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11
Aug

Research Shows Commonly Used Pesticides Produce Greater Toxic Effect When Mixed

(Beyond Pesticides, August 11, 2011) A combination of eleven different kinds of commonly used pyrethroids were tested on mice in a new study which found that, at real-world exposure levels, the insecticides can produce heightened toxicity that is equal to the sum of each insecticide’s individual effect. The mixture of similar-acting insecticides works by over-stimulating electronic channels in the mouse’s brain cells and eventually causing death. This study adds to the growing body of research on the toxicity of pesticide combinations in nature and showcases the need for policy change because the current risk assessment approach to regulating pesticides fails to look at chemical mixtures and synergistic effects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates on a chemical-by-chemical basis, but as this study demonstrates, interacting chemicals can have synergistic effects at very low levels, where a “chemical cocktail” of multiple interacting chemicals combine to have greater effects than expected. Pesticides can also have a cumulative “toxic loading” effect both in the immediate and long term.

Researchers exposed mice brain cells to eleven different food-use pyrethroid insecticides either singly or in a mixture in the study entitled ”Additivity of pyrethroid actions on sodium influx in cerebrocortical neurons in primary culture.” The pyrethroid compounds tested include: deltamethrin, β-cyfluthrin, cypermethrin, permethrin, bifenthrin, esfenvalerate, λ-cyhalothrin, tefluthrin, fenpropathrin, resmethrin and S-bioallethrin. They are mainly used to control pests on food crops, and are toxic to insects and humans in the same way. They work by targeting vital electrical channels in certain types of brain cells. The chemicals stimulate the electrical signals moving into the cells, which changes neuron function and ultimately leading to paralysis and death.

Pyrethroids are synthetic versions of pyrethrin, a natural insecticide found in certain species of chrysanthemum. Pyrethroids are suspected endocrine disruptors, have been linked to certain cancers, and are particularly dangerous to aquatic life even at low concentrations. Despite the fact that there are plenty of effective pest control methods that are not nearly as toxic, these insecticides are some of the most popular household pesticides, available in the form of powders and sprays to control ants, mosquitoes, fleas, flies, and cockroaches. As research unfurls, particularly on the combined effects that these insecticides have, the high-volume uses of pyrethroids are major cause for concern to human and environmental health.

Source: Environmental Health News

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10
Aug

Boulder County To Decide on Potential GMO Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2011) A citizen advisory council in Boulder County, Colorado is preparing to decide on whether or not to recommend that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be banned from county lands. The County’s Croplands Policy Advisory Group will meet on Wednesday, August 10 (agenda packet here) to decide if they want farmers who plant their crops on county land to be able to be able to grow crops that have been genetically modified. With organic farmers around the country worried about potential contamination of their crops with GMO pollen following a number of recent regulatory decisions, the citizen council model may represent a good way for communities to come together and find a solution.

Currently, many farmers grow on land owned by the county, and some want to plant GMOs to stay competitive with other farmers around the country. However, some citizens of the county are concerned about the widespread use of GMOs and the increased reliance on agricultural chemicals that usually accompanies them. Organic farmers in the area are also very worried. Recent decisions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have led to the deregulation of several genetically engineered varieties of common crops, including alfalfa and sugar beets. Coupled with the already-pervasive planting of such GMOs as Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, organic farmers feel that they are being increasingly marginalized and put at risk of potential financial devastation should their crops be contaminated with GMO pollen.

The Croplands Policy Advisory Group has been reviewing and making recommendations on subjects related to agriculture on county lands for the past several months. It was originally formed to assist the county’s Parks and Open Space Department in crafting a plan to increase the sustainability of agriculture on public lands. The group is composed of nine members from the community: three conventional farmers, three organic farmers, and three at-large community members. As an advisory group, it does not have any actual decision making power, but rather makes recommendations, which, along with those from the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee and Food and Agriculture Policy Council, will be finally decided upon by the Boulder County Commissioners. The advisory group has decided upon a range of agricultural issues such as water use, soil health, pesticides, and fertilizers, but the GMO issue has become the most hotly debated of them.

GMOs have been particularly contentious in Boulder County. According to the Daily Camera, in 2009, when several area farmers asked permission to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets, there was an outcry among local citizens which led the county commissioners to delay action until the Parks and Open Space Department developed a sustainable agriculture plan for county lands.

The Boulder area has long been a national leader in sustainable approaches to the management of public lands. The City of Boulder has a comprehensive integrated pest management program to deal with weeds and insects on city land and the city recently discontinued the use of Roundup (glyphosate) in public places.

The only other municipalities in the United States to ban GMOs have been the California counties of Mendocino, Trinity, and Marin. Those bans were different, however, in that they banned the use of GMOs on all lands within the county, not only public lands. Throughout the rest of the country, GMOs make up about 75% of most major field crops.

To learn more about genetic engineering, visit our program page.

Source: Daily Camera

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09
Aug

Genetically Engineered, Glyphosate-Tolerant Sweet Corn to Hit the Shelves

(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2011) Genetically engineered sweet corn designed to both fight off insects and tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide is set to enter the market this fall, marking a first for engineered produce in the U.S. by the company. This is the first consumer product developed by Monstanto that will go straight from the farm to the consumer’s plate, rather than first being processed into animal feed, sugars, oils, fibers and other ingredients found in a wide variety of conventional food. The new seeds, which will be available to farmers this fall, will target the relatively small market of 250,000 acres of sweet corn grown that is grown for human consumption, however, many environmentalists worry that if this proves profitable for Monsanto we may see more varieties of GE fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.

“There’s a concern with these GE crops that we eat with minimal processing [like sweet corn]…we’re exposed to a lot more of whatever is in it versus a processed corn product,” said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety in an interview with Fast Company. A study earlier this year found that pregnant women and their fetuses were contaminated with pesticides associated with GE food. Last year, researchers in France found that GE crops had numerous adverse health effects in lab rats.

This drastic increase in herbicide use has significant consequences for the future of agriculture, too. Just last week, we reported on the new studies documenting that at least 21 different species of weeds are found to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.

Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GE technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant genetically (GE) crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago. The recently released 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that the use of glyphosate has dramatically increased over the last several years, while the use of other even more toxic chemicals, such as atrazine, has not declined.

Glyphosate is a general herbicide used for eradication of broadleaf weeds. It has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk and neurotoxicity, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), kills human embryonic cells. It is also of particular concern due to its toxicity to aquatic species as well as instances of serious human health effects from acute exposure.

Perhaps most concerning is that once the product hits the shelf, consumers will have little, if any, choice in whether they purchase or eat Monsanto’s sweet corn. There are no current regulations for labeling genetically engineered food. And, according to the LA Times, the company will not be using the Monsanto brand to advertise their new line of corn:

“We think it is a good product. It’s up to us to make sure we help tell people about the benefits,” vice president of Monsanto’s global vegetable business, Consuelo Madere, told the paper. “Given how sweet corn is normally sold -– by the ear, in larger bins in produce sections of the market –- it’s not really something that can be easily branded.”

The one sure-fire way you can avoid the GE sweet corn is to buy organic or know where your food comes from. Genetically modified crops are not permitted in organic food. Unlike chemically intensive agriculture and genetically engineered food, researchers continue to discover the environmental and health benefits of eating and growing organic food. For more information about why organic is the right choice see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide.

Sources: Care 2, Reuters, Fast Company, Bloomberg

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08
Aug

DuPont To Issue Recall of Pesticide Linked to Tree Deaths

(Beyond Pesticides, August, 8, 2011) In a move that highlights serious concerns regarding the pesticide registration process, DuPont has announced that it plans to issue a total recall of its new herbicide, Imprelis, following widespread evidence and complaints that the product has caused the deaths of trees around the country. After originally giving conditional approval to the new pesticide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now stated that it is preparing to issue a “Stop Sale” order to halt any further use of the product.

According to a letter posted on DuPont’s website Imprelis-Facts.com, the company is implementing a “voluntary suspension” of Imprelis sales. It intends to ask distributors to collect all Imprelis containers, even those partially used, that they have sold and return them to the company for a refund.

Earlier this year, in what some said was one of the biggest disasters of its kind since the emerald ash borer killed millions of trees, Imprelis was linked to white pine and Norway spruce trees turning brown or dying all across the country. Tree damage was reported throughout the Midwest, in East Coast states and as far south as Georgia. Many landscapers in Michigan and elsewhere switched to Imprelis (See the MSDS here) this year to control weeds such as dandelions because it was touted as “safer” by DuPont for the environment than predecessors such as 2,4-D. So many trees have died -from the East Coast west to Iowa – that the damage is projected to be in the millions of dollars.

On Wednesday, August 3, EPA sent a letter to DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman following up on recent discussions between agency officials and company executives regarding Imprelis. In addition to inviting DuPont to meet with EPA to discuss implementation of a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order, the letter urges the company to make public all records or other documents that it has regarding scientific studies conducted on Imprelis. The letter states that EPA is uncomfortable with the amount of registration information DuPont claimed as confidential business information (CBI) under section 10 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (7 U.S.C. 136h). According to the letter, “EPA believes that the public interest demands that this information be made publicly available as soon as possible and, therefore, EPA strongly encourages DuPont to reconsider its CBI claims for these studies, especially for the phytotoxicity studies related to effects on trees.”

Imprelis, whose active ingredient is the potassium salt of aminocyclopyrachlor, is a new herbicide conditionally registered in 2010. Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of FIFRA (7 U.S.C. 136a (c)(7)), which allows pesticide registration to be granted even though all data requirements have not been satisfied, with the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment will occur. When this occurs, pesticides are introduced to the market with unknown and unevaluated risks to human and environmental health. While all data must be eventually submitted, it often takes years before EPA acquires relevant data -often with data submitted for the 15-year reregistration review cycle that all registered pesticides must go through. It is rare that the regulatory decision is altered once data has been submitted.

