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Research Links Mixture of Old and Current Pesticides in the Environment to Developmental Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2011) The findings of a research team suggest that the concentrations of the banned but still persistent insecticide chlordane and the widely used insecticide permethrin in cord blood may be associated with inflammatory cytokines (signaling molecules of the nervous and immune system important to intercellular communication) in the fetus. The results from the research team were significant because few studies on the developmental effects of chlordane and permethrin in humans have been performed, and they were the first to demonstrate an association between in utero exposures with changes in the immune systems of newborns. The data and findings are found in this month’s Research Brief by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program, which highlights the widespread aggregate pesticide exposure that individuals in the U.S. experience, focusing on a recent study on the developmental effects of chlordane and permethrin mixtures. The study looks at the relationship between cord serum concentrations of chlordane and permethrin pesticides, gestational age, size at birth and the presence of inflammatory cytokines, which are endogenous proteins secreted as signaling compounds to coordinate immune system functions. The study, entitled “Fetal Exposure to Chlordane and Permethrin Mixtures in Relation to Inflammatory Cytokines and Birth Outcomes” was published in Environmental Science and Technology journal in January.

The research team, a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ad Arizona State University, set out to determine whether in utero exposure to chlordane or permethrin is associated with changes in levels of cytokines at birth. A previous study by the team showed that exposure to these two pesticide compounds was ubiquitous among newborns. In the current study, researchers measured serum levels of nine cytokines and recorded birth weight, length, head circumference, and gestational age. They then collected umbilical cord serum from 300 newborns at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and measured concentrations of cis- and trans-permethrin, oxychlordane, trans-nonachlor, and piperonyl butoxide (PBO) at the CDC.

Permethrin, belongs to the chemical class of synthetic pyrethroid pesticices which are chemically formulated versions of the natural-based pesticide pyrethrum, made from extracts from plants in the chrysanthemum family. Due in part to the prevalent myth that it is “natural,” synthetic pyrethroids are a widely used class of insecticides. Unfortunately, they have not been widely evaluated for developmental toxicity, despite the fact that they are designed to be more toxic and longer lasting than pyrethrum, and therefore more potent to insects and pose elevated risks to humans. Permethrinit is a potential neurdevelopmental toxicant, a possible human carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, and exposure can cause immunotoxicity, and reproductive effects.

Furthermore, permethrin is often combined with piperonyl butoxide (PBO), also knwon as a synergist, to increase its toxicity. PBO is a highly toxic substance that causes a range of short- and long-term effects, including cancer and adverse impacts on liver function and the nervous system. A study published earlier this year found that children with high exposure to pyrethroid insecticides and PBO have an increased chance of learning problems.

Chlordane, the other pesticide implicated in this body of research, is an organochlorine chemical classified by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen and is also associated with adverse neurological and gastrointestinal effects. Studies also report an association between chlordane exposure and non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma. Chlordane was registered in the U.S. in 1948 and was used as a pesticide on agricultural crops and gardens until 1978 when its registered uses on food crops and other above ground uses were cancelled. In 1988, chlordane’s termicide use and all other uses were cancelled.

Though chlordane has been cancelled for a while, this bioaccumulative chemical still persists in the environment. Current research measuring pesticide residues in the home found high levels for chlordane and permethrin, suggesting that these compounds are essentially “ubiquitous in our living areas and that popular use, both past and present, has a major influence on their occurrence in homes.” Last year, researchers found detectable levels of common, nonpersistant pesticides in umbilical cord blood. These persistent residues continue to expose people, especially vulnerable children, to the health risks associated with these chemicals.

One of the researchers involved in the recent studies, Dana Boyd Barr, PhD, recently spoke at Beyond Pesticides 29th Annual National Pesticide Forum. A video of her presentation at the forum is available on our youtube channel.

Source: NIEHS Research Brief



USDA Exempts Genetically Engineered Turf Grass from Regulations

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2011) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a decision stating that it does not consider a new type of genetically engineered (GE) turf grass to be subject to federal regulations. In the decision announced by the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency stated that it does not have the authority to regulate introduction or transportation of the GE grass seed under the provisions of the Plant Protection Act . The grass, developed by Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, has been engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commonly sold as Roundup. Kentucky bluegrass is a popular choice for yards and fields as well as pastures and prairies, and the GE seed is expected to be made available for consumers to plant in their home lawns, potentially making it one of the most widely planted GE crops in the country.

USDA’s authority to regulate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) stems from provisions of the Plant Protection Act (relevant regulations can be found at 7 CFR 340) that are designed to ensure that GMOs do not present the potential for new “plant pests.” As the New York Times explains, “Since companies have created most genetically modified crops, like herbicide-resistant corn and soybean, using either genes or tools derived from microbes, USDA has long extended its powers to nearly every biotech plant developed in the country.” However, the GE bluegrass was developed using genetic material from other plants, such as corn and rice, and contains no microbes. Accordingly, APHIS stated that, “The GE bluegrass variety is not within the Agency’s regulatory authority because it does not contain plant pest sequences and no plant pest was used to create the GE Kentucky bluegrass.”

This finding is distinct from previous findings of “deregulated status” for other GE crops, such as GE alfalfa. In those cases, APHIS had used its authority to evaluate any potential plant pest risk posed by the new crop and found that the risk was minimal, meaning that the crop did not need to be regulated (though the agency is currently being challenged in court over the integrity of its evaluation process). For the GE bluegrass, no review was conducted, since APHIS does not believe it has the authority.

Aside from the likely increase in residential herbicide applications as a result of home plantings, allowance of the GE bluegrass presents the potential for increased difficulties for organic farmers and ranchers. Because of the popularity of the grass in yards, pastures, and prairies, its use is expected to be quite widespread. This will make conversion of new land to organic food production more difficult as, according to APHIS’s fact sheet on the decision, “Once established, GE Kentucky bluegrass may prevent transition to organic status unless eradicated from the acreage to be transitioned.” Additional concerns stem partly from the fact that a separate variety of GE grass, which USDA is still considering, escaped from a Scotts test plot in Oregon in 2007. The company was fined $500,000 as a result.

In a letter accompanying the GE bluegrass decision, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urged the Scotts Company to “work closely with a broad range of stakeholders” to “develop appropriate and effective stewardship measures to minimize commingling and gene flow between GE and non-GE Kentucky bluegrass,” reflecting the Secretary’s continuing belief and insistence on coexistence between GE, non-GE, and organic farmers.

Responding to questions about whether this decision sets a precedent for future unregulated approval of GMOs, USDA indicates that the decision does not represent a shift in policy and that it will make decisions on a case-by-case basis. However, the agency added that, “If a GE organism is not a plant pest, is not made using plant pests, and APHIS has no reason to believe that it is a plant pest, then the GE organism would not fall under APHIS regulatory authority.”

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, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, 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.

Herbicide applications to control weeds on residential lawns and playing fields are dangerous and unnecessary. A healthy lawn will be free of pests and will create a safe area for outdoor recreation. For more information see our fact sheet on why children and pesticides don’t mix as well our guide on how to “Read Your Weeds” to create a healthy lawn. More resources can be found on our Lawns and Landscapes page.

Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of an herbicide-resistant crop, the GE approach to pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GE crops. Beyond Pesticides’ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products that contain GE ingredients, seek to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of this technology and generate support for sound ecologically-based management systems.

For more news and information, see Beyond Pesticides’ genetic engineering page.

Sources: New York Times Business Day, New York Times Greenwire



Voluntary Guidelines Set to Allow Labeling for GMO Food Worldwide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 7, 2011) After nearly two decades of struggling for consensus within the global food safety body, the Codex Alimentarius Commision, the U.S. ended its opposition to the genetically modified (GM) labeling guidance document on Tuesday, July 5, 2011, allowing it to move forward to become official Codex text. Though this new agreement does not require mandatory labeling, it will allow countries wishing to adopt GM food labeling without fear of legal challenges from the World Trade Organization (WTO), because national measures based on Codex guidelines cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

This will have immediate implications for consumers, according to Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Consumers International’s lead delegate at Codex, and a senior scientist at Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. He stated: “We are particularly pleased that the new guidance recognizes that GM labeling is justified as a tool for post market monitoring. This is one of the key reasons we want all GM foods to be required to be labeled – so that if consumers eat modified foods, they will be able to know and report to regulators if they have an allergic or other adverse reaction.”

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is comprised of over 100 agencies that monitor food safety around the world. It was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme.

According to the Non GMO Project, Codex guidance on the topic of labeling GMO food began in 1991 and was met with a tremendous amount of resistance from the US. In 1995, the Codex executive committee stated that, “The claimed right to know was ill-defined and variable and in this respect could not be used by codex as the primary basis of decision making on appropriate labeling.”

Currently, there are no regulations requiring GM foods to be labeled as such and the best way for consumers to avoid GM foods is to choose organic products. Beyond Pesticides has long pushed for stronger regulations reflecting a precautionary approach toward GM food technologies. Several challenges are currently being litigated against federal regulators regarding lax regulatory review of GM products and their potential for contamination of the natural environment as well as traditionally-bred cultivated species.

Though genetic engineering is often touted by chemical manufacturers as a way to reduce pesticide usage and increase disease resistance, so far it has been shown to increase pesticide usage, while disease resistant varieties are still largely in the experimental stages. Most GM crops currently on the market are genetically modified to be resistant to pests and pesticides through the incorporation of genes into food crops from a natural bacterium insecticide (Bt) or the development of herbicide-resistant crops. Thus, there are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GM food.

For more information on GM technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page.

Source: Consumers Union Press Release



BLM to Revisit Herbicide Use on Rights-of-Ways in Oregon

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2011) After 27 years of fighting invasive weeds without the high-powered help of toxic chemicals, the Eugene district of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wants to add herbicides back into the toolkit. Eugene district BLM officials are proposing to use four herbicides to kill weeds along roadsides and in rights-of-way.

The BLM stopped using herbicides in Oregon in 1984 after a court injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. The coalition had argued that the agency had not followed federal procedures in approving the use of herbicides on public lands, and a judge agreed. The BLM eventually wrote an environmental impact statement (EIS) on its proposal to use herbicides, but a final management plan wasn’t completed until last year. The BLM said it will only be doing ground application and not spraying herbicides by helicopter or plane.

