-D and carbofuran.

Ӣ Reduce the percentage of children with blood lead levels above 5ug/dl to 2.5 percent or less by 2015.

Ӣ Reduce concentration of targeted chemicals by a certain percent in the general population by 2015. Chemicals used as indicators under this measure will include pesticides and industrial/commercial chemicals.

Ӣ Reduce the disparity of concentration of chemicals in low income populations as compared to non-low income populations by a certain percent by 2015.

Ӣ Reduce concentration of targeted chemicals by a certain percent in children by 2015.

Ӣ Complete Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) decisions for 100percent of chemicals for which complete EDSP information is expected to be available by the end of 2014.

More information about the draft plan can be found on EPA’s website.

For background on necessary reform efforts at EPA and across other federal agencies, see Transforming Government’s Approach to Regulating Pesticides.

For additional information on what EPA has been doing with pesticides over the years, please see Beyond Pesticides’ What’s New at EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP)?

Take Action! Comments on the Draft Strategic Plan may be submitted at www.regulations.gov (Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OA-2010-0486). The public comment period begins June 18 and will close July 30. EPA will use stakeholder feedback to prepare the final strategic plan, which will be released by September 30.

Also, for the first time, EPA is using a discussion forum to solicit ideas and feedback on the cross-cutting fundamental strategies, a new element of EPAs strategic plan. The agency will use the feedback provided through https://blog.epa.gov/strategicplan as it implements the cross-cutting fundamental strategies and takes actions to change the way EPA does its work.

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21
Jun

U.S. EPA Settles Human Pesticide Testing Lawsuit

(Beyond Pesticides, June 21, 2010) Pesticide experiments using people as test subjects will have stricter federal rules to follow under a new agreement reached on June 17, 2010 between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and public health groups, farm worker advocates and environmental organizations.

“People should never have been used as lab rats for testing pesticides,” said Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior attorney Michael Wall. “Under today’s settlement, EPA will propose far stronger safeguards to prevent unethical and unscientific pesticide research on humans.”

In 2006, a coalition of health and environmental advocates and farmworker protection groups led by NRDC filed a lawsuit against EPA, claiming EPA’s recent rule violated a law Congress passed in 2005 requiring strict ethical and scientific protections for pesticide testing on humans.

EPA’s 2006 rule lifted a ban on human testing put in place by Congress. It also allows experiments in which people are intentionally dosed with pesticides to assess the chemicals’ toxicity and allows EPA to use such experiment to set allowable exposure standards. In such experiments, people have been paid to eat or drink pesticides, to enter pesticide vapor “chambers,” and to have pesticides sprayed into their eyes or rubbed onto their skin. The pesticide industry has used such experiments to argue for weaker regulation of harmful chemicals.

“EPA’s 2006 rule allows pesticide companies to use intentional tests on humans to justify weaker restrictions on pesticides,” said Margaret Reeves, Ph.D., a senior staff scientist with Pesticide Action Network. “Pesticide companies should not be allowed to take advantage of vulnerable populations by enticing people to serve as human laboratory rats.”

The coalition that challenged the regulation argued in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit the rule ignores scientific criteria proposed by the National Academy of Sciences, did not prohibit testing on pregnant women and children, and even violated the most basic elements of the Nuremberg Code, including fully informed consent. The Nuremberg Code, a set of standards governing medical experiments on humans, was put in place after World War II following criminal medical experiments performed by Nazi doctors.

“Unethical testing of pesticides on humans is wrong and has to be stopped,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney with Earthjustice involved in the case. “EPA made the right decision to improve its rules to prevent the ethical abuses and unscientific experiments used in the past to justify weaker regulation.”

“We hope that improved regulations will result in greater protections for those who are most exposed to pesticides, particularly farmworkers and their families,” said Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice.

Through the settlement announced last week, EPA has agreed to propose a new rule that would significantly strengthen scientific and ethical protections for tests of pesticides on humans. Under this agreement, a proposed rule must be issued for public comment by January 2011. The settlement still requires court action to become effective.

The lawsuit was brought by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Migrant Clinicians Network, NRDC, Pesticide Action Network North America, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United) and the San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility. Attorneys with NRDC, Earthjustice, and Farmworker Justice served as legal counsel for the coalition.

Human testing, which was stopped by a moratorium in 1998, was reintroduced in 2003 by a court ruling on a pesticide industry suit. Following the reintroduction of human studies, EPA began to develop a rule for such testing. This came despite flaws found in such studies, and took into account industry pressure to approve testing in children, among other allowances. EPA released its final rule in 2006, despite the Congressional report decrying human testing in 2005. At the time, committee member Rep. Henry Waxman stated, “What we’ve found is that the human pesticide experiments that the Bush Administration intends to use to set federal pesticide policies are rife with ethical and scientific defects.”

Beyond Pesticides rejects human testing as unethical and dangerous to both test participants and agricultural workers exposed to toxic, approved pesticides. For more information on the timeline of human testing regulation, click here.

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18
Jun

Panel Puts $300 Million Price Tag on Agent Orange Cleanup

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2010) A panel of U.S. and Vietnamese policy makers, scientists, and citizens released a report on Wednesday urging the U.S. government and other donors to provide $300 million to clean up contaminated sites and care for Vietnamese harmed by exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide used by the U.S. to defoliate large swaths of forest during the Vietnam War that was contaminated by dioxin. Dioxin is a very persistent toxicant that clings to the soil and sediments, and bioaccumulates in the food chain. Many studies have linked dioxin exposure to a myriad of health effects including cancer, neuropathy, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and birth defects. This report comes one month before the U.S. and Vietnam will celebrate 15 years of normalized diplomatic relations.

The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin released the report calling for an estimated $30 million annually for the next 10 years. Since 2007, the U.S. has spent only $9 million on dioxin remediation and assisting disabled Vietnamese.

The report lays out a plan with three phases. The first phase, lasting three years and estimated to cost $100 million, would focus on completing remediation in Da Nang, one of the largest contaminated sites. This effort would then be replicated at other contaminated sites. The U.S. and Vietnam would also work together to research the extent to which forests were damaged, leading to greater U.S. support for Vietnamese efforts to reforest damaged areas. The final phase would be to create a nationwide survey of disabled people and a birth defects registry. It would also involve training health care workers, screening expectant mothers, and monitoring child development. This would improve the nation’s health care system without the need to debate whether each disability was caused by Agent Orange. The Vietnam Red Cross estimates 3 million Vietnamese children and adults are victims of dioxin exposure, but the U.S. disagrees. It attributes many birth defects to issues such as malnutrition.

The U.S. military dumped 20 million gallons of herbicides including Agent Orange on the former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971, in order to defoliate forests shielding guerrilla fighters. The report estimates the herbicides destroyed 5 million acres of forest and 500,000 acres of crops. Heavily sprayed areas include inland forests near the demarcation zone as well as North and Northwest of Saigon, and along the borders of South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Mangrove forests along major shipping routes and on the southernmost peninsula of Vietnam were also heavily sprayed.

Agent Orange was given its name because it was stored in orange striped drums and contained the active ingredients 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. 2,4,5-T contained minute traces of highly toxic 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (also called TCDD or simply dioxin) and is now banned. However, 2,4-D is still one of the most widely used herbicides on lawns, school grounds and parks today. It has been linked to cancer, liver damage and endocrine disruption in humans in addition to being toxic to wildlife, pets and beneficial insects. In 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned to ban the chemical, citing that among other things, extensive scientific evidence pointing to the dangers of 2,4-D have been ignored by EPA during its risk assessment process. The highly toxic chemical can be replaced by cost-competitive and effective management practices widely used in organic agriculture and lawn care.

The Dialogue Group is hoping the U.S. will pay at least half of the $300 million, with the rest coming from corporations, foundations, and other donors. According to a Chicago Tribune watchdog report, this is merely a small sum when compared to the nearly $2 billion paid by the U.S. government each year in disability compensation to US veterans exposed to agent orange.

Sources: New York Times
The Chicago Tribune

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17
Jun

Nonpersistent Pesticides Found in Umbilical Cord Blood

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2010) Researchers have found detectable levels of common household pesticides in the majority of umbilical cord blood of babies born at an urban hospital. The study looks at concentrations of organophosphate (OP), carbamate, pyrethroids, and organochlorine pesticides in samples of umbilical cord blood taken from newborns delivered at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Labor and Delivery Suite in Baltimore. Researchers looked at the umbilical cord serum, as opposed to maternal serum, in order to provide a more direct estimate of exposure to the fetus. While human biomonitoring studies have found detectable levels of these pesticide chemicals in urine and blood samples from children and adults in the past, few studies have been carried out in the U.S. evaluating exposure in utero.