In giving conditional approval to Imprelis, EPA concluded after reviewing data submitted by DuPont that, “In accordance with FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C), the Agency believes that the conditional registration of aminocyclopyrachlor will not cause any unreasonable adverse effects to human health or to the environment and that the use of the pesticide is in the public’s interest; and is therefore granting the conditional registration.”

EPA has come under scrutiny recently since it was revealed that the conditionally registered pesticide, clothianidin, did not, at the time it allowed the pesticide to be widely used, have pertinent field data required on honeybees, even though the pesticide is known to pose risks to these vulnerable pollinators. This data is still outstanding even though clothianidin continues to be used in the environment.

Source: Reuters

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05
Aug

EPA, DOJ Reach Settlement With Dow Over Midland Plant

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last week that Dow Chemical Company (Dow) has agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty to settle violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at its chemical manufacturing and research complex in Midland, Michigan.

In addition to paying a penalty, Dow will implement a comprehensive program to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from leaking equipment, such as valves and pumps. These emissions –known as fugitive emissions because they are not discharged from a stack, but rather leak directly from equipment– are generally controlled through work practices, such as monitoring for and repairing leaks. The settlement requires Dow to implement enhanced work practices, including more frequent leak monitoring, better repair practices, and innovative new work practices designed to prevent leaks. In addition, the enhanced program requires Dow to replace valves with new “low emissions” valves or valve packing material, designed to significantly reduce the likelihood of future leaks of VOCs and HAPs.

Past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions, and incineration at the Midland plant have resulted in on- and off-site contamination of nearby waterways. Dow’s manufacturing of chlorine-based products and other chemicals results in dioxins, as well as furans, chlorobenzenes and heavy metals, as byproducts.

According to the 24-count complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement today in the Eastern District of Michigan, Dow allegedly violated Clean Air Act requirements for monitoring and repairing leaking equipment, for demonstrating initial and continuous compliance with regulations applicable to chemical, pharmaceutical and pesticide plants, and for failing to comply with reporting and recordkeeping requirements. The complaint also asserts that Dow violated the Clean Water Act’s prohibition against discharging pollutants without a permit and violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s requirements for hazardous waste generators.

The chemical giant contends the pollution hasn’t harmed people or wildlife but has spent over $40 million on studies, sediment sampling and other preliminary work. In 2007, it removed tainted soil from four highly toxic “hot spots,” one with the highest dioxin levels ever recorded.

Dioxins are a family of chemicals that have been linked to cancer, weakened immune systems and reproductive problems. The teratogenic (i.e. ability to cause developmental malformations) and mutagenic compounds are not only a byproduct of manufacturing processes but are contained in one of Dow’s most used herbicides, 2,4-D. 2,4-D is commonly found in weed and feed lawn products and is used widely for vegetation control in agriculture as well. Advocates have cited Dow as a leader in obscuring the science and weakening the regulation of these and other deadly chemicals.

Dow’s Midland facility is a 1,900-acre chemical manufacturing plant. In 2007, EPA and Dow negotiated the terms of the cleanup of three industrial sites Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers downstream of its Midland facility. EPA then ordered more dredging, which showed dioxin levels along a Saginaw park to be 1.6 million parts per trillion, 20 times higher than any other levels detected in any U.S. waterway, according to the Chicago Tribune. The high levels of dioxin and PCBs in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers have made fish there unsafe to consume. Michigan state guidelines require corrective action on contamination above a thousand parts per trillion. Advisories have previously been issued against eating carp, catfish, and white bass – fish that feed near the riverbed where contaminants are buried.

In January, 2008, a previous round of talks between EPA and Dow ended unsuccessfully when EPA determined that Dow’s cleanup offers were not comprehensive enough.

Source: EPA press release

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04
Aug

“Super-Weeds” on the Rise Due to Spread of Genetically Engineered Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2011) At least 21 different species of weeds are found to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commonly sold as Roundup and used across thousands of acres of “RoundUp Ready” genetically engineered (GE) crops, according to a series of studies in the current issue of Weed Science.

Palmer amaranth
, one of the weeds discussed in the journal, can reduce yields of cotton by more than 50 percent if there is a density of at least 10 of these weeds per row. Fifty-two counties in the state of Georgia had infestations of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth last year. Studies confirm that the weed, which also competes with soybean, corn, grain sorghum and peanut crops, is also resistant to the herbicide phrithiobac in addition to glyphosate.

Over-application and over-reliance by farmers on glyphosate to solve all of their weed problems has led to the proliferation of so-called “super weeds,” which have evolved to survive the treatments through repeated exposure. The most common species which have evolved these traits include pigweed (palmer amaranth), mare’s tail, and ryegrass. The spread of resistance is what has led farmers to increasingly rely on more toxic alternative mixtures, including weed killers like atrazine. There has also been an increased push by chemical companies to engineer seed varieties that are resistant to multiple herbicide treatments, such as dicamba, glyphosate and 2,4-D, or glyphosate and acetochlor.

Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GE technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant GE crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago. The 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report shows that 57 million pounds of glyphosate were applied last year on corn fields in surveyed states. In the same states, ten years prior, in 2000, this number was only 4.4 million pounds, and in 2005, it was still less than half of current numbers at 23 million pounds.

The rise in glyphosate applications has almost certainly come as a result of farmers increasingly planting GE crops such as corn and soybeans, which are engineered to be resistant to the chemical. In this way, farmers can apply the chemical on a vast scale across their fields while not having to be careful that they don’t hit their crops.

Glyphosate is a known carcinogen, neurotoxin, irritant, and has been found to kill human embryonic cells, and can cause kidney and liver damage. Glyphosate is also harmful to the environment, particularly aquatic life and water quality and has been linked to intersex frogs, and is lethal to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment.

As researchers scramble to find new ways of chemically coping with increased weed resistance, they overlook the glaring fact that there already exist alternative systems such as organic farming, which erases the need for these drastic measures through its systemic pest preventon approaches. Organic farming can be at least as productive as conventional, chemically-reliant farming while having none of the toxic side effects which create significant risks to ecosystems and human health. To learn more, see our page on organic food and agriculture.

Currently, there are commercially available glyphosate tolerant seed varieties for corn, soybeans, canola, sorghum, and cotton. Also, recently approved by the USDA were Roundup Ready versions of alfalfa and sugar beets. Due to serious questions regarding the integrity of USDA’s environmental evaluations, public interest groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have filed suit against the agency to stop its full deregulation of GE alfalfa.

Sources: Natural News, Fast Company, Newswise

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03
Aug

Despite Slow Economy Organic Food Market Grows

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2011) Despite the continued sluggish economic recovery, U.S. retail sales of natural and organic foods and beverages rose to nearly $39 billion in 2010, according to a new report available on companiesandmarkets.com. This is an increase of 9% over the previous year’s sales of $35 billion, far outpacing growth in conventional groceries, which crept ahead less than 2%. Organic sales are projected to more than double by 2015, to exceed $78 billion. [Confused about Natural vs Organic? They are not the same. Learn more about why organic is the right choice. Read Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet “Making Sure Green Consumer Claims Are Truthful”]

The report, “Natural and Organic Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd Edition,” examines sales and growth potential, identifying key issues and trends that will affect the marketplace through 2015, and analyses consumer attitudes and behaviors toward natural/organic foods and beverages. Organic sales also had a great performance in 2008 with U.S. sales reaching $24.6 billion by the end of 2008, growing an impressive 17.1 percent over 2007 sales. Organic food sales accounted for approximately 3.5 percent of all food product sales in 2008. A recent poll by Thomson Reuters and National Public Radio (NPR) shows that a majority of Americans prefer to buy organic food when given the choice. This poll also demonstrates the potential for growth in the organic food sector if organically produced foods were to become more easily accessible to consumers. According to the poll, the most common roadblock for consumers who wish to buy organic food but are unable to is cost, with 54% stating that their preference for non-organic food stems from the fact that organic food is too expensive. This trend may soon change as researchers predict that with growing demand, prices will drop.

The demand for organic agriculture continues to grow due to the benefits to human health and the environment. In addition to the many organic food stores, most large grocery stores across the country carry a growing number of organic produce resulting in high demand for organic products from food retailers. As such, organic agriculture is the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture, despite premium prices. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting to produce healthy soil, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber. Genetically modified crops are also not permitted in organic food. For more information on organic agriculture, visit the organic food program page.

Growers, however, have initially been slow to switch to organic agriculture because of the substantial investment required to adopt a new methods of production, and gain organic certification. In order to be certified organic, foods must be produced without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or sewage sludge. A farm must go through a three year transition phase, before it can be certified organic. The high demand and relatively low supply has allowed producers to charge retailers higher prices.

The costs of certification and inspections are often cited by small farms as one roadblock to participating in organic certification. However, a new program helps to alleviate some of those costs, giving more farmers the option to become organic. In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will make available $6.37 million in federal funds for organic certification cost-share reimbursements for the fiscal year 2010. Recipients must receive initial certification or continuation of certification from a USDA-accredited certifying agent and may be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of their organic certification costs, not to exceed $750 per year.

Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure. A study published in 2008 finds that children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. Another study finds that converting the nation’s eight million acres of produce farms to organic would reduce pesticide dietary risks significantly.

There are numerous health benefits to eating organic, besides a reduction in pesticide exposure. According to research from the University of California, a ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce finds that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A study out of the University of Texas finds organically grown fruits and vegetables have higher levels of antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals than their conventionally grown counterparts. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants.

As organic agriculture continues to grow and evolve, researchers are continuing to find new evidence of the benefits of choosing and growing organic foods, and the benefits of organic agriculture extend to everyone. On conventional farms, dangerous pesticide use is a danger to farmworkers, wildlife including endangered animals, as well as the water supply, and people especially children http://www.beyondpesticides.org/schools/index.htm living in the area. For more information about why organic is the right choice see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide.

