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USDA Study Finds Higher Rates of Herbicide Volatilization Than Expected

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, July 19, 2011) According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, the volatilization of atrazine and metolachlor, two herbicides known to contaminate surface and ground water, consistently results in herbicide movement off the target site that exceeds nontarget field runoff, varying widely depending upon weather conditions. Linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, developmental effects, and more, increased levels of these hazardous pesticides in the air is cause for concern. When averaged over the two herbicides, loss by volatilization is about 25 times larger than movement from surface runoff, despite low vapor pressures. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Timothy Gish, PhD and ARS micrometeorologist John Prueger, PhD led the investigation, which looks at the field dynamics of these two herbicides commonly used in corn production. Prior to this field study, many experts believed that volatilization was not a contributing factor to water contamination because atrazine and metolachlor had a low vapor pressure. However, the monitoring of both herbicide volatilization and surface runoff at the field-scale over multiple years had never been done. So the team set up a 10-year study in an experimental field in Beltsville that is equipped with remote […]


Study Links Prenatal Atrazine Exposure to Adverse Birth Outcomes

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2011) According to a French study published March 2, 2011 in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, prenatal exposure to the herbicide atrazine is linked to small head circumference and fetal growth restriction. The authors say the study “raises particular concerns for countries where atrazine is still in use.” Atrazine is a widespread contaminant in drinking water and is linked to various birth defects, endocrine disruption and cancer, even at concentrations below EPA standards. Although it has been excluded from re-registration in the European Union because it is found above allowable thresholds in groundwater, it is still one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. and around world. The study, “Urinary Biomarkers of Prenatal Atrazine Exposure and Adverse Birth Outcomes in the PELAGIE Birth Cohort,” used a case-cohort design nested in a prospective birth cohort conducted in the Brittany region from 2002 through 2006. It collected maternal urine samples to examine pesticide exposure biomarkers before the 19th week of gestation. Quantifiable levels of atrazine were found in urine samples from 5.5% of 579 pregnant women, and various metabolites were identified in 20-40% of samples. The presence versus absence of quantifiable levels of atrazine […]


EPA Report Shows Modest Decrease in U.S. Pesticide Use

Friday, February 25th, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, February 25, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new report detailing sales and usage of pesticides in the U.S. for the years 2006 and 2007 and showing a modest decrease in pesticide use. The report compiles data from EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other sources in order to track pesticide trends and monitor usage. Previous industry use reports had been published every two years between 1994 and 2001; however, the last report was published ten years ago, in 2001, leaving a gap in the data. In one of the more promising findings, the report shows that pesticide use in the country did decrease throughout most of the last decade. Use of conventional pesticides, measured in pounds applied, decreased about 3% from 2002 to 2007 and 11% from 1997 to 2007. However, the total pounds of pesticide use decreased only by approximately 8% — from 1.2 to 1.1 billion pounds — during the years from 2000 to 2007. While any decrease in the use of toxic chemicals is a hopeful sign, this marginal reduction does not go far enough. The fact that chemicals which are known to adversely affect human health and […]


Group Plans to Sue Agencies over Threatened Amphibian

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2010)The Center for Biological Diversity notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) December 15 of its intent to sue the agencies for failing to study and act on threats posed by more than 60 pesticides to the threatened California red-legged frog. A 2006 legal settlement secured by the Center required the EPA to assess the impacts of pesticides on the frog, then consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Endangered Species Act to address those impacts, by 2009. The completed assessments were submitted to the Wildlife Service between March 2007 and October 2009. Although EPA determined that 64 registered pesticides are likely to harm the frogs, the Service has not completed any consultations or adopted protective measures. “The EPA acknowledges that scores of pesticides may be dangerous to California’s rare red-legged frogs, but nothing’s been done about it,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center. “This three-year delay violates the Endangered Species Act and jeopardizes the future of the largest native frog in California.” Historically abundant throughout California, red-legged frogs have declined in numbers over 90 percent and have disappeared from 70 percent […]


Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Bill Introduced in Congress

Monday, December 21st, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2009) Earlier this month, Congressman Jim Moran of Northern Virginia and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts introduced legislation to explore linkages between hormone disrupting chemicals in the environment and everyday products and the dramatic increase of autism, hyperactivity, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other hormone related disorders. After the identification of endocrine disruptors, the legislation requires federal agencies with regulatory authority to report to Congress on the action it plans to take. For years, scientists have noted strange anomalies in fish and wildlife in locations where endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are found. A recent study found that an astounding 100 percent of small mouth bass in certain sites of the Potomac River basin have exhibited both male and female organs, a characteristic linked to EDCs. According to a 2009 study by the U.S. Geologic Survey, the occurrence of “intersex” fish is now found to be nationwide. “These fish are the proverbial ”˜canaries in the coal mine,’ a symptom of a larger sickness in our environment. The implications for humans are real and deeply troubling,” said U.S. Representative Moran, who worked with experts for roughly a year to craft the legislation. “We need facts driven […]