In addition to tracking pesticide concentrations, researchers also aimed to identify demographic and socioeconomics factors associated with in utero pesticide exposure. Anonymous anthropometric and sociodemographic characteristics of the mothers and infants were collected along with umbilical cord blood that would have otherwise been discarded. Included in the characteristics collected that researchers considered might affect pesticide exposure risk were: age, race, body mass index, parity, education, health insurance, marital status, smoking, area of residence and housing density.

There were a total of 591 live singular births between November 26, 2004 and March 16, 2005, of which 300 were used for chemical laboratory analysis for this study. Of these, 297 samples were successfully analyzed for organochlorine pesticides, and 185 were successfully analyzed for pesticides that are traditionally thought of as being “nonpersistent” with half-lives ranging from hours to weeks.

Using principal component analysis, a statistical method to identify pesticides and metabolites that tend to appear together, the authors found that newborns rarely received exposure to both permethrin and carbamates. Permethrin levels were higher among infants of mothers who did not complete high school compared with women with at least a high-school education, possibly suggesting that less educated women live in environments with greater pest problems. Highly educated mothers, on the other hand, had babies with higher cord serum concentrations of DDT mixtures, suggesting an association between higher education or socioeconomic status with high consumption of foods containing levels of DDT, such as fish.

Of the persistent pesticides, the parent compound p,p’-DDT and its metabolite, p,p’-DDE were detected in 90% and 100% of serum samples, respectively. Hexachlorobenzene was detected in 98%, and two chlordane-related chemicals (trans-nonachlor and oxychlordane) were detected in 93% and 84% respectively.

Researchers considered the carbamate, pyrethroids and OP pesticides to be the nonpersistent pesticides. Results of the study found that among the carbamate pesticides, bendiocarb was detected in 73% of the samples and propoxur was detected in 55%. Permethrin isomers (cis– and trans-permethrin) were detected in 41% and 52% respectively, and piperonyl butoxide (PBO) was detected in 36%. Cyfluthrin was found in only four samples. For OP pesticides, chlorpyrifos was detected in five of the samples and diazinon was not detected in any. Because scientists think that these pesticides disappear from the human body within a few days, the study suggests that the pregnant women either received regular, chronic exposure, which may cause fetal development problems, or that they were exposed shortly before childbirth, perhaps even in the hospital, the authors speculate.

“We can see that they’ve been exposed, but we don’t know if there are health consequences,” says first author Gila Neta, an epidemiologist who is now at the National Cancer Institute.

While the study measured pesticide levels in the umbilical cord blood, there was no information on pesticide-use behaviors as some other studies have done. However, though the study was very narrowly focused, it provides a valuable case for the need for further assessment of exposure to pesticides, particularly in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women. Furthermore, because this study only sampled newborns in one urban area, results might be higher in other areas, such as agricultural and rural regions where exposure is increased.

According to Donald Wigle, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa, the results point to important questions that could be resolved by the National Children’s Study. The study, among many other goals, plans to look at pesticide exposure patterns and their possible effects on pregnancy and child health.

Results of this study, “Distribution and Determinants of Pesticide Mixtures in Cord Serum Using Principal Component Analysis” can be found online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Source: Chemical and Engineering News

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16
Jun

Pesticides, Genes Combine to Increase Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, June 16, 2010) Men with certain genetic variations who were exposed to some toxic pesticides that are now largely banned run an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, French scientists said Monday.

In a study published in Archives of Neurology, entitled “Interaction Between ABCB1 and Professional Exposure to Organochlorine Insecticides in Parkinson Disease,” French researchers found that among men exposed to pesticides such as DDT, carriers of the gene variants are three and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those with the more common version of the gene.

The scientists think the brains of people with the gene variant fail to flush out toxic chemicals as efficiently as those with common versions of the gene, suggesting that environmental as well as genetic factors are important in the risk of Parkinson’s.

Alexis Elbaz, MD, PhD and Fabien Dutheil, PhD, of France’s National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) studied 101 men with Parkinson’s and 234 without the disease to look at links between organochlorine exposure and Parkinson’s disease.

The study includes only men, and all of them had high levels of exposure to pesticides through their work as farmers. The scientists found the link was around 3.5 times stronger in men who carried two copies of a gene known as ABCB1, which plays a role in helping the brain flush out dangerous chemicals.

“The gene encodes for a kind of pump in the brain, and in people who have the (two copy) variation, this pump doesn’t work as well,” Dr. Elbaz said. “It seems therefore that people who have these variations would have higher levels of insecticides in the brain because the brain’s pump is not clearing them out properly.”

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects one to two percent of people over the age of 65. Sufferers have tremors, sluggish movement, muscle stiffness, and difficulty with balance. Although medical treatments may improve symptoms, there are none that can slow down or halt the progression of the disease. Dr. Elbaz said his work supported a growing body of evidence that genetic factors alone were not to blame for Parkinson’s, but that when they combined with factors in the environment, the risk could significantly increase.

Several published research within the past year have found that exposures to pesticides can increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s. In a similar study individuals with the variant MM PONI1-55 genotype that are exposed to organophosphates exhibited more than twice the risk of Parkinson’s disease compared to carriers of wildtype or heterozygous genotype and no exposure. Farmworkers have nearly double the risk for the disease if exposed to pesticides, with a dose-effect for the number of years of exposure. Another recent publication found that rural residents who drank contaminated well water had an increased (up to 90 percent) risk of developing Parkinson’s. Exposure to the pesticides, paraquat and maneb, within 500 meters of an individual’s home, increased the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 75 percent, according to a University of California, Berkeley study. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) found suggestive but limited evidence that exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War is associated with an increased chance of developing ischemic heart disease and Parkinson’s disease in Vietnam veterans.

For more on Parkinson’s disease, please read “Pesticides Trigger Parkinson’s Disease,” a review of published toxicological and epidemiological studies that link exposure to pesticides, as well as gene-pesticide interactions, to Parkinson’s disease and published in Pesticides and You (Spring 2008).

Source: Reuters

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15
Jun

USDA Agreement Bans Organic Certifier from Operating in China for One Year

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2010) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) announced on June 14, 2010 it has reached a settlement agreement with the organic certifying agent Organic Crop Improvement Agency (OCIA), ceasing its operations in China because of inadequate oversight. An August 2007 audit by the NOP revealed that OCIA used inspectors on state-run farms who were employed by the Chinese government and therefore had a conflict of interest. In July 2008, NOP proposed revocation of OCIA’s accreditation in China, but OCIA appealed. The settlement agreement with OCIA, once a lead certifier of Chinese organic goods, prohibits it from operating in China. OCIA retains its accreditation for its certification activities in other countries, including the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“It is critical that we maintain the integrity of organic products for consumers,” said Rayne Pegg, Administration of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which administers the NOP. “All certifiers and operations, domestic or foreign, must be held to the same standards. We will remain vigilant to make sure that products labeled as organic meet the standards prescribed by law.” Environmentalists are pleased that USDA has taken action against OCIA, but are concerned that the process did not allow for public disclosure during the three year process to reach the current settlement.

Ensuring that the organically labeled food we buy is truly organic has rested on the shoulders of private accredited certification organizations (certifying agents), state agencies, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) since the 2002 establishment of its National Organic Program (NOP) under of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). All organic products are required to originate from farms or processors certified by NOP-accredited certifying agents, which may be state-run or private. NOP relies on these agents to ensure that certified organic operations continue to comply with federal organic regulations. Organic operations must maintain an approved farm plan of how it will meet NOP regulations and undergo a successful inspection by the certifier to label its products organic.

In the case of OCIA’s operation in China, it was contracting employees of a Chinese government agency to inspect state-controlled farms and food processing facilities. Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator of the NOP, told The New York Times that department investigators found at least 10 state-managed farms or factories that posed a potential conflict of interest. “We’re serious about enforcing the organic standards across the board, and we’ll be doing more work in China and other countries to assure the integrity of organic products,” Mr. McEvoy said.

