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Industry Study Touts ‘Safety’ of Triclosan Soaps, Dismissing Independent Adverse Effects Data

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2011) A new industry-funded study that claims to “Reaffirm Safe Use of Triclosan, Triclocarban in Antibacterial Soaps and Washes,” concludes that triclosan and triclocarban soaps do not facilitate antibiotic resistance and antibiotic cross-resistance. The study, sponsored by the American Cleaning Institute and the Personal Care Products Council, long supporters of the antibacterial pesticide triclosan, dismisses previous independent data that has identified triclosan as a promoter of antibacterial resistance and calls for precautionary measures against the unnecessary but widespread use of antibacterial agents.

The study, “Investigation of Antibiotic and Antibacterial Susceptibility and Resistance In Staphylococcus From The Skin Of Users and Nonusers Of Antibacterial Wash Products In Home Environments,” found that there was no statistically significant difference in antibiotic resistance in the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, exposed to triclosan and triclocarban soaps compared with those not exposed. The study collected swab samples from the forearms of participants that used triclosan, triclocarban, and a control group that used neither. The study’s conclusions are not surprising since this industry has been a vocal and active promoter of the antibacterial products they manufacture and represent. Beyond Pesticides has previously responded to the American Cleaning Institute’s (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association) assertions that antibacterial soaps are ‘safe,’ even though most studies call for caution with using these substances. There are also several limitations to this study, including the exclusion of pets owners (other than fish), those using antibiotics and topical skin medications, and health care, day care and animal care workers – i.e. persons most exposed to various bacterial populations.

Triclosan and its cousin triclocarban have come under fire for their link to many serious human and environmental health threats, including endocrine disruption and a link to adverse fetal development, water contamination and an ever increasing body burden expressed in breast milk, urine and even umbilical cord blood. While announcing plans to review the chemical, the Food and Drug Administration stated that, “existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients.”

The verdict on triclosan’s and triclocarban’s potential to promote antibacterial and antibiotic cross-resistance is still out, however it is well-recognized that the main cause of antibiotic resistance remains the use and misuse of antibacterial and antibiotic substances. In the specific instance of triclosan, studies have provided preliminary evidence that it promotes bacterial resistance. Bacterial resistance may occur through mutation of gene constitutions or the uptake of new genetic elements through gene transfer. Such resistance may cause multiple threats, since widespread use of the triclosan may not only result in bacteria that are resistant to triclosan but may also create resistance to other, including unrelated, antimicrobials and antibiotics (cross-resistance). The main concern regarding triclosan’s ability to promote cross-resistance to the antibacterial/antibiotic agents is that, according to Schweizer (2001), triclosan resistance mechanisms include target mutations, increased target expression, active efflux from the cell, and enzymatic inactivation/degradation. These are the same types of mechanisms involved in antibiotic resistance and some of them account for the observed cross-resistance with antibiotics in laboratory isolates. While some have argued that the high concentration of triclosan found in articles like soap is sufficient to kill even resistant bacterial strains, research has shown this is not necessarily true. A 2006 study published in Microbial Drug Resistance documents that “at sublethal concentrations, triclosan inhibits a specific bacterial target, and several mechanisms of resistance to triclosan have been demonstrated.”

Another study from the Journal of Medical Microbiology finds that in bacterial strains that lack the multiple antibiotic resistance (Mar) phenotype, triclosan selects those that, in addition to triclosan resistance, have also acquired antibiotic resistance. This study also finds that triclosan concentration is very important for the selection of mutants with reduced antibiotic susceptibility. Low concentrations of triclosan lead to the survival of cells with mechanisms of triclosan resistance, suggesting that future generation of the bacteria is also resistant. Studies find that another bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is intrinsically resistant to high levels of triclosan and can survive in the presence of triclosan concentrations in excess of 1000 μg/mL. Others have found that triclosan exposure of Escherichia coli (E. coli) selects for tolerant clones and reduces triclosan’s effect on E. coli., but that this phenomenon was not widespread and limited to E. coli.

There is no doubt that studies looking at triclosan-induced resistance have been conflicting. Suller and Russell in a 2000 study with Staphylococcus aureus saw that while some but not all strains were resistant to several antibiotics and showed low-level triclosan resistance, the mutant strains were not more resistant than the parent strains. Aiello et al., in a 2006 study suggests that longer durations (> 1 year) might provide a suitable environment for emergence of antimicrobial drug–resistant species in the community setting. However, the European Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety (SCCS) concluded in its 2010 opinion on triclosan and antibacterial resistance that while it is difficult “to quantify the risk of development of antimicrobial resistance induced by triclosan applications including its use in cosmetics…there are environmental concentrations in a number of geographically distinct areas high enough to suggest that triggering of bacterial resistance could also occur in the environment.” The SCCS recommended “the prudent use of triclosan, for example, in applications where a health benefit can be demonstrated.”

Resistance to antibacterial and antibiotic agents becomes critically important for vulnerable subpopulations, including persons with impaired immune systems, infants and young children, and persons needing the benefit of antibiotics. A recent study identified a fatal outbreak of P. aeruginosa in a hospital as coming from the contamination of triclosan soap dispensers, which acted as a continuous source of the bacterium. Further, a systematic review of research assessing the risks and potential benefits associated with the use of soaps containing triclosan finds that data do not show the effectiveness of triclosan for reducing infectious disease symptoms or bacterial counts on the hands when used at the concentrations commonly found in antibacterial products.

There are many valid concerns regarding triclosan resistance that industry would like to ignore. While the science tries to adequately quantify the phenomena, there are many other important reasons to stay away from triclosan-containing products and maintain a precautionary approach. The scientific literature has extensively linked the uses of triclosan to many health and environmental hazards. As an endocrine disruptor, triclosan has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development, and also shown to alter thyroid function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has found that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 42% since 2004. Beyond Pesticides in 2004 began voicing concern about the dangers of triclosan and in 2009 and 2010 submitted petitions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the removal of triclosan from consumer products. Since then, many major companies are quietly and quickly removing triclosan from their products. Colgate-Palmolive, makers of SoftSoap, and GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, have reformulated these products to exclude triclosan, according to media reports. Others, including Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, have started phasing it out of products.

Take Action: Don’t be fooled by industry sponsored data. Avoid triclosan-containing products such as soap, toothpaste, toys and other plastics. Join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Avoid products containing triclosan, and encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality and workplace to adopt the model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

Source: The Sacramento Bee

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



Dirty Water Bill Offered as Amendment in Senate, Act Now

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2011) U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) has offered an amendment to a currency bill in the Senate this week which would strip protections against pesticide contamination from the Clean Water Act (CWA). The language of the amendment is the exact same language as H.R. 872, which is currently working its way through the Senate and which environmental and public health advocates have been fighting against for much of the past year. Urgent action is needed to stop the amendment from successfully being attached to the larger bill, S. 1619.

Click here to send an email to your Senators urging them to stand with you in opposing the Roberts amendment, Amendment 720, and ensuring our waterways are kept safe from pesticide contamination.

Attaching the bill as an amendment to an entirely unrelated bill represents an attempt to slip the language in unnoticed and get it through without a fight. The language in the amendment, which has already passed through the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 872, and was voted out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry as the stand alone bill S. 718 in June, but had since stalled in the Senate, would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to make permits unnecessary when applying pesticides to waterways for the control of aquatic pests. Following a 2009 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit specifically finding that such permits were required as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), Congressional Republicans have sought to undermine the court’s decision by amending the CWA itself to weaken NPDES requirements. The bill would allow pesticide applicators to discharge pesticides into U.S. waterways without any government oversight. While the main target of the bill is CWA, it could also prevent the regulation of pesticides under the Clean Air Act, which has been used to regulate ozone-depleting pesticides.

The Roberts amendment, cosponsored by U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), was offered as amendment 720 to the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011, S. 1619. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has indicated that he expects S. 1619 to pass easily with bipartisan support. This makes rejection of amendment 720 critically important.

Urge your Senators to vote no on this amendment by using this form to send them an email. You are encouraged to modify the sample letter for greater impact. You can also call you Senators’ offices directly. If you know your Senators names, contact the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request. You can find your Senators here.