The management plan permits the agency to use 17 different herbicides to control weeds but only in limited circumstances. Now individual districts, including Eugene, are developing site-specific proposals for using chemicals. Locally, four herbicides are under consideration. Glyphosate, imazapyr, triclopyr, and clopyralid are effective on a range of plants, from woody brush to grasses and broad-leaved perennials.

The BLM wants to use the herbicides on invasives such as Scotch broom, knapweed and false brome. However, the use of these toxic chemicals on rights- of-ways, and roadsides that are interspersed with private lands, the federal property is close to towns, farms and homes could harm those who live nearby and who earn their living from organic farming. Those who use BLM lands for hunting or mushroom gathering also could be at risk.

Each year, millions of miles of roads, utility lines, railroad corridors and other types of rights-of-way are treated with herbicides to control the growth of unwanted plants. Unfortunately, drift from the application of these herbicides can negatively affect organic farmers and chemically sensitive residents. Rights-of-way include roads, utility lines, and railroad corridors, although different states have varying policies for maintaining rights-of-way. Recently, a utility company in North Carolina nearly destroyed one of the nation’s oldest and most famous vines, “Mother Vine,” when it accidentally sprayed a part of the plant while spraying the right-of-way.

Last year the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska Center for the Environment, Alaska Survival, Cook InletKeeper and the Native Village of Eklutna was granted a temporary temporary restraining order and prelminary injunction for a planned program to treat rail lines with the herbicide glyphosate. The Rail Company argued that its vegetation problem has gotten too out of hand for “so-called ‘alternative methods,” including flame throwers, a steam machine and inmate labor. Environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, which submitted comments against the use of glyphosate on the railroad, are opposed to the strategy because they say regulators have not considered the chemicals’ effects on drinking water and streams where salmon live. Glyphosate is a neurotoxicant, irritant, and can cause liver, kidney and reproductive damage. It is also linked to non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In recent news, glyphosate has been identified as a common chemical found in acute agricultural worker poisonings, and linked to birth defects and intersex frogs.

Alternatives to Roadside Weed Management

Mechanical methods which include cutting, girdling, mowing and grazing animals provide effective means to eradicate unwanted vegetation along rights‐of‐way when used in a time effective manner. These methods can be labor intensive, but can be a source of employment to many. Utilizing herbivorous animals such as goats have been proven to be a cost effective and efficient way of controlling vegetation.

Biological methods, such as the use of native vegetation, used in conjunction with mechanical means, create and encourage stable, low‐maintenance vegetation that is a more permanent vegetation management strategy. The establishment of desirable plant species that can out‐compete undesirable species requires little maintenance and meets the requirements for management. Although native vegetation may take more time to establish itself, native flower and grass species are better adapted to local climate and stress. Native plant species are especially effective in providing increased erosion control, aesthetics, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Numerous states have established roadside wildflower programs for these reasons.

Other control methods include the use of corn‐gluten and steam treatments. Corn gluten is a natural preemergence herbicide and is classified by EPA as a “minimum risk pesticide.” Steam treatments involve 800 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures and low pressure. This technique exposes the plant to high temperatures for a short period of time, disrupting the cell functions. Least toxic chemicals such as acetic acid (vinegar) or citric acid are known and registered herbicides and should not be discounted as effective chemical treatments.

Some states allow residents the right to refuse herbicide use on their property and people can post their property with no spraying signs provided by the utilities. For example, Maine, North Carolina, and Oregon all have no-spray agreements. If you are interested in becoming active in your community to stop spraying on rights-of-way or other public spaces such as parks and schools, please refer to our “Tools for Change” webpage and read The Right Way To Vegetation Management, which contains information about spraying policies along rights-of-way in different states.

Take Action: Tell BLM that safer alternatives are available in lieu of toxic herbicides like glyphosate and clopyralid for rights-of-ways and other roadside areas. To comment: Send mail to ATTN: Vegetation EA, Michael Mascari, Bureau of Land Management, 3106 Pierce Parkway, Suite E, Springfield, OR 97477; by e-mail to OR_Eugene_Mail@blm.gov; by fax to 541-683-6981. Comment deadline is July 16th 2011.

Source: The Register-Guard



Persistent Organic Pollutants Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

(Beyond Pesticides, July 5, 2011) Recent findings add to a growing body of evidence that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) might drive changes in the body that lead to diabetes, researchers say. A new study finds that environmental exposure to some POPs substantially increased risk of future type 2 diabetes in an elderly population.

POPs are lipophilic (fat-loving) chemicals that accumulate mainly in adipose tissue and have recently been linked to type 2 diabetes. This current study, “Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Organochlorine Pesticides in Plasma Predict Development of Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly: The Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) Study,” sought to follow up on previous findings that had linked these chemicals with type 2 diabetes and was performed to evaluate prospective associations of type 2 diabetes with selected POPs among the elderly. The team recruited a group of 725 diabetes-free elderly adults in Sweden and took blood samples to measure their levels of the pollutants. Then, the researchers followed them for the next five years. Thirty-six of the study participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over that time. Nineteen POPs (14 polychlorinated biphenyl [PCB] congeners, 3 organochlorine pesticides1 brominated diphenyl ether, and 1 dioxin) were measured in plasma collected at baseline of the participants, aged 70 years. Those who had high levels of PCBs were up to nine times more likely to get diabetes than those with very low pollutant levels in their blood. Those exposed to organochlorine pesticides, such as DDE which is the breakdown product of DDT, were up to three times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

The pollutants, including the pesticides and poly-chlorinated biphenyl are largely found in meat and fatty fish. According to one of the researchers, Duk-Hee Lee, PhD, “The exposure to these chemicals in the general population still occurs because they have widely contaminated our food chain.” While the authors of this study note that the number of new diabetes cases is low, research suggesting that POPs are linked to the onset of type 2 diabetes is mounting.

More than eight percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health — most of them type 2 diabetes. Many studies have linked type 2 diabetes to overweight, lack of exercise and high blood pressure. In this new study, a big waistline is also a diabetes risk factor. The authors speculate that long-term exposure to environmental pollutants could affect cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. It would make sense that heavier people are more at risk of diabetes because they’re also probably eating more fatty meat and fish high in these chemicals — and they have more fat themselves where these chemicals are stored.

POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and to have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment. Many POPs are currently or were in the past used as pesticides. Others are used in industrial processes and in the production of a range of goods such as solvents, polyvinyl chloride, and pharmaceuticals. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of POPs.

The study illustrates how the health impacts of pesticides are often subtle and delayed, and pesticides once considered to pose “acceptable” risks are continuing to affect public health. In response to the growing evidence linking pesticide exposures to numerous human health effects, Beyond Pesticides launched the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database to capture the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The database, which currently contains hundreds of entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, will be continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends.

To address this issue, Beyond Pesticides has 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. For example, in agriculture, where the database shows clear links to pesticide use and multiple types of cancer, it would no longer be possible to use hazardous pesticides, as it is with risk assessment-based policy, when there are clearly effective organic systems with competitive yields that, in fact, outperform chemical-intensive agriculture in drought years. This same analysis can be applied to home and garden use of pesticides where households using pesticides suffer elevated rates of cancer.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Source: Reuters




Pesticide Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder Receives Emergency EPA Approval for Stink Bugs

(Beyond Pesticides, July 1, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted emergency approval for the use of the neonicotinoid pesticide dinotefuran to control brown marmorated stink bugs in seven eastern states. Dinotefuran is a member of the neonicotinoid family of systemic pesticides that is known to be highly toxic to bees and associated with Colony Collapse Disorder. The states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia had previously asked EPA for emergency approval of the pesticide due to a ballooning stink bug population. The short term emergency measure became effective June 24 and will expire on October 15 of this year.

Dinotefuran is already approved by EPA for use on other crops, such as grapes, cotton, and some vegetables. The emergency approval relates to the pesticide’s use on orchard crops such as apples, pears, peaches, and nectarines, for which it has not previously been allowed. Growers of those crops will now be able to apply dinotefuran from the ground twice per season. The agency will allow a total of 29,000 orchard acres to be treated, which does not include applications to the previously approved crops.

Under a controversial stipulation known as a Section 18 exemption in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the federal law governing pesticides, EPA can grant temporary approval for the unregistered use of a pesticide if it determines that “emergency conditions exist which require such exemption.” In this case, the agency apparently felt that the pest was a sufficient enough risk to agriculture in the seven states that it merited the emergency approval. The Section 18 emergency exemption loophole has been used in the past to skirt pesticide regulations meant to ensure health and safety and has resulted in the widespread application of unreviewed, and often unnecessary, hazardous substances.

Neonicotinoids, including dinotefuran, are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and gutation droplets from which pollinators such as bees then forage and drink. Neonicotinoids kill sucking and chewing insects by disrupting their nervous systems. Beginning in the late 1990s, these systemic insecticides began to take over the seed treatment market. Clothianidin and imidacloprid are two of the most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides. Both are known to be toxic to insect pollinators, and are lead suspects as causal factors in honey bee colony collapse disorder.

The brown marmorated stink bug, not to be confused with other kinds of common stink bugs, is a non-native species thought to have been accidentally introduced to North America from Asia in the 1990s. The pests were first identified in Allentown, PA and have since spread rapidly throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Because they are not native to this continent, they have no natural predators or ecological checks on population here, allowing their numbers to skyrocket.

Although they can be found in the home, marmorated stink bugs are primarily a cause for concern among farmers, who have seen the pests decimate crops in recent years. The bugs land on fruit and inject a straw-like device to suck out the juice or simply feed on the skin or flesh of the fruit. As a result of the bugs’ feeding, the fruits end up with holes, scars, or necrotic, rotted spots, leading to farmers being unable to sell the damaged produce. It is estimated that the pest caused $37 million of damage for apple growers in the state of Virginia last year. Previous attempts at controlling the pests through chemical means have proven almost entirely ineffective. It is unclear whether dinotefuran will have a markedly different result or not.

Despite urging from states and farmers in the mid-Atlantic region to approve the pesticide, recent research has increasingly shown that there are alternatives to temporary solutions like chemical controls. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been conducting research on controlling brown marmorated stink bugs by introducing a natural predator from its native Asia. Tiny trissolcus wasps lay their eggs only in eggs of the brown marmorated stink bug. When the wasp eggs hatch, they feed on the stink bug eggs as they grow and will eventually emerge from the shell in place of the stink bug.