As part of the settlement, OCIA would be able to apply for re-accreditation as a certifying agent in China after one year. In order for OCIA to be approved to start certifying organic operations in China, OCIA would have to hire inspectors who have no connection to any governmental or quasi-governmental Chinese entity to inspect OCIA certified operations in China. OCIA has agreed to increased NOP oversight and inspection of the company and its operations if the company is accredited to certify operations in China again.

While there is no evidence that the OCIA-certified agricultural products were not in compliance with USDA organic standards, the action against the certifier may continue to shake consumer confidence in Chinese imports, especially organic food. According to The New York Times, Whole Foods Market, the nation’s leading organic retailer, has used Chinese organics, including those from OCIA-inspected producers, in many of its store brand products, but cut the number of Chinese organic products, in part because of consumer worries about their credentials, from 30 to only two, shelled and unshelled frozen edamame soybeans. The company says it conducts independent tests and is confident that the edamame is pesticide-free.

Although the rigorous standards and certification procedures of the NOP are unparalleled in chemical-intensive agriculture, the program has been criticized for straying from its legal requirements during the Bush Administration. Organic advocates criticized USDA’s implementation of the federal organic law during this period which led to two USDA Inspector General (IG) investigations. While most organic labeled produce and processed agricultural products on store shelves probably complied with federal law during this period, the IG found several serious problems with the implementation of the program between October 2003 and July 2009. Ms. Pegg, appointed by the Obama Administration in 2009, said USDA agrees in principle with the findings and recommendations of the audit. Citing recent budget increases, which nearly double the NOP staff size from 16 to 31, Ms. Pegg said, “NOP anticipates addressing all of the recommendations made by the Inspector General in FY 2010.” These include improvements to the process for certifying imported agricultural products.

For more information on the changes at the NOP following the IG audit, read the IG report, Oversight of the National Organic Program (01601-03-Hy) and Beyond Pesticides’ analysis. More information on the regulation of organic agriculture is available on Beyond Pesticides organic food program page.

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14
Jun

Whole Foods Adopts Policy on Mislabeled “Organic” Personal Care Products

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2010) Whole Foods Market is setting a good example for other retailers to follow in protecting consumers from fraudulent “organic” claims on health and beauty products. The national grocery retailer of natural and organic products announced earlier this month that all cosmetic and personal care products sold at their stores with the word “organic” on the product label must comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) or NSF 305 standards, meaning that the product must be third-party certified to USDA organic standards or front label “organic” claims must cease, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

Thought the term “organic” on all products, whether for food or non-food items, meant that it was certified? That’s the law, but sometimes not the reality. The reality is that the USDA’s NOP requires certification for all “organic” claims on food products, but does not currently have similar certification requirements in place for non-food items.

The new Whole Foods Market policy states, “We believe that the ‘organic’ claim used on personal care products should have very similar meaning to the ‘organic’ claim used on food products, which is currently regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Our shoppers do not expect the definition of ‘organic’ to change substantially between the food and the non-food aisles of our stores.”

Their policy covers products such as liquid soaps, body washes, facial cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, make-up and other cosmetic products, not only includes statements about ingredients but also those products with “organic” in their brand name.

Organic Consumers Association is asking Trader Joes, National Coop Grocers Association, and other natural foods retailers to follow Whole Foods Market’s lead.

The official company policy, which is posted on the Organic Consumer Associations’ website, states that all products must be in compliance by June 1, 2011. All suppliers are asked to submit their plans on complying with this new policy to Whole Foods Market by August 1, 2010.

The policy lists specific examples for compliance:
”¢ Products making an “Organic” product claim: Must be certified to the USDA’s NOP standard for organic (95%) products. Documentation required: Suppliers must present an organic certificate, issued by a USDA-accredited certifier and showing certification to the NOP standard. The certificate must name the specific products being evaluated.
”¢ Products making a “Made with Organic ________” claim: Certification requirement: Must be certified to the USDA’s NOP standard for Made With Organic (70%) products. Documentation required: Suppliers must present an organic certificate, issued by a USDA-accredited certifier and showing certification to the NOP standard. The certificate must name the specific products being evaluated.
”¢ Products making a “Contains Organic _______” claim: Certification requirement: Must be certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 Organic Personal Care Standard. Documentation required: Suppliers must present certification documentation demonstrating current compliance with the NSF/ANSI 305 standard.
”¢ Products listing an organic ingredient in the “Ingredients:” listing: Certification requirement: Organic ingredient must be certified to the USDA NOP standard. Documentation required: Suppliers must present an organic certificate, issued by a USDA-accredited certifier and showing certification to the NOP standard. The certificate(s) must name the specific ingredient(s) being evaluated.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, the following personal care products make false “organic” claims: These include “Nature’s Gate Organics,” “Kiss My Face” with its “Certified Organic Botanicals” seal, “Organic Fiji” with its “Rated O Organic” trademark, “Derma E” with its “Natural & Organic Skincare Solutions” seal, “Nubian Heritage” with its “Certified Organic Ingredients” seal, “Surya Brazil Sapien” with EcoCert’s “Organic Cosmetic” seal (Surya has pledged to stop making front-label organic claims), “Pangea Organics,” “Lafes Natural and Organic,” “South of France Organics,” “Avalon Organics,” “Natralia Baby Organic,” “John Masters Organics,” “Organique,” “Jason: Pure, Natural & Organic” (Jason has pledged to stop making front-label organic claims), “Peaceful Mountain” which advertises “organic and wildcrafted herbs,” “Organic Grooming,” “Earth’s Best Organic,” “Giovanni Organic Hair Care,” “Peter Rabbit Organics,” “Aubrey Organics” and “Rainbow Organic Herbal.”

The Organic Consumers’ Association believes that the USDA should first require certification for organic claims and then have the personal care products’ industry petition the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) for ingredients and processes needed in their products on a case-by-case basis.

In January 2010, the Organic Consumers Association, along with certified organic personal care brands Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Intelligent Nutrients, and Organic Essence, filed a complaint with the USDA NOP, seeking action to stop some personal care manufacturers from, according to the petitioners, mislabeling their products as “organic.”

Back in November 2009, the NOSB formally recommended that the NOP regulate personal care to ensure that any use of the word “organic” on a personal care product is backed up by third-party certification to USDA organic standards.

Beyond Pesticides a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), and last year Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides, was appointed to the National Organic Standards Board to a five-year term. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting to produce healthy soil, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber.

Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. For more information on organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Program page.

For more information on the Organic Consumers’ Association’s Coming Clean campaign, go to: www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare.

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11
Jun

Under Pressure EPA Denies Ohio’s Request to Use Restricted Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticide, June 11, 2010) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refused the state of Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption to use the restricted pesticide propoxur in residential settings for control of bed bugs, stating that the chemical “presents unreasonable risk.” Propoxur is a highly toxic, broad spectrum insecticide. All indoor residential uses of this known neurotoxic chemical and possible carcinogen were voluntarily canceled in 2007. The Ohio Department of Agriculture, deeming the increases in bed bug infestations an emergency, requested an exemption to use propoxur in residential areas and in May the Ohio Senate’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee adopted a unanimous resolution urging the EPA to grant it. Beyond Pesticides, with coalition of environmental and public health groups, opposed the request and asked EPA to deny the exemption, citing the serious public health threat associated with the chemical, as well as the availability of alternatives.

EPA determined “the requested use presents an unacceptable risk,” according to Administrator Lisa Jackson, in a letter to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland dated June 2, 2010. “Although EPA recognizes the severe and urgent challenges that Ohio is facing from bed bugs, the results of the risk assessment do not support the necessary safety findings as required by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In particular, the requested use presents an unacceptable risk to children who might be exposed to propoxur in and around rooms treated for bed bugs,” Administrator Jackson went on to state.

Last November, Ohio requested an emergency exemption to use propoxur under Section 18, a controversial loophole in the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), that allows for unregistered uses of a pesticide, and in many cases unregistered pesticides, under “emergency circumstances.” In a letter to Administrator Lisa Jackson, dated April 19, 2010, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland supported the state’s request for the exemption claiming, “Without the use of propoxur, there is very little that can be done to meaningfully stop the spread of bed bug infestations.” Environmental and public health groups, including Beyond Pesticides, petitioned EPA to deny the exemption.

