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Fed Report Finds Pesticides Threaten Salmon

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2008) The first report released by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as a result of a lawsuit (NCAP et al. v. NMFS, No. 07-1791 RSL) settlement reveal “overwhelming evidence” to suggest that the pesticides chlorpyrifos, malathion, and diazinon increase the chance of extinction for protected salmon and steelhead. The report on the three pesticides and their effects on threatened fish is the first in what is expected to be a four year review process of 37 pesticides.

“These are pesticides that EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] has swept under the rug for years. These are three that stood out as the nastiest of the (pesticides) that are still in widespread use,” said Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice who represented the plaintiff, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). The 377-page report is clear in its conclusion that current use patterns of these three toxic pesticides threaten the salmon and steelhead protected by the Endangered Species Act, but it does not delineate the next steps to reduce the risk. A report on mitigation measures, which could include restrictions or bans, is expected in the next few months.

The timing of the report coincides with other important and related events in pesticide regulation and protection of endangered species. On August 11, 2008, the Bush administration announced new draft rules for the Endangered Species Act that will limit interagency assessments. Federal agencies, including EPA, which are now required to check in with the Fish and Wildlife Service about potential effects their actions may have on endangered species, will make their own determinations about effects without consultation from the corresponding agency overseeing the survival of the species.

Chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon are organophosphate insecticides of concern also because of their adverse effects on human health and all wildlife. All three have undergone EPA’s reregistration review process, and their reregistration eligibility decisions (REDs) were signed in 2006. Although there were some restrictions put into place on their use, they are still very commonly used pesticides in agriculture and some other applications. Because of the extremely high risks associated with diazinon, at the end of July 2008, a coalition of farmworker, environmental and public health advocates filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s decision to allow its continued use.

Mr. Osborne-Klein, who also represents the plaintiffs in the diazinon case, said of the NMFS report, “It seems to be a very thoughtful and fair opinion.” However, opposing, pro-pesticide groups disagree and say the report does not draw its conclusions from real world assumptions about pesticide exposure. Numerous reports have documented myriad effects of low levels of pesticides on salmon that limit their ability to swim, eat, reproduce, and avoid predators.

For more information on salmon and pesticides, please read our Daily News stories about real world pesticide mixtures and their effects on salmon as well as our article from Pesticides and You.

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer


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