Additionally research has shown that, for row crops, floating row covers can be an effective prevention measure against the bugs. There is also ongoing research on the effectiveness of pheromones and bait traps to combat them. Michigan State University has been conducting research on organic management options for brown marmorated stink bugs. Their findings suggest that products such as kaolin clay can effectively prevent the insects from feeding on fruit.

In announcing the Section 18 exemption for dinotefuran, EPA also stated that it had reviewed and approved a new product for stink bug control containing ingredients which have been approved for organic farmers. Specifically, the control measures contain azadirachtin, or neem oil, and pyrethrins, both natural products and thus, allowable for use under USDA National Organic Standards.

No pesticide should ever be necessary for home control of stink bugs. They do not carry disease and do not bite or sting. You will find them indoors most often in cooler times of the year as they seek shelter from cold temperatures. The Secretary of Agriculture for the state of Maryland, Buddy Hance, has strongly cautioned against the use of any chemicals in indoor stink bug control: “Spraying stink bugs with chemicals won’t eliminate them, and the potential damage to human health is far greater than anything stink bugs can do to you.” The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has also stated, “We do not recommend insecticides for controlling brown marmorated stink bugs because:

    •Most are ineffective
    •Some are broad-spectrum and will kill beneficial insects like honeybees and predators that eat pest insects.
    •Use of broad-spectrum insecticides can lead to secondary pest outbreaks such as spider mites.
    •They pose human and environmental health risks.”

If you do come across a stink bug in your home, MDA recommends the following measures:

    •Seal up all external holes and cracks where stink bugs may enter;
    •Close your window shades at night since stink bugs (and other insects) are attracted to light.
    •Physically trap and kill the stinks bugs with insecticidal soap [or simply a cup of soapy water].
    •Once the insect is indoors, residents can vacuum them up and place in an outdoor trash receptacle. It should be noted that if many of them are squashed or pulled into a vacuum cleaner, their odor can be quite strong.

Sources: WAMU, Smith Mountain Eagle



Denver Parents Present Signatures to School Board to Stop Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2011) The Edison Elementary Green Team, a group of concerned parents in Denver, Colorado asked the Denver Public School Board Monday to stop the use of harmful chemicals. The group has been petitioning for almost a month now, collecting over 1,000 signatures of concerned parents and community members urging the school board to reconsider its contract with TruGreen ChemLawn which ends on July 1- tomorrow.

The issue began for Nicole Baumann, one of the concerned parents who started the petition, when she heard other parents describe an incident when TruGreen sprayed the herbicide 2,4-D on school grounds while kids were playing soccer and parents were standing outside waiting to pick up their children. School officials say they do not know what happened that day; however Trena Deane, executive director of facilities management for Denver Public Schools (DPS) told Education News Colorado that they have no reason to believe TruGreen was misapplying them, and that the chemicals are typically not toxic unless they are used inappropriately.

“These kids are rolling around in the grass,” Ms. Baumann told Change.org. “Our kids’ immune systems are not really developed yet. They’re susceptible. Why would we knowingly apply this where our kids are playing in the grass when we know there are other options out there that are safe?”

School is a place where children need a healthy body and a clear head in order to learn. Numerous scientific studies find that pesticides typically used in schools are linked to chronic health effects such as cancer, asthma, neurological and immune system diseases, reproductive problems, and developmental and learning disabilities. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in schools has proven to be an effective and economical method of pest management that can prevent pest problems and eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides in school buildings and on school grounds.

2,4-D has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic and toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2,4-D than those who don’t; dogs whose owners use 2,4-D on their lawns are more likely to develop canine malignant lymphoma than those whose owners do not. Despite the known health and environmental effects of 2,4-D, it is the top selling herbicide for non-agricultural use, such as lawns, in the United States. It is also the fifth most commonly used herbicide in the agricultural sector and total annual usage in the U.S. tops 40 million pounds.

Children are especially sensitive and vulnerable to pesticides because of their rapid development and behavior patterns. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even when a pesticide is applied according to label directions. Pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system and have been shown to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma. Because most of the symptoms of pesticide exposure, from respiratory distress to difficulty in concentration, are common in school children and may also have other causes, pesticide-related illnesses often go unrecognized and unreported.

Many communities across the country have taken a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on their lawns and landscapes. Last year, the state of New York passed the Child Safe Playing Fields Act (A 7937-C) prohibiting the use of toxic pesticides on school and daycare center playgrounds, turf, athletic and playing fields. Recently, a bill to prohibit the use of most lawn pesticides on public and private playgrounds, recreation fields and daycare centers in New Jersey, The Child Safe Playing Field Act has passed the Senate Budget Committee and is awaiting posting in the Senate. This bill will support the over 30 communities in New Jersey that have made their parks pesticide-free zones and have adopted an IPM program for managing town property by passing a resolution adopting a pesticide reduction policy. Connecticut and Illinois have also moved forward to reduce children’s exposures to lawn pesticides.

“This is not an easy task for an overnight fix,” said Ms. Bauman to EdNews. “But a lot of places have eliminated pesticide use. We’d like to offer our support in making this happen.”

Take Action (Locally-Denver Region):
Read and Sign the Petition by the Edison Elementary Green Team to stop the use of pesticides with harmful chemicals at Denver Public Schools.

Take Action (Nationally): It is time for a national policy that would protect every child in the United States from pesticide exposure at school. Federal legislation, the School Environment Protection Act of 2009 (SEPA), has been introduced by Rep. Rush Holt and would protect school children from pesticides used both indoors and on all school grounds nationwide. The legislation also bans the use of synthetic fertilizers. To learn more about this legislation and help its passage, see Beyond Pesticides’ SEPA webpage.

Sources: Change.org, Education News Colorado



Bill Reintroduced to Regulate Chemicals in Cosmetic Products

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2011) The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 was reintroduced last week in the House of Representatives aiming to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate personal care products, including cosmetics, to ensure they are free of harmful ingredients before they hit the shelves. Cosmetics currently go unregulated and can contain harmful ingredients like triclosan, heavy metals, formaldehyde and others which expose consumers to numerous health threats.

The cosmetic and personal care product industry is self-regulated. But the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 will, according to U.S. Representative Ed Markey, a lead sponsor on the bill, “close a gaping hole in the federal law that allows potentially toxic chemicals to remain in the cosmetics products consumers use every day. Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin offered the “Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011,” which would require companies to put all of a product’s ingredients on its label. It would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct random annual tests of products for harmful substances and would force FDA to produce a list of ingredients that are prohibited from being used in cosmetics. It would also mandate that cosmetics companies report any cases of adverse health effects associated with a product.

The key points in the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011:
• Phase-out of ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm;
• Creation of a health-based, risk assessment, safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations;
• Elimination of labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure on product labels and company websites, including salon products and the constituent ingredients of fragrance;
• Worker access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products;
• Required data-sharing to avoid duplicate testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing; and
• Adequate funding to the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs to provide effective oversight of the cosmetics industry.

While Beyond Pesticides generally supports legislation that removes hazardous chemicals from the market like the Safe Cosmetics Act, the organization, in addition, advances public policies that require alternatives assessments that remove synthetic chemicals from the market. Alternatives assessments typically show that many of the chemicals that meet risks assessment standards are allowed in commerce with “acceptable” hazards or uncertainties related to chemical interactions, depsite the availability of less toxic or green technologies.

The cosmetics industry uses approximately 12,500 unique chemicals in cosmetic products. The majority of those chemicals have never been tested for adverse health effects.

“The growing number of reports of serious health problems arising from the use of dangerous chemicals in personal care products show a need to update our laws and protect men, women, and children from harmful exposure,” Rep. Schakowsky said in a statement. “Currently, manufacturers are not required to disclose all their ingredients on labels and the FDA has no power to supervise the use of toxic chemicals in cosmetics.”

The bill has been updated since 2010 to make it more manageable for smaller companies to comply with its regulations which is extremely important considering many small businesses are the ones spearheading the push for safer cosmetics in their products. The bill will have its first hearing at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it’s three lead sponsors, Representative Ed Markey, Representative Jan Schakowsky, and Representative Tammy Baldwin, are committee members.

Having full ingredient disclosure on consumer products have received push back from industry, which claims revealing such information would be a breach of confidential business information. Recent attempts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to disclose “inert” ingredient on pesticide products have stalled due to industry pressure. Ingredients like triclosan, the controversial antibacterial pesticides found in many consumer products from toothpastes to toys is under scrutiny due to its association with thyroid impacts and other endocrine disrupting effects. Beyond Pesticides and others have petitioned both FDA and EPA to remove this harmful chemical form cosmetics and other consumer products. For more on triclosan in your favorite products, visit the Triclosan Program page. Sign the pledge today to go triclosan-free.

Support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 here.

Source: Treehugger



Study Offers Insights into Link between Parkinson’s and Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 28, 2011) Recent studies have linked Parkinson’s disease to pesticide exposure. In a new article published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration, researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine take some of the first steps toward understanding this link and unraveling the molecular dysfunction that occurs when proteins are exposed to environmental toxins. The study, “Oxidation of the cysteine-rich regions of parkin perturbs its E3 ligase activity and contributes to protein aggregation,” helps further explain recent NIH findings that demonstrate the link between Parkinson’s disease and two particular pesticides – rotenone and paraquat.

“Fewer than 5 percent of Parkinson’s cases are attributed to genetics, but more than 95 percent of cases have unknown causes,” said Zezong Gu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences. “This study provides the evidence that oxidative stress, possibly due to sustained exposure to environmental toxins, may serve as a primary cause of Parkinson’s. This helps us begin to unveil why many people, such as farmers exposed to pesticides, have an increased incidence of the disease.”

Scientists previously understood that Parkinson’s is associated with oxidative stress, which is when electronically unstable atoms or molecules damage cells. The MU study yields more specific information about how oxidative stress causes parkin, a protein responsible for regulating other proteins, to malfunction.

Dr. Gu and his Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute colleagues invented a new antibody that allowed them to detect how oxidative stress affected proteins when exposed to a variety of environmental toxins, such as the pesticide rotenone. They then specifically demonstrated how oxidative stress caused parkin proteins to cluster together and malfunction, rather than performing normally by cleaning up damaged proteins.