Additional information on the cost-share programs, as well as a list of participating states, is available on the National Organic Program home page at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.

Source: Media Post News

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02
Aug

FDA Tests Mott’s Plant after Groups Discover High Arsenic Levels in Juice

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2011) Under pressure from lab results showing arsenic in apple juice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and New York state officials inspected a Williamson, NY Mott’s apple products plant for the toxic metal on July 26, 2011. While the lab tests commissioned by the Rochester-based Empire State Consumer Project examined several brands of apple juice and apple sauce, Mott’s Apple Juice stood out, with one sample registering 55 parts per billion of arsenic, five times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) legal limit (tolerance level) for drinking water. While no longer used in U.S. orchards, arsenic-based pesticides are still used on food crops in some countries, including China.

“This is not the first time high levels of arsenic have been found in apple juice,” said Judy Braiman, executive director of the Empire State Consumer Project. “It is past time for the FDA to set a limit on a toxic substance like arsenic with long term health effects in the juice that kids drink.”

Two-thirds of apple juice that Americans consume —more than 400 million gallons annually— comes from China. The Empire State Consumer Project and Food & Water Watch sent a letter to FDA calling on the agency to take long overdue action on contamination of apple juice with heavy metals such as arsenic. Currently, there is no legal limit for arsenic in juice. To protect your family from contaminated apple juice, Beyond Pesticides recommends organic apple products.

Arsenic has been linked to a number of health effects. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen. Several studies have shown that arsenic can increase the risk of lung, skin, bladder, liver, kidney, and prostate cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and EPA have determined that arsenic is a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence from human data. High levels of arsenic in the body can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, blood vessel change, or death and can damage many tissues including nerves, stomach and intestines. In 2008, Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered that arsenic may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, arsenic-based pesticides were common in U.S. agriculture. Their use declined some following World War II and the introduction of organochlorines and DDT. Many of the arsenic-based pesticides identified as the most hazardous by EPA, those containing inorganic arsenic, were phased out by the 1980s (with the exception of wood preservatives). After completing its Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) for the organic arsenical pesticides MSMA, DSMA, CAMA and cacodylic acid in 2006, EPA began phasing out these pesticides as well. However, after push back from the chemical industry and conventional, chemical-intensive growers, EPA extended the use of MSMA on golf courses, sod farms, and highway rights-of-way until December 31, 2012, with use of existing stocks permitted through 2013.

The inorganic arsenical wood preservative chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is still in use. Although, as of January 2004, most residential uses of this arsenic-based wood preservative can no longer be manufactured for decks and patios, picnic tables, playground equipment, walkways/boardwalks, landscaping timbers, or fencing- already existing residential CCA-treated wood and structures may continue to be used. Industrial uses, such as utility poles, continue to be manufactured and put workers and the public at risk. The major source of contamination in surface waters and groundwater is wastewater from wood preserving facilities. Individuals living or working near wood preserving facilities are exceptionally susceptible to being exposed to surface water or groundwater, increasing their exposure and risk. These preservatives are also known to leach from previously treated wood. Children are also at risk if they put their unwashed hands in their mouths after touching soil or wood that is contaminated with these preservatives. As a result, public and environmental health continues to be compromised.

For more information on CCA, see Beyond Pesticides’ Wood Preservatives program page.

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01
Aug

California to Spray Toxic Pesticides for Japanese Beetles

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2011) After sighting three Japanese beetles in the vicinity of Greenback Lane and Fair Oaks Boulevard in Sacramento County, California, state officials are scheduled to spray pesticides linked to cancer, reproductive and neurological effects. On August 2, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is scheduled to begin ground applications of carbaryl on fruit-bearing trees, and cyfluthrin on non-fruit-bearing trees and landscape plants in attempts to stave of attacks from the voracious Japanese beetle.

Japanese beetles, a threat to turf grass as well as ornamental plants such as roses and cut flowers, have been detected in the Fair Oaks area, state officials said, but the ‘infestation’ appears to be localized. To keep the ‘infestation’ from spreading countywide, Juli Jensen, Acting Agricultural Commissioner, is urging residents in the area not to move plants or plant parts. The initial treatments will be directed at adult beetles and begins August 2 with applications of carbaryl on fruit-bearing trees, and cyfluthrin on non-fruit-bearing trees and landscape plants. Two weeks later, a second treatment will be applied and augmented by a granular imidacloprid to target grubs. The applications, to occur on approximately 100 properties, will be carried out by the department staff and subcontractors following all pesticide use laws and regulations, with advance and post-treatment notices to residents. However, the state is not seeking permission from homeowners to spray in and around their property. Unfortunately, organic farmers and gardeners and those chemically sensitive individuals will not be provided a less toxic option. According to CDFA, pesticide use enforcement staff will randomly monitor applications, and will provide environmental monitoring during the treatment.

Pesticides are Highly Toxic
Carbaryl, also known by its trade name Sevin, is one of the most widely-used insecticides in the U.S., and is controversial because of its neurotoxic, cancer and teratogentic properties. Carbaryl poses risks of concern from uses in and around the home, to occupational handlers who mix, load, and apply the pesticide in agricultural sites, and to workers who may be exposed upon re-entering treated areas. Carbaryl is a member of the n-methylcarbamate class of pesticides and can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans, meaning that it can over stimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at high exposures, respiratory paralysis, and death. Carbaryl is classified as a likely human carcinogen based on vascular tumors in mice.

Cyfluthrin a synthetic pyrethroid and imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, are both neurotoxic and both toxic to bees. Imidacloprid belongs to a class of chemicals suspected as a main cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) where millions of hives across the country are being deserted due to significant bee deaths. Studies show that imidacloprid, like other chemicals in its class, produces sublethal effects in honeybees which include disruptions in mobility, navigation, and feeding behavior. Decreased foraging activity, along with olfactory learning performance and decreased hive activity have also been observed. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), shows that losses of honey bee populations over the 2010/2011 winter remained abnormally high, reflecting continuing damages attributed to CCD.

To hear scientists and professional beekeepers discuss the impact of pesticides on honeybees and other pollinators, see the video of the Pesticides and Pollinators Panel from Beyond Pesticides 29th annual National Pesticide Forum. Visit the Pollinator Protection webpage for more information of honeybees and pesticides.

Exposures to cyfluthrin (through inhalation) cause symptoms at very low doses; concentrations of as little as 150 parts per billion are enough to cause lethargy and a failure to gain weight. Cyfluthrin also appears to affect reproduction. Rabbits exposed to cyfluthrin during pregnancy miscarried more frequently than unexposed rabbits. Synthetic pyrethroids as a class appear to disrupt androgen (male sex hormone) function. Consistent with this, cyfluthrin interferes with receptors that are part of this hormone system. Along with bees, cyfluthrin is also highly toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms.

Alternative Management
Japanese beetles and their larvae can be controlled without toxic pesticides:

1. Lawn Care: Adult beetles prefer to lay their eggs in short grass. Cutting your grass tall – minimum of 2 inches high – may discourage egg laying, and reduce future grub populations. Eggs require moist soil conditions in order to hatch and prevent the larvae from drying out. Therefore, deep periodic soaking of the turf is more beneficial than frequent light watering.

2. Encourage Natural Parasites and Predators: Certain species of wasps, such as Tiphia spp. and Scoliids prey specifically on white grubs. Some birds can consume large number of insects in your yard, including adult beetles and grubs. Attract birds to your property by providing bird feeders, houses and baths.

3. Adult Beetle Management: Handpicking beetles, using mechanical traps and planting plants that repel beetles can effectively minimize adult beetle populations.

For more information, read the Beyond Pesticides Factsheet, “Grounding out Grubs.”

Take Action: If you live in the Sacramento area call or write the California Department of Food and Agriculture and/or your local media outlet to voice your opposition to the spraying of 3 toxic pesticides on residential property.

Contact:
Juli Jensen
Acting Agriculture Commissioner (Sacramento)
4137 Branch Center Road
Sacramento, 95827-3897
Tel: (916) 875-6603; Fax (916) 875-6150
Email: agcomm@saccounty.net

Sources: Sacramento Bee, California Department of Food and Agriculture

Photo Courtesy California Dept. of Food and Agriculture

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29
Jul

House Guts Environmental Programs, Restricts Clean Water Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2011) With the nation’s attention diverted by the drama over the debt ceiling, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are loading up an appropriations bill with over 70 amendments (riders) to significantly curtail environmental regulation in the 2012 Department of the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spending bill (H.R. 2584), in one of the most extreme attacks on the environment and public health in modern history. The debate began on Tuesday for this House spending bill, which determines the funding for the Department of Interior, EPA, Forest Service, and other environment-related federal agencies.

Among restrictions is one that would restrict EPA’s ability to act in several key areas, including pesticide suspensions and cancellations related to endangered species protections, pesticide product brand names, and Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for pesticide use on or near water. It includes language that would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the CWA to exempt FIFRA-compliant pesticides from requiring a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the CWA. The appropriations includes bill language that is essentially the same as that contained in stand-alone legislation (H.R. 872) approved by the House and reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee. U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) have placed a hold on H.R. 872 in the Senate. Just last week, the House passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, H.R. 2018, that would prevent EPA from stepping in to enforce clean water standards when it deemed that a state agency was not effectively enforcing the law, and also prevents EPA from refining its existing water standards to reflect the latest science without first getting approval from a state agency. Take Action: Tell your Senator to oppose HR 872.

As of July 27, 77 amendments and anti-environmental riders have been filed, and House leaders have said they are expecting about 200 total amendments to be filed throughout the bill’s floor debate. Before the bill came to the House floor Tuesday morning, it already had 38 anti-environmental policy riders unrelated to spending that attack clean air, clean water, endangered species, and iconic places. One measure -to forbid the Fish and Wildlife Service to list any new plants or animals as endangered- was so extreme that 37 Republicans broke ranks and voted to strip it from the bill. Many believe the legislation is essentially a targeted attack on some of President Obama’s signature items: tackling climate change, regulating fossil-fuel pollution, and protecting public lands and waters.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, said that while the bill has been put on the back burner while lawmakers and the media focus on the debt ceiling issue, “it is boiling over” with threats to the environment.