Review Confirms Atrazine Harms Fish and Amphibians

Monday, October 5th, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2009) An analysis of more than 100 scientific studies conducted on atrazine, published in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, demonstrates the toxicity of atrazine to aquatic animals. Biologists at the University of Southern Florida (USF) have found evidence that atrazine harms fish and frogs. Atrazine is disruptive to the development and behavior of aquatic animals, and negatively effects their immune, hormone, and reproductive systems, according to the studies done by USF assistant professor Jason R. Rohr and postdoctoral fellow Krista A. McCoy. Atrazine is commonly used on lawns, golf courses, and sugarcane fields in Florida, and has recently been the topic of much controversy. While atrazine typically does not kill amphibians and freshwater fish, the USF report says it did: Ӣ Reduce the size of amphibians at or near metamorphosis in 19 of 19 studies. Ӣ Make amphibians and fish more active in 12 of 14 studies but reduced behaviors used to evade predators in six of seven studies. Ӣ Alter at least one aspect of male frogs’ reproductive development in eight of 10 studies. Ӣ Reduce the functioning of animals’ immune systems and often put them at risk of infection. Atrazine, a common […]


U.S. Geological Survey Identifies Intersex Fish Nationwide

Friday, September 18th, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, September 18, 2009) Previously documented in the Potomac River, which flows through downtown Washington, DC, the occurrence of “intersex” fish is now found to be nationwide. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers published their study, “Widespread occurrence of intersex in black basses from U.S. rivers” in the online edition of Aquatic Toxicology. USGS researchers examined 16 different species of fish across the U.S. between 1995 and 2004. The condition of intersex fish, male fish producing eggs, is most commonly found in smallmouth and largemouth bass. One third of male smallmouth bass and one fifth of the male largemouth bass are intersex. Scientists tested sites in the Apalachicola, Colorado, Columbia, Mobile, Mississippi, Pee Dee, Rio Grande, Savannah, and Yukon River basins. Research shows intersex fish in approximately one-third of all examined sites. The only site where researchers found no intersex fish is the Yukon River basin. While the study did not look for the causes for intersex fish, scientists believe endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal systems, are certainly to blame. “We know that endocrine-active compounds have been associated with intersex in fish, but we lack information on which fish species are most sensitive to such compounds, […]


Study Finds Low Pesticide Concentrations Can Become Toxic Mixture

Monday, November 17th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, November 17, 2008) A toxic soup of the most commonly used pesticides frequently detected in nature can adversely affect the environment and decimate amphibian populations even if the concentration of the individual chemicals are within limits considered safe, according to University of Pittsburgh research published in the online edition of Oecologia. The results of this study build on a nine-year effort to understand potential links between the global decline in amphibians, routine pesticide use, and the possible threat to humans in the future. Amphibians are considered an environmental indicator species because of their unique sensitivity to pollutants. Their demise from pesticide exposure could foreshadow the fate of less sensitive animals, according to study author Dr. Rick Relyea, Ph.D., an associate professor of biological sciences in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Arts and Sciences. Leopard frogs, in particular, are vulnerable to contamination; once plentiful across North America, their population has declined in recent years as pollution and deforestation has increased. Dr. Relyea exposed gray tree frog and leopard frog tadpoles to small amounts of the ten pesticides that are widely used throughout the world. Dr. Relyea selected five insecticides: carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, endosulfan, and malathion; and five herbicides: […]


Persistent Pesticides Detected in Groundwater Again

Monday, October 27th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, October 27, 2008) Six pesticides that threaten water quality and public health continue to be detected in groundwater samples, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study. Published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, the study evaluates groundwater contaminants from samples taken from over 300 wells across the U.S. Over the years, frequent research has detected pesticides in ground water around the country, including in aquifers used for drinking-water supply. Over the past few decades, the use of some pesticides has been restricted or banned, while new pesticides have been introduced. One goal of the study was to track the retention of various types of contaminants that would be found in the different pesticides used over the years. Original samples were taken from the wells from 1993-1995, and compared with samples taken from 2001-2003. Laboratory analysis was performed using methods that allowed detection of pesticide compounds at concentrations as small as 1,000 times below U.S. EPA drinking-water standards. Of the 80 compounds studied, six were detected in ground water from at least 10 wells during both of those sample periods. The six pesticide compounds detected are the triazine herbicides atrazine, simazine, and prometon; the acetanilide herbicide metolachlor; […]


Gender-Bending Herbicide Contaminates Lakes Far from Use Sites

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2008) According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s 2007 Water Quality Monitoring Report, released in August 2008, the endocrine disrupting herbicide atrazine is detected in pristine lakes in northern Minnesota far from the agricultural fields where it is applied. Metolachlor, acetochlor and dimethenamid are also frequent contaminants, according to the statewide sampling. The report, which uses data collected by a collaborative program between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, analyzed samples from 55 of the state’s lakes. Atrazine was detected in approximately 87% of the 2007 samples, an increase from 2006. The presence of atrazine in such a large percentage of the lakes, many of which are located in non-agricultural areas of northern Minnesota, suggests widespread atmospheric deposition of this chemical (movement through wind and rain). “To some people, it is a bit of a surprise, but the concentrations are low, very low,” Steven Heiskary, a research scientist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) told the Star Tribune. Unfortunately, this is not very reassuring, given the fact that many of the developmental impacts linked to atrazine are seen at very low levels, sometimes at just […]