Beyond Pesticides, in comments to EPA last December, stated that indoor uses of propoxur increase exposure and health risks of residents, especially children who are vulnerable. Beyond Pesticides also reminded the agency that propoxur should not be considered for a Section 18 exemption, since the pesticide was already canceled for indoor uses based on exposure concerns, and that the treatment of bed bugs is now routine, and cannot be considered an “emergency” as defined under FIFRA.

While bed bug populations have rebounded in recent years, due to growing resistance to widely used insecticides, relying on even more toxic chemical control is not a feasible option. Currently, EPA and other stakeholders are working to develop new methods of combating the surge in bed bug infestations, including increasing the role of integrated pest management (IPM), which according to the agency in their letter, “is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that considers pest life cycles and relies on a combination of common-sense chemical and non-chemical solutions.” In April of 2009, EPA held the first ever National Bed Bug Summit to solicit recommendations from scientists, state and local officials, pest control operators and the general public on the best methods of control. EPA has also recently developed a website with information on controlling bed bugs that stresses IPM.

Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide first registered in the US in 1963 for the control of household pests such as ants, cockroaches, and bed bugs. It is also commonly used in flea and tick collars. Propoxur can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Common symptoms of poisoning include malaise, muscle weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, nausea, and diarrhea may also result. EPA considers propoxur a possible human carcinogen, while the state of California classifies it as a known human carcinogen. Propoxur is also highly toxic to beneficial insects such as honeybees as well as crustaceans, fish, and aquatic insects.

Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are among many cities in the United States, as well as cities worldwide, that saw a recent surge in bed bug infestations. According to a survey of pest control firms bed bug outbreaks have tripled since 2005. Infestations commonly occur in homeless shelters, and low income housing, as well as hospitals, college dorms, and hotels. Bed bugs are tiny insects up to ¼ inches when full grown that usually live in cracks and crevices of bed frames and the seams of mattresses. Their bites result in sore spots or itchy welts usually found in a line, but bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases.

Bed bugs can be effectively controlled without the use of dangerous chemical pesticides. Heat treating furniture and laundering linens in hot water will kill bed bugs without the use of chemical control. Habitat modification, such as sealing cracks, and removing clutter, can prevent an infestation from occurring.

For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Bed Bugs: Back with a Vengeance Detection, Prevention and Least Toxic Control of Bed Bugs.”

For more information on Section 18, see Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet, “The Emergency Pesticide Loophole.”

Additional Source: The Columbus Dispatch

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10
Jun

EPA Moves to End All Uses of Toxic Pesticide Endosulfan

(Beyond Pesticides, June 10, 2010) After years of pressure from environmental and international groups concerned about the chemical’s health effects, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencey (EPA) announced that it is taking action to end all uses of the insecticide endosulfan in the United States. EPA has decided that new data presented to the agency in response to its 2002 reregistration eligibility decision (RED) have shown that risks faced by workers are greater than previously known. EPA also has found that there are risks above the agency’s level of concern to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, as well as to birds and mammals that consume aquatic prey which have ingested endosulfan. Farmworkers can be exposed to endosulfan through inhalation and contact with the skin.

An organochlorine insecticide first registered in the 1950s, endosulfan is used on a variety of vegetables, fruits, cotton, and on ornatmental shrubs, trees and vines. It poses unacceptable neurological and reproductive risks to farmworkers and wildlife and can persist in the environment. According to the EPA, crops with the highest use in 2006 — 2008 included tomato, cucurbit, potato, apple, and cotton. The use of endosulfan decreased overall from 2001 to 2008. A restricted use pesticide, endosulfan may be applied only by or under the supervision of a trained, certified applicator. Acute poisoning from endosulfan can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and even death. Studies have linked endosulfan to smaller testicles, lower sperm production, an increase in the risk of miscarriages and autism.

Endosulfan is a potent environmental pollutant and is especially toxic to fish and other aquatic life. It also affects birds, bees, earthworms, and other beneficial insects. Endosulfan is volatile, persistent, and has a high potential to bio-accumulate in aquatic and terrestrial organisms. A large body of scientific literature documents endosulfan’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media. Through the process of global distillation, endosulfan is present in air, water, sediment, and biota thousands of miles from use areas. Endosulfan travels such long distances that it has been found in Sierra Nevada lakes and on Mt. Everest. This persistent pesticide can also migrate to the Poles on wind and ocean currents where Arctic communities have documented contamination. It is one of the most abundant organochlorine pesticides found in the Arctic, and has also been detected in the Great Lakes and various mountainous areas including the National Parks in the western United States, distant from use sites. Because of its presence in remote locations, endosulfan may be considered a persistent organic pollutant that may result in human exposure via the food web.

EPA began accepting comments on a letter sent from the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in August 2008 requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances for the pesticide endosulfan. The letter was a followed up for a February 2008 petition signed by 13,300 people across the country, a legal petition filed by NRDC that same month, letters sent to the agency on May 19, 2008 signed by 111 nonprofit environmental groups, 55 scientists, and 5 coalitions of Indigenous groups and tribes.

It also followed a lawsuit filed on behalf of environmental and farmworker groups, including Beyond Pesticides on July 24, 2008. The suit cited a glaring omission in the EPA’s decision in its failure to consider risks to children: a 2007 study found that children exposed to endosulfan in the first trimester of pregnancy had a significantly greater risk for developing autism spectrum disorders. It also poses risks to school children in agricultural communities where it has been detected at unsafe levels in the air. In addition, endosulfan has been found in food supplies, drinking water, and in the tissues and breast milk of pregnant mothers.

In December 2009, the International Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee recommended that urgent “global action” was needed to address health and environmental impacts of the toxic pesticide. After the conclusion of scientific experts at the Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) that endosulfan “is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted,” a broad coalition of environmental groups sent another letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging EPA to finally take action to ban the use of endosulfan.

The chemical company giant Bayer announced in August 2009 that it will stop the sale of endosulfan by 2010, saying that they will replace the toxic pesticide with ”˜safer’ alternatives. Makhteshim Agan of North America, the current manufacturer of endosulfan, is in discussions with EPA to voluntarily terminate all endosulfan uses. EPA states that it is currently working on the details of the decision that will eliminate all endosulfan uses.

For more information, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News archives for endosulfin.

Source: EPA Press Release

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09
Jun

NY State Launches ‘Be Green Organic Yards’ Program

(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2010) Residents of New York now have new assistance in maintaining beautiful, green lawns, plants and trees without the use of toxic chemicals. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has initiated the ”˜Be Green Organic Yard NY” program, where participating ”˜Be Green’ businesses agree to avoid synthetic pesticides and other materials prohibited by the organic ”˜Be Green’ standard.

”˜Be Green’ landscape services utilize an organic approach focusing on preventing problems before they occur, and building a sustainable landscape that is healthy for all -plants, wildlife, pets, and people. Services can range from a simple regimen of weeding, mulching and pruning, to all aspects of yard care, including plant selection and tree and lawn installation and maintenance. DEC expects that, by the fall of 2010, yard care businesses will be able to begin taking the training required to participate in ”˜Be Green’. ”˜Be Green’ businesses sign an agreement with DEC for the right to use the ”˜Be Green’ service mark (logo). In return, businesses agree that, when they provide ”˜Be Green’ services, they will avoid the synthetic pesticides and other materials prohibited by the organic standards in the agreement.

“Demand for all types of organic services is on the rise as people continue to be concerned about the amounts and types of chemicals used in everyday tasks. At the same time, consumers are sometimes unsure what ‘green’ means,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “With the new ‘Be Green’ initiative, the state will provide a way for specifically trained yard care companies to use the special logo when they offer organic yard management. The initiative will connect consumers with names of qualified companies. The goal of ‘Be Green’ is to help create an organically managed environment for people, pets, wildlife and plants.”

Some of the prohibited substances under the agreement include: synthetic herbicides, insecticides, insect growth regulators, fungicides, rodenticides, or molluscides (except those limited synthetic products allowed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program); products that contain synthetic synergists, such as piperonyl butoxide; products that contain inert ingredients on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) List 1: Inert Ingredients of Toxicological Concern; plant material or seeds derived from genetically modified organisms; synthetic fertilizers or fertilizers derived from sewage sludge; chemically treated wood (including pressure-treated wood).

Businesses also take a ”˜Be Green’ training course, before signing the agreement. The course consists of a day-long qualifying training, which businesses must complete before participating in the program. DEC will also provide 4-hour refresher courses that ”˜Be Green’ businesses must take every two years.