Although inserting policy changes into appropriations bills is a common strategy when government is divided as it is now, no one can remember such an aggressive use of the tactic against natural resources. Environmental groups worry that more than a few of these so-called riders could stick when both sides negotiate and leverage budget concessions in the fall.

The Interior and Environment spending bill would provide EPA with $7.1 billion for fiscal 2012, about $1.5 billion below this year’s spending levels and $1.8 billion less than President Obama requested. Interior would receive $9.9 billion, which is $720 million below the agency’s current budget and $1.2 billion below the president’s request. It would slice spending on climate-change programs, slash money for the federal government to acquire new public lands, and effectively gut the nation’s land and water conservation fund, with a cut of more than 90 percent. The legislation is also laden with dozens of policy riders that would do everything from block EPA from regulating power plants’ greenhouse-gas emissions to allow uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.

Among the original 38 riders in the bill are provisions to:

-Ban EPA from all work to reduce the climate change pollution of power plants, refineries, and other major polluters for one full year, and allow major new sources of carbon pollution to be built without any controls.

-Mandate that California’s National Forests allow off-road vehicles in places where they cause harm and raise significant safety concerns.

-Leave millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands open to drilling, mining, and off-road vehicles.

-Prohibit EPA from ensuring that hardrock mining companies –not American taxpayers– are responsible for footing the bills of costly environmental cleanups at their mine sites.

For more on the riders, visit Earthjustice.

Take Action:

U.S. House of Representatives:
Call or email your Representative today and demand a stop to attacks of environmental protections and programs. Find your Representative here.

U.S. Senate: Tell your Senator to oppose HR 872.

Sources: Earthjustice, NYTimes

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28
Jul

Voluntary Program Evaluating Children’s Toxic Exposure Flawed

(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2011) A new report released last week finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) voluntary program to evaluate chemicals fails to protect children. According to the evaluation report by EPA’s Inspector General, the Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP) was hampered by industry’s refusal to voluntarily collect and submit information and the agency’s failure to regulate under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to collect the data. The report states what environmental groups have known for years: “EPA has not demonstrated that it can achieve children’s health goals with a voluntary program.”

According to the Inspector General (IG), these failures led to only a fraction of the chemical assessments for the pilot being completed. IG found that VCCEP’s pilot was critically flawed and that the design of the program “did not allow for the desired outcomes to be produced.” It had a flawed chemical selection process and lacked an effective communication strategy.

VCCEP is no longer operational and EPA has no plans to revive, replace, or terminate the program. The program was set up as part of the Chemical Right-to-Know Initiative in 1998 to ensure that there are adequate publicly available data to assess the special impact that industrial chemicals may have on children. EPA is not meeting the goals outlined in this initiative given the failure of this program, along with a lack of any alternative program to fill the void. The report highlights that there is no readily understandable source of chemical exposure information that the general public can access to determine potential risks to children. According to the IG report:

“Children face significant and unique threats from environmental hazards and industrial chemicals. Children encounter their environments differently than adults. Physically, their neurological, immunological, respiratory, digestive, and other physical systems are still developing and can be more easily harmed by exposure to environmental factors. Children eat more, drink more, and breathe more than adults in proportion to their body weight. Children’s exposures to environmental pollutants are often different from those of adults because they engage in different activities, such as playing on floors and in soil and mouthing of their hands, toys, and other objects that can bring them into greater contact with environmental pollutants.”

The IG report recommends that EPA design and implement a process to assess the safety of chemicals to children that (1) identifies the chemicals with highest potential risk to children, (2) applies the Toxic Substances Control Act regulatory authorities as appropriate for data collection, (3) interprets results and disseminates information to the public, and (4) includes outcome measures that assure valid and timely results.

Many environmental groups and scientists, however, believe that we need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. Legislation was introduced back in April to update and modernize TSCA, which will give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals and require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market.

Previous government reports document a systemic failure by EPA to adequately regulate chemicals due to a lack of data. According to the agency, since TSCA was passed in 1976, EPA has restricted or banned five and required testing for 200 existing chemicals. Currently there are approximately 84,000 chemicals on the market.

Beyond Pesticides has long called for alternatives assessment in environmental rulemaking that creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from risk assessment in rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.

Increasing rates of chronic diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure, including cancer, asthma, and infertility have created an urgency to enact policies to get harmful chemicals off the market. To learn more about how pesticides are linked to serious health concerns, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases database.

Source: The Investigative Fund

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27
Jul

Poll Shows Americans Prefer Organic When Given a Choice

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2011) A recent poll conducted by Thomson Reuters and National Public Radio (NPR) shows that a majority of Americans prefer to buy organic food when given the chance. In the survey, 58% of respondents say they choose organic over conventionally produced foods when they have the opportunity, a number that spikes higher among both young and highly educated respondents. 63% of respondents under the age of 35 prefer organic foods, as do 64% of those with a bachelor’s degree or more. Desire for organic food was relatively even across income brackets, as 59% of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year preferred organic, as did 56% of those making less than $25,000 a year. Preference for organic food was at 61% for those whose annual income was $25,000-$50,000 as well as more than $100,000.

The survey asked five questions of respondents: (1) Given a choice, would you prefer to eat organic or non-organic foods? (2) What are your reasons for preferring organic food? (3) What are your reasons for preferring non-organic food? (4) Given a choice, where would you most prefer to get your produce? (5) In a restaurant, would your ordering decision be influenced by the availability of organic options?

Among reasons for buying organic food, avoidance of toxins and support for local farmers roughly tied for most common reasons at 34% and 36% respectively. Second was concern for the environment at 17%, with better taste coming in last at 13%. Interestingly, the percentage of people who identified concern for the environment as their reason for buying organic food increased with age of the respondent. For those under 35 years old, only 12% identified this as a reason, while 23% of those over 65 did so. The trend was reversed, though not as dramatically, for concern about toxic exposure through food. 36% of those under 35 identified this as a reason for buying organic, while only 31% of those over the age of 65 did so. Support for local farmers was highest among those under 35 at 40%.

The poll results also demonstrate the potential for growth in the organic food sector if organically produced foods were to become more easily accessible to consumers. According to the poll, the most common roadblock for consumers who wish to buy organic food but are unable to is cost, with 54% stating that their preference for non-organic food stems from the fact that organic food is too expensive. The second most common reason for not buying organic food was simply that it is not always easy to find. 21% of respondents stated that they do not buy organic food because non-organic food is more readily available. With farmers markets being the most preferable venue for respondents to buy their produce when given the choice – 43%, compared with supermarkets (32%), co-ops (5%), or home gardens (20%) – these numbers suggest that there is ample consumer demand to support increasing the number of farmers markets, achieving greater access to organic food for consumers.

“It stands to reason that, by expanding the network of farmer’s markets, we could see a further groundswell around the support for organic foods,” said Raymond Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer at the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters. He also pointed out that “[t]here appears to be a generational difference in preference for organic foods. The strong, positive sentiment among young people indicates they are more concerned with exposure to toxins and place a higher premium on supporting local markets.”

“This month’s poll gives us some insight into what is going through consumers’ minds when they’re making the choice of what they will feed themselves and their families,” said Scott Hensley, NPR health correspondent and blogger. “We find it especially intriguing that a very small percentage of respondents are choosing organic foods based on taste. This makes organic vs. conventional a really unique case where food decisions are being made consciously by consumers.”

To learn more about the benefits of organic food and farming, visit our organic web page.

Source: Thomson Reuters

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26
Jul

MN Court Says Pesticide Drift Is Trespass

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2011) On July 25, 2011, in the case of Oluf Johnson v. Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company, Judge Ross of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that pesticides drifting from one farm to another may constitute trespass. Organic farmers Oluf and Debra Johnson filed a civil suit alleging that the oil company sprayed a pesticide that drifted from targeted fields onto theirs, and that this prevented them from selling their crops as organic. Previously, a district court dismissed the Johnsons’ trespass claims. The victory is important for organic growers who are frequently under threat of pesticide drift from neighboring properties.

Under the federal organic standards authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), produce may not be labeled organic if it is contaminated with pesticide residues, as a result of off-site use, o greater than five percent of the allowable pesticide tolerance levels. Pesticide tolerances are the pesticide residue limits used in the U.S. or by countries imporing to the U.S., which are set by the federal government under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). Because we live in a polluted world where pesticide residues are present, often at low levels, nearly everywhere. A very small amount of pesticide contamination can be considered unavoidable and permitted in organic agriculture, based on an inspection and efforts on the farm to reduce contamination.

According to court documents, Oluf and Debra converted their conventional family farm to a certified-organic farm during the mid-1990s. Oluf Johnson posted signs at the farm’s perimeter indicating that it was chemical-free, maintained a buffer zone between his organic fields and his chemical-using neighbors’ farms. He also notified commercial pesticide sprayer Paynseville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company of the transition. He specifically asked the cooperative to take precautions to avoid pesticide drift onto his fields when treating adjacent fields. Despite the Johnsons’ requests, in 1998, 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2008, the cooperative sprayed pesticides that drifted and contaminated the Johnson’s organic crop, forcing them to sell at a lower, non-organic price.

The District Court in Minnesota ruled that pesticide drift cannot be trespass, but the Appeals Court disagreed. While no Minnesota courts have previously ruled that drift can be trespass, courts in other states have ruled in favor of organic farmers. The appeals court sent the organic farmers’ lawsuit back to a lower court for further action.