“This whole process progresses into Parkinson’s disease,” Dr. Gu said. “We illustrated the molecular events that lead to the more common form of the disorder in the vast majority of cases with unknown causes. Knowing this, we can find ways to correct, prevent and reduce the incidence of this disease.”

Researchers used mass spectrometry to analyze findings. They measured parkin fragments, pinpointed whether the proteins were modified and where that modification occurred. This enabled them to map the location of parkin oxidation and further compare these events with genetic mutations in patients with Parkinson’s disease reported in the literature. Their findings demonstrated that parkin protein oxidation in certain locations corresponds with the location of mutations. They then sought to determine the outcome of the modification – finding their results to be consistent in multiple disease models, including cell cultures and tissue samples from rodents, monkeys and human postmortem Parkinson’s patients.

The second most common neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain are damaged or destroyed and can no longer produce dopamine, a nerve-signaling molecule that helps control muscle movement. People with Parkinson’s have a variety of symptoms including loss of muscle control, trembling and lack of coordination. They may also experience anxiety, constipation, dementia, depression, urinary difficulties, and sleep disturbances. Over time, symptoms intensify. At least one million Americans have Parkinson’s and about 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. With less than one percent of cases caused by genetics, researchers have been looking for the potential risk factors for developing Parkinson’s disease.

For more information on the link between pesticides and common diseases and disorders, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Source: University of Missouri School of Medicine



Study Finds Pregnant Women and Fetuses Contaminated with Pesticides Linked to GE Food

(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2011) A study published in the May 2011 edition of the journal Reproductive Toxicology finds pregnant women and their fetuses contaminated with pesticides and metabolites of the herbicide gluphosinate and the Cry1Ab protein of the insecticide based on the bacterium bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), both affiliated with genetically engineered (GE) food. The study, “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada,” also identified the same chemicals, as well as glyphosate metabolites in the bodies of non-pregnant women.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Canada, is intended to pave the way for a new field in reproductive toxicology including nutrition and utero-placental toxicities.

Herbicide resistance is the most common genetically modified trait in commercial agriculture. Crops are modified to be able to withstand extremely high doses of glyphosate (Roundup Ready) and gluphosinate (LibertyLink). Current herbicide resistant crops include soy, maize (corn), canola, sugar beet, cotton, with and alfalfa. As of 2005, 87% of U.S. soybean fields were planted with glyphosate resistant varieties.

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. 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.

Beyond Pesticides is a plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to halt the planting of GE Roundup Ready alfalfa. Just last week attorneys from the Center for Food Safety filed a motion in court to seek partial judgment in the case against Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding his department’s recent deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. The plaintiffs, including the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, and several seed and farming organizations, filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the claim in the lawsuit regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The suit claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is required by the ESA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in decisions regarding regulation of GE products in order to determine any potential impact on endangered species or their habitats. Since APHIS did not consult with FWS prior to its decision to deregulate GE alfalfa, the plaintiffs hold that the decision is invalid until an evaluation is conducted by FWS.

Another common type of genetically engineering involves modifying crops to produce a protein of the insecticide Bt. Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. GE crops threaten the long-term efficacy of Bt, which is an approved insecticide in organic farming.

Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of a herbicide-resistant crop, the GE approach to pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GE crops. Beyond Pesticides’ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products that contain GE ingredients, seek to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of this technology and generate support for sound ecological-based management systems.

For more information on GE crops, please see Beyond Pesticides page on Genetic Engineering.



First Motion Filed in Latest Suit Against GE Alfalfa

(Beyond Pesticides, June 24, 2011) Attorneys for farmer and environmental organizations filed a motion in court on Monday to seek partial judgment in their case against Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding his department’s recent deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. The plaintiffs, including the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, and several seed and farming organizations, filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the claim in the lawsuit regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The suit claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is required by the ESA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in decisions regarding regulation of GE products in order to determine any potential impact on endangered species or their habitats. Since APHIS did not consult with FWS prior to its decision to deregulate GE alfalfa, the plaintiffs hold that the decision is invalid until an evaluation is conducted by FWS.

Since the alfalfa is engineered by the agribusiness corporation Monsanto to be resistant to the company’s Roundup herbicide products, active ingredient glyphosate, the plaintiffs argue that planting of the so-called Roundup Ready alfalfa will result in significantly increased rates of herbicide application, potentially resulting in drastic impacts on wildlife, including endangered species.

The ESA claim is part of a larger suit filed earlier this year against USDA, challenging its deregulation of the GE alfalfa. The suit, Center for Food Safety, et al., v. Vilsack, et al., argues that the agency’s deregulation of the Roundup Ready alfalfa is unlawful and seeks to prevent any future planting of the engineered crop. The plaintiffs in the suit include a diverse coalition of conventional and organic farmers, dairies and agricultural associations, and environmental and consumer groups: Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, California Farmers Union, Dakota Resources Council, Geertson Seed Farms, National Family Farm Coalition, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Sierra Club, Trask Family Seeds and Western Organization of Resource Councils.

The suit was filed following USDA’s announcement in January of this year that it plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa. With full deregulation of underway, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year. The announcement came after signs from Secretary Vilsack that he wished to seek a middle ground regarding the crop, so that organic, conventional, and GE farmers could coexist. After a series of meetings and discussions among stakeholders, the agency’s final decision infuriated organic farmers and environmentalists, who felt the agency ignored their concerns.

This is the second case challenging the legality of USDA’s handling of GE alfalfa. In 2007, in another case brought by the Center for Food Safety, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of the engineered crop violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup. The case resulted in USDA undertaking a court-ordered four-year study of GE alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Remarkably, it marked the first time USDA had ever undertaken such a study, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in over 15 years of approving GE crops for commercial production. While USDA worked on the EIS, GE alfalfa remained unlawful to plant or sell, a ban that remained in place despite Monsanto appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision to fully deregulate GE alfalfa fails to take several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of GE gene flow in crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainties in making safety determinations. It also overlooks the problem of herbicide resistant weeds as well as the widespread corruption of conventional seed varieties by GE strains, along with documented severe economic injury to farmers and markets. And, there is no mention at all of possible health consequences from eating GE crops, despite the fact that long-term health effects of consuming GE food are still largely unstudied and unknown. A coalition of environmental and farm groups, as well as the National Organic Coalition, opposed the decision and wrote to USDA decrying the decision.

Known as the “queen of forages,” alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. Organic dairies stand to lose their source of organic feed, a requirement for organic dairy, including milk and yogurt products. The organic sector is the most vibrant part of U.S. agriculture, now a 26 billion dollar a year industry and growing 20% annually. The latest USDA data show that less than 10 percent of alfalfa acres are sprayed with any herbicide, and consequently, GE alfalfa will dramatically increase the use of such chemicals across the country, with all of their attendant hazards to wildlife, plants, groundwater, and people.

For more information on GE crops please see Beyond Pesticides’ page on Genetic Engineering.



Bill That Strips Water Protections from Pesticides Advances in Senate, Act Now

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2011) The Senate Agriculture Committee has passed legislation that would allow pesticides to be sprayed into water without a Clean Water Act (CWA) on Tuesday, June 21, and urgent action is needed to stop the bill from passing in the full Senate. The bill, Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 (H.R. 872) amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the CWA, reversing a 2009 court order requiring the permits as a part of the National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDES). The U.S. House of Representatives already passed H.R. 827 by a vote of 292-130 back in April. Beyond Pesticides encourages individuals and organizations email and call their Senators that regulating pesticides under the CWA is necessary to protect our waterways, public health, fish, and wildlife, and therefore, they must oppose H.R. 872.

Out of eight committee members who voted, the only ones to oppose the bill were Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who was not present at the markup, but issued a recorded vote. Without press or notice, the bill was marked up private business meetings, and is being heralded by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), which states that “The NPDES permitting system jeopardizes the farm economy without providing any real protection to water quality.”

However, the purpose of the NPDES permits is, as the name suggests, 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.

Industries (such as NCGA) and sponsors of the bill say that the clean water requirements are “duplicative regulations” which would “unnecessarily burden” farmers and small businesses. However, the potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that could result in the removal of this permitting process has not been considered. The reality is that this permitting process forces the pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water. And, given the vast knowledge that we have on organic, integrated pest management (IPM) and non-chemical solutions, this bill will be a disastrous step backwards.

“This bill threatens public health and wildlife,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, “and sets a terrible precedent of opening tractor-sized loopholes in the Clean Water Act. It’s just baffling that the Committee voted without public debate to exempt the worst poisons from the Clean Water Act at a time when they are causing such damage to our nation’s waterways.”

According to National Wildlife Federation, more than 1,000 waterways in the United States are impaired because of pesticide pollution, and these toxic chemicals are a threat to people and wildlife. Pesticides discharged in our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxins also accumulate in the fish that we eat and contaminate our drinking water. By prohibiting the EPA or states from requiring a permit under the NPDES for the discharge of pesticides, this bill will create a dangerous vacuum in protecting wildlife, human health and natural systems.

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.

For more background information, please see our previous coverage of this bill in Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News entry from March 11, 2011, and read the testimony of Charlie Tebbutt, the lead council of National Cotton Council v. EPA to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Take Action!

Call and email your Senator and urge them to stand with you in opposing the chemical industry’s Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, (H.R. 827) which would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways.



Herbicides Detected in the Urine of Oregon Residents

(Beyond Pesticides, June 22, 2011) Exposure to two herbicides, atrazine and 2,4-D, commonly used in lawn care and forest management will be studied by Oregon health officials after they were found in the urine of residents of the Triangle Lake area of the Coast Range west of Eugene, Oregon. The State Department of Agriculture is directing health officials who are part of the state’s Pesticide Analytical Response Center to take the lead in studying the matter.

Triangle Lake area residents and a group of activists called the Pitchfork Rebellion have been complaining for more than seven years about the possibility that herbicides being aerially sprayed on nearby private forests may be drifting onto their land. The group in the past has asked the state to investigate their concerns, staging rallies and protests, and attending meetings of government agencies, including the pesticide response board and the Oregon Board of Forestry. At an April 2011 meeting of the forestry board, when the group presented proof of chemical exposure, the state agreed to take a closer look. The board regulates logging and related practices on private timberlands in Oregon.

