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Groups File Endosulfan Lawsuit Against EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2008) San Francisco, California – On July 24, 2008, a broad coalition of farmworker, public health, and environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop the continued use of a hazardous pesticide called endosulfan. The coalition is demanding action from EPA to protect children, farmworkers, and endangered species.

Endosulfan is an organochlorine, part of the same family of chemicals as DDT, which EPA banned in 1972. Like other organochlorine pesticides, endosulfan is persistent in the environment and poisons humans and wildlife both in agricultural areas and in regions far from where it was applied.

“This dangerous and antiquated pesticide should have been off the market years ago,” said Karl Tupper, a staff scientist with Pesticide Action Network. “The fact that EPA is still allowing the use of a chemical this harmful shows just how broken our regulatory system is.”

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, and an increase in the risk of miscarriages.

One glaring omission in the EPA’s decision is 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.

“EPA has failed to protect children and endangered species from endosulfan poisonings,” said Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice who is representing the coalition. “We call on EPA to ban the use of endosulfan in the United States.”

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. A recent federal study found that U.S. national parks from Texas to Alaska are contaminated with endosulfan in amounts that threaten ecosystems and wildlife in these protected environments.

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.

EPA’s own analysis of endosulfan confirmed that the pesticide poses severe risks to humans and only minimal benefits to growers.

“This dangerous pesticide puts farmworker communities at increased risk of severe health effects,” said Shelley Davis, deputy director of Farmworker Justice. “These risks are unacceptable since even EPA acknowledges that safer alternatives to endosulfan are already in widespread use.”

Earlier this year, more than 13,000 Americans concerned about these health and environmental risks signed a petition urging EPA to discontinue endosulfan use. More than 100 environmental and public health groups recently sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson outlining their concerns about endosulfan. Further, more than 50 international scientists, medical doctors, nurses, and other health professionals have urged EPA to take action, as have tribal governments and indigenous groups in the Arctic.

“When EPA doesn’t consider how a hazardous pesticide could impact the health of children, it is breaking the law,” said Mae Wu, health attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “EPA’s approach to reviewing the safety of this chemical is not only flawed and dangerous – but also illegal. The full scope of endosulfan’s health impacts needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.”

With little response from the EPA, a coalition of health and environmental groups today took the issue to federal court.

The European Union and more than 20 other countries including Cambodia, the Philippines, and Tonga have already banned endosulfan. In addition, it has been nominated for inclusion in the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty that bans persistent chemicals from global use.

“The U.S. has fallen far behind the rest of the world in protecting its children from harmful toxins,” said Pam Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “We must act now to reduce the toxic imprint that endosulfan will leave on future generations. We are particularly concerned that endosulfan is increasing in the Arctic and that northern ecosystems and Indigenous peoples are especially vulnerable.”

According to EPA, approximately 1.38 million pounds of endosulfan were used annually in the United States as of 2002, the most recent year for which national usage data are available. Crops commonly treated with endosulfan include cotton, tomatoes, melons, squash, and tobacco.

“The science clearly shows that the use of this chemical puts the health of exposed farmworkers and children in agricultural communities at risk,” said Erik Nicholson of United Farm Workers. “There’s plenty of evidence and no need for more studies – we’re demanding that EPA take action now.”

The lawsuit was brought by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice on behalf of: Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Environmental Health, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (AFL-CIO), Natural Resources Defense Council, Pesticide Action Network North America, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), United Farm Workers, and Teamsters Local 890.


3 Responses to “Groups File Endosulfan Lawsuit Against EPA”

  1. 1
    Momocha Says:

    Endosulfan is not a typical organocholrine family like the other chemicals viz., DDT because it has a sulphur group in it. Because of its unique chemistry it has less persistence in environment. It is a far fetch myth that endosulfan poisons human life and agricultural regions as the persistence in air are also very low according to the available scientific studies

    It appears that the data with WHO informs a different angle! WHO classifies Endosulfan as a Class II (Class I to Class III, Class I being extremely toxic).To cite an example Endosulfan is as safe as (or for that matter, as toxic as!) our household pesticide like allethrin which we use as mosquito repellent. This is beyond pure logic that it can be a very dangerous molecule. The respected regulator – US-EPA is supposed to be an authentic source of information, and it classifies Endosulfan as moderately toxic.
    Drinking a pesticide can kill as pesticides are supposed to be toxic and hence harmful!. Even if you eat ½ kg of common salt we will die. Taking our of the shelves drugs like Paracetamol in large quantities will also cause similar effects. So what are we talking! This molecule prevalent for the last 5 decades where we have seen maximum and manifold increase of world population. I do not see any connection that smaller testicle, lower sperm production would contribute to this increase

    EPA has been very cautious about this molecule and they have done thorough studies for the said (RED Document EPA 2002). After they have completed their studies they have come to the conclusion that its exposure to children and lactating mothers is negligible and minimal. There are no reports wherein such exposures had problems unless and otherwise rampant and intentional use of the said has resulted for the same.
    Any chemical causing the kind of effects mentioned should be sent out of this planet! However it shoud be based on sound scientific investigation, which it appears to have done on Endosulfan. This pesticide does not persist in water and hence it gets degraded very soon. Studies by EPA and other organizations have confirmed that this molecule is friendly to bees and pollinators and other beneficial insects. This insecticide thus is beneficial to ecosystem unlike pesticides like neonicotinoides like imidacloprid which is more harmful to bees (Ex France problems of bee death in France 2006-07) and other beneficial insects which is massively use in EU and other parts of the world. I failed to understand single targeting on Endosulfan in spite of such incidences. Why do not PAN take up a stance to banned these groups?
    As stated earlier, in the last 5 decades we have increased the world population. I fail to see how it is connected to minimal benefits when farmers have a broad spectrum insecticide which does not infer resistance to insects and helps beneficial insects and bees. It is beyond comprehension that why should we have many different pesticides and have the same result as one pesticide which is also cheaper?
    It is also interesting to note that all almost all the countries that are banning endosulfan are the ones have significant trade relationship with EU or should I say extremely dependent on EU for their country economy. These countries at one point of time were colonies of EU countries and significant hold of EU is still prevalent. These countries are also insignificant agriculture producers in the world. The stark coincidence would not have been better!
    In reality I would say U.S. being a democratic having sound knowledge of scientific studies rather than propagated myths have come to a very mature decision on the subject. In recent studies also the Artic contamination as stated was insignificant. Is this a well fabricated strategy for creating fear psychosis?
    Are the evidences that say this product is problematic authentic and put facts on the table. Are they really palatable?
    To conclude I would like to put certain things also. Do we say that bread is not eaten in China as it is not their staple food and many parts of the world so it should be banned? Should we say we should not eat antibiotics because it causes resistance problems and pose a health hazard developing new resistance strains? Should we say we should stop using mobile phones because it is carcinogenic? Should we stop drinking coke as it is carbonated water and drinking it in large quantities may result in death?

  2. 2
    Mr.VCS Says:

    I agree with momocha views. it is very clear that EU is playing key role to ban endosulfan so that they can replace with some other molecule in the place of Endosulfan

  3. 3
    Satyabroto Banerji Says:

    Endosulfan can be used safely and judiciously. It is an important agent of IPM and IRM. Beneficial insects tolerate Endosulfan relatively well. It is not advisable to stop use of this economical and versatile generic pesticide.

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