Pesticide drift is not only a problem for organic growers. Pesticide drift has recently been suspected in the tree deaths throughout the East Coast and Mid-West. A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) finds that pesticide drift from conventional farming has poisoned thousands of farmworkers and rural residents in recent years.

Similar to the threat of pesticide drift faced by organic farmers, is the threat of genetic drift -typically pollen from a field of a genetically engineered (GE) crop being carried by wind or pollinators like honey bees, which are known to travel six miles or further. While organic food is not currently tested for GE drift contamination the way it is spot checked for pesticides, consumers paying a premium for organic food demand purity. Therefore the growing threat of genetic contamination is a serious issue facing organic farmers as well.

Support organic agriculture for your family’s health, as well as the health of farmworkers and rural families, wildlife and pollinators, and the greater environment. For more information about the pesticides registered for use on foods we eat every day, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide, and the Organic Food program page.

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25
Jul

Study Links Birth Defects to Pesticides, Coal Smoke

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2011) Exposure to certain pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the womb has been linked to neural tube defects, which lead to conditions such as spina bifida, according to researchers at Peking University in China. The study finds elevated levels of the organochlorine pesticides DDT, alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane (a lindane contaminant) and endosulfan, as well as PAHs in the placentas of women who had babies or aborted fetuses with such birth defects. The study, “Association of selected persistent organic pollutants in the placenta with the risk of neural tube defects,” was published July 8, 2011 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While most organochlorine pesticides are banned or restricted, they still continue to cause problems decades after their widespread use has ended. This study reinforces the need for a more precautionary approach to regulating pesticides and industrial chemicals. Once released into the environment, many chemicals can affect health for generations, either through persistence or genetic means.

PAHs are a group of over 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat. PAHs are usually found as a mixture containing two or more of these compounds, such as soot. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) says exposure to PAHs usually occurs by breathing air contaminated by wild fires or coal tar, or by eating foods that have been grilled.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. In spina bifida, the fetal spinal column doesn’t close completely during the first month of pregnancy. There is usually nerve damage that causes at least some paralysis of the legs. In anencephaly, much of the brain does not develop. Babies with anencephaly are either stillborn or die shortly after birth. They are one of the most common birth defects, occurring in approximately one in 1,000 live births in the U.S.

While insufficient levels of folic acid, a type of B vitamin, before and during pregnancy are solidly linked to neural tube defects, environmental pollutants have also been suspected. Previous studies have linked PAHs to this type of birth defect, but only relying on questionnaires or blood tests alone. By examining the placenta, the researchers were able to see what was actually reaching the fetus.

The researchers told Reuters that they recruited pregnant women in four rural counties in northern Shanxi province where neural tube defects occur in 14 out of every 1,000 babies, far higher than the national average. Women whose placentas had higher than average levels of the PAH chemicals from burning coal were 4.5 times more likely to have babies with defects, while those with higher than average levels of pesticides were around 3 times more likely to have babies with defects.

For more information on diseases linked to pesticide exposure, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

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22
Jul

Bills to Regulate Endocrine Disruptors Introduced in Congress

(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2011) Parallel bills have been introduced in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives designed to increase federal research on endocrine disrupting chemicals and ensure public safety by restricting or eliminating chemicals found to present unacceptable risks to public health. S 1361, introduced by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), and HR 2521, introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), are both titled the Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Exposure Elimination Act. The bills would establish a scientific panel at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to evaluate up to ten chemicals per year that potentially affect the endocrine system and would create a trigger to ban those found most harmful to public health.

The bills would create a more updated scientific evaluation process than any that currently exists in the federal government for reviewing potential endocrine disruptors and would have a strong regulatory mandate to ban or restrict chemicals that are found to present serious health risks. The specific process outlined directs the National Toxicology Program at NIEHS to evaluate each chemical according to (i) the amount of evidence that it is an endocrine disruptor, (ii) the “level of concern” that it may disrupt hormones, and (iii) the pathways of exposure by which it may affect both humans and animals. Every two years the Program would then submit a list of chemicals to Congress and federal agencies detailing the chemicals it has reviewed and what it found regarding the three evaluation criteria. There would then be a regulatory trigger for federal agencies to reduce human exposure for chemicals found to present a “minimal level of concern,” or a ban on chemicals found to be of “highest level of concern.” The bills also contain provisions allowing citizens or local governments to petition NIEHS to evaluate a particular chemical or reverse a finding on a previous chemical regarding whether or not it is an endocrine disruptor.

Common household products including detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides contain chemical ingredients that enter the body, disrupt hormones and cause adverse developmental, disease, and reproductive problems. Known as endocrine disruptors, these chemicals, which interact with the endocrine system, wreak havoc in humans and wildlife. The endocrine system consists of a set of glands (thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary) and the hormones they produce (thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline), which help guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of animals, including humans. Hormones are signaling molecules, which travel through the bloodstream and elicit responses in other parts of the body.

The chemicals function by: (i) Mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; (ii) Blocking hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or (iii) Affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to a range of health problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, and childhood and adult cancers. Learn more by visiting our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. Many everyday chemicals that people are exposed to can be endocrine disruptors. Pesticides such as triclosan, atrazine, permethrin and many others have been associated with effects on the body’s hormone system.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified a list of chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system, along with a draft of the policies and procedures that the agency has proposed to follow for testing. The agency is mandated to test chemicals for their potential to affect the hormone system. However, the agency has yet to finalize its procedures or officially test a chemical for endocrine disruption since tasked to do so in 1996 by an act of Congress. The tests to be used by EPA were first recommended in 1998. Since then the science has made progress and become more sophisticated. Current research is based on different assumptions than the toxicological assumptions that first drove the EPA test designs. However, EPA has not updated its protocol. The system created by these two bills would present the opportunity for a comprehensive federal evaluation process so that EPA would not have to rely on its own outdated system.

Earlier this year, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc. (TEDX) released a comprehensive list of potential endocrine disruptors. It is the most complete such list to date and currently approximately 800 distinct chemicals. Each one has one or more verified citations to published, accessible, primary scientific research demonstrating effects on the endocrine system.

S 1361 and HR 2521 have been referred to the appropriate committees in the House and Senate. Contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to support these bills and the commitments to public health that they represent.

Sources: TEDX, Senator John Kerry press release

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21
Jul

Bills to Regulate Endocrine Disruptors Introduced in Congress

(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2011) Parallel bills have been introduced in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives designed to increase federal research on endocrine disrupting chemicals and ensure public safety by restricting or eliminating chemicals found to present unacceptable risks to public health. S. 1361, introduced by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), and H.R. 2521, introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), are both titled the Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Exposure Elimination Act. The bills would establish a scientific panel at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to evaluate up to ten chemicals per year that potentially affect the endocrine system and would create a trigger to ban those found most harmful to public health.

The bills would create a more updated scientific evaluation process than any that currently exists in the federal government for reviewing potential endocrine disruptors and would have a strong regulatory mandate to ban or restrict chemicals that are found to present serious health risks. The specific process outlined directs the National Toxicology Program at NIEHS to evaluate each chemical according to (i) the amount of evidence that it is an endocrine disruptor, (ii) the “level of concern” that it may disrupt hormones, and (iii) the pathways of exposure by which it may affect both humans and animals. Every two years the Program would then submit a list of chemicals to Congress and federal agencies detailing the chemicals it has reviewed and what it found regarding the three evaluation criteria. There would then be a regulatory trigger for federal agencies to reduce human exposure for chemicals found to present a “minimal level of concern,” or a ban on chemicals found to be of “highest level of concern.” The bills also contain provisions allowing citizens or local governments to petition NIEHS to evaluate a particular chemical or reverse a finding on a previous chemical regarding whether or not it is an endocrine disruptor.

Common household products, including detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides, contain chemical ingredients that enter the body, disrupt hormones and cause adverse developmental, disease, and reproductive problems. Known as endocrine disruptors, these chemicals, which interact with the endocrine system, wreak havoc in humans and wildlife. The endocrine system consists of a set of glands (thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary) and the hormones they produce (thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline), which help guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of animals, including humans. Hormones are signaling molecules, which travel through the bloodstream and elicit responses in other parts of the body.

The chemicals function by: (i) mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; (ii) blocking hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or (iii) affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to a range of health problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, and childhood and adult cancers. Learn more by visiting our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. Many everyday chemicals that people are exposed to can be endocrine disruptors. Pesticides such as triclosan, atrazine, permethrin and many others have been associated with effects on the body’s hormone system.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified a list of chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system, along with a draft of the policies and procedures that the agency has proposed to follow for testing. The agency is mandated to test chemicals for their potential to affect the hormone system. However, the agency has yet to finalize its procedures or officially test a chemical for endocrine disruption since tasked to do so in 1996 by an act of Congress. The tests to be used by EPA were first recommended in 1998. Since then the science has made progress and become more sophisticated. Current research is based on different assumptions than the toxicological assumptions that first drove the EPA test designs. However, EPA has not updated its protocol. The system created by these two bills would present the opportunity for a comprehensive federal evaluation process so that EPA would not have to rely on its own outdated system.

Earlier this year, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc. (TEDX) released a comprehensive list of potential endocrine disruptors. It is the most complete such list to date and currently comprises approximately 800 distinct chemicals. Each has one or more verified citations to published, accessible, primary scientific research demonstrating effects on the endocrine system.

S. 1361 and H.R. 2521 have been referred to the appropriate committees in the House and Senate. Contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to support these bills and the commitments to public health that they represent.

Sources: TEDX, Senator John Kerry press release

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21
Jul

Climate Change Threatens Survival of Tree Species

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2011) For the first time, a federal agency has officially recognized that the loss of a species is related to climate change; the species at risk, the whitebark pine, faces a barrage of threats, including invasive diseases and insects which have not previously been able to thrive in the tree’s cold territory. In addition to other man-made causes for climate change, pesticides play a significant role through heavy use of fossil fuels in the manufacturing process and emissions. Conventional agricultural practices further contribute to climate change through the heavy reliance on pesticides and fertilizers, and through degradation of the soil, which releases carbon.