At that meeting, Dana Barr, PhD, a research professor at Emory University’s Environmental and Occupational Health Department, told board members that she had found atrazine and 2,4-D —powerful herbicides— in the urine of all 21 residents who submitted samples to her lab. The samples were taken by a doctor, who forwarded them to the research lab. Dr. Barr suggested that the next step should be conducting a follow-up study. Since the April meeting, another 13 area residents have been tested for exposure and all of them showed traces of the same two herbicides. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has taken an interest in the issue and has directed health officials who are part of the state’s Pesticide Analytical Response Center to take the lead in the study.

State officials have not yet said how they will do the study, but they expect a yearlong effort to examine the risk of exposure of area residents. According to state records of pesticide use, atrazine and 2,4-D, were among the most common herbicides applied in Oregon 2008, the last year the state funded its reporting program. On the list of the 100 most used pesticides, 2,4-D ranked seventh and atrazine 18th.

There have been periodic disputes for years over the use of toxic herbicide sprays on private forestlands in Oregon, with the Pitchfork Rebellion emerging as perhaps the most persistent critic of the spraying. Private forest landowners have said they need herbicides to ensure quick regrowth of Douglas fir and other tree crops on lands that have been logged.

While herbicide label guidelines urge users to minimize pesticide drift, a seemingly impossible task, there are no state regulations requiring buffers near property boundaries between forested and nonforested lands. The state does have such pesticide buffer zones along fish-bearing streams, however. The Department of Forestry requires private landowners to give the state advance notice when they plan to spray, but the state does not track which chemicals actually are sprayed. Timberland owners keep those records themselves. The state requires them to make the information available upon demand.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and state agency partners finds that agricultural workers and residents in regions where pesticides are routinely sprayed have the highest rate of pesticide poisoning from drift exposure. Pesticide spray drift is typically the result of small spray droplets being carried off-site by air movement. The main weather factors that cause drift are wind, humidity and temperature changes. Aside from poisoning people and animals, drift can injure foliage, shoots, flowers and fruits resulting in reduced yields, economic loss and illegal residues on exposed crops.

Recently, measures by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor where and how much pesticides are sprayed near waterways from forestry, mosquito and aquatic uses (pesticide drift is excluded) have been undermined by Congress and industry special interest groups. In March 2011, HR 872 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 292-130 which is a bill amending FIFRA and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides to enter waterways. It would reverse a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, EPA must require such permits. In the Senate a similar bill was introduced and adopted by the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 21, 2011, S.718 which would eliminate CWA permits, or permits mandated by any other environmental law, that are required for the application of pesticides. This bill would mean that pesticide applicators will be able to discharge pesticides into U.S. waterways without any government oversight.

The dangers associated with the use of 2,4-D and atrazine are very well known. Atrazine is a widespread contaminant in drinking water and is linked to various birth defects, endocrine disruption and cancer, even at concentrations below EPA standards. Although it has been excluded from re-registration in the European Union because it is found above allowable thresholds in groundwater, it is still one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. and around world. One study, published found that the general rate of birth defects in the U.S. population; it found that atrazine upped the risk of nine birth defects in babies born to mothers who conceived between April and July, when surface water levels of the pesticide are highest. Another study also found that atrazine triggers the release of stress hormones, leading researchers to believe that this may explain how the popular weed killer produces some of its harmful reproductive effects.

2,4-D has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic and toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2,4-D than those who don’t; dogs whose owners use 2,4-D on their lawns are more likely to develop canine malignant lymphoma than those whose owners do not. Despite the known health and environmental effects of 2,4-D, it is the top selling herbicide for non-agricultural use, such as lawns, in the United States. It is also the fifth most commonly used herbicide in the agricultural sector and total annual usage in the U.S. tops 40 million pounds.

Take Action

Tell your Senators to Oppose S. 718 Today!

Please take action today to help defeat legislation in the U.S. Senate that would remove critical legal protections from toxic pesticides sprayed into the environment. Ask your Senators to oppose S. 718, the pesticide industry’s latest move in their assault on our environmental laws. Companion legislation has passed the House and it is expected to move quickly in the Senate.

Source:The RegisterGuard



Alliance Calls for Stronger Measures to Protect Human Health, Wildlife from Dangerous Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 21, 2011) More than 130 groups in 35 states, representing public health, food-security, sustainable-farming, farmworker and conservation interests called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use all the tools at its disposal to protect public health and imperiled wildlife from toxic pesticides. The June 16th letter to EPA, which was signed by Beyond Pesticides, cites significant flaws in the pesticide registration process. To see which conventional crops may be grown with pesticides linked to impacts on wildlife and human health, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide.

“Pesticides pose a clear and preventable danger to our health and the environment. It’s time for EPA to ensure pesticides no longer jeopardize human health, wildlife, the water we drink or the air we breathe,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Congress must do its part by stopping legislation sponsored by chemical corporations and their allies to strip important laws that safeguard future generations, farmworkers and wildlife from pesticide harms.”

The groups cite undue pesticide industry influence over EPA’s pesticide decisions under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)—as well as documented pesticide impacts such as endocrine disruption, cancers and reproductive disorders for humans and wildlife—in requesting increased protections from harmful pesticide use. Specifically, the groups urge EPA to use the “rigorous scientific review process and strong legal protections” of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“The pesticide industry has subverted the intended protections of U.S. pesticide law under FIFRA. That law is broken. If enforced, the ESA offers strong protections for our most endangered wildlife, with human health benefits because it requires a more rigorous scientific review process less susceptible to industry influence,” said Heather Pilatic, PhD, co-director of Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). “Current independent science indicates that the low-level mixtures of pesticides to which we are all exposed contribute to children’s rising rates of neurodevelopmental disease and certain cancers, and impact the biodiversity that keeps our planet resilient.”

Pesticide use in the United States is regulated primarily under FIFRA, a 1947 labeling law that was last significantly updated 40 years ago and has been subject to major pesticide industry and farm-lobby influence. The ESA is a stronger statute that requires formal consultation with federal wildlife agencies to assess pesticide impacts and develop measures to avoid harm to endangered species. The EPA has completed very few of these consultations. The Clean Water Act (CWA) also regulates pesticide pollution by requiring federal permits for discharges of contaminants that enter waterways, including pesticides. A bill currently under consideration in the Senate, however, would exempt pesticides from the CWA.

In January, the Center for Biological Diversity and PANNA filed the most comprehensive legal action ever brought under the ESA to protect imperiled wildlife from pesticides. The suit seeks to compel the EPA to evaluate the impacts of hundreds of the most dangerous pesticides known to be harmful to more than 200 endangered and threatened species. The process would yield common-sense restrictions on some of the most harmful pesticides and safeguard human health (including for farmworkers and their families), drinking water and wildlife.

More than a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S., and EPA has registered more than 18,000 different pesticides for use. Scientific studies show widespread and pervasive pesticide contamination in groundwater, drinking water and wildlife habitats throughout the country. Farmers, farmworkers and their families, and rural communities face higher rates of Parkinson’s disease, many cancers, autoimmune disorders, neurodevelopmental problems and a host of other pesticide-linked diseases.

“Our regulatory system allows for the continued poisoning of farmworkers and wildlife, as well as long-term health impacts on consumers and rural families, despite the availability of alternatives,” said Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides executive director. “With organic methods proven viable in the marketplace, it’s time to ban pesticides linked to cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders and other devastating diseases.” Learn more about specific diseases linked to pesticide exposure in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Through pesticide drift and runoff, pesticides can travel far from the areas where they are applied and into sensitive wildlife habitats. Some contaminated waterways are regularly subjected to toxic pulses of combinations of pesticides deadly to fish and other life. Pesticides are a particular threat to endangered species, biological diversity and pollinating insects and bats.

For decades EPA has consistently failed to engage in required consultations to properly evaluate whether pesticides it registers are harmful to imperiled species. In 2004, the Center published Silent Spring Revisited: Pesticide Use and Endangered Species, detailing EPA’s dismal record in protecting endangered species from pesticides. Lawsuits by conservation groups have forced EPA to assess pesticide impacts on some endangered species, primarily in California, and resulted in temporary restrictions on pesticide use in sensitive habitats. In complying with court-ordered evaluations, EPA has concurred that nearly every pesticide at issue is “likely to adversely affect” the at-risk species.

An example of the EPA failure to protect people and the environment is the controversial re-registration of the dangerous herbicide atrazine, a widespread pollutant of groundwater and drinking water that has been banned in the European Union. Atrazine chemically castrates male frogs at extremely low concentrations. Recent research also links atrazine to birth defects and endocrine disruption in humans, as well as significant harm to wildlife.

See an interactive map of endangered species threatened by pesticide use and read the letter sent to EPA.



Organochlorine Pesticides Linked to Adverse Birth Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, June 20, 2011) In a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics, researchers report findings that link mothers’ exposure to organochlorine pesticides during pregnancy with infants’ sizes at birth. The trend shows that the more mothers are exposed to the pesticides during pregnancy, the higher the chances are for reduced birth weight and length of their newborns.

Comprising a total of 494 women and infants in Valencia, Spain from the years 2003-2006, the study evaluates umbilical cord blood for residues of four pesticides or pesticide degradates: DDT, DDE, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane. The results show that a 10-fold increase in pesticide concentrations in the blood corresponds to a reduction in birth weight of 2-4 ounces.

Additional results are correlated to specific pesticides. Higher concentrations of DDT results in a reduction in head circumference of 0.26cm, which the researchers call a “significant decrease.” Additionally, a decrease of 0.39cm in birth length is correlated with each 10-fold increase in concentration of HCB.

The researchers note several concerns related to the findings, aside from the results themselves. Since people are exposed to a wide variety of chemicals in general throughout their everyday lives, higher pesticide exposure could betray higher exposure to many other different kinds of chemicals as well. Importantly, the team also points out that the findings show that high pesticide exposure is not required in order for effects to manifest. The women and newborns in the study were exposed only to moderate levels of pesticides, not extreme levels. This supports other research findings that low dose exposures, even those within federal regulatory limits, can result in serious problems for human health.

