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New Analysis of Apple Moth Pesticides Misses Significant Hazards

(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2008) Despite significant data gaps in the testing of apple moth pesticides, the California Department of Food and Agriculture recently reported that a new analysis conducted by three other state agencies “confirms the products tested are extremely low in toxicity.” An analysis of the state report by researchers at the Center for Environmental Health and Pesticide Action Network find that the report failed to address potential long-term health impacts from the pesticides and even omitted analysis of many of the acute symptoms suffered by people during last year’s spraying.

“There is no evidence that the apple moth has damaged crops or native plants in California,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health and Beyond Pesticides board member, “or that eradication of the moth can actually be achieved. It is never appropriate to expose large numbers of people to incompletely tested chemicals, especially in an eradication program based on faulty assumptions.”

The toxicology studies on which the new analysis is based are designed to measure acute (short-term) toxicity. The studies ignore questions about significant health hazards, including the potential that the pesticide could cause cancer or birth defects, reduce fertility or harm our immune systems. These questions are of enormous concern to those who have been or will be exposed to these chemicals.

Even short-term (acute) health problems are omitted from the tests used in the new analysis. The tests do not answer, for example, whether or not the pesticides cause headaches, breathing problems, disruption of menstrual cycles, or a host of other problems that were reported following last year’s spray applications in Monterey and Santa Cruz.

Many of the people who were exposed to apple moth pesticides during last year’s spraying were exposed to the pesticides by breathing in small droplets. The toxicology tests used for the new analysis include only one test that looks at the effects of being exposed to apple moth pesticides through breathing and that test is designed only to measure how much of the pesticide is required to cause death.

All of the toxicology tests used in the new analysis test a small number of laboratory animals and are not adequate to understand how the pesticides impact the enormous variety of people who are exposed in an aerial spray program over urban areas. Potential Impacts on the very young, the sick, and the elderly are all omitted from the tests.

The pesticide through its application within microcapsules is designed to remain active in the environment for an extended period of time yet none of the studies of health effects considered chronic (long-term) exposures.

“This conclusion is not based on comprehensive testing,” said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network. “It ignores important issues that have been repeatedly raised by the residents of eradication areas.”

The California Department of Food and Agriculture also released a study showing that an apple moth pesticide used last year drifted for over three miles from the application site. This is further indication that the impact of the pesticide is poorly understood.

Back in June, California state officials abruptly cancelled the program to spray pesticides to combat the light brown apple moth. This move came after months of protests by residents over concerns that the chemicals in the pheromone-based pesticide may adversely impact their health and the environment. Instead of spraying, the state said that it would keep moth populations under control by releasing sterile moths to halt reproduction by rendering eggs useless. Apparently the use of sterile moth as a means of population control has been a part of the state’s plans for more than a year. Protests over the spraying began after about 487 people reported feeling symptoms ranging from itchy eyes to breathing trouble after planes dusted a fine chemical mist over the area surrounding Monterey and Santa Cruz last fall.

For additional background information on the brown apple moth, see Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog pages.

Source: Center for Environmental Health


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