There are several steps to the Be Green program:
”¢ First, course providers would sign up to participate and begin offering training needed by future ”˜Be Green’ businesses
”¢ Second, before being licensed by DEC to use the service mark, businesses must have staff trained in organic practices. Once that occurs, businesses can enter a license agreement that includes basic conditions for providing ”˜Be Green’ services.
”¢ Finally, when the program is fully up and running, trained ”˜Be Green’ landscapers will be listed on DEC’s website. The public can then search for ”˜Be Green’ businesses in their area.

DEC provides information on how to participate in ”˜Be Green’ as a course provider or business, including the license agreement, application forms, and helpful instructions. If you are not in the NY area and would like to have an organic lawn or landscape, you can visit Beyond Pesticides’ Safety Source for Pest Management to find a pest management or lawn service company that provides least toxic options. For more on least- and non-toxic lawn care practices, including our ”˜Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers,’ taught by Chip Osborne, a professional horticulturist with over 30 years experience and an expert on building and transitioning turf to organic care, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes page. Read also our factsheets: “Read Your “Weeds” — A Simple Guide To Creating A Healthy Lawn” and “Least-Toxic Control of Weeds.”

Source: NYDEC

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08
Jun

Indian Court Finds Eight Guilty for 1984 Union Carbide Gas Disaster

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2010) An Indian court in Bhopal, India, capital of Madhya Pradesh, found chemical company Union Carbide guilty of negligence and convicted eight former senior employees for their role in the world’s worst industrial disaster that killed thousands. The verdict came 25 years after the Union Carbide gas-leak and included a sentence that many victims of the accident protested was too light. According to Reuters, the defendants were charged with “death by negligence” and sentenced for two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees ($2,175). The court also fined the former Indian unit of Union Carbide 500,000 rupees ($10,600).

The Central Board of Investigation initially charged 12 defendants with culpable homicide, which would have carried a sentence of up to 10 years, but the Indian Supreme Court reduced these charges in 1996. Many victims and activists found the light sentence, “an insult”, and Sandhna Kamik of the Bhopal Gas Victims Struggle group protested, “Even with the guilty judgment, what does two years punishment mean? They will be able to appeal against the judgment in higher courts.”

Survivors, relatives and activists gathered in protest with signs saying “hang the guilty” and “traitors of the nation” and tried to enter the court complex, but were stopped by police. Bhopal activist Rachna Dhingra stated, “This was not an exemplary punishment that would deter corporations from repeating a Bhopal gas disaster. There’s nothing to be happy about.”
According to the International Campaign for Juice in Bhopal, more than 27 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the pesticides plant in Bhopal on December, 3rd 1984 because none of the six safety systems were functional. Investigations have shown that poor design and maintenance and inadequately trained staff largely contributed to the accident, which occurred when water entered a tank of methyl isocyanate and raised the tank pressure, causing the leak. MIC is an intermediate chemical used in the production of aldicarb, carbaryl, carbofuran, methomyl and other carbamate pesticides.

Amnesty International estimated that more than 7,000 people died within days of the accident, 15,000 died in later years and 100,000 people have since suffered chronic and debilitating illnesses as a result of the catastrophe and the absence of a site remediation. Union Carbide did not properly clean the site and thousands of tons of toxic chemical waste have been contaminating drinking water. The Indian Council of Medical Research estimated that over a half a million people were harmed in some way. Sicknesses including cancer, blindness, immune and neurological disorders and birth defects have affected local residents, many of whom live in surrounding slums.

Warren Anderson, the head of the Indian unit of Union Carbide at the time, left Bhopal quickly after the incident, and now lives in New York, and has not appeared in any of the proceedings. The Indian court has ordered the Indian government to request his extradition, but the U.S. rejected India’s request in June 2004, saying the request did not meet requirements of the bilateral extradition treaty.

Michigan-based Dow Chemical, the world’s second largest chemical maker, bought Union Carbide in 2001 and therefore assumed its liabilities for the Indian chemical plant disaster in 1984. However, Dow Chemical has refused to clean up the site, provide safe drinking water, compensate the victims, or disclose chemical information to physicians. Dow Chemical places responsibility on the government of the state of Madya Pradesh, claiming that the legal case of was resolved in 1989 when Union Carbide agreed to pay a $470 million settlement, most of which was used to pay compensation up to $2,000 to victims unable to work, but many received nothing.

Some commentators say the Indian judge’s verdict in the Bhopal trial does not set a promising precedent for the consequences of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the reminder of this catastrophic event and the failure of the Indian government to adequately punish those responsible might stimulate discussion of the proper punishment for BP.

Read more about the Bhopal disaster and a 2008 MIC explosion in West Virginia in our Daily News article posted in December 2009 on the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal explosion.

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07
Jun

Violations Filed Against Utah Pest Control Company After Children’s Death

(Beyond Pesticides, June 7, 2010) With thousands of violations cited, the pest control company and applicator responsible for the deaths of two young children are only fined several tens of thousands of dollars, a mere slap on the hand. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s (UDAF) Division of Plant Industry has finally filed multiple charges of violations against Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc. of Bountiful, Utah, and employee Cole Nocks associated with the February 5, 2010 application of the pesticide Fumitoxin (active ingredient: aluminum phosphide) at the residence of Nathan and Brenda Toone of Layton, Utah that lead to the death of their two daughters ages 15-months and 4 years. In addition to the Layton incident, investigators discovered additional violations of the Utah Pesticide Control Act by the company and other employees. The UDAF seeks to revoke Mr. Nocks’s applicator license and has issued him a $27,000 fine, while Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc. is fined $32,000. Under law, the UDAF is only allowed to file civil penalties.

Investigators determined that on February 5, 2010 applicator Cole Nocks operated in a faulty, careless or negligent manner by misapplying the highly toxic and restricted use pesticide, Fumitoxin. Mr. Nocks’s improper application allowed the pesticide to runoff or drift from the target area causing human harm, as high levels of phosphine gas were detected in the Toone residence. He failed to follow label directions and federal law by applying large amounts of Fumitoxin pellets in several locations that were within a required 15-foot buffer zone of the residence. He did not have a Fumigation Management Plan which would have required him to provide the Toones with label information, an MSDS (materials safety data sheet) and require him to return in one or two days to re-inspect the fumigated area. At the time of the application, Fumitoxin was restricted from use within 15 feet of any residence.

The Utah Medical Examiner’s Office determined that two children who died at the Toone residence had elevated levels of phosphorous and lung damage associated with inhaling a harmful substance which appears consistent with the above information.

Mr. Nocks is required to attend an administrative hearing at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food later this month to answer the charges.

The charges against Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc. for the Layton incident include using or causing to be used any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling or rules; and, applying Fumitoxin without the required Fumigation Management Plan.

“This is a tragic and unfortunate event for the Toone family,” said Pesticide Program Manager, Clark Burgess.

In the course of the Layton investigation, Plant Industry investigators discovered numerous additional violations of The Utah Pesticide Control Act by Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc., and several of its employees dating back to April of 2009. The following charges for “Neglecting or, after notice, refusing to comply with the provision of the Pesticide Act;” “Refused or neglecting to keep and maintain required records;” and, “Used, or caused to be used any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling” include the Layton incident as well as several hundred other pesticide applications at locations throughout the Wasatch Front:
Ӣ More than 3,000 records violations ranging from failing to identify product used, not documenting the rate or amount of product applied;
Ӣ No Fumigant Management Plan created for any of the 53 applications of Fumitoxin by five different employees;
Ӣ Numerous ineffective applications of termiticide;
Ӣ Mis-application of Fumitoxin, termiticide and Ramik Brown; and,
Ӣ Company failed to properly placard its storage area where Fumitoxin was stored.

Fumitoxin is a restricted use pesticide that requires applicators undergo specific training regarding its use. Utah code requires commercial pesticide applicators undergo testing and certification on a regular basis and that commercial pesticide companies employ trained applicators when working with all pesticides. The UDAF conducts regular training and certification courses to help applicators meet State certification requirements.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on April 7, 2010 banned the use of aluminum and magnesium phosphide products (Fumitoxin) in residential areas, increased buffer zones to 100 feet for treatment around non-residential buildings that could be occupied by people or animals, and require more protective product labeling. Yet, human exposure to these toxic chemicals, though slightly minimized, would nevertheless continue because of their continued availability for use on athletic fields and playgrounds, around non-residential buildings, and in agricultural production.

