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Toxic Pesticide-Encapsulated Paint Introduced to Combat Malaria

(Beyond Pesticides, May 22, 2012) The Spanish-based Inesfly company announced recently its plans to release commercially pesticide encapsulated paint, Inesfly 5A IGR, containing two neurotoxic organophosphates (OPs), chlorpyrifos and diazinon, and the insect growth regulator (IGR), pyriproxyfen, which it hopes will combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. The company’s owner Pilar Mateo, PhD, calls her product “a vaccine for houses and buildings” and explains that because the insecticides are released slowly from the paint, it remains effective for two to four years. This formulation of Dr. Mateo’s paint could not be registered for use in the U.S. because both indoor residential uses of chlorpyrifos and diazinon have been banned because of risks posed to children’s health, although the company has another formulation that substitutes pyrethroids for the organophosphates.

Though probably well-intentioned –Dr. Mateo has already invested $6 million of her family’s money and $12 million in grants from nonprofits, on research, creating educational programs about hygiene, and donating paint to more than 8,000 homes in Latin America and Africa—the product puts the people it is supposed to protect from disease at risk for other health problems. Organophosphate insecticides have been linked to a host of neurodevelopmental problems, especially in children. Because these OPs are endocrine disruptors, exposure to the paint could cause damage, even at the extremely low levels touted by its manufacturer. Both chlorpyrifos and diazinon have been linked to reproductive and developmental effects and organ damage. Pyriproxyfen exposure causes kidney and liver damage as well. Furthermore there could be a synergistic effect among the pesticides in the paint or other chemicals in the home.

With the indoor use of organophosphates decreasing globally because of health concerns, one must question the decision to include these outdated pesticides in new products. Studies have shown that exposure to organophosphate compounds cause hyperactivity and cognitive deficits in animals. A study published in Pediatrics found that exposure to organophosphates in developing children might have effects on neural systems and could contribute to ADHD behaviors, such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Researchers discovered that for children with a 10-fold increase in the concentration of the most common phosphate metabolites measured in their urine, the odds of ADHD increases by more than half compared to those without detectable levels. A recent study found that exposure of pregnant women to organophosphate pesticides may affect both length of pregnancy and birth weight. Women with higher levels of organophosphates were found to have pregnancies that were 3 to 4 days shorter and babies that were about ⅓ pound lighter on average than women with lower levels of pesticides. Just this spring, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences linked prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos to brain abnormalities.

According to Business Week, various formulations of the paint are already approved for use in 15 countries, including China, Germany, and Spain. Dr. Mateo is seeking approval in the U.S. and a recommendation from the World Health Organization. Inesfly plans to move its manufacturing of the paint from a Spanish facility to Ghana to cut costs and make the paint cheaper. They hope the pesticide paint will be the same price as traditional paint. Inesfly also believes that its combination of three insecticides will help combat pesticide resistance.

Beyond Pesticides recently reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently advocated for multiple toxic pesticides to combat mosquito resistance to insecticides that is showing up in sub-Saharan African. Insecticide resistance, according to the WHO report, is already rampant in 64 malaria-ridden countries and may result in as many as 26 million more cases of malaria a year, which could end up costing between $30 and $60 million annually for tests and medication. Mosquitoes in sub-Saharan African countries are becoming resistant to pyrethroid insecticides, which are used extensively for household spraying and treating bed nets, as well as to the organochloride compound DDT -which is still used in many parts of the world to control mosquitoes. Rather than reducing the reliance on these products, WHO is recommending rotating classes of pesticides used to spray inside homes and developing a new non-pyrethroid insecticide to treat bed nets.

Beyond Pesticides advocates fighting malaria without poisoning future generations of children in malaria hot spots. “We should be advocating for a just world where we no longer treat poverty and development with poisonous band-aids, but join together to address the root causes of insect-borne disease, because the chemical-dependent alternatives are ultimately deadly for everyone,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.


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