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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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