The EPA is funding, in partnership with the UDAF, a program to educate the public about the dangers of fumigant pesticides and to increase enforcement of other fumigant pesticides in Utah.

The death of these children and the poisoning of the family raise serious issues about the adequacy of the pesticide’s label restrictions, approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and their enforceability. In the case of aluminum phosphide, EPA has allowed the use that led to these avoidable deaths after proposing to ban the pesticide’s residential uses in 1998 in its reregistration eligibility document (RED). EPA plans to begin their registration review in 2013.

Aluminum phosphide is known to be highly acutely toxic when ingested or inhaled. Symptoms of mild to moderate acute exposure include nausea, abdominal pain, tightness in chest, excitement, restlessness, agitation and chills. Symptoms of more severe exposure include, diarrhea, cyanosis, difficulty breathing, pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, tachycardia (rapid pulse) and hypotension (low blood pressure), dizziness and/or death.

Beyond Pesticides believes that integrated pest management (IPM) is a vital tool that aids in the rediscovery of non-toxic methods to control rodents and facilitates the transition toward a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. It offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticide use and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products that are used. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, pest population monitoring are some IPM methods that can be undertaken to control rodents.

EPA, to its credit, recognizes that the use of toxic chemicals to control rodents is itself not effective rodent management. IPM practices are recommended by EPA for rodent control in and around households. EPA advises that effective rodent control requires sanitation, rodent proofing, and removal of rodent harborage; habitat modification to make an area less attractive to rodents, and discourage new populations from recolonizing the area. Non-chemical devices such as snap traps and other trapping systems are also affordable and quite effective as a method for rodent control.

However, while EPA recognizes that IPM practices are safe and effective methods for controlling rodents, the dependency on the rodenticides as a means of control continues. Given that EPA acknowledges that effective rodent management will not be achieved without the adoption of safer IPM techniques, it is imperative that these practices are promoted to the consumer so that efforts can work toward the elimination of public and environmental exposures to low levels of toxic rodenticides. To do this, rodenticide labels must require the users to establish IPM practices and only allow the introduction of poisons as a part of this approach as a last resort.

Beyond Pesticides and other organizations have raised concerns about chemicals that volatilize as gas and chemical fumigants that move through the air from the target site (be it an animal burrow or an agricultural crop). In June 2009, Beyond Pesticides and 27 groups from across the country sent Administrator Lisa Jackson indicating that the agency’s new fumigants policy “continues an outdated EPA approach to pesticide regulation that adopts unrealistic and unenforceable standards as risk mitigation measures, in an age of safer, greener approaches to agricultural pest management.”

For more information on rodenticides and the alternatives to managing rodents, see Beyond Pesticides fact sheet “Rodents Teach Lesson of Failed Chemical Controls: City officials gather to learn new approaches to rodent management less dependent on chemicals, more focused on habitat reduction.” For least toxic control of mice and other pests visit Beyond Pesticides’ alternatives page.

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04
Jun

EPA Proposes New Pesticide Discharge Permits

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new permit requirements for the discharge of pesticides into US waterways. EPA announced the public availability of a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for certain pesticide use patterns, also known as the Pesticides General Permit (PGP). The agency is accepting public comments until July 19, 2010. This action stems from a 2009 court decision in the case of the National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA, in which the 6th circuit court of appeals ruled that pesticide discharges into water are pollutants and require permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA). This ruling overturned the Bush administration policy that exempted pesticides from regulation under the CWA, and instead applied the less stringent standards of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). CWA uses a kind of health-based standard known as maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, while FIFRA uses a highly subjective risk assessment that does not consider safer alternatives.

EPA will issue permits in territories, Indian Country Lands, 6 states and the District of Columbia where the Agency is the NPDES permitting authority. EPA is working closely with the other 44 states as they develop their own permit regulations. The draft PGP would allow for permitting of pesticide application for the purposes of mosquito and other flying insect pest control, aquatic weed and algae control, aquatic nuisance animal control, and forest canopy pest control. The PGP does not authorize coverage for discharges of pesticides or their degradates to waters already impaired by these specific pesticides or degradates or discharges to outstanding national resource waters. These discharges will require coverage under individual NPDES permits (see discussion of individual vs. general NPDES permits below). Also outside the scope of this permit are terrestrial applications to control pests on agricultural crops or forest floors. Irrigation return flows and agricultural stormwater runoff do not require NPDES permits, even when they contain pesticides or pesticide residues, as the CWA specifically exempts these categories of discharges from requiring NPDES permit coverage.

A NPDES permit can be written to address discharges either from an individual point source (individual permit) or from a number of similar dischargers (general permit). An individual permit is a permit specifically tailored for an individual discharger. Upon receiving the appropriate permit application(s), the permitting authority, EPA or a state, develops a draft permit for public comment for that particular discharger based on the information contained in the permit application (e.g., type of activity, nature of discharge, receiving water quality).

The proposed draft pesticide permit is a general permit. EPA believes a general permit is less burdensome on pesticide applicators and the agency. A general permit is used after determining that a set of conditions regarding discharges would be applicable to a number of similar point sources in the same geographic area. The NPDES regulations specify that the permitting authority must define the applicable geographical area and types of point sources in a general permit. Usually after a general permit is issued, dischargers that think they meet the permit’s criteria request coverage under the permit by submitting a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the permitting authority.

However, in the case of the proposed PGP, EPA is not requiring an NOI from applicators that fall below annual treatment area thresholds (mosquitoes and other flying insects: 640 acres of treatment area; aquatic weeds and algae in water: 20 acres of treatment area; aquatic weeds and algae at waters edge: 20 linear miles of treatment area; aquatic nuisance animals in water: 20 acres of treatment area; aquatic nuisance animals at waters edge: 20 linear miles of treatment area; and, forest canopy: 640 acres). EPA estimates that the PGP covers more than 30,000 applicators per year in the states for which EPA is the permitting authority. Of this total, a large majority represent applicators performing what EPA considers small pesticide treatments. EPA says it’s exempting the NOI requirement to reduce the burden on applicators and permitting authorities.

Under the proposed PGP pesticide applicators would be required to reduce pesticide discharges by using the lowest effective amount of pesticide, and prevent leaks and spills, in addition to reporting any adverse incidents. Pesticide applicators that exceed annual treatment area threshold and be required to submit an NOI, would also be required to apply integrated pest management (IPM) practices, as defined by the agency. EPA’s brand of IPM is “a program of prevention, monitoring, and control, that when done correctly can greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of pesticides used.” Before the application of a pesticide, the applicator would be required to identify the specific pests, and causes of infestation. The pesticide applicator must evaluate following management options: (1) no action, (2) preventive measures, (3) mechanical control, (4) cultural methods, and (5) biological control agents; before selecting a pesticide.

EPA estimates the regulations will affect 365,000 pesticide applicators that use an estimated 5.6 million lbs of pesticides annually. “EPA believes this draft permit strikes a balance between using pesticides to control pests and protecting human health and water quality,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water.

Take Action!

EPA is accepting public comments until July 19, 2010. Four public meetings and a webcast have been scheduled to present the draft permit. EPA plans to finalize the regulation in December of 2010, and will begin issuing permits in April 2011, when the court’s mandate will take effect.

Submit your comments to EPA docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0257 at regulations.gov.

Source: EPA Press Release

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03
Jun

City Lawmakers to Strengthen Pesticide Ban, Oversight and Enforcement

(Beyond Pesticides, June 3, 2010) City lawmakers in Albany, New York want to strengthen an 11-year-old ban on the use of some pesticides on city land after the revelation last week that one such banned chemical was sprayed near a local playground earlier this month.

Albany’s Parks and Recreation Commissioner John D’Antonio said last Friday he was unaware of the ban, passed by the council in 1998, until he began researching a recent citizen complaint. The city is now rethinking its use of pesticides and exploring why the ban on city use of pesticides dubbed most toxic by the federal government was not more widely known. The law also required departments using less toxic pesticides to annually report plans to phase them out to the Common Council.

TruGreen, a city contractor, used Trupower 3 Selective Herbicide, which is a mixture of 2,4-D, mecoprop-p and dicamba, and is listed in Toxicity Category 1 (most toxic) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — causing potentially irreversible eye damage, but is also toxic if ingested and can be irritating to the skin. The herbicide has been banned from city land, except in rare circumstances, since 1999. Under the same ordinance, all city agencies that use less toxic pesticides, listed as categories II and III, are supposed to report annually on their use — and plans to phase them out — to the Common Council. However, reports have not been made in years.