The team suggests that the changes are due to the chemicals’ interference with hormones of the thyroid, a part of the endocrine system which regulates growth and development. Disruption of the endocrine system is a common side effect of pesticide exposure, especially at low doses. Since hormones play such an essential role in many different systems throughout the body, interference in their delivery can result in myriad effects including reproductive disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

Organochlorine pesticides such as DDT are highly persistent in the environment and, though many have been banned in the U.S. for some time, people continue to be routinely exposed to them. For the present study, the researchers that the most likely route of exposure is still through diet, presumably from food grown in contaminated soil which once was sprayed with the compounds.

Numerous pesticides have been linked to birth defects, developmental disorders, and other effects on newborns. Our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database contains an exhaustive listing of clinical studies showing these links, as well as links to a wide range of other adverse health effects concerning pesticide exposure.

Source: Reuters



U.S. House Proposes Ban on Genetically Engineered Salmon

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2011) The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved a measure that would bar the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from allowing genetically engineered (GE) salmon to be freely bought and sold. The measure was added as an amendment to the 2012 agriculture and food safety funding bill by U.S. Representative Don Young (R-AK). Representative Young introduced the amendment out of concern that the altered species would compete with the wild salmon in the Pacific waters off of his state and cause economic losses for Alaskan fishermen. Technically speaking, the amendment would not actually legally prohibit the approval of the animal, but rather simply bars the agency from spending any money in order to approve the application for the controversial fish.

The vote, which took place on Wednesday, allowed the measure to be amended to the original appropriations bill, which still remains under consideration by the House. The full package must still be approved by a full House vote and sent to the Senate. There has been no indication from Senators on which way the upper chamber will vote on the measure.

Whichever way the issue turns, it will be highly significant for future regulation of GE technologies. If the House’s bill is approved with the Young amendment intact, it would mark the first time that legislators have stepped in to require stronger regulations regarding a GE product. If the bill is not approved and the engineered fish is allowed to enter the marketplace, it would be the first time that a genetically altered animal was approved for human consumption. Even the preliminary approval of the amendment by the Republican-controlled chamber represents a major step by Congress, showing willingness for precaution in the face of new technologies which could have unpredictable environmental and economic consequences.

The trade name for the GE salmon is AquaAdvantage and it was developed by the Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm AquaBounty. The company has invested $50 million over 14 years to develop AquaAdvantage Fish. AquaAdvantage Salmon, unlike conventional salmon, grows year round and reaches market weight in 18 months instead of the 36 months it takes for natural salmon. The shorter life span also means that the AquaAdvantage fish would consume 25% less food over its lifetime, resulting in lower costs to producers. The variety was developed by inserting part of a gene from an Ocean Pout, an eel-like fish, into the growth gene of a Chinook salmon. The blended genetic material is then injected into the fertilized egg of a North Atlantic salmon. According to AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish, the engineered salmon is identical to conventional salmon in taste, color and protein. AquaBounty is also developing AquAdvantage trout and tilapia.

Many are concerned about the potential for genetically engineered animals to cross breed with wild animals, resulting in genes escaping into the wild. The use of genetically engineered crops has led to several engineered genes escaping into the wild, creating so-called superweeds. To prevent genes from escaping into wild populations, AquaBounty has said it would create sterile fish and require producers to raise salmon in inland tanks, as opposed to ocean pens where most farmed salmon are raised. However, sterilization can occasionally fail and AquaBounty may sell to producers overseas who are not bound by U.S. regulations.

Many strongly oppose genetic engineering of any foodstuff, over threats genetically modified organisms pose to human health and the environment, but the idea of a genetically engineered animal brings even greater trepidation. The main trade association of U.S. seafood producers, the National Fisheries Institute, has come out in support of genetically engineered fish. Several other aquaculture groups, however, have voiced opposition. Jorgen Christiansen of Oslo based Marine Harvest, the world’s largest farmed salmon producer, opposes the altered salmon over concerns consumers would be reluctant to buy genetically engineered fish. The International Salmon Farmers Association is also in opposition. Many consumer advocates are concerned, because there is currently no regulation that would require the genetically engineered fish to be labeled as such.

Beyond Pesticides has long pushed for stronger regulations reflecting a precautionary approach toward GE technologies. Several challenges are currently being litigated against federal regulators regarding lax regulatory review of GE products and their potential for contamination of the natural environment as well as traditionally-bred cultivated species. Congressman Young’s attempt to ensure that Alaskan fisherman do not suffer economic distress due to competition or contamination from the GE salmon mirrors a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding its recent approval of GE alfalfa charging that the agency did not take the concerns of organic farmers into account and the economic losses that could result if their crops were contaminated.

For more information on GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page.

Sources: Food Safety News, Associated Press



New Rule on Conventional Aquaculture Raises Concern for Environment, Organic Standards

(Beyond Pesticides, June 16, 2011) The Department of Commerce, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service, announced late last week a final aquaculture policy which would ease restrictions to make it easier to farm fish in federal waters, drawing criticism from environmental groups due to the harmful environmental impacts of raising fish in pens in open waters.

According to Food and Water Watch, offshore aquaculture follows an industrial agriculture model which grows thousands of animals in a confined environment. For fish, however, this confined space is in the ocean, meaning all of the waste products from the operation flow directly into the ocean. This includes excess feed and chemicals that are used, such as antibiotics and pesticides, to treat or prevent disease that occurs when fish are in confinement. Another major concern is the possibility of escaped farmed fish, which can compete with and interbreed with wild fish.

Though the Department of Commerce and NOAA are pushing these new policies as a way to “meet the growing demand for healthy seafood,” factory fish farming, as Food and Water Watch points out, is primarily focused on carnivorous fish including salmon and tuna. These carnivorous fish require a massive amount of protein, which comes from small wild fish, including anchovies, herring, mackeral and sardines in the form of processed fishmeal, fish oil and feed pellets. It can take over six pounds of wild fish feed to add one pound of weight to farmed carnivorous fish. In 2006, over 90% of the commercially caught small wild fish were consumed by the aquaculture industry, which only exacerbates over-fishing.

The domestic aquaculture industry (both freshwater and marine) currently supplies about five percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. The cultivation of shellfish, such as oysters, clams, and mussels, comprises about two-thirds of U.S. marine aquaculture production. Salmon and shrimp aquaculture contribute about 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Current production takes place mainly on land, in ponds, and in states’ coastal waters.

Currently, there are no organic aquaculture standards other than the National Organic Program (NOP) standards for livestock production which must be followed for any animal or product sold with the USDA organic seal. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) however is working on guidelines for organic aquaculture. An Aquatic Animal Task Force was formed in 2000 in order evaluate both aquaculture and wild caught aquatic animal operations to assess the feasability of developing organic production and handling standards.

Organic aquaculture still has many of the same problems as conventional aquaculture. Depending on the outcome of current NOSB work, there may be fewer synthetic inputs, however fish will still be exposed to pollutants that are present in the water, will still create waste and feeding carnivorous species will still be a problem.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other environmentally responsible options for aquaculture at this point. Even in a closed, land-based system, such as tanks and ponds which seemingly has fewer problems, there are still many similar issues we need to address. We will still need to figure out where feed for the fish will come from, what to do with the waste products, a way to prevent escape, and how to keep fish healthy in a confined system without the use of toxic chemicals.

Sources: NOAA Press Release, Care2



Pesticide-Food Guides Highlight Importance of Eating Organic for Health, Workers and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2011) This week’s release of the new Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce (Dirty Dozen/Clean 15) by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which focuses on pesticide residues on conventional produce, highlights the importance of eating organic fruits and vegetables to minimize personal exposure to toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide complements the EWG list, going beyond residues on food to examine the impacts of the pesticides used to grow conventional produce on the health of farmworkers and rural communities, water quality, honey bees and wildlife poisoning, and more. Both Beyond Pesticides and EWG encourage shoppers to choose organic food whenever possible.

To create their seventh edition of the Shopper’s Guide, analysts at EWG synthesized data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most samples are washed and peeled prior to being tested, so the rankings reflect the amounts of the chemicals likely present on the food when is it eaten.

Apples, celery and strawberries top this year’s “Dirty Dozen” list. Making an appearance in the guide for the first time is the herb cilantro, which had never been tested by USDA until now. The data showed 33 unapproved pesticides on 44 percent of the cilantro samples tested, which is the highest percentage of unapproved pesticides recorded since EWG started tracking the data in 1995. Onions, sweet corn and pineapple received the best ratings on the “Clean 15” list.

“It is unfair that consumers are forced to shoulder the burden of ensuring that the food they choose for their families is not contaminated with dangerous levels of pesticides, rather than the government agencies charged with this responsibility. People have a right to healthy food regardless of income,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Exposure to legal levels of pesticides has been linked to ADHD, cancer and other health effects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not be approving hazardous pesticides when organic alternatives exist.”

Consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG’s Clean 15 list rather than from the Dirty Dozen can lower the volume of pesticides they consume by 92 percent, according to EWG’s calculations. They will also eat fewer types of pesticides. Picking five servings of fruits and vegetables from the 12 most-contaminated products would result in consuming an average of 14 different pesticides a day. Choosing five servings from the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables would result in consuming fewer than two pesticides per day.

While choosing certain fruits and vegetables will limit your personal exposure to pesticides, many of these crops are still grown with pesticides that contaminate the environment and present health hazards. Many “clean” fruits and vegetables are treated with pesticides that are known to poison farmworkers and that are linked to cancer, Parkinson’s and other chronic diseases in rural communities. Children of farmworkers are also at risk. Other fruits and vegetables may not be contaminated with pesticide residues at the point of sale because they have washed off in the fields and contaminated drinking water. Because the USDA/FDA residue data is based on washed and peeled produce, many are considered clean, simply because the contaminated skin is not eaten, as is the case with onions, corn and pineapple. Both onions and sweet corn are commonly treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, the insecticides linked to colony collapse disorder and declining honey bee health.

Conventional onions, the best rated crop on the Clean 15 list, show low pesticide residues on the finished commodity, however there are 63 pesticides with established tolerances for onions: 26, acutely toxic, create a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 60 linked to chronic health problems like cancer, eight contaminate streams or groundwater, and 54 poison wildlife. While not all the pesticides on the list are applied to every onion, there is no way to tell which pesticides are applied to any given piece of conventional produce on your store shelf. Learn more about these hazards and why choosing organic food is the right choice with Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide.