EPA has been in the process of developing permit requirements in accordance with the 2009 ruling by the Sixth Circuit since June 2010. The proposed pesticide general permit (PGP) covers operators who apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit would not cover 1) non-target spray drift, or 2) discharges of pesticides to waterbodies that are impaired for that pesticide. Unfortunately, agricultural runoff and irrigation return flows, responsible for contaminating much of our waterways, are exempt from permitting under CWA and, thus, do not require NPDES permits. Republicans and conventional farm lobby groups have sought to get the amendment’s language signed into law before the PGP would take effect.

The National Corn Growers Association has supported the language contained in the amendment, saying, “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.

Supporters of the amendment 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.

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.

The NPDES permits are vital to protecting U.S. waterways from indiscriminate pesticide contamination. The proposed permit would not pose undue burden to farmers, foresters and ranchers as the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and do not even affect terrestrial agricultural spraying.

Take action now to protect our waterways from pesticide contamination.

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



Mosquito Pesticide Suspected in Lobster Deaths

(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2011) Commercial lobster fishers operating in Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut have begun to suspect that the mosquito killing chemical methoprene, sprayed by neighboring New York State as part of its West Nile virus (WNv) control program, is contributing to widespread deaths of lobsters in the sound. Believing that a large amount of the chemical flowed into the sound in late summer due to heavy rains from Hurricane Irene, the lobster fishers are asking New York to follow Connecticut’s example and switch its WNv control method to the less toxic bacillus thuringiensis.

Late summer declines in the sound’s lobster population have been alarmingly common throughout much of the last decade, devastating fishers and the local economy that depends on them. A number of factors have been blamed, but the lobstering community has increasingly been pointing to mosquito pesticides for several reasons. Methoprene has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the ocean water, where lobsters live and feed. Additionally, lobsters are a distant cousin of mosquitoes, and the methoprene acts on them in much the same way that it does the insects. Finally, the western part of the sound was the hardest hit. Not only is this the area that is closest to New York, but it is also one of the areas more protected from ocean currents that would normally help to wash the chemical out into the open sea.

In 2003, it was determined by researchers at the University of Connecticut that methoprene was deadly to lobsters at concentrations of only 33 parts per billion. The research was seized upon by the lobstering community as part of its quest to seek legal recourse against chemical companies whose pesticides they blamed for widespread lobster deaths in 1999.

The fishing community has been pushing state lawmakers in Connecticut to open a dialogue around the issue with their counterparts in New York. One state Representative, Terry Backer (D-Stratford), has taken up the fight, arranging meetings on the issue and gathering affected parties. Backer also directs a local non-profit organization that works on issues of water quality in the sound.

The WNv control plan adopted by one county on Long Island, Suffolk County, was highly controversial when first passed, partly over its planned use of methoprene. Despite major objections from other county agencies, environmentalists, and members of Suffolk’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the County Legislature passed the plan in 2007. The CEQ advises lawmakers on the environmental impact of proposed county projects and while their recommendations are non-binding, the legislature has generally followed the group’s advice. Approval of the plan caused several members of the CEQ to resign in protest.

The effect of mosquito pesticides on marine life, especially lobsters, has repeatedly come under scrutiny over the years, in Connecticut as well as in other northeastern waters, such as the Bay of Fundy. Some of the other mosquito killing chemicals suspected of causing damage to aquatic life include cypermethrin and malathion. Both are already known to be toxic to many aquatic species, including crustaceans.

Communities and agencies in New York have taken a stand against unnecessary pesticide spraying in the past, in areas such as pesticide free state parks and safe school playing fields. Some would argue that the states’ outdated mosquito management scheme is inconsistent with these past actions, and that it is time to bring it in line, not only with other policies in the state regarding pesticide use, but also with the wealth of knowledge and evidence concerning the harmful effects of pesticides on human health and the environment, as well as nearby local economies.

Other municipalities around the country have consistently proven that dangerous pesticides are not necessary to effectively control mosquitoes and prevent outbreaks of West Nile virus. Prevention strategies, such as removing standing water and using least-toxic larvicides only as a last resort, have been adopted in such densely populated areas as Shaker Heights, OH and the District of Columbia. To learn more about safe and effective mosquito management strategies, visit Beyond Pesticides page on Mosquitoes and Insect Borne Diseases.

Source: Connecticut Post

Image credit: Flickr user rexhammock

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



IFOAM Requests UN Require Members to Label Genetically Modified Foods

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2011) Representatives of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) presented a special declaration October 1, 2011 to the United Nations (UN), requesting that the international organization commit all of its member nations to a world without genetically modified (GMO) foods and to identify existing GMO foods on product labels. The UN declaration was written in anticipation of the GMO Right2Know March which kicked off at the UN headquarters in New York on October 1 and will end at the White House on October 16.

The UN delegation included IFOAM representatives, Joseph Wilhelm, founder of Rapunzel organic products and the force behind “Gene-Free America;” and his employees.” Maria-Luisa Chavez welcomed the delegation and accepted the declaration on behalf of the UN. She will pass it on to the president of the General Assembly, the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations.

Mr. Wilhelm believes that consumers have the right to know whether the food they buy is genetically altered. “Twenty percent of all manufactured foods in the U.S. contains genetically modified ingredients (GMO),” he said. “We hope the Right2Know march will raise consumer awareness and influence U.S. legislators to require that labels indicate whether the product contains GMOs.”

The UN declaration was signed by: Katherine DiMatteo, IFOAM president; Joseph William, IFOAM member; and, Bernward Geier, NGO coordinator. It outlines the critical issues facing consumers in the U.S. and Europe. “Biased agriculture policies, research and development agendas, and private sector strategies favor short-term individual profits,” the declaration states. “This (behavior) is to the detriment of the long-term sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of all and is responsible for hunger, poverty, climate change, and the destruction of habitats and biodiversity.”

According to IFOAM, unless radical changes to curtail GMOs are adopted worldwide and the subsidy for agri-industry and monocultures is greatly reduced, the future of organic farming and healthy, natural foods will be threatened. IFOAM and its 750 member organizations in more than 110 countries are dedicated to uniting and leading organic farmers and businesses worldwide to work toward a safe and natural food supply.

In July, a barrier to national laws requiring labeling of GMOs was overcome when the Codex Alimentarius Commission voted to allow countries to adopt such laws. This means that the laws cannot be challenged by the World Trade Organization, making it much more likely that countries would seek to adopt labeling laws.

GMOs and the increased pesticide use that accompanies them have been the source of serious environmental contamination and public health concerns. Beyond Pesticides is currently involved in a number of lawsuits involving Roundup Ready and other GE crops. The first lawsuit is filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and seeks to end cultivation of GE crops on twenty-five national wildlife refuges across the U.S. Southeast. The suit is the latest step in a campaign to banish GE crops from all refuges. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 12, 2011 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and Beyond Pesticides, the federal suit charges that FWS unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight states without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and in violation of FWS policy. This is the third in a series of lawsuits filed by CFS and PEER challenging FWS’s practice of permitting GE crops on wildlife refuges. In 2009 and 2010, the groups successfully challenged approval of GE plantings on two wildlife refuges in Delaware – Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge – which forced FWS to end GE planting in the entire 12-state Northeastern region.

In another case involving GE crops, attorneys for CFS, Earthjustice, Beyond Pesticides, and others filed a lawsuit against USDA in March 2011, arguing that the agency’s unrestricted approval of GE “Roundup Ready” alfalfa violates the Endangered Species Act. USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa in January, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers.

For more news and information on “Roundup Ready” and other GE crops, see Beyond Pesticides’ genetic engineering page.

To learn more about alternatives to industrial agriculture and GMOs, visit our organic food and farming page.

Source: IFOAM Press Release

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



EPA Fines Logitech for Antibacterial Claims, Consumers Are Misled by Marketing of Products with Antimicrobials

(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered computer peripherals maker Logitech, Inc. to pay a fine of $261,000 for illegally advertising one of its keyboards as protecting users from bacteria and microbes. EPA found that the company made unsubstantiated public health claims about its keyboard, a violation of federal law. However, the widespread marketing of hundreds of products that are advertised as containing antibacterial ingredients (without a health claim), which EPA maintains is not technically illegal, underscores the misconception consumers have when purchasing products that incorporate ‘antibacterials.’ Beyond Pesticides has ueged EPA to prohibit more broadly advertising references to these antibacterial ingredients, since they imply that public health protection extends to the user when in fact it does not.