As temperatures have warmed, the amount and variety of pests in regions that do not traditionally have problems are increasing. Researchers at the University of Washington have found that insect species that adapt to warmer climates also will increase their maximum rates of population growth, meaning that global warming will likely lead to increased insect populations. In New England, entomologists have noted an increase in the number of insects, including ticks carrying lyme disease and mosquitos with West Nile Virus and encephalitis. Scientists believe that climate change will increase disease transmission by shifting insects’ geographic range, increasing reproductive and biting rates of the insects, and by shortening the pathogen incubation period.

The whitebark pine is being attacked by the mountain pine beetle. Though the beetles are native to the region where whitebark pine grows, according to National Park Service, higher average winter temperatures in the Rocky Mountains over the last ten years have allowed the pests to proliferate. Hard winters with cold temperatures can kill beetle eggs and larvae wintering under a tree’s outer bark.

Roughly two-thirds of all the whitebark pine trees have been wiped out in the hardest-hit areas, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced earlier this week that an endangered or threatened species listing was “warranted but precluded.” There is not enough funding or staff time to allow it to be listed as threatened or endangered. According to National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who filed a petition to have the tree listed, FWS’s decision means that the tree’s status will be revisited in 12 months to determine if resources are available to begin generating a species recovery plan which would outline goals and tactics for protecting and recovering whitebark pine. FWS has given the species the highest possible priority, unfortunately given the current economic and political climate, funding for managing essential environmental protections have been mired.

What else can we expect in the coming future because of climate change? In addition to increases in insects and insect-borne diseases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research shows that weeds also flourish from increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Researchers have found “noxious” weeds to be more adaptable to changing conditions than crops, predicting further growth of their productivity and range in urban and rural areas. Other research by the same team shows that common pollen allergens – including the troublesome ragweed pollen – may be getting worse as a result of global climate change as well.

Despite the increase of pests that climate change may bring, using more pesticides is not the answer and will only lead to increased problems with climate change, along with risking our health and the health of our ecosystems. Studies show that conventional landscaping practices actually cause greenhouse gas emissions at a rate up to four times greater than the lawn’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

Sulfuryl fluoride, a pesticide that is in the process of a phase-out, has been shown to be a highly potent greenhouse gas. Research has shown that it can be as much as 4,000 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the leading atmospheric contributor to climate change. It currently exists in the atmosphere at much smaller concentrations than CO2, which is why its use must be curtailed before it becomes even more of a concern.

One way to reduce the impact of chemical-intensive agriculture on climate change is to grow an organic garden. Research suggests that organic techniques can reduce the output of carbon dioxide by 37-50%, reduce costs for the farmer, and increase our planet’s ability to positively absorb and utilize greenhouse gases. The Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial (FST – comparing organic and conventional) shows that organic techniques actually has the potential to lessen the impacts of climate change and restore soil fertility.

For more information on pesticides and climate change, see our Organic Program page and related daily news entires.

Sources: NRDC Press Release, NY Times

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20
Jul

Tell Bath and Body Works to ‘Spread Love and Not Toxics’

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2011) With flavors like “tangelo orange twist,” and “sugar lemon fizz,” popular body care chain, Bath and Body Works, has marketed an entire line of antibacterial body care products to teens and young adults. Unfortunately, these products contain the toxic hormone disruptor and water contaminant, triclosan, which could be hazardous to teenagers whose bodies are still developing. Join Beyond Pesticides, Center for Environmental Health, and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in asking Bath and Body Works to stop selling triclosan products that claim to “Spread Love, Not Germs.” Bath and Body Works: Spread Love, Not Toxics!

The Bath and Body Works antibacterial line, which includes products with names like “Tangelo Orange Twist” and “Sugar Lemon Fizz,” is marketed to teenagers using the slogan “spread love, not germs.” Although not listed on their website, this antibacterial line and others sold by the company contain triclosan as their main germ fighting ingredient. Beyond Pesticides in 2004 began voicing concern about the dangers of triclosan and in 2009 and 2010, submitted petitions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the removal of triclosan from consumer products. Since then many major companies are quietly and quickly removing triclosan from their products. Colgate-Palmolive, makers of SoftSoap, and GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, have reformulated these products to exclude triclosan. Others, including Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, have started phasing it out of products.

“Given triclosan’s widespread environmental contamination and public health risk, companies must be held accountable for the safety of the substances they put into their products, especially when safer alternatives are available to manage bacteria,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Take Action! Tell Bath & Body Works CEO: “Stop using toxic triclosan in your products.”

Triclosan is not only an endocrine disruptor found at increasing concentrations in human urine and breast milk, but also contaminates waterways and possibly even the water we drink. To add insult to injury, triclosan is not even effective against harmful bacteria, including those found in hospitals.

Triclosan’s efficacy has been called into question numerous times, even though triclosan is marketed as a germ-killing substance. A systematic review of research assessing the risks and potential benefits associated with the use of soaps containing triclosan finds that data do not show the effectiveness of triclosan for reducing infectious disease symptoms or bacterial counts on the hands when used at the concentrations commonly found in antibacterial products. There is also evidence that the widespread use of antibacterial compounds, such as triclosan and triclosan-containing products, promote the emergence of bacterial resistant to antibiotic medications and antibacterial cleansers. The American Medical Association has stated, “No data exist to support their efficacy when used in such products or any need for them…it may be prudent to avoid the use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products.”

The scientific literature has extensively linked the uses of triclosan to many health and environmental hazards. As an endocrine disruptor, triclosan has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development, and also shown to alter thyroid function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has found that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 42% since 2004.

Over 10,000 individuals told EPA this spring, via email and docketed comments supporting Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch’s petition, to ban the dangerous antibacterial triclosan. Additionally, scores of public health and advocacy groups, local state departments of health and the environment, as well as municipal and national wastewater treatment agencies submitted comments requesting an end to triclosan in consumer products. EPA published the petition for public comment in December 2010 and closed the comment period on April 8, 2011.

Tell your family and friends to beware of products that contain triclosan.

Take Action Today: Tell Bath & Body Works CEO: “Stop using toxic triclosan in your products.

Join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Avoid products containing triclosan, and encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

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19
Jul

USDA Study Finds Higher Rates of Herbicide Volatilization Than Expected

(Beyond Pesticides, July 19, 2011) According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, the volatilization of atrazine and metolachlor, two herbicides known to contaminate surface and ground water, consistently results in herbicide movement off the target site that exceeds nontarget field runoff, varying widely depending upon weather conditions. Linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, developmental effects, and more, increased levels of these hazardous pesticides in the air is cause for concern. When averaged over the two herbicides, loss by volatilization is about 25 times larger than movement from surface runoff, despite low vapor pressures. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Timothy Gish, PhD and ARS micrometeorologist John Prueger, PhD led the investigation, which looks at the field dynamics of these two herbicides commonly used in corn production.

Prior to this field study, many experts believed that volatilization was not a contributing factor to water contamination because atrazine and metolachlor had a low vapor pressure. However, the monitoring of both herbicide volatilization and surface runoff at the field-scale over multiple years had never been done. So the team set up a 10-year study in an experimental field in Beltsville that is equipped with remote sensing gear and other instrumentation for monitoring local meteorology, air contaminates, soil properties, plant characteristics, and groundwater quality. This allowed the team to carry out its studies on a well-characterized site where only the meteorology—and the soil water content—would vary.

Drs. Prueger and Gish observe that when air temperatures increases, soil moisture levels have a tremendous impact on how readily atrazine and metolachlor volatilize into the air, a key factor that had not been included in previous models of pesticide volatilization. When soils are dry and air temperatures increase, there is no increase in herbicide volatilization, but herbicide volatilization increases significantly when temperatures rise and soils are wet. Most of the volatilization from wet soils occurs within the first 3 days after the herbicide is applied.

The largest annual runoff loss for metolachlor never exceeds 2.5%, whereas atrazine runoff never exceeds 3% of that applied. On the other hand, herbicide cumulative volatilization losses after 5 days range from about 5 to 63% of that applied for metolachlor and about 2 to 12% of that applied for atrazine. Additionally, daytime herbicide volatilization losses are significantly greater than nighttime vapor movement.

Atrazine is used to control broad leaf weeds and annual grasses in crops, golf courses, and residential lawns. It is used extensively for broad leaf weed control in corn. The herbicide does not cling to soil particles, but washes into surface water or leaches into groundwater, and then finds its way into municipal drinking water. It has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer. As the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine is applied in the U.S. annually. It has a tendency to persist in soils and move with water, making it a common water contaminant. Atrazine is a major threat to wildlife. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

Metolachlor is used for grass and broadleaf weed control in corn, soybean, peanuts, sorghum, and cotton, as well as on lawns, golf courses and ornamental plants. It is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Evidence of the bioaccumulation of metolachlor in edible species of fish as well as its adverse effect on the growth and development raise concerns on its effects on human health. Metolachlor is a suspected endocrine disruptor and linked to organ damage.

Avoid contributing to a food system that relies on toxic pesticides that pose hazards to consumers, workers and the environment by eating organic food. Atrazine and metolachlor are routinely applied to conventional corn production. There are 83 pesticides with established tolerance for corn, 36 are acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 79 are linked to chronic health problems (such as cancer), 11 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 71 are poisonous to wildlife. Learn more about the hazards associated with chemical-intensive food production on our Eating with a Conscience webpage.

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18
Jul

U.S. House Again Proposes Sweeping Rollbacks in Clean Water Safeguards

(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2011) The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed to strip significant clean water protection from the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). In a vote on Wednesday, July 13, the Republican-controlled chamber passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, H.R. 2018. The act would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from stepping in to enforce clean water standards when it deemed that a state agency was not effectively enforcing the law. The bill would also prevent EPA from refining its existing water standards to reflect the latest science without first getting approval from a state agency. Supporters of the bill say that EPA has gone too far in its enforcement of water standards at the expense of economic development. Opponents, however, point out that the bill presents the potential for new risks to public health and the environment in allowing states to issue subpar water standards and making it more difficult for outdated standards to be revised.