“Pesticides, while designed specifically to kill certain organisms, are also associated with a host of very serious health problems in people, including neurological deficits, ADHD, endocrine system disruption and cancer,” said Andrew Weil, MD, Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a renowned medical expert on natural health and wellness. “My advice to consumers is to whenever possible avoid exposure to pesticides, including pesticide residues on food.”

For more information on the health effects of pesticide exposure, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. For more information on pesticides and the foods you eat, see the EWG’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce and Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience.



Feds To Gather Data on Nanomaterials

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to obtain information on nanoscale materials in pesticide products, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft guidelines to industries about when the use of nanomaterials might trigger regulatory interest. These two actions announced last week will aim to clarify the role that extremely small materials can play in items such as cosmetics and food production and packaging and gather environmental and human health related data.

According to EPA, the agency will gather information on what nanoscale materials are present in pesticide products to determine whether the registration of a pesticide may cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and human health. The proposed policy will soon be open for public comment.

“We want to obtain timely and accurate information on what nanoscale materials may be in pesticide products,“ said Steve Owens assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This information is needed for EPA to meet its requirement under the law to protect public health and the environment.”

EPA states that it recognizes that nanoscale materials have a range of potentially beneficial public and commercial applications, including pest control products. However, nanosized materials, now incorporated into many consumer products, including paper wrapping, clothing and cosmetics, are currently not regulated and have not been assessed for hazards that have the potential to impact public health and the environment.

The new guidance will propose a new approach for how EPA will determine whether a nanoscale ingredient is a “new” active or inert ingredient for purposes of scientific evaluation under the pesticide laws, when an identical, non-nanoscale form of the nanoscale ingredient is already registered under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This approach, according to the agency, will help ensure that EPA is informed about the presence of nanoscale ingredients in pesticide products and allows a more thorough review of the potential risks. Comments on the Federal Register notice will be accepted until 30 days after publication. The notice will be available at www.regulations.gov in docket number EPA–HQ–OPP–2010-0197.

EPA’s new guidance on nanotechnology has been delayed for almost one year after the agency first submitted its draft proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Environmental advocates have attributed the holdup to industry lobbying against an interpretation of FIFRA Section 6(a)(2) that would require the presence of a nanoscale material to be reported to the agency under FIFRA Section 6(a)(2) for environmental effects. The requirement would apply to already registered products, as well as products pending registration. However, pesticide manufacturers routinely fail to inform EPA when their products contain nanoscale particles. Consumers are left in the dark about their potential exposure since these products are currently being marketed under ambiguous labels.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) named certain characteristics, such as the size of nanomaterials used and their properties, that may be considered when trying to identify applications of nanotechnology in products. A number of organizations, as well as government, academic and private sector scientists, have considered whether the small size of nanoscale materials or the unique or enhanced properties of nanoscale materials may, under specific conditions, pose new or increased hazards to humans and the environment. FDA’s draft guidance, “Considering Whether an FDA-Regulated Product Involves the Application of Nanotechnology,” is available online and open for public comment. According to the FDA, it represents the first step toward providing regulatory clarity on the FDA’s approach to nanotechnology. For products subject to premarket review, FDA intends to apply the points contained in the draft guidance, when finalized, to better understand the properties and behavior of engineered nanomaterials. For products not subject to premarket review, the FDA will urge manufacturers to consult with the agency early in the product development process.

“With this guidance, we are not announcing a regulatory definition of nanotechnology,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, Commissioner of Food and Drugs. “However, as a first step, we want to narrow the discussion to these points and work with industry to determine if this focus is an appropriate starting place.”

Similar statements were also release by the White House in coordination with announcements by EPA and FDA, entitled “Policy Principles for the U.S. Decision-Making Concerning Regulation and Oversight of Applications of Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials” issued jointly by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget, and the United States Trade Representative.

Nanotechnology, the science involving manipulation of materials on an atomic or molecular scale, is an emerging technology with a broad range of potential applications, such as increasing bioavailability of a drug, improving food packaging and in cosmetics. There are hundreds of products currently on the market that contain nanomaterials of various types and functions, the most popular application being the use of nanosilver as an antibacterial substance in many consumer products. Given this, the federal government at this point is playing a game of ‘catch-up.’ Studies have shown that nanosized materials are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and can accumulate in the brain, under and skin and other compartments of the body. Others have found that clothing treated with nanomaterials leach from these materials during laundering and enters the wastewater treatment system and the environment. Much is unknown on the fate of these materials in the human body and the environment,t and scientists and researchers are becoming increasingly concerned with the potential impacts of these particles. A recent study by scientists from Oregon State University (OSU) and the European Union (EU) highlight the major regulatory and educational issues that they believe should be considered before nanoparticles are used.

Last year, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to prohibit engineered nanomaterials from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible. While there is overwhelming agreement to prohibit nanotechnology in organics generally, there is still confusion over the definition of what exactly should be prohibited and how to prohibit nanotech products in the organic industry. The recommendation deals specifically with engineered nanomaterials and purposefully omits those that are naturally occurring. Further it would block petitions seeking an exemption and keep nanomaterials out of food packaging and contact surfaces. The board adopted the following definition:

“Engineered nanomaterials: substances deliberately designed, engineered and produced by human activity to be in the nanoscale range (approx 1-300 nm) because of very specific properties or compositions (eg. shape, surface properties, or chemistry) that result only in that nanoscale. Incidental particles in the nanoscale range created during traditional food processing such as homogenization, milling, churning, and freezing, and naturally occurring particles in the nanoscale range are not intended to be included in this definition. All nanomaterials (without exception) containing capping reagents or other synthetic components are intended to be included in this definition.”

The International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) and a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed a legal petition on May 1, 2008 with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), demanding the agency use its pesticide regulation authority to stop the sale of 250+ consumer products now using nanosized versions of silver. The legal action is the first challenge to EPA’s failure to regulate nanomaterials. In November 2008, EPA determined that ICTA’s petition “raises serious issues that potentially affect private and public sector stakeholders” and opened a 60-day period for public comment. At that time, EPA said it would review the petition and any comments received “before deciding how best to respond to the petition.”

Washington Post
EPA Press Release




Report Finds Regulators Mislead Public on Glyphosate and Birth Defects

(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2011) A new report released early last week shows that industry regulators have known for a long time that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s best selling herbicide, RoundUp, causes birth defects. The report, “RoundUp and Birth Defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?” published by Earth Open Source, says that regulators misled the public about the safety of glyphosate for over 20 years.

According to the report, the German government has known since 1998 and the EU Commission’s expert scientific review panel has known since 1999 that glyphosate causes malformations. As recently as last year, however, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety told the Commission that there was no evidence of glyphosate causing birth defects. Meanwhile, these actions by industry and regualtors that have kept the public in the dark, the authors point out, has seriously endangered public health.

Considering that Monsanto, as well as other producers of genetically engineered (GE) seeds are now pushing for glyphosate-tolerant crop approval in Europe, this is particularly disconcerting. If the Commission grants the approval as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had done for GE alfalfa and sugar beets in the U.S, there will likely a stark increase in the use of glyphosate and have devastating consequences. Contrary to industry claims that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant GE crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data shows 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.

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.

In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) showing new and emerging science which illustrates that glyphosate and its formulated products pose unreasonable risk to human and environmental health, and as such should not be considered eligible for continued registration.

Some of the most widespread uses of glyphosate that have been attracting public attention include its use in invasive weed management and home gardening. The increase of glyphosate use in these areas is directly tied to the larger problem of poor land management, including over grazing, over development, soil compaction and other stressors. Glyphosate has replaced ecologically sound and sustainable cultural practices such as green-mulching and preventive maintenance such as aeration and dethatching.

As researchers scramble to find new ways of chemically coping with weed control and increased weed resistance to chemicals, 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.

For more information regarding genetic engineering of agricultural crops and the recent controversy surrounding USDA’s approval of several new varieties, including GE alfalfa and GE sugar beets, see our genetic engineering program page and other Daily News blog entries.

Source: Huffington Post



USDA Survey Shows Continued Honeybee Losses Across the Country

(Beyond Pesticides, June 10, 2011) A report released jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) shows that losses of honeybee populations over the 2010/2011 winter remained abnormally high, reflecting continuing damages attributed to colony collapse disorder (CCD). CCD, linked to a range of factors and agricultural chemicals, including systemic pesticides, has devastated bees and beekeepers around the country in recent years. According to the survey, 30% of managed honeybee colonies across the country were lost over the winter. Over the past five years, since the discovery of CCD, annual winter colony losses have hovered near the 30% mark. Similar loss percentages for the previous four years reflect this trend: 34% for the 2009/2010 winter, 29% for 2008/2009, 36% for 2007/2008, and 32% for 2006/2007.

ARS entomologist Jeffrey Pettis, PhD, who helped to conduct the survey and has been the agency’s lead researcher on CCD heading up the USDA Bee Research Laboratory, said, “The lack of increase in losses is marginally encouraging in the sense that the problem does not appear to be getting worse for honey bees and beekeepers. But continued losses of this size put tremendous pressure on the economic sustainability of commercial beekeeping.”

Dr. Pettis, quoted by Discovery News, says that, “We averaged 10 percent winter losses before parasitic mites, around 20 percent winter loss when two parasitic mites (Varroa and tracheal mites) arrived in the 1980’s, and now with CCD we are over 30 percent losses in the fall and winter.”

This latest survey, conducted by past AIA presidents Dennis vanEngelsdorp and Jerry Hayes along with Pettis, PhD, had a total of 5,572 respondents, collectively managing an estimated 15% of the country’s 2.68 million honeybee colonies. 31% of the respondents noted colony losses with the bodies of the dead bees missing from the hives – a key indicator of CCD. Beekeepers who noted an absence of dead bees also had significantly higher rates of colony loss, at 61%. Average colony loss for an individual beekeeper’s operation was 38.4 percent.