Logitech‘s keyboard incorporates a pesticide- AgION silver -and then alleges protection from bacteria and other microbes. According to EPA, the company marketed the keyboard as protecting the user from bacteria and microbes. However, to promote the health benefits in this way, before products can be sold their product efficacy must be established in compliance with EPA guidelines under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Evidence found online and during an investigation in 2008 led the EPA to issue a complaint against Logitech. Subsequently, Logitech stopped making the claims on the products, removed claims from their website, and revised their product packaging.

Other companies in recent times have been fined by EPA for making false antibacterial public health claims, for example, the lawsuit involving the sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides by The North Face which also featured an AgION silver treated footbed, which the company claimed to have antimicrobial properties and was featured in over 70 styles of their shoes. In 2004, EPA took action against the manufacturers of Microban for making health-related claims that are not supported by its EPA pesticide registration. The company had claimed that its microban-treated plastic protected people, particularly children, from the transmission of bacterial disease. In that case, EPA issued a fine, citing the language of FIFRA §12(a)(1)(B), which states, that each sale or distribution is a violation.

Public health claims are those that state protection for the user from bacteria or other microbial organisms that can lead to health impact. In order to place such a claim on the product label, the company must submit efficacy data to the EPA to review the antibacterial agent. However, most of these ‘antibacterial’ products go unreviewed since they do not make public health claims and only claim to protect the product. This means that hundreds of products with “antibacterial/antimicrobial protection,” such as toys, yoga mats, clothing, kitchen utensils, countertops and others, have not been reviewed by EPA. Consumers may believe that purchasing a product with an ‘antibacterial’ label may protect them from germs and bacteria when, in fact, there is no additional health benefit.

AgION silver is used in many “antibacterial products” and, while these products do not purport to use nanosized silver materials, the claims that are made for these products are suspiciously similar to those made by manufacturers for other nano-based antimicrobial products. These claims include: inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria; preventing bacterial and fungal growth; and the continuous release of antimicrobial agents. Due of the lack of regulation, nanotechnology products are not always easy to recognize in the marketplace and even the best lists do not include everything. Consumer products that include nanobased technologies however, continue to grow. 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. This decision was in response to a 2008 legal petition submitted by the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) and a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, demanding EPA use its authority to stop the sale of 250+ consumer products using nanosilver. EPA agreed that the petition “raises serious issues that potentially affect private and public sector stakeholders.” The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) also passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to prohibit engineered nanomaterials from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible.

Concerns over nanosilver and other nanomaterials 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. Unfortunately, much remains unknown about these particles’ human health and environmental effects.

For more on nanosilver, visit the nanosilver page.

Take Action: Read the Label! Avoid products labeled “antibacterial product protection” as they may contain triclosan, nanoparticles or other dangerous antibacterial agents.

Source: EPA News Release

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



Bayer To Withdraw Most Acutely Toxic Pesticides, Leave Other Hazardous Products on Market

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2011) In September, Bayer CropScience announced that it plans to phase-out its most acutely toxic pesticides, all remaining World Health Organization (WHO) class I products, by the end of 2012. While this is a positive development, Beyond Pesticides points out that other Bayer pesticides, such as its bee-killing insecticides imidacloprid and clothianidin, will remain on the market.

Activists around the globe have mixed reactions to Bayer’s announcement, which comes over 15 years after Bayer first promised to phase-out its WHO Class I products. Philipp Mimkes of the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers based in Germany said, “This is an important success for environmental organizations from all over the world who have fought against these deadly pesticides for decades. But we must not forget that Bayer broke their original promise to withdraw all class I products by the year 2000. Many lives could have been saved. It is embarrassing that the company only stopped sales because the profit margins of these chemical time bombs have fallen so much.”

Acutely toxic pesticides with a WHO Class I rating are extremely toxic and present an immediate hazard to farmworkers and others in the vicinity of pesticide applications. The WHO estimates the number of people who are poisoned by pesticides at three to 25 million per year. At least 40,000 people are killed accidentally by pesticides and the estimated number of unreported cases is much higher. The Coalition Against Bayer Dangers believes that Bayer products contribute enormously to the millions of poisonings each year.

The WHO hazard class is based only on acute poisoning hazard and does not include factors such as cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney and liver damage, birth or developmental defects, or environmental and wildlife hazards. Pesticides such as Bayer’s popular imidicloprid and clothianidin-based products –which have been linked to bee colony collapse disorder (CCD), reproductive effects, and other environmental hazards— would not be affected by the company’s recent decision.

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.

In a September 15, 2011 press release, Bayer CropScience CEO Sandra Peterson said, “With this commitment we fulfill our promise to end the production and marketing of these formulations. Our WHO Class I replacement initiative is fully in line with our commitment to sustainable agriculture and global food security.”

While it is difficult to take sustainable agriculture claims seriously from the primary producer of imidacloprid, organic and sustainable agriculture advocates are happy to see these outdated, toxic pesticides removed from the market. “We welcome this long overdue move from Bayer. We have ample evidence from the ground to prove that we don’t need hazardous pesticides in our farming. [Organic farming] is fast-spreading in different parts of India and data shows that the incomes of farmers improve when they eliminate pesticides from their agriculture,” adds Kavitha Kuruganti, National Convener of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), a nationwide network of more than 400 organizations in India.

In its 1995 Annual Report, Bayer Cropscience first promised to “replace products with the Classification I of the World Health Organization with products of lower toxicity” within five years. However, the company failed to keep its promise. Bayer still sells products that contain active ingredients in WHO Class 1a (extremely hazardous) and 1b (highly hazardous), including thiodicarb, fenamiphos, aldicarb and ethoprophos. Bayer has a world market share in pesticides of 20%.

For more information on the hazards posed by pesticides to bees, see Beyond Pesticides Pollinator Protection program page.

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



New Film Reveals Child Farmworkers’ Exposure to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2011) A new film highlights North Carolina farmworker children’s stories about being sprayed with toxic pesticides while working in the field. Overworked & Under Spray: Young Farm Workers’ Pesticide Stories features interviews with six high school-age children about their experiences working in the fields in eastern NC. Most of the children’s stories involve incidents of pesticide exposure that are illegal according to NC law. The film is the latest documentary short to be released by Toxic Free North Carolina.

“You could see the spray coming at you…but we kept on working. The next day I didn’t feel so good,” said Felix Rodriguez, one of the high school-age farm workers featured in the film. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about pesticides to the owner or supervisor because they’ll see you as nagging. They just really want you to work.”

Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. A 2008 study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds that the incidence rate of pesticide poisoning is extremely high among U.S. agricultural workers. Young farmworkers and children of farmworkers are especially at risk. Children are much more vulnerable than adults to the injuries and illnesses brought on by this type of work. Due to children’s higher rate of metabolism, they take in more pesticides per unit weight than adults, and their developing organ systems are more sensitive to the effects of pesticides.

Overworked & Under Spray was produced through Toxic Free NC’s Farm Worker Documentary Project, which is in its fourth year. Toxic Free NC is a Raleigh-based nonprofit that works statewide to reduce pesticide pollution through grassroots organizing and policy reform.

“Hearing these kinds of stories from youth is especially compelling, because we know that exposure to pesticides can have an even more profound health impact on a child than it can on an adult,” said Toxic Free NC Executive Director Fawn Pattison. “It is our hope that by getting these stories out there, we can urge the state to do a better job of enforcing its pesticide laws.”

While we work to strengthen our state and national laws, consumers can also make a difference at the grocery store or farmers market. Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families.

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



Triclosan Among Chemicals Detected in Narragansett Bay

(Beyond Pesticides, 9-30-11) Researchers from the University of Rhode Island (URI) have detected the antimicrobial triclosan and other toxic chemicals in the waters of Narragansett Bay off the coast of Rhode Island. The chemicals are a group of hazardous compounds that are common in industrial processes and personal care products but are not typically monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Rainer Lohmann, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical oceanography, and graduate student Victoria Sacks, with the help of 40 volunteers, tested for the presence of the chemicals in 27 locations throughout the bay. The compounds were found at every site. “Being exposed to these compounds is the hidden cost of our lifestyle,” said Dr. Lohmann. “It’s frustrating that as we ban the use of some chemical compounds, industry is adding new ones that we don’t know are any better.”