Council President Pro Tempore Richard Conti said responsibility for oversight and enforcement of the ordinance needs to be more clearly defined, especially since fields at Bleecker Stadium, the West Hill park where pesticides are also applied, is used by some schools.

“I’m not sure what the breakdown was with parks and recreation because this issue and the pesticide use issue has been discussed in public forums,” Mr. Conti said. “You need to have some entity that’s responsible for enforcement and ensuring that departments are complying.”

The issue came to light after a Pine Hills resident inquired about chemicals being sprayed at Ridgefield on May 20 while she played on the swings there with her two sons, aged 8 months and 3 years old. Save the Pine Bush, an environmental group has questioned the city’s use of pesticides at the Rapp Road landfill, is planning a rally for Tuesday afternoon in Academy Park across from City Hall.
This breakdown in pesticide enforcement in New York comes at the heels of the new law, Child Safe Playing Field Act, recently signed by Governor Patterson. The law aims to protect children by banning the use of pesticides on school playing fields and play grounds. Schools will have one year to comply with the regulations. While the earlier versions of the legislation included all outdoor school grounds, the scope was narrowed to include only playgrounds and playing fields to help ensure passage. The Child Safe Playing Field Act requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers both public and private to stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing fields. The law does allow for emergency application of pesticides for infestations if the County Health Department, the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation or the school board deems it an emergency.

The recent development in Albany however, highlights the need for effective enforcement and stringent regulatory oversight of pesticide laws. Across the country, lack of enforcement of pesticide laws has led to misuse of toxic chemicals which have poisoned people and animals, and in worst cases, death. Over the past three decades, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued numerous reports and testimonies examining limitations with respect to various efforts to regulate pesticides in several areas, including pesticide registration and reregistration, pesticide warnings, banned and unregistered pesticides, and nonagricultural and lawn care pesticides. GAO, which has been highly critical of conflicts of interest in the state enforcement of pesticide use violations, poisonings and contamination – finding that the same agencies promoting and advancing pesticide-intensive management practices are charged with enforcement.

In order to be effective or to have any relevance, environmental laws, like other laws, must be enforced. Pesticides are regulated primarily under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) which authorizes EPA to oversee the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides. States are authorized to regulate pesticides under FIFRA and under state pesticide laws, which differ from state to state. Pesticide application must be consistent with both federal and state laws. When it comes to enforcement, states have primary authority for compliance monitoring and enforcing against use of pesticides in violation of the law, efforts that are supported with a grant from the federal government. Generally, many pesticide complaints arise because the pesticide was used in violation of labeling requirements, applied at the wrong location, or because of pesticide drift.

If you believe that a pesticide application violates the law, or you believe that the application has harmed you or the environment, there are some measures you can take. For a list of these, please visit Getting the Pesticide Law Enforced and What To Do in a Pesticide Emergency.

Source: The Times Union

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02
Jun

Dole Proposes New Settlements for Sterile Plantation Workers

(Beyond Pesticides, June 2, 2010) After decades-long litigation over the use of the toxic pesticide dibromochloropropane, or DBCP, in the 1970’s which has been linked to sterility and has since been banned, Dole Food Co. is proposing new settlements for farm workers claiming they were injured by exposure to the pesticide. A request has been filed by lawyers for Dole in the Los Angeles Superior Court asking that nearly 1,500 Honduran farm workers who are suing Dole be allowed to drop out of those suits and settle their claims out of court under an existing program arranged by the company and Honduran government officials. This could potentially end years of legal action inexpensively for Dole while providing compensation to workers quickly, however some people view this plan as a way for the company to back out of its responsibilities to former plantation workers.

The pesticide DBCP was used by workers from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama to kill worm infestations in the trees’ roots. In the U.S., DBCP was used as a soil fumigant and nematocide on over 40 different crops until 1977. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DBCP causes male reproductive problems, including low sperm count, and is a “probable human carcinogen.” From 1977 to 1979, EPA suspended registration for all DBCP-containing products except for use on pineapples in Hawaii. In 1985, EPA issued intent to cancel all registrations for DBCP, including use on pineapples. Subsequently, the use of existing stocks of DBCP was prohibited. Dole has since been hit with lawsuits from tens of thousands of former workers from that country as well as Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Guatemala, the Ivory Coast and Hawaii.

According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Dole developed a settlement plan in 2006 called the Honduran Worker Program to pay workers who can prove that they worked on a Dole plantation and became sterile from $1,500 to $5,800 in exchange for agreeing not to sue the company. If the workers are suing Dole, they can’t participate in the program; however the company is now asking the court for permission to accept workers into the program even if they are suing Dole, thus allowing workers to surrender their right to sue.

Some are skeptical of Dole’s efforts, including Benton Musslewhite, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys: “It’s just a deal to get Dole off the hook.” He believes the program is an attempt to exploit uneducated men and cheat them out of possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in trial damages, and plans to argue that the pesticide lawsuits should proceed and the program not be expanded.

Dole wants to replicate the Honduran settlement model in order to settle claims in other countries where it used DBCP and is facing a total of 2,300 claims from foreign workers in state court. Though it is unclear how many claims Dole is facing worldwide estimates run into the thousands. Under the settlement, the company will pay the claimant $100 in exchange for his signature on a release of all claims against the fruit company. Then the worker must definitively prove that he was exposed to DBCP during his employment and submit to “a thorough medical questionnaire and physical exam,” according to Dole’s court filing. Depending on the level of sterility, the worker will receive a payment of as much as 110,000 Honduran lempiras, or roughly $5,800.

Mr. Musslewhite argues the program severely disadvantages men who are suffering significant medical problems. The workers, most of whom have little formal education, have to go without legal representation, submit to invasive medical tests and prove 30-year-old facts to a multinational corporation armed with high-paid lawyers, doctors and other representatives. He says that only a handful of applicants have walked away with any kind of settlement, and according to Dole’s records included in the filing, the company interviewed more than 1,000 applicants for the program, of which just 58 had been paid as of March 2009, the most recent date for which data was available.

Related Daily News Coverage:
U.S. Court Reverses Judgement Against Dole and Dow Chemical for Sterile Banana Workers, Oct 27, 2009
Nicaraguan Farmworkers Awarded $3.3 Million in U.S. Pesticide Poisoning Case, Nov 8, 2007
Farmworkers’ Lawsuits Claimed Pesticides Made Them Sterile, July 12, 2007
Costa Rican Workers Left Sterile by Pesticide Sue Dole, Shell, and Dow Chemical, Dec 2, 2004
Nicaraguan Banana Workers Will Have Their Day in U.S. Court, Jan 24, 2003

Source: Los Angeles Business Journal

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01
Jun

USGS Finds Atrazine Herbicide Adversely Affects Fish Reproduction

(Beyond Pesticides, June 1, 2010) Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been shown to affect reproduction of fish at concentrations below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-quality guideline, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study. “Concentrations of atrazine commonly found in agricultural streams and rivers caused reduced reproduction and spawning, as well as tissue abnormalities in laboratory studies with fish,” said USGS scientist Donald Tillitt, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, “Atrazine Reduces Reproduction in Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas)” published in Aquatic Toxicology.

Fathead minnows were exposed to atrazine at the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center in Columbia, Missouri, and observed for effects on egg production, tissue abnormalities and hormone levels. Fish were exposed to concentrations ranging from zero to 50 micrograms per liter of atrazine for up to 30 days. All tested levels of exposure are less than the EPA Office of Pesticides Aquatic Life Benchmark of 65 micrograms per liter for chronic exposure of fish.

Study results show that normal reproductive cycling was disrupted by atrazine and fish did not spawn as much or as well when exposed to atrazine. Researchers found that total egg production was lower in all atrazine-exposed fish, as compared to the non-exposed fish, within 17 to 20 days of exposure. In addition, atrazine-exposed fish spawned less and there were abnormalities in reproductive tissues of both males and females.

Atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world and is used on most corn, sugarcane and sorghum acreage in the United States; and can also be used on golf courses and residential lawns. In the U.S. alone, 60-80 million pounds are used per year to stop pre- and post-emergence broadleaf and annual grassy weeds, and is generally applied in the spring. Thus, noted Dr. Tillitt, atrazine concentrations are greatest in streams during the spring, when most fish in North America are attempting to reproduce.