Average loss by operation represents the percentage of loss in each operation added together and divided by the number of beekeeping operations that responded to the survey. This number is affected more by small beekeeping operations, which may only have 10 or fewer colonies, so a loss of just five colonies in a 10-colony operation would represent a 50 percent loss. Total losses were calculated as all colonies reported lost in the survey divided by the total number of bee colonies reported in the survey. This number is affected more by larger operations, which might have 10,000 or more colonies, so a loss of five colonies in a 10,000-colony operation would equal only a 0.05 percent loss.

The preliminary survey analysis notes that, “This survey only reports on losses that occur during the winter and does not capture the colony losses that occur throughout the summer as queens or entire colonies fail and need to be replaced. Preliminary data from other survey efforts suggest that these ‘summer losses’ can also be significant. Beekeepers can replace colonies lost in the summer and winter by splitting the populations of surviving colonies to establish a new hive. This process is expensive, so replacing 30% of the nation’s colonies annually is not considered sustainable over the long-term.”

Colony Collapse Disorder is the name given to the mysterious decline of honeybee populations around the world beginning around 2006. Each winter, one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has died off or disappeared (more than twice what is normal). While CCD appears to have multiple interacting causes including pathogens, a range of evidence points to sub-lethal pesticide exposures as important contributing factors. Neonicotinoids are a particularly suspect class of insecticides, especially in combination with the dozens of other pesticides found in honeybee hives. Key symptoms of CCD include: 1) inexplicable disappearance of the hive’s worker bees; 2) presence of the queen bee and absence of invaders; 3) presence of food stores and a capped brood.

Clothianidin and imidicloprid are members of the neonicotinoid family of systemic pesticides, which are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and gutation droplets from which bees then forage and drink. Neonicotinoids kill sucking and chewing insects by disrupting their nervous systems. Beginning in the late 1990s, these systemic insecticides began to take over the seed treatment market. Clothianidin is Bayer’s successor product to imidacloprid, which recently went off patent. Both are known to be toxic to insect pollinators, and are lead suspects as causal factors in CCD. Together, the two products accounted for over a billion dollars in sales for Bayer Crop Science in 2009. Imidacloprid is the company’s best-selling product and among the most widely used insecticides in the U.S. Starting in about 2004, seed companies in the U.S. began to market seeds treated with a 5-X rate of neonicotinoids (1.25mg/seed, compared with the traditional 0.25 mg/seed).

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.

Beekeepers reported that, on average, they felt losses of 13% would be economically acceptable. Sixty-one percent of responding beekeepers reported having losses greater than this, reflecting the devastating economic impact of these significant losses on the commercial beekeeping industry. These losses, however, are not only significant for beekeepers and their business, but for all of us. Pollinators serve vitally important roles in agricultural ecosystems, enabling a wide range of crops to grow and provide us with food. If crops are not pollinated, they do not produce fruit and food production declines.

For more information on these issues, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinators and Pesticides page, and see this fact sheet on the connection between clothianidin and CCD.

Sources: ARS press release, Discovery News



EPA Takes Actions to Reduce Risk From Rat and Mouse Poisons

(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2011) Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is moving to ban the sale of most toxic rat and mouse poisons, as well as most loose bait and pellet products, to residential consumers decades after these products were first introduced to the public. Though these rules will better protect children, pets and wildlife, the changes do not go far enough for vulnerable populations, because they will still be allowed by pesticide applicators and in agricultural settings. Children are particularly at risk for exposure to rat and mouse poisons because the products are typically placed on floors, and because young children sometimes place bait pellets in their mouths. The American Association of Poison Control Centers annually receives between 12,000 and 15,000 reports of children under the age of six being exposed to these types of products. Beyond Pesticides urges consumers not to use poisons for rodent control indoors, but rather advocates the use of traps and nonchemical exclusion techniques that eliminate food and water sources and entryways.

In 2008, EPA released its final risk mitigation decision for ten rodenticides, with new measures intended to protect children and the public from accidental poisonings as well as to decrease exposures to pets and wildlife from rodent-control products. This came after the Natural Resources Council (NRDC) and the West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) filed a lawsuit in 2004 challenging EPA’s regulations. In 2005, a New York City’s federal court ruled that the EPA failed to protect children from exposure to chemical rat poisons, and failed to require chemical manufacturers to strengthen safeguards. (See Daily News, August 17, 2005.)

Over the past three years, EPA says it has worked with a number of companies to achieve this goal, and there are now new products on the market with new bait delivery systems and less toxic baits. These products reduce hazards to children, as well as pets and wildlife, but still provide effective rodent control for residential consumers.

A handful of companies do not plan to adopt the new safety measures, however, and EPA intends to initiate cancellation proceedings under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, (FIFRA) the federal pesticide law, against certain non-compliant products marketed by the following companies to remove them from the market:

•Reckitt Benckiser Inc. (makers of D-Con, Fleeject, and Mimas rodent control products)
•Woodstream Inc. (makers of Victor rodent control products)
•Spectrum Group (makers of Hot Shot rodent control products)
•Liphatech Inc. (makers of Generation, Maki, and Rozol rodent control products)

In addition to requiring more-protective bait stations and prohibiting pellet formulations, EPA intends to ban the sale and distribution of rodenticide products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum directly to residential consumers because of their toxicity and the secondary poisoning hazards to wildlife.

There are several shortcomings to the new restrictions. Human and wildlife exposures to these toxic chemicals, though slightly minimized, would nevertheless continue because of their continued availability for use in agricultural production and to pest control operators. These rodenticides will still be available for use in residential settings, but only by professional pest control applicators, which means residential exposures continue, albeit at slightly lower levels. The compounds will also be allowed for use in agricultural settings; however, bait stations will be required for all outdoor, above-ground uses to reduce exposure to children, pets and wildlife.

Beyond Pesticides believes that integrated pest managemeny (IPM) is a vital tool that aids in the rediscovery of non-toxic methods to control rodents and facilitates the transition toward a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, pest population monitoring are some IPM methods that can be undertaken to control rodents. For more information on IPM, visit our IPM program page and our Safer Choice page.

To learn more about rodenticides, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Rodenticides fact sheet. For least toxic control of mice and other pests visit the alternatives page.

For more information on EPA’s changes for rat and mouse products, see: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/mice-and-rats/

Source: EPA Press Release




Large Knowledge Gap In Nanoagriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2011) In an article published by the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists at the University of Texas, El Paso and a co-investigator for the NSF/EPA University of California Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology warned that, as a new era of nanoagriculture is about to start, very little is known about it from a human and environmental health standpoint. The findings are published in an article entitled “Interaction of Nanoparticles with Edible Plants and Their Possible Implications in the Food Chain.”

Nanoagriculture is the use of nanotechnology to boost the productivity of plants, primarily for food or fuel. The researchers, led by Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, PhD, set out to better understand whether certain plants take up and accumulate nanoparticles, and if so whether this interaction poses problems for the plants–and the animals that eat those plants. The particles also could end up in the environment, settling in the soil, especially as fertilizers, growth enhancers and other nanoagricultural products hit the market. Some plants can take-up and accumulate nanoparticles.

The scientists compiled and analyzed over 100 scientific studies into the effects of nanoparticles on edible plants (including cucumbers, rye, barley, and zucchini), and found that the uptake and buildup of nanoparticles vary widely depending on plant type as well as nanoparticle size and chemical composition, but warned that it is still unclear if these accumulations could be toxic to humans. The researchers state that very few references describe the biotransformation of nanomaterials in food crops, and the possible transmission of the nanomaterials to the next generation of plants exposed to nanomaterials is unknown. The possible biomagnification of nanomaterials up the food chain is also unknown. At the end of their analysis, the researchers are left reporting that they simply couldn’t find many answers.

Last year, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to prohibit engineered nanomaterials from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible. While there is overwhelming agreement to prohibit nanotechnology in organics generally, there is still confusion over the definition of what exactly should be prohibited and how to prohibit nanotech products in the organic industry. The recommendation deals specifically with engineered nanomaterials and purposefully omits those that are naturally occurring. Further it would block petitions seeking an exemption and keep nanomaterials out of food packaging and contact surfaces. The board adopted the following definition:

Engineered nanomaterials: substances deliberately designed, engineered and produced by human activity to be in the nanoscale range (approx 1-300 nm) because of very specific properties or compositions (eg. shape, surface properties, or chemistry) that result only in that nanoscale. Incidental particles in the nanoscale range created during traditional food processing such as homogenization, milling, churning, and freezing, and naturally occurring particles in the nanoscale range are not intended to be included in this definition. All nanomaterials (without exception) containing capping reagents or other synthetic components are intended to be included in this definition.

Nanosized particles are super small particles with unique properties that are now incorporated, not only in food production but into many consumer products including paper wrapping, clothing and cosmetics, are currently not regulated and have not been assessed for hazards that have the potential to impact public health and the environment. As these tiny materials hit the market, there are huge gaps in what scientists know about their properties. Earlier this year, the California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) asked in-state nanotechnology companies and researchers to share how they are keeping tabs on several nano-sized metals, as evidence continues to emerge that these substances may have long-term implications for the environment. Some studies have shown that these some nanomaterials are turning up in end-stage sewage sludge, raising questions about long-term environmental problems. Other nanomaterials can be making their way to the water supplies.

Nanotechnology is a powerful new platform technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level. Just as the size and chemical characteristics of manufactured nanoparticles can give them unique properties, those same new properties –tiny size, vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, high reactivity– can also create unique and unpredictable human health and environmental risks. Scientists and researchers are becoming increasingly concerned with the potential impacts of these particles on public health and the environment. A study by scientists from Oregon State University (OSU) and the European Union (EU) highlights the major regulatory and educational issues that they believe should be considered before nanoparticles are used in pesticides.

Nanosilver, used as an antibacterial agent in many products, is much more toxic than regular silver and can cause damage in new ways. Concerns over nanosilver were first raised by national wastewater utilities in early 2006. A 2008 study shows that washing nanosilver socks releases substantial amounts of the nanosilver into the laundry discharge water, which will ultimately reach natural waterways and potentially poison fish and other aquatic organisms. Copper nanoparticles could be released from the treated wood during sawing or machining, cleaning, through normal wear and tear, or from product decomposition, and then become available for potential inhalation or ingestion. Reports stated in early 2009 that over five billion board feet of wood have been treated with its “micronized” copper products, so the potential for consumer exposure to nanoscale copper particles could be quite large.

Source: American Chemical Society