Although the chemicals were detected at very low levels, research has shown that many chemical compounds can still be quite toxic, even at low doses. Additionally, since triclosan is an antimicrobial agent, low concentrations provide the perfect environment in which to breed and select for bacteria that resist the effects of the chemical.

“By themselves, none of these results makes me think that we shouldn’t be swimming in the bay or eating fish caught there,” said Dr. Lohmann. “But we only tested for three compounds that might be of concern, and we know there are hundreds more out there. The totality of all those compounds together is what may be worrisome.”

In addition to triclosan, the compounds the researchers measured, which scientists refer to as “emerging contaminants of concern,” are: alkylphenols, widely used as detergents and known to disrupt the reproductive system; and, PBDEs, industrial products used as flame retardants on a wide variety of consumer products. PBDEs have been banned because they cause long-term adverse effects in humans and wildlife.

PBDEs, methyltriclosan and triclosan are found in highest concentrations in the Blackstone River, Woonasquatucket River and in upper Narragansett Bay, while some detergents are detected at similar levels at nearly every site.

“Many of the trends in society – from early puberty changes to some diseases – may be caused by chemical exposures,” said Dr. Lohmann. “They trigger hormones and disrupt the normal functioning of the body. We have no resistance against them.”

The chemical compounds were detected using polyethelene passive samplers, thin pieces of plastic that absorb chemicals that are dissolved in water. The volunteers placed the samplers in various rivers and coves in the Narragansett Bay watershed in the fall of 2009 and retrieved them two to three weeks later. The chemical compounds were then extracted from the samplers in a lab at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.

“Unfortunately, no matter how you choose your lifestyle, you can’t avoid exposure to these compounds,” he added. “You just can’t escape.”

Triclosan has been one of the most commonly detected chemicals in U.S. waterways and sewage sludge, which often gets recycled to agricultural and residential lands. It has also been detected in fish, earthworms and crops, and has been shown to cause damage in aquatic ecosystems. A study in January also documented the troubling trend of the chemical being detected, along with other dangerous substances, in human tissue.

The detection of triclosan in waterways is especially troubling because when the chemical is exposed to sunlight in an aqueous environment it can lead to the formation of dioxins. Dioxins are a family of highly toxic substances linked to cancer, weakened immune systems and reproductive problems. They are persistent organic pollutants that bioaccumulate in humans and other animals, especially in fatty tissue. Dioxins can be highly carcinogenic and can cause health problems as severe as weakening of the immune system, decreased fertility, altered sex hormones, miscarriage, birth defects, and cancer.

EPA was recently cited for its lax regulation of antimicrobial substances such as triclosan. However, a growing body of research, including this most recent study, is demonstrating that contamination is almost certainly unavoidable, even if stronger regulation were imposed, as long as the chemicals remain on the market.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Bath and Body Works to “Spread Love, Not Toxics” by discontinuing their line of personal care products containing triclosan.

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

Source: URI press release

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



Another Maine Town Goes Pesticide-Free

(Beyond Pesticides, September 29, 2011) The town of Scarborough, Maine joins the ever-growing list of communities in Maine and around the country that have decided to ditch conventional, chemical-intensive landscape management practices on public properties in favor of a more sustainable approach. The town Council Members passed a Pest Management Policy last week which prohibits the use of synthetic or chemical pesticides on town-owned property, including schools, sidewalks, athletic fields, parks, and rights of ways. In addition to banning synthetic pesticides, the policy also creates a Pest Management Advisory Committee to help implement and oversee the program and the use of web and signs to notify residents when any products are used.

According to local paper The Forecaster, the group Citizens for a Green Scarborough, led by Marla Zando, has been working with the town’s Ordinance Committee since January to create a policy to ban the use of synthetic pesticides. The policy was modeled after similar policies in the towns of Rockport and Camden, Maine.

Some opponents of the policy, including some landscapers and a city councilor, expressed concern that the new policy will be more costly than chemical lawn care. However, there are plenty of successful and cost-effective programs across the country that prove that you can maintain turf without the use toxic chemicals. Some examples include: New York State Parks; Chicago City Parks; 29 communities and townships in New Jersey; at least 17 cities in the Northwest, covering more than 50 parks; and, numerous communities throughout Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut.

Additionally, a March 2010 report concludes that organic approaches can save money after the first two years of implementation, as the soil biology improves. The report compares the relative costs of maintaining a typical high school football field using a chemical-intensive program and a natural (organic) program over a five-year period and finds that the annual cost of maintaining an organic field can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of chemical-based programs.

Eliminating toxic pesticides is important in lawn and landscape management, considering that of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides: 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, and 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants. The most popular and widely used lawn chemical 2,4-D, which kills broad leaf weeds like dandelions, is an endocrine disruptor with predicted human health risks ranging from changes in estrogen and testosterone levels, thyroid problems, prostate cancer and reproductive abnormalities. 2,4-D has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other lawn chemicals like glyphosate (RoundUp) have also been linked to serious adverse chronic effects in humans. Imidacloprid, another pesticide growing in popularity, has been implicated in bee toxicity and the recent Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) phenomena.

TAKE ACTION: Community activism is the best way to get your town to adopt such a policy. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450. For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes program page. Let your neighbors know your lawn and garden are organic by displaying a Pesticide Free Zone sign.

Source: The Forecaster

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



Experts Warn of Nano Resistance, Call for Oversight

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2011) Overuse of antibacterial agents contributes to promoting the development of more powerful bacteria that are resistant to treatment. This, according to a new report released by Friends of the Earth in which leading microbiologists warn that the rapid rise in household antibacterial products containing nanosilver could put public health at risk. The report emphasizes that as the numbers of deaths caused by bacterial resistance to antimicrobials and antibiotics in hospitals continues to rise, as well as increasing allergy incidents, the need to regulatory oversight is urgently needed.

Dozens of socks, shoe inserts, sports clothing and towels now marketed as ‘antibacterial’ or ‘odor controlling’ use nanoparticles of silver to kill the bacteria that cause odor. Since nanosilver can be manufactured as spheres, particles, rods, cubes, wires, film and coatings, it can be embedded into a range of substrates, such as metals, ceramics, polymers, glass and textiles leading to its widespread commercialization. To see a listing of products that contain nanosilver see here. In interviews for this report, entitled, “Nano-silver: Policy Failures Put Public Health at Risk,” published by Friends of the Earth, medical experts warn that using such a powerful antimicrobial in these everyday products is not only unnecessary, but dangerous. Microbiologists from various parts of the world told Friends of the Earth that overuse of nanosilver in consumer products could breed bacterial resistance, undermining its use in hospitals.

According to this report, the overuse of nanosilver can promote resistance. The experts believe that widespread use of nanosilver could promote further resistance to antibiotics and other drugs. Kristen Kulinowski, PhD, a Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Rice University and Director for External Affairs for the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), and currently serving as the Director of the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON), states: “I think the value to society of the use of nano-silver in a clinical setting is greater than the value to society of its use in a consumer product where there’s no potential health benefit.” The scientists interviewed agree that regulators need to halt the excessive and unnecessary use of powerful antibacterials in everyday products. This is necessary to maintain the effectiveness of antimicrobials and antibiotics for clinical use and to counteract the allergy epidemic.

While the science often has conflicting reports on whether bacteria can develop resistance to silver, it is important to know that nanosilver, because of its size (1-300 nanometers), has the ability to cross many biological barriers at the cellular level, including the blood-brain barrier in animals. This ability to access biological cells in such a way increases the biological and chemical reactivity of nanosilver and can also give rise to novel mechanisms for bacterial resistance.

In addition to bacterial resistance, concern was expressed in the report about the increase in allergic diseases and asthma, as explained by the “Hygiene Hypothesis.” This hypothesis attributes the rise in allergies to the increase in clean, sterile living environments and subsequent decrease in exposure to infectious agents. Nobel laureate Professor Peter Doherty, PhD, also interviewed for the report, agrees that childhood interactions with bacteria are essential to develop strong immune systems in children.