The bill passed the House on a largely party-line vote of 239-184. 16 Democrats joined Republicans in support of the measure, while 13 Republicans voted against it. The fate of the bill in the U.S. Senate is less certain, as the Democrat-controlled chamber will be much less likely to pass such sweeping changes to environmental safeguards. After passage of the bill in the House, the White House issued a strongly worded statement threatening a veto if the bill made it to President Obama’s desk.

This action falls on the heels of another bill weakening the CWA, H.R. 872, already passed by the House earlier this year and recently voted out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. The so-called Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 would revoke EPA’s authority to require permits for pesticide discharges into waterways. Several Democratic Senators have voiced strong opposition to the bill, suggesting the possibility of a filibuster. In response, Republican lawmakers have been attempting to amend the bill to an environmental appropriations act that is currently working its way through the Senate. Click here to send a message to your Senators urging them to stand with you in opposition to this dangerous bill.

Enforcement of national standards for clean water is based on a partnership of federal and state agencies. CWA delegates enforcement of federal clean water standards to state agencies by default, once EPA signs off. However, it gives authority to EPA to step in if the agency determines that a state’s actions do not measure up to the standards outlined in the act. H.R. 2018 would strip EPA of that oversight role and would require the agency to evaluate the economic impact of any enforcement actions that it takes. In addition to restricting the ability of EPA to issue new standards on water contaminants, provisions of the bill would prevent EPA from withdrawing approval of a state pollution permitting program or from objecting to any individual state-issued permit which EPA suspects is in violation of water quality standards.

Despite the suggestion of cooperation in the bill’s title, many agree that, if enacted, it would actually decrease the amount of give and take between state and federal agencies as it significantly limits the input that EPA can have in the process. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service stated in a memo that, “It is highly unusual for Congress to advance legislation that would broadly alter the federal-state partnership in order to address dissatisfaction with specific actions by EPA or another agency.”

The bill has been interpreted by some as a response to two recent instances in which EPA stepped in to enforce federal standards. The first was in 2005 and involved regulating agricultural runoff in Florida. In the second more recent instance EPA revoked a previously approved permit for water discharge from a planned coal mine in West Virginia. The speculation is fueled by the fact that the original sponsors of the bill are U.S. Representative John Mica (R) of Florida and U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D) of West Virginia. Despite EPA’s efforts to ensure that their constituents have access to clean water for drinking and recreation, the two Representatives have sought to limit the agency’s powers in an attempt to rein in a perceived “regulatory nightmare.”

The bill would have implications reaching far beyond the two specific instances at issue. Clean water standards are set for a range of contaminants, including agricultural and pesticide discharge or runoff. As evidenced by the developments around H.R. 872, many believe regulation of pesticides around waterways to be burdensome and unnecessary despite widespread evidence that water contaminated with pesticides poses serious risks to public health and upsets fragile ecosystems, damaging natural resources. Critics of the bill also point to the fact that it makes little sense for states to be the only regulators ensuring clean water since most waterways cross state lines and watersheds cover large geographical areas encompassing many states. David Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council points out that the Clean Water Act was adopted for a reason:

“On clean water, history has already shown what happens when states are left to their own resources. They often engage in a ‘race to the bottom,’ granting concessions to businesses whatever the impact on health and water quality, especially if the consequences will be most felt downstream in other jurisdictions. This was life before the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972 and few would see that as ‘the good old days.’ Optimism is sometimes defined as the triumph of hope over experience. For this Congress, we need a word for the triumph of failure over experience.”

EPA was recently cited by Democrats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for its lax regulations regarding drinking water contaminants. Passage of H.R. 2018 would make it significantly more difficult for EPA to take action by regulating activities that cause these contaminants to enter waterways and end up in public drinking water supplies.

Although the bill’s supporters claim it would create jobs and help the economy, some observers are calling that claim into question. Additionally, an economic analysis done by the Congressional Budget Office found that enacting the bill would result in no significant reduction in federal spending.

Sources: Associated Press, Dow Jones Newswire, Bloomberg, Policito

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15
Jul

Study Shows Conventional Farming Increases Pest Pressure

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2011) A study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has linked the growth of industrial farming systems to increased pest pressure and higher pesticide use, highlighting the importance of biodiversity in agriculture. The researchers found that “landscape simplification” in the form of conversion of natural areas to intensive monocultural crop production results in increased pest populations through the removal of natural habitat for pest predators. This in turn leads to higher rates of pesticide application by farmers in response to the increased pest pressure.

As wild areas providing natural habitat to a range of wildlife and beneficial insects are destroyed and converted to conventional crop production, pest populations in the area will be robbed of their natural predators. This leads to pest population booms and to a corresponding increase in pesticides in an attempt to control them. Monocultural crop production –growing a single crop on hundreds and often thousands of acres– presents a uniquely perfect breeding ground for pests as it provides acres upon acres of food and habitat with no natural checks or barriers.

The study lays out the problems in this way: “The link between landscape simplification, pest pressure, and insecticide use is expected on the basis of two lines of logic. First, conversion of diverse natural plant assemblages to monocultures, at both patch and landscape scales, is known to reduce the abundance and diversity of natural enemies of crop pests, which has been associated with reductions in natural pest-control services. Second, increases in the size, density, and connectivity of host crop patches are expected to facilitate movement and establishment of crop pests, leading to higher pest pressure regardless of natural enemy activity.

To obtain its results, the research team evaluated agricultural activity in 562 counties across seven states in the Midwestern U.S. –Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. The researchers examined data showing rates of insecticide application, the percentage of land area in a county that is crop land compared to natural area, and what crops were grown on the cropland. The team uses the term “landscape simplification” as a way of describing conversion of natural areas with diverse populations of plants and animals to open areas of land where only a one or a small handful of plant species are intensively cultivated.

The findings show that, as land is cleared for crop production, insecticide use goes up. This is not surprising in itself, since insecticides would be unlikely to be used in great amounts in natural areas. However, the team noted that, since farmers are likely to want to minimize insecticide use owing to the financial costs, the fact that they are applying it in such large numbers likely betrays a disproportionately large insect population. This suspicion was verified by collecting data from aphid monitoring networks. As the team puts it, “We also found a positive relationship between aphid abundance and proportion cropland,” meaning the more farmland there was, the more aphids there were, and the more insecticide was being used to control them.

The team also examined the financial costs that farmers incur as a result of the increased pest pressure, in the form of insecticide costs as well as crop losses due to the pests. The results show that increased pest pressure due to landscape simplification cost farmers $48 per hectare, resulting in a total increase in the cost of farming of about $122,000 in the average Midwestern county, or $69 million across the region.

The paper also cites the indirect costs that result from the increased rates of pesticide application. These costs are more often borne by society at large rather than the producer and include “(i) health problems due to direct human exposure [to pesticides] or air and water pollution, (ii) development of insecticide resistance by crop pests, and (iii) mortality of beneficial organisms that perform services across agricultural landscapes.”

Biodiversity –the range of wildlife in an ecosystem and the unique roles fulfilled by each individual species– is an often neglected factor in food production. However, as this study shows, it is actually an integral factor in ensuring efficient and productive agricultural systems. Ignoring the important roles that it plays will lead only to more headaches and higher costs for farmers.

Organic agriculture is the embodiment of a food production system that nurtures biodiversity and encourages diverse cropping systems and integrated management of pests. Organic systems have been proven effective at reducing pests through harnessing the power of ecosystem services such as growing a diversity of crops and maintaining wild areas on the farm to support populations of natural pest predators, pollinators, and other beneficial insects. For more information visit our page on organic food and farming.

Source: Environmental News Network

Image credit: http://www.news.wisc.edu/19554

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14
Jul

Agency Seeks Comments on Biological Opinion of its Proposed General Permit

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2011) In its draft Biological Opinion, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finds that the issuance of the proposed Pesticides General Permit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened species and cause the destruction or modification of critical habitat of the species without the implementation of a reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA). The agency is seeking public comment on the implementation of the proposed RPA and possible alternatives that would avoid the likelihood of jeopardizing the threatened or endangered species. Comments will be accepted until July 25, 2011.

Essentially, the proposed Pesticides General Permit grants blanket approval to all pesticide applicators operating near waterways by issuing a single permit which would apply to all such potential applications, and largely removes the opportunity for environmental oversight of specific applications. The findings in this Biological Opinion are particularly relevant in light of current efforts by Congress to strip protections from the Clean Water Act (CWA) by prohibiting discharge permits for pesticides in waterways.

Under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal agencies have an obligation to insure, in consultation with NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), that actions authorized, funded, or carried out by such agencies are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat that has been designated for such species.

According to the Biological Opinion: “NMFS reached this conclusion because as the general permit is currently structured, the EPA would not be likely to know where or when most of the discharges it intends to authorize would occur; if these discharges were resulting in exposures to pesticide pollutants in concentrations, durations or frequencies that would cause adverse effects to ESA listed species or designated critical habitat and would not be in a position to take measures to avoid those adverse effects; or whether the permittees were complying with the conditions of the permit designed to protect ESA listed species and designated critical habitat from being exposed.”

In order to insure that the actions authorized by the general permit are not likely to jeopardize endangered or threatened species, NMFS outlines a proposed RPA to limit pesticide applications in waterways. This alternative would restrict pesticides in areas known to be home to threatened and endangered species and increases monitoring and reporting of applications.

EPA developed the Pesticide General Permit for point source discharges from the application of pesticides to U.S. waters in response to a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under the Federal Insecticide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and CWA, EPA must require such permits as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Prior to this case, EPA had deemed it unnecessary to require permits for pesticide applications near waterways.