The herbicide is a common contaminant of municipal drinking water because it does not cling to soil particles and washes easily with the rain into surface and ground water. In previous studies, the USGS found atrazine in approximately 75 percent of stream waters and 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural areas tested.

Atrazine has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans including disruption of hormone activity, low sperm quality, low birth weight, impaired immune system function and cancer. A 2009 study by Paul Winchester, PhD, linked birth defects to time of conception, with the great impact on children conceived when concentrations of atrazine and other pesticides were the highest in the local drinking water.

Previous studies show that atrazine harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. For example, a study of fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine exhibited hermaphrodism, creatures with both male and female sexual characteristics. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs. Other research by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. and others demonstrates that exposure to doses of atrazine as small as 0.1 parts per billion, turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites. In yet another study, a mixture of small amounts of ten of the most commonly used pesticides, including atrazine, was found to kill 99 percent of leopard frog tadpoles.

The results of this new study add an important ecological perspective to findings on atrazine concentrations in streams reported by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program, as well as others, and highlights the potential risks to aquatic species of this high-use chemical, Dr. Tillitt said.

“Results of studies over the past 20 years show that atrazine is the most frequently detected pesticide in agricultural streams and rivers nationwide, and particularly in the Corn Belt states,” according to Robert Gilliom, Chief of the NAWQA Pesticide National Synthesis Project. “Atrazine concentration data for Corn Belt streams and rivers show that 21-day average concentrations, similar to the exposure conditions studied by Dr. Tillitt, exceeded levels found to affect fish reproduction for most sites and years sampled.”

In 1991, Germany and Italy banned the use of atrazine. The European Union banned atrazine in 2004, after repeated testing found the herbicide in drinking water supplies, and health officials were unable to find sufficient evidence that the chemical is safe. In much of Europe the burden of proof falls on the pesticide manufacturer to prove it is safe, unlike in the U.S. where EPA has assumed the burden of proving a pesticide does not meet acceptable risk standards before taking regulatory action.

On April 22, 2010, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced H.R.5124, legislation to prohibit the use, production, sale, importation, or exportation of any pesticide containing atrazine.

Based on scientific evidence, there is no need to continue with the use of atrazine, especially with so many alternatives for pest management. For examples, see our Lawns and Landscapes page and our Organic Food page. For further information on water issue, please see our Threatened Waters page.

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28
May

New Study Links Occupational Pesticide Exposure to Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia

(Beyond Pesticides, May 28, 2010) The repeated exposure to organophosphate and organochlorine insecticides can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or dementia later in life according to a new study published in the May issue of Neurology. The observational study entitled “Occupational exposure to pesticides increases the risk of incident AD” is one of very few studies to examine a link between pesticides and AD.

Researchers lead by Kathleen M. Hayden, PhD of Duke University Medical Center examined residents 65 years and older from an agricultural community in Cache County Utah. Participants were assessed for cognitive ability at the inception of the study and again after 3, 7, and 10 years. Data showed that those repeatedly exposed to any pesticides were more likely to develop AD or dementia. Researchers found a higher incidence of AD among those exposed to organophosphates and organochlorines. The risk of AD associated with organophosphate exposure was slightly higher than the risk associated with organochlorines. Researchers also found an increase in dementia among those exposed to organophosphates or organochlorines; however this increase was not statistically significant. Dr. Hayden said that more research was necessary to determine a causal link.

Organophosphates are known to reduce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for learning, memory, and concentration in the human brain. Acetylcholine is also reduced in AD patients. Most drugs on the market to treat AD work by increasing the amount of acetylcholine. Ronald Peterson, MD, PhD, chair of the Alzheimer’s Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council and professor of neurology and Cora Kanow Professor of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota said this may be a clue as to why organophosphates are associated with an increased risk of the disease.

Since many organochlorine insecticides such as DDT, dieldrin, and heptachlor were banned in the US, organophosphates have become the most common type of insecticide. An estimated 20 to 24 million lbs of Chlorpyrifos, a type of organophosphate, is applied annually in the United States. Organophosphate exposure has been linked to a host of diseases in humans including birth defects, ADHD, and liver damage.

Take Action!
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) has a petition to stop the use of chlorpyrifos, and phase out all organophosphates. Sign the petition here.

Source: Medscape Today

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27
May

LEED-Certified Green Buildings Fail to Protect Human Health

(Beyond Pesticides, May 27, 2010) A new report showcases the pitfalls of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program in regards to protecting human health from environmental hazards. The report, “LEED Certification: Where Energy Efficiency Collides With Human Health,” put out by Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), warns that the LEED certification gives a false impression of a healthy and safe building environment and offers recommendations for the program to become more protective of human health.

EHHI found that LEED standards have been incorporated into many federal, state and local laws, and many other corporations and other institutions have adopted LEED standards as well. Although this has encouraged energy efficiency in buildings, according John Wargo, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of Risk Analysis and Environmental Policy at Yale University, it has been implemented without fully understanding that energy conservation efforts often reduce the exchange of indoor and outdoor air, which can cause synthetic chemicals to concentrate within buildings. “Tighter buildings often concentrate chemicals released from building materials, cleaning supplies, fuel combustion, pesticides and other hazardous substances,” he said.

Energy efficiency is given a high priority over health. The report found that about four times as many credits are awarded for energy conservation and design (35 possible credits) than for protection of indoor air quality (8 possible credits). LEED’s highest rating, “Platinum,” for instance, is attainable without even earning any credits for indoor air quality protection. Additionally, EHHI chides the LEED program for having only one medical doctor out of 25 total positions on the board of directors. This is particularly troubling news in light of the recent report by the President’s Cancer Panel, which found that environmental toxins belong to a group of carcinogens that have not been addressed adequately by the nation’s cancer program.

Toxic pesticides, including those already banned, have been shown to persist in homes. A California study found that residential and agricultural pesticides persist in household dust. In these studies chlorpyrifos continues to be one of the most frequently detected chemical in homes. Significant amounts of pyrethroid pesticides, such as permethrin, have also been found in indoor dust of homes and childcare centers. Inner-city homes have also documented the occurrence of pesticide residues in indoor dusts and air samples, including a sampling of homes of pregnant women which found that 75% of their homes were contaminated with pesticides.

“The underlying problem,” explained Dr. Wargo, “is that thousands of different chemicals, many of them well recognized to be hazardous, are allowed by the federal government to become components of building materials. Very few of these chemicals have been tested to identify their toxicity, environmental fate or the danger they pose to human health. Although the primary stated purposes of the Green Building Council are to promote both energy efficiency and human health, even the Council’s most prestigious Platinum award does little to ensure that hazardous chemicals are kept out of the certified buildings.”

Another issue that the report raises is that there is no federal definition of “green building standards” as there is for organic food or even drinking water standards. Due to the lack of regulation, many trade organizations have created their own certification programs, thus allowing the potential for “greenwashing,” or the promotion of a product or service as environmentally friendly when the veracity of such claims is dubious.

In order to encourage Green Building Council’s LEED program to become more health protective, EHHI is recommending the following:
1. The Green Building Council (GBC) should simplify the LEED scoring system within categories. Rather than issuing awards of “platinum,” “gold” and so on, the GBC should require performance within each category (health, energy, sites, neighborhoods, etc.) on a 0-100 scale.
2. The GBC should expand its board expertise to include people in the area of human health. The board is now dominated by developers, engineers, chemical and materials manufacturers, and architects.
3. The government should categorize building products to identify: a) those that contain hazardous compounds; b) those that have been tested and found to be safe; and c) those that have been insufficiently tested, making a determination of hazard or safety impossible. This database should be freely available on the internet.
4. The chemical content and country of origin of building materials should be clearly identifiable on building product labels.
5. The GBC should support federal efforts to require the testing of chemicals used in many building products for their toxicity, environmental fate and threat to human health.

Regarding pesticide use, the report recommends that indoor applications of registered pesticides occur only after physical and biological control has been attempted and found to be ineffective, and if a public health authority has determined that the health risks from the pesticides would be less than the target pests. They also say that the GBC should also require that occupants receive prior notification of the pesticide used, its chemical content and toxicity, as well as timing and methods of chemical application.

Additional details on EHHI’s recommendations for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program can be found here.

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