The report also highlights the case of triclosan and possible resistance and cross-resistance issues surrounding its widespread use as an antibacterial agent. Similarly, triclosan has also been linked via the hygiene hypothesis to increased allergies. A 2011 study found that people age 18 and under with higher levels of triclosan in their urine were significantly more likely to report diagnosis of allergies and hay fever. Triclosan, also used in a wide range of consumer products from toothpaste to socks, has been linked to endocrine disruption, adverse fetal development, as well as potential bacterial resistance and cross-resistance to antibiotics. Both nanosilver and triclosan also pose serious environmental fate issues including the destruction native algal populations, accumulation in fish and persistent water contamination. For more on triclosan and Beyond Pesticides’ grassroots campaign to ban triclosan, visit the triclosan program page. Pledge to go triclosan-free today!

Recently, 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. 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. Last year, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to prohibit engineered nanomaterials, 1-300 nanometers, from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible. In 2008, the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) and a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed a legal petition with EPA, demanding the agency use its pesticide regulation authority to stop the sale of 250+ consumer products now using nanosilver. EPA agreed that the petition “raises serious issues that potentially affect private and public sector stakeholders.” For more on nanosilver, visit the nanosilver page.

Source: Friends of the Earth



Celebrate 30 Years with Beyond Pesticides: Reception and film screening

(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2011) Beyond Pesticides invites you to join the our board of directors and staff to celebrate 30 years of protecting public health and the environment through science, policy and grassroots action on Thursday, October 27, 2011 in Washington, DC. We will be hosting our 30th Anniversary reception with live music and a screening of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees at 6:30 pm in the Langston Room at Busboys and Poets (14th and V Streets NW) in Washington, DC. Beekeepers featured in Vanishing of the Bees will introduce the film.

In recognition of our 30th anniversary and the important work that needs to be done to protect health and the environment –through the restriction of pesticides and the adoption of organic practices and policies– please plan to join us for this event and consider a donation between $30 and $3000. Donate and RSVP.

Beyond Pesticides was founded in 1981 as the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides to effect change through local action, assisting individuals and community-based organizations to eliminate unnecessary toxic pesticide use, while promoting safer alternatives. The founders felt that without the existence of such an organized, national network, local, state and national pesticide policy would become, under chemical industry pressure, increasingly unresponsive to public health and environmental concerns.

About the Film
The crisis of colony collapse disorder (CCD) in the honeybee population is an increasingly widespread phenomenon of bees disappearing or abandoning their hives. Imagine half a million adults skipping town and leaving their children behind. Picture an opened suitcase filled with bundles of cash at a bus stop and yet no robber wants to snatch it. CCD displays these very symptoms. Not only do the bees abandon their hive, but the queen and the brood as well. Even the predators that usually raid the hive for honey stay far away. At first, this occurrence sounds like an urban legend or an exaggerated tale. It’s not. The situation is both dire and all too real. Bees are disappearing all over the planet and no one knows why.

Vanishing of the Bees takes a piercing investigative look at the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of honeybees and empowers the audience to fight back. The film follows two commercial beekeepers as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film explores the struggles they face as the two friends plead their case on Capitol Hill and travel across the Pacific Ocean in the quest to protect their honeybees.

For more information on protecting honey bees and other pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides Pollinator program page.



Centers for Disease Control Reports Illness and Death Linked to Bed Bug Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 26, 2011) On September 23, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report linking pesticides sprayed in attempts to control bed bugs to poisoning incidents and death. Because bed bugs do not transmit disease and can be controlled without pesticides, this risk is completely unnecessary. The study, “Acute Illnesses Associated with Insecticides Used to Control Bed Bugs,” utilized data from California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Texas, and Washington. In those seven states, over 100 poisonings, including one fatality, were associated with bed bug-related insecticide use.

The CDC researchers used data from states participating in the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR)-Pesticides program and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). The authors defined “acute illness” associated with an insecticide used to control bed bugs as two or more acute adverse health effects resulting from exposure to an insecticide used for bed bug control.

The study reports: A total of 111 illnesses associated with bed bug–related insecticide use were identified; although 90 (81%) were low severity, one fatality occurred. Pyrethroids, pyrethrins, or both were implicated in 99 (89%) of the cases, including the fatality. The most common factors contributing to illness were excessive insecticide application, failure to wash or change pesticide-treated bedding, and inadequate notification of pesticide application. Although few cases of illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs have been reported, recommendations to prevent this problem from escalating include educating the public about effective bed bug management.

To make matters worse, experts agree that spraying pesticides is generally an ineffective way to control bed bugs. Bed bugs have slowly been developing resistance mechanisms and have become resistant to most, if not all, insecticides on the market. On average, insecticides labeled for bed bug control can take over 150 hours to kill a bed bug, compared to seconds or minutes in previous years. An Ohio State study, “Transcriptomics of the Bed Bug,” published January 2011 in the journal PLoS One confirms bed bug resistance to pyrethroid insecticides and highlights the need to adopt non-chemical methods for controlling bed bugs and other insect pests.

Pyrethroids, some of the most common chemicals used in attempts to treat bed bug infestations, are a class of pesticides that are synthetic versions of pyrethrin, a natural insecticide found in certain species of chrysanthemum. They were initially introduced on the market as ‘safer’ alternatives to the heavily regulated and highly toxic organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos and diazinon, which were banned for residential use in 2001 and 2004, respectively. Despite the fact that there are plenty of effective pest control methods that are not nearly as toxic, pyrethroids are now some of the most popular household pesticides. They are cause for concern to consumers because of their link to serious chronic health problems. Synthetic pyrethroids are suspected endocrine disruptors, and have been found lingering in the dust at daycare centers.

Not only are chemical treatments often more harmful than bed bugs, they are also not actually necessary, as these pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat can control an infestation without dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place. Beyond Pesticides has put together a bed bug web page which includes a detailed fact sheet discussing bed bugs, the problems with pesticide treatments, and alternative control methods.

The September CDC study focuses solely on acute poisoning incidents. Pesticides, including those used for bed bug control, are linked to chronic health problems as well, which would not be captured by this type of study. For more information on studies highlighting chronic disease and pesticide use, see our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

For more information on bed bugs and least-toxic control methods, see our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs, Don’t Panic,” on our Bed Bug program page.

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



March and Rallies Will Demand Labeling of GMOs

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2011) In two weeks, a diverse coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals will begin to march from the Historic Flatbush Food Co-op in Brooklyn, NY to the gates of the White House to ask the Obama Administration to support labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The GMO Right2Know March will feature daily events between New York and Washington, DC October 1-16 as hundreds of marchers are expected to walk part or all of the 313 miles to the White House. The route and details on daily events can be viewed here.

“Pesticide companies develop genetically engineered food crops by combining DNA from plants, animals, bacteria and viruses, to contain or resist pesticide, which results in more pesticides sold and sprayed,” says Michael Hansen, Ph.D, chief scientist of Consumers Union. “Genetically engineered foods contain untested novel foreign compounds that can be detrimental to our health, just as they are to the environment and farmers’ livelihoods. American consumers deserve the choice whether they want to eat GMOs, just like their counterparts in Europe and Japan,” says Hansen who will join the Oct 1 NYC Right2Know March kick-off rally at Prospect Park at 11am to 1pm followed by marchers walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to the United Nations.

In addition to daily marching, the following are major events planned by the Right2Know March:

•RALLY – 1 Oct R2K Kick Off Event, 11am – 1pm Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
•RALLY – 3 Oct, 10:45-11:45am Autumn Harvest Health Food 1625 East 2nd St, Scotch – Plains, NJ
•MEET-UP – 3 Oct, 4pm – 5pm George Street Coop Natural Foods 89 Morris St, New Brunswick, NJ
•RALLY – 4 Oct, 2:15 -3:15pm Whole Earth Center 360 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ
•MEET-UP – 5 Oct, 12:45 – 1:45pm Big Bear Natural Foods 322 West Trenton Ave #1, Morrisville, PA
•NON-GMO FOAM RALLY – 6 Oct, 3:35 – 4:05pm Weavers Way Coop 559 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia, PA
•MEET-UP – 6 Oct, 7:05 – 8:05pm Mariposa Food Coop 4726 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, PA
•RALLY – 7 Oct, 12 noon – midnight – The Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum, 3819 Hamilton St. Philadelphia, PA
•MEET-UP – 8 Oct, 11:45 – 12:45pm Martindale Natural Market 1172 Baltimore Pike, Springfield, PA
•MEET-UP – 9 Oct, 10-2pm Newark Farmers Market, Market East Plaza, 280 E. Main Street, Newark, DE
•RALLY – 13-Oct, 11am – 6pm – Maryland Institute College of Art, 1300 W. Mount Royal Ave, Baltimore, MD
•WORLD FOOD DAY RALLY – 16 Oct, Concluding Rally 12:30pm to 5pm at the White House in Lafayette Park 1600 H Street, NW Washington, DC Marchers estimated to arrive at 1pm. Event to feature Mom’s Panel and conclusion of the march

“The Right2Know March is an unprecedented effort to win genuine transparency on Genetically Engineered foods,” says Katherine DiMatteo of IFOAM and a lead coordinator of the Right2Know March. “Most Americans agree they have a right to know what is in the food they put in their own and their children’s bodies, but current federal policy favors the pesticide industry and hides the facts,” says Ms. DiMatteo. “It’s time to reset U.S. policy on GMOs.”

Helping lead the march is Joseph Wilhelm, President of Rapunzel and Indian activist, Dr. Vanadana Shiva, both veteran GMO campaigners who twice marched across Europe for controls on GMOs and in support of GMO labeling, which is required in the EU. They will be joined at the events in NYC and Washington, DC as well as along the march, by advocates, media personalities, farmers and business leaders who will speak out for GMO labeling, including: Andrew Kimbrell (founder, Center for Food Safety), Frances Moore Lappѐ (author, Diet for a Small Planet), Michael Hansen (senior scientist, Consumers Union), George Siemon (CEO, Organic Valley) and many others.

“No matter what you believe about GMOs, the bottom line is that we have a right to know what is in our food so we can all make better decisions for the health of our families,” says TV host and green lifestyle author Sara Snow.

Mothers are also marching and will speak out at the World Food Day Rally at the White House on October 16. “Without labeling, consumers have no way of knowing if the foods they are feeding their families have been genetically engineered to contain new proteins,” says Robyn O’Brien, author and founder of the Allergy Kids Foundation. “Because there is no definitive test that can be relied upon to predict whether a newly expressed protein might trigger an allergic reaction, it is important that genetically engineered foods are labeled so that the food allergic population can exercise caution and make an informed choice about what they eat. GMO labeling would provide essential and possibly life-saving information.”

Right2Know March spokespeople are available to debate GMO manufacturers on the labeling issue. “After 30 years and billions of dollars in research, only two principal GMO traits have been successfully developed: herbicide tolerance and insecticide production. Despite industry promises, there are no GMO traits currently on the market for increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other humanitarian or environmental benefit,” says Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project, fiscal sponsor of the Right2Know March. “Americans should have the right to opt out of this experiment, and this march is about standing up and demanding that freedom.”

In July, a barrier to national laws requiring labeling of GMOs was overcome when the Codex Alimentarius Commission voted to allow countries to adopt such laws. This means that the laws cannot be challenged by the World Trade Organization, making it much more likely that countries would seek to adopt labeling laws.

GMOs and the increased pesticide use that accompanies them have been the source of serious environmental contamination and public health concerns. Beyond Pesticides is currently involved in multiple lawsuits involving Roundup Ready and other GE crops. The first lawsuit is filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and seeks to end cultivation of GE crops on twenty-five national wildlife refuges across the U.S. Southeast. The suit is the latest step in a campaign to banish GE crops from all refuges. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 12, 2011 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and Beyond Pesticides, the federal suit charges that FWS unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight states without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and in violation of FWS policy. This is the third in a series of lawsuits filed by CFS and PEER challenging FWS’s practice of permitting GE crops on wildlife refuges. In 2009 and 2010, the groups successfully challenged approval of GE plantings on two wildlife refuges in Delaware – Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge – which forced FWS to end GE planting in the entire 12-state Northeastern region.

In another case involving GE crops, attorneys for CFS, Earthjustice, Beyond Pesticides, and others filed a lawsuit against USDA in March 2011, arguing that the agency’s unrestricted approval of GE “Roundup Ready” alfalfa violates the Endangered Species Act. USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa in January, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers.

For more news and information on “Roundup Ready” and other GE crops, see Beyond Pesticides’ genetic engineering page.

To learn more about alternatives to industrial agriculture and GMOs, visit our organic food and farming page.

Source: Right2Know March

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



White House Proposes Increased Pesticide Registration Fees

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2011) As part of his $3 trillion deficit-reduction plan, President Obama has proposed to increase pesticide and chemical registration fees and reinstate tolerance assessment fees in order to cover the costs of evaluating the chemicals’ health and environmental effects data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently collects fees from companies seeking to register their pesticides or maintain existing registrations; however these fees do not cover the full cost of the review process. The White House fee collection proposal will save $740 million over 10 years.

Under the reregistration program, pesticides that were registered prior to November 1, 1984 are evaluated to ensure that they continue to meet current regulatory standards. EPA began this effort under 1988 amendments to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The amendment also requires EPA to review all other registered pesticides on a 15-year cycle to ensure that registrations reflect current regulations.

The reregistration of pesticides under FIFRA is a lengthy and ongoing process. Hundreds of pesticides currently registered and commonly used still lack a full assessment of their potential short and long-term effects on human health, particularly on children, and the environment. For example, EPA has failed to establish testing requirements, as mandated by law, to evaluate a pesticide’s capacity to cause endocrine disruption. In 2007, EPA published a list of 67 pesticide ingredients that it intends to review for endocrine disrupting effects, once it finalizes its standards for review. Scientific studies are increasingly finding endocrine effects at extremely low doses (as low as 1 part per billion). These effects are also being discovered in wildlife.

Beyond Pesticides has said that EPA’s general registration process is flawed because the agency does not evaluate whether hazards are “unreasonable” in light of the availability of safer practices or products. Though we applaud the effort to place the financial burden of registering pesticides on the manufacturer, Beyond Pesticides urges EPA to take a more precautionary approach, especially given the history of incomplete data or assessments leading to protective action decades after approval lead to widespread pesticide use. With some chronic endpoints, such as endocrine disruption, the agency has not adequately assessed chemicals for certain health risks.

There are several historic examples of pesticides that have been restricted or cancelled due to health risks decades after first being registered. Chlorpyrifos, which is associated with numerous adverse health effects including reproductive and neurotoxic effects, had its residential uses cancelled in 2001. Others like propoxur, diazinon, carbaryl, aldicarb, carbofuran, and most recently endosulfan, have seen their uses restricted or canceled after years on the market. Unfortunately, these pesticides and chemicals can still persist in the environment and in our homes years after they have been banned.

Source: E & E News

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




Distribution and Sale of Illegal Pesticides Busted

(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2011) An unregistered pesticide product, which was smuggled into the U.S. from overseas and contained an ingredient at a concentration of nearly 61 times greater than allowed by federal regulations, was one of 6,000 rat and cockroach poison products seized from shops and street vendors in and around New York’s Chinatown. The pesticides are particularly dangerous because their packaging and appearance could lead them to be mistaken for cookies or cough medicine.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with several other federal and state agencies, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York Office of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), and the New York Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), on Monday announced federal criminal charges against two defendants, and state criminal charges against 10 defendants, for their respective roles in the illegal distribution and sale of unregistered and misbranded pesticides that were sold out of multiple locations in Manhattan.

All pesticides pose unique risks to users and the environment at large since they are designed to kill living organisms; many have been linked to several chronic diseases including cancer. Learn more about the health risks posed by pesticides at the Pesticides-Induced Diseases Database. However pesticides that have not been reviewed for their safety and do not have warning statements on their product labels are especially dangerous. The pesticide products in question are not registered by EPA and missing required label warnings, so consumers had no way of knowing how dangerous the products were or how best to protect themselves from harmful exposure. One woman accidentally ingested one of the pesticides, believing it to be medicine, and was hospitalized as a result. An investigation of this incident revealed that the pesticide, a small vial of blue-green liquid labeled primarily in Chinese with the words “The Cat Be Unemployed,” was being sold illegally in the Chinatown section of Manhattan. The investigation further revealed that the product contained almost 61 times the amount of brodifacoum -a rodenticide- that is allowed by the EPA. Brodifacoum is not approved for direct consumer use and may only be used by licensed professionals.

As part of a coordinated citywide inspection of 47 businesses in various neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, EPA and DEC civil inspectors seized 350 additional unregistered pesticide products, of 16 different varieties, many with high levels of toxicity. Many of the products were carcinogenic and neurotoxic.

“All across the city we find products like these,” Judith Enck, EPA’s regional administrator, said at the news conference, referring to a display of colorful unregulated pesticides that she said could easily be confused for children’s toys or candy. “People and businesses that make and sell these products are playing Russian roulette with people’s health.”

The operation involved purchases of the following dangerous chemicals: (1) Bromadiolone and Brofidacoum, both “restricted use” chemicals, which are active ingredients in rodenticides, or pesticides used to kill rodents. They are both highly toxic and are not approved for use by the general public, nor may either be in products intended for consumer or urban use; (2) Sodium fluoroacetate, also highly toxic, is a “restricted use” chemical, that is only approved for use to protect livestock from coyotes and can only be used by a licensed professional; and (3) Fipronil is an active ingredient in insecticides. The products sold to undercover agents had significantly higher levels of fipronil than allowed by EPA. Read more about these rodenticides and others in Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet.

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whose investigators seized the majority of the illegal pesticides, suggested that it would be worth considering legislation to allow prosecutors to seek harsher penalties for such crimes, based on the concentrations and quantities sold.

“The rodenticides and roach killers that were seized as part of this investigation,” Mr. Vance said, “are dangerous, unregulated products that contain chemicals so toxic they exceed government regulation scores at times.”

Recently EPA announced that it is moving forward with actions introduced in June to ban the sale to consumers of the most toxic rat and mouse poisons, as well as consumer rodenticide products that use loose bait and pellets. Exposure to children is also a major concern for these chemicals. According to a 2006 Annual Report of the American Association Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, over 40,000 cases of exposures to rodenticide products occurred in children six years and younger. Data also indicate that children in low-income families are disproportionately exposed. Many rodenticide chemicals have also led to the deaths of birds of prey when they ingest rodents contaminated by the poisons. In 2008, EPA outlined new measures it said will help protect children and the public from accidental poisonings and decrease exposures to pets and wildlife from rodent-control products. To reduce risks, EPA requires that all rodenticide bait products available for sale to consumers are sold only in tamper-resistant bait stations. Loose baits such as pellets are prohibited in a bait form for residential use. Rodenticide products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum, known to pose the greatest risk to wildlife, will no longer be allowed to be sold or distributed in the consumer market. However, these actions do not go far enough for vulnerable populations, because they will still be allowed by pesticide applicators and in agricultural settings.

Take Action: Pesticides can be even more dangerous than is typical if they are sold and used outside U.S. federal laws and guidelines. To avoid buying illegal pesticide products, read the pesticide label. Make sure you can identify the EPA registration number. Also, look for a list of active ingredients. U.S. law requires that active ingredients are listed on product labels. For more information, visit EPA’s Illegal Pesticides Webpage. If you are unsure about one or more ingredients, or do not understand the label, you may wish to research them either on the internet, at the local library or by contacting Beyond Pesticides (info@beyondpesticides.org, 202-543-5450). For least toxic control of mice and other pests visit the alternatives page.

Source: EPA News Release, NY Times

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



Army-Funded Study Links Gulf War Illness to Pesticides and More

(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2011) A study supported by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command links pesticide exposure and other factors to Gulf War illness (also referred to as Gulf War Syndrome), an illness characterized by a wide range of acute and chronic symptoms experienced by veterans and civilians after the 1991 Gulf War. The study, “Complex Factors in the Etiology of Gulf War Illness: Wartime Exposures and Risk Factors in Veteran Subgroups,” is published in the September 19, 2011 online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers designed the study to compare the characteristics of deployment and the risk factors experienced by veterans participating in various theaters of the Gulf War. Among personnel who were in Iraq or Kuwait, where all battles took place, four exposures were independently associated with GWI: taking PB pills, being within one mile of an exploding SCUD missile, using pesticides on the skin, and exposure to smoke from oil well fires. For veterans who remained in support areas, GWI was significantly associated only with personal pesticide use, with increased prevalence (OR=12.7, CI=2.6-61.5) in the relatively small subgroup who wore pesticide-treated uniforms, nearly all of whom also used skin pesticides.

Among 64 pesticide products used during the Gulf War, the “pesticides of concern” identified by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) include permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid used to impregnate fabrics that persists through multiple launderings, as well as the insect repellent DEET (N,N-dimethyl-m-toluamide) and lindane powder, an organochlorine used in delousing enemy prisoners of war and provided to some troops for personal use. All of these active ingredients are registered for use by the general public today.

Lindane is used by prescription to treat lice and scabies. Lindane is a neurotoxic insecticide linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive effects and organ damage. Permethrin is registered for use in mosquito control, including mosquito-treated outdoor clothing, home insect control, and in agriculture. It is a neurotoxic insecticide linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, and organ damage. DEET is a commonly used mosquito repellent, which is quickly absorbed through the skin and has caused effects including severe skin reactions, including large blisters and burning sensations. Laboratory studies have found that DEET can cause neurological damage, including brain damage in children. Previous studies have shown synergistic effects that induce symptoms similar to Gulf War illness through combined exposure to both DEET and permethrin, a likely combination in real-world scenarios because of their use in mosquito control.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes Gulf War illness as a prominent condition affecting Gulf War Veterans with symptoms that include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems. According to the National Academies, approximately 250,000 of the 697,000 veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War are afflicted with enduring chronic multi-symptom illness.

Read past coverage of studies linking pesticide exposure to Gulf War illness: recent articles and older archived articles: 10-18-2004, 5-1-2003, 3-19-2003, 4-17-2001, and 1-16-2001.



New Database Shows Spate of Congressional Attacks on the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, September 19, 2011) Dubbing it the “most anti-environment House in history,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released a new searchable database last week listing a staggering 125 pieces of legislation that will reduce environmental protection. The bills, introduced and passed by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, are aimed at limiting the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal institutions tasked with upholding environmental laws set in place to protect human and environmental health.

The database indicates that the legislation will undermine environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and breaks down anti-environment bills in the 112th Congress into categories: clean energy, climate change, nuclear power, pipeline safety, pollution prevention, and public lands and coasts. This includes legislation limiting the regulatory authority of EPA by prohibiting it from regulating carbon emissions from power plants, votes to defund enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and efforts to target federal agencies such as the Department of Interior and the Department of Energy.

Recent attacks on environmental statutes, including attempts to strip the Clean Water Act of its power to protect U.S. waterways from chemical contamination, have been reported by Beyond Pesticides. The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 or H.R. 872 already passed by the House earlier this year and was voted out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, would revoke EPA’s authority to require permits for pesticide discharges into waterways. Soon after H.R. 872 was passed, the Republican-controlled chamber passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, H.R. 2018. This act would prevent EPA from stepping in to enforce clean water standards when it deemed that a state agency was not effectively enforcing the law. It would also prevent EPA from refining its existing water standards to reflect the latest science without first getting approval from a state agency.

In addition, over 70 amendments (riders) to significantly curtail environmental regulation in the 2012 Department of the Interior and the EPA spending bill (H.R. 2584) were added to an appropriations bill. This bill has at least 38 anti-environmental policy riders unrelated to spending that attack clean air, clean water, endangered species, and iconic places. One measure -to forbid the Fish and Wildlife Service to list any new plants or animals as endangered- was so extreme that 37 Republicans broke ranks and voted to strip it from the bill. Some of the riders added include: (1) ban EPA from all work to reduce the climate change pollution of power plants, refineries, and other major polluters for one full year, and allow major new sources of carbon pollution to be built without any controls; (2) prohibit the federal government from spending any money to restore runs of salmon to the San Joaquin River in California; (3) ban the EPA from even studying the impacts of pollution from industrial livestock facilities (factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)) on waters; and, (4) leave millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands open to drilling, mining, and off-road vehicles. The bill has been on hold.

According to the database, there have been 50 bills targeted at EPA, 16 to dismantle the Clean Water Act, 31 against actions that can prevent pollution, and 22 to defund or repeal clean energy initiatives. Support for these measures has been mostly partisan. On the bills compiled in the database, 97 percent of Republican votes were cast for the anti-environment position while 84 percent of Democratic votes were cast for the pro-environment position, according to a July press release sent out by the Democratic staffs of the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“The House has voted to block action to address climate change, to stop actions to prevent air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in dozens of other ways,” said Rep. Waxman in a statement.

In similar attacks on the environment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rubber stamped the unrestricted planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa, and sugar beets, despite contamination risks posed to both organic and non-GM farmers, not to mention the unknown human health risks. Like GM alfalfa, GM sugar beets are genetically engineered by Monsanto to tolerate repeated applications of the weed killer Roundup (glyphosate), also produced by Monsanto.

Unfortunately the White House has also been bowing to political and industry pressure, forsaking the health of the public. Recently the controversial decision to by the administration to withdraw a new EPA health standard for ozone smog was met with disappointment by the environmental community. At the same time, according to one environmental group, the administration blocked the impending release of a new EPA assessment of the carcinogenic trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent that has widely contaminated the environment and several communities, including Camp Lejune.

TAKE ACTION: Write to President Obama and to your U.S. Senators and Representatives telling them to stop undermining the laws that protect human health and the environment. Also let them know that the only way out of the economic crisis is by working for the establishment of a green economy. The need to sacrifice health for jobs is a false premise. Both can move forward together; and both must if we are to have a safe and secure future.

Source: Huffington Post

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



EPA Publishes Petition to Ban Atrazine in the U.S.

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this week that it is seeking public comments on a petition to ban atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. The call for comments was prompted by a petition submitted earlier this year by the group SAVE THE FROGS!, to ban the highly toxic chemical. The group, along its allies, delivered over 60,000 petition signatures and emails to EPA requesting an immediate ban.

The group organized a rally at the steps of the EPA’s headquarters in Washington, DC back in April to raise awareness of the disappearance of amphibians and call for a federal ban on atrazine on the occasion of the international Save The Frogs Day. Amphibian populations worldwide have been declining at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction.

“Now that we have the EPA’s attention, we are a large step closer towards protecting our food supply, our drinking water and our wildlife from this known endocrine-disruptor,” says Kerry Kriger, PhD, founder and executive director of SAVE THE FROGS! “However, only a few percent of Americans have ever heard of atrazine, so raising awareness of the issue is critical if we are to overcome the lobbying power of the billion-dollar agro-chemical giants.” Atrazine is produced by Syngenta, the world’s largest pesticide company, which reported over $11 billion in revenues in 2010.

Atrazine has been under serious scrutiny over the past several years as an abundance of scientific literature on its harmful effects have been published by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of South Florida. It 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 since 2004 because it is found above allowable thresholds in groundwater, it is still currently one of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S. and throughout the world.

The herbicide is used to control broad leaf weeds and annual grasses in crops, golf courses, and residential lawns. It is used extensively for broad leaf weed control in corn. The herbicide does not cling to soil particles, but washes into surface water or leaches into groundwater, and then finds its way into municipal drinking water. It has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer.

As the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine is applied in the U.S. annually. It has a tendency to persist in soils and move with water, making it a common water contaminant. Atrazine is a major threat to wildlife. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that the volatilization of atrazine, known to contaminate surface and ground water, consistently results in herbicide movement off the target site that exceeds nontarget field runoff, varying widely depending upon weather conditions. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

Take Action: Tell EPA to ban the use and production of the dangerous herbicide atrazine, as Europe has already done. EPA is accepting public comments on the petition to ban atrazine through November 14, 2011. More information on submitting comments can be found on the Federal Register.

For more information on the petition and how to get involved, visit SAVE THE FROGS!



White House Blocks EPA Chemical Health Review

(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2011) Bowing to pressure from the chemical industry, the administration of President Barack Obama recently blocked a new and desperately needed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review of chemical health hazards which was developed under the agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), according to Daniel Rosenberg of the Natural Resources Defense Council. In his blog, Mr. Rosenberg reported on September 13 that, “[T]he White House worked behind the scenes to stop EPA from issuing a hazard assessment of the cancer-causing chemical TCE [produced through the IRIS program] – and is working to effectively shut down the EPA’s program for assessing the hazards of chemicals – the basis for setting and updating health standards for drinking water, air quality, and clean-up of contaminated soil.” He notes that the move was obscured as it fell on the same day as the widely reported and controversial decision by the administration to withdraw a new EPA health standard for ozone smog.

A chemical health review under IRIS apparently provided the groundwork for the establishment of a new health standard for the carcinogenic trichloroethylene (TCE), but the findings yielded no action. The existing standard for the substance was last updated more than 20 years ago, in 1989. In a May 2008 story in our Daily News, we cite an April 10, 2008 EPA decision to revamp IRIS. The program was severely criticized by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) in a March 2008 report, Chemical Assessments: Low Productivity and New Interagency Review Process Limit the Usefulness and Credibility of EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (GAO-08-440). While EPA said it would consider the report’s recommendations, GAO said in its 2008 Congressional testimony, Toxic Chemicals: EPA’s New Assessment Process Will Increase Challenges EPA Faces in Evaluating and Regulating Chemicals (GAO-08-743T), “EPA’s new process is largely the same as the draft GAO evaluated, and some key changes also are likely to further exacerbate the productivity and credibility concerns GAO identified.” It was thought that the Obama White House and EPA were intent on reversing this situation and on track to inject science and transparency into decisions needed to protect health and the environment.

The issue, however, is more significant than the immediate effects of the loss of this particular hazard assessment. The IRIS program is responsible for evaluating a significant range of chemicals to which Americans are exposed in their everyday lives. Although the program’s website states that it “does not currently develop updated assessments for registered pesticides,” it does conduct new assessments for chemicals that are used as pesticide active ingredients which also have other, non-pesticide applications, of which there are many.

Interference in EPA’s scientific review process severely hinders the agency’s ability to ensure public safety through regulating hazardous substances and is deeply troubling to public interest advocates, especially as the backlog of substances waiting to be reviewed continues to grow. The loss of the ability of EPA to review substances and assess dangers through IRIS would result in serious gaps in our knowledge of how chemicals affect human health and the environment. While chemicals, when used as pesticides, remain subject to review under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, those evaluations would only examine the chemicals’ potential dangers according to the use patterns of pesticides, and would not take into account dangers presented by any other non-pesticidal uses of the chemical. The IRIS program fills this hole by examining chemicals with regard to a range of exposure routes and health hazards.

TCE became notorious as the subject of a widely reported case of water contamination in Woburn, MA. Over the course of several decades, residents complained about an increase in birth defects and childhood leukemia throughout the area. The story later became the subject of a book, A Civil Action, which was made into a high profile movie about the residents’ case against the corporate polluters.

TCE has also been implicated in serious widespread contamination of drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result of TCE and other volatile organic compounds being dumped near drinking water wells over a long period of time at the base, many former service members and their families were exposed to high levels of contaminants. Abnormally high numbers of former base residents have contracted serious illnesses, including cancer, and some have sought damages against the military for compensation.

There is currently an ongoing effort to reform the process of EPA’s review of toxic substances, which is governed under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847) was introduced in the U.S. Senate to work toward this goal. However, many analysts are concerned that the bill’s continued exclusive reliance on risk assessment, with its serious uncertainties and lack of attention to least-toxic alternatives, allows unnecessary toxic chemical use and undermines a precautionary approach.

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

Any reforms, however, to health and safety regulations would still rely on the administration to implement the safeguards that agencies such as EPA develop. A White House that is unwilling to act on new science in order to safeguard the public is not one that has the best interests of the American people at heart and presents a serious impediment to achieving effective chemical safeguards.

This latest move to block regulations follows another move aimed at appeasing big business, which was recently criticized by two U.S. Senators. Following repeated meetings with representatives from corporations such as Dow Chemical and ExxonMobile, the White House agreed to withhold adding certain substances from a list of “chemicals of concern,” despite EPA having submitted its recommendation to add the substances more than a year ago.

TAKE ACTION: Write to President Obama and to your U.S. Senators and Representatives telling them that the only way out of the economic crisis is by working for the establishment of a green economy. The need to sacrifice health for jobs is a false premise. Both can move forward together; and both must if we are to have a safe and secure future.



GMOs in Honey Banned in Europe

(