The purpose of the NPDES permits is to reduce and eventually eliminate pollutants in the natural environment through requiring polluters to obtain permits. This allows for oversight of the proposed discharge, including evaluation of the potential risks it might present to aquatic and semi-aquatic species. Because the discharges are weighed against standards that don’t protect all species, are implemented with limited monitoring, and don’t consider need, even approved permits often present the potential for damage to ecosystems in affected areas. However, NPDES permits do allow for local citizen input through allowing the public to comment on the proposed pesticide application in the context of the CWA goal of “restoration and maintenance of chemical, physical and biological integrity of Nation’s waters,” and thus provide the opportunity for increased oversight and accountability in a goal-oriented framework.

FIFRA, unlike the CWA, does not fully regulate or monitor water quality and the protection of aquatic ecosystems in the local context. When a pesticide is registered under FIFRA, the dangers of heightened toxicity due to combinations of chemicals and chemical drift are not fully considered. EPA, in implementing FIFRA, uses controversial and, many studies say, inadequate exposure and essentially assumptions in its risk assessment and does not take least-toxic alternatives into account. CWA, in contrast, uses a health-based standard, setting maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requiring permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams. In deciding the case, the court ruled that pesticides, when entering waterways, constitute pollutants, and as such, are subject to the permitting requirements of the CWA.

EPA has been in the process of developing the permit requirements in accordance with the 2009 court ruling since June 2010. The current proposal has not significantly changed from the 2010 draft version. The Proposed General Permit covers operators who apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit would not cover 1) non-target spray drift, or 2) discharges of pesticides to waterbodies that are impaired for that pesticide. Agricultural runoff and irrigation return flows are exempt from permitting under CWA and, thus, do not require CWA permits. The permit also does not cover, nor is permit coverage required, for pesticide applications that do not result in a point source discharge to waters of the U.S. such as terrestrial applications for the purpose of controlling pests on agricultural crops, forest floors, or range lands. To learn more about Beyond Pesticides’ concerns regarding the Pesticide General Permit, read our comments to EPA on the 2010 draft.

For decades our nation’s waterways have been polluted with hazardous pesticides and their degradates impacting aquatic populations of animals and plants, and decrease surface and drinking water quality. Results from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment Program studies show that pesticides are widespread in streams and ground water sampled within agricultural and urban areas of the nation. Many of these pesticides accumulate in fish and other organisms, making their way up the food chain, to eventually be consumed by the American public. Recent studies find that government agencies may be underestimating children’s dietary exposure to pesticides and that they are a prime cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. Stronger regulatory action is needed to ensure that our waters, food and health are adequately protected from all industrial and agricultural pollution.

Thus, the NPDES permit is vital to protect U.S. waterways from indiscriminate pesticide contamination. The permit did not pose undue burden to farmers, foresters and ranchers as the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and does not affect terrestrial agricultural spraying.

TAKE ACTION:

EPA is seeking public comment on the “Reasonable and Prudent Alternative” as suggested by NMFA. The agency is particularly interested in the appropriateness of the proposed RPA for protecting jeopardized species and their critical habitat, issues that would be associated with implementing the RPA, and on possible alternatives to the RPA that would also avoid the likelihood of jeopardizing the likely existence of threatened or endangered species or the destruction of adverse modification of critical habitat.

Center for Biological Diversity has an action alert with a form letter that can be sent, or comments may be submitted through regulations.gov, identified by the docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0257, or by email to ow-docket@epa.gov. Comments must be received by July 25, 2011.

In addition, ask your Senators to oppose HR 872 and protect our waterways!

Source: EPA

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13
Jul

New Lawn Chemical Suspected in Mysterious Deaths of Trees

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2011) Millions of dollars’ worth of Norway spruce and white pine trees are mysteriously turning brown and dying this summer, and the chief suspect is a new lawn chemical. The product, Imprelis, a new herbicide manufactured by DuPont, is suspected by State officials and lawn care professionals who say they think Imprelis may be attacking pines and spruces. Once again, this new incident exposes the deficiencies in the registration process for new pesticides put onto the market without a full data set.

In what some say could be one of the biggest disasters of its kind since the emerald ash borer killed millions of trees, white pine and Norway spruce trees are turning brown or dying all around the country. Tree damage has been reported throughout the Midwest, in East Coast states and as far south as Georgia. Many landscapers in Michigan and elsewhere switched to Imprelis (See the MSDS here) this year to control weeds such as dandelions because it was touted as “safer” by DuPont for the environment than predecessors such as 2, 4-D. So many trees have died -from the East Coast west to Iowa – that the damage is projected to be in the millions of dollars, and now many states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are investigating the possible link to Imprelis.

Imprelis, whose active ingredient is the potassium salt of aminocyclopyrachlor, is a new herbicide conditionally registered in 2010. Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which allows pesticide registration to be granted even though all data requirements have not been satisfied, with the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment will occur. When this occurs, pesticides are introduced to the market with unknown and unevaluated risks to human and environmental health. While all data must be eventually submitted, it often takes years before EPA acquires relevant data -often with data submitted for the 15-year reregistration review cycle that all registered pesticides must go through. It is rare that the regulatory decision will be altered once data has been submitted. Recently, EPA came under scrutiny recently since it was revealed that the conditionally registered pesticide, clothianidin, did not at the time it allowed the pesticide to be widely used have pertinent field data required on honeybees, even though the pesticide is known to pose risks to these vulnerable pollinators. This data is still outstanding even though clothianidin continues to be used in the environment.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is studying sites of damaged trees and gathering samples of wood and soil. Michigan State University Extension is monitoring the situation and also has visited sites following complaints from landscapers. According to reports, landscapers appear to be following label directions and spraying Imprelis away from the trees, but they still have browning. In some cases, some white pines and spruces turn brown while others of the same species don’t, despite being in the same yard.

Landscapers switched to Imprelis this year to control weeds because it was claimed to be safer for the environment than predecessors. Amy Frankmann, head of the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association, said she has not seen such widespread tree death since the emerald ash borer ravaged ash trees. “I’d say this is right up there as far as the significance and losses,” Frankmann said. “The customers are calling: ‘My trees are dying, what’s up?’ ” said Mark Underwood, a Michigan lawn care specialist. “We’ve never experienced anything like this.

In a letter to lawncare professionals, DuPont advises applicators,”…[D]o not apply Imprelis™ where Norway Spruce or White Pine are present on, or in close proximity to, the property to be treated.” Furthermore, the industry giant suggests that, “When applying Imprelis,™ be careful that no spray treatment, drift or runoff occurs that could make contact with trees, shrubs and other desirable plants, and stay well away from exposed roots and the root zone of trees and shrubs.” Spray drift which is typically the result of small spray droplets being carried off-site by air movement due to wind, humidity and temperature changes, can poison people and animals, injure non-target foliage, shoots, flowers and fruits resulting in reduced yields, economic loss and illegal residues on exposed crops.

Although drift has been suspected where symptoms appear on groups of branches, or on only one side of the affected tree, such symptoms are consistent with root uptake. Jim Sellmer, PhD, Penn State Department of Horticulture, pointed out that if only a portion of the root system was exposed to the herbicide, then foliar damage may be limited to the section of the plant that is serviced by those roots. Dr. Sellmer cautions that there may be no direct connection between the side of the tree exposed to the herbicide, and the side showing injury from herbicide uptake. Because of the spiral pattern of the vascular system in many conifers, damage from herbicide uptake may even appear as a spiral on foliage.

Product Information
Imprelis is a post-emergent broadleaf weed control product controls a wide spectrum of broadleaf weeds, including difficult to manage invasive and noxious brush and herbicide-resistant species. Its active ingredient is the potassium salt of aminocyclopyrachlor which was granted conditional registration in August 2010. EPA, in its review of data submitted by the registrant DuPont, concluded that, “In accordance with FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C), the Agency believes that the conditional registration of aminocyclopyrachlor will not cause any unreasonable adverse effects to human health or to the environment and that the use of the pesticide is in the public’s interest; and is therefore granting the conditional registration.” However some data is still outstanding and are required in order to better characterize risk and “required in support of the new uses,” including data on environmental degradates, and certain environmental fate data.

According to EPA, aminocyclopyrachlor poses very low risk to humans, including workers and the general population, due to its low toxicity and low volatility. It is biologically active in soil and is rapidly absorbed by roots and leaves. Effects to target weeds include downward bending of leaves, severe necrosis, stem thickening, growth stunting, leaf crinkling and cupping, calloused stems and leaf veins, and enlarged roots. Symptoms may begin from a few hours to a few days after application, and plant death may take weeks to several months. Aminocyclopyrachlor is non-volatile, highly soluble in water, and highly mobile in soils. Due to its high mobility, this product has label advisories for surface and groundwater. Dissipation in the environment is expected to but aminocyclopyrachlor is environmentally persistent.

Aminocyclopyrachlor is in the chemical class of the pyrimidine carboxylic acids, which is similar to pyridine carboxylic acid herbicides which includes herbicides such as aminopyralid, clopyralid, and picloram. These chemicals have had repeated incidents where treated plant residues contaminated non-target plants. These chemicals persist in the environment, do not break down during composting, and have affected flowers and vegetables, such as beans, peas and tomatoes. Some states as well as the United Kingdom were prompted to take regulatory action due to these incidents.

Alternatives to Weed Management
There are some safer – though less widely used – options for weed control. To get started, read Beyond Pesticides’ “Read Your ‘Weeds’ – A Simple Guide To Creating A Healthy Lawn” and “Least-toxic Control of Weeds.

For more information on Imprelis’ effect on trees and what to do if your trees are affected, visit Penn State’s Cooperative Extension’s “Some Observations on Imprelis Injury to Trees.”

Source: Detroit Free Press
Treehugger

Photo Courtesy Penn State Coperative Extension

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