Pesticides and Degradation Products Detected in Ground Water

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, July 3, 2008) The results of a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study   investigating the occurrence of selected pesticides and their degradation products in groundwater shows that these chemicals can persist for years, depending upon the chemical structure of the compounds and the environmental conditions. The study, funded by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program and published in the May-June issue of Journal of Environmental Quality, specifically examines several of the factors that can influence the likelihood of pesticides and their degradation products being detected in shallow ground water, including oxidation-reduction (redox) conditions and ground water residence times, at four study sites across the United States. Numerous studies over the past four decades have established that pesticides, which are typically applied at the land surface, can move downward through the unsaturated zone to reach the water table at detectable concentrations. The downward movement of pesticide degradation products, formed in situ, can also contribute to the contamination of ground water.The study reveals that the pesticides and degradation products detected most frequently in shallow ground water samples from all four areas are predominantly from two classes of herbicides””triazines and chloroacetanilides. None of the insecticides or fungicides examined are detected […]


USGS Identifies Contaminants in Potomac River Possibly Linked to Intersex Fish

Monday, March 24th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2008) Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that they have identified ten contaminants, including pesticides, in the Potomac River, which flows through downtown Washington, DC, that could be responsible for the alarming discovery of “intersex fish,” male fish producing eggs. The suspected chemicals include: atrazine, a common herbicide used in agriculture and on lawns that is already linked to sexual abnormalities in frogs; insecticides chlorpyrifos and endosulfan; the herbicide metolachlor; and two chemicals used to add fragrance to perfumes, soaps and other products, tonalide and galaxolide. To collect the samples, USGS scientists suspended a device intended to serve as a facsimile fish in the Potomac River near the Washington, DC’s Blue Plains sewage plant. The device had a plastic-coated tube, which simulated a fish’s permeable skin, and a layer of simulated fat. According to the Washington Post, the tests on this fake fat revealed a range of potentially worrisome pollutants. Most have been found in other streams around the U.S. “The types of things we’re finding are the types of things that are associated with everyday life,” David Alvarez, a U.S. Geological Survey research chemist who analyzed samples from the Potomac told the Washington […]


Pesticides and Degradates Widely Detected in USGS Chesapeake Bay Study

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2008) In a five-year study of the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that, “Synthetic organic pesticides and their degradation products have been widely detected at low levels in the watershed, including emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and hormones.“ The report finds that concentrations of DDT, while still present, have declined since the 1970s when it was phased out. The findings are contained in a report entitled Synthesis of U.S. Geological Survey Science for the Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem and Implications for Environmental Management. The study is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), which is a multi-agency partnership working to restore the Bay ecosystem. According to the report introduction, “In 2005, which represented the mid-point of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, there was growing concern at all levels of government and by the public that ecological conditions in the Bay and its watershed had not significantly improved. The slow rate of improvement, coupled with the projected human-population increase in the Bay watershed, implied that many desired ecological conditions will not be achieved by 2010. The Government Accountability Office (2005) recommended that the CBP complete efforts for an integrated assessment approach […]


Study Finds Frogs Near Agricultural Fields More Likely To Be Deformed

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2007) According to the Associated Press (AP), a new study finds frogs in Vermont living near farms are more than twice as likely as those living elsewhere to have deformities like missing legs. Yale University ecologist David Skelly, Ph.D., told the AP he decided to look at Vermont frogs because the state has been a hot spot during the last 10 years for deformed frogs. “We went to all these wetlands and cataloged where the deformities were found, and what kind of landscapes seemed to pose higher risks, if any,” Dr. Skelly said. “The answer was, frogs growing up in proximity to agriculture were more than two times as likely to have deformities. This doesn’t say it is chemical pesticides, but you can’t credibly consider this problem of the frogs without at least evaluating whether pesticides are involved.” Richard Levey, a biologist with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, said two common farm chemicals, atrazine and metolachlor, had been found in trace amounts in water from wetlands where deformed frogs had been found. But he told the AP that the concentrations were far below those thought to have any effect on aquatic life. Research by Tyrone […]


USDA Finds Pesticide Residues in Majority of Foods

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2007) The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Pesticide Data Program (PDP) recently released its latest annual summary detailing pesticide residues in the U.S. food supply. The data, from 2005, reveals approximately two-thirds of sampled foods contained one or more pesticides at detectable levels. For the 2005 report, PDP sampled fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, soybeans, wheat, milk, heavy cream, pork, bottled water and drinking water. A total of 14,749 samples were tested for various insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and growth regulators. Twelve states reported data to comprise the report: California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Excluding drinking water, 84 percent of samples originated within the United States. Foods most likely to be consumed by infants and children are analyzed to provide data that is used in the implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act. The data is used in this context to assess dietary exposure to pesticide residues by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Overall results show that, excluding drinking water samples, 36 percent of samples had more than one detectable pesticide, 30 percent had one detectable pesticide, and 34 percent did not have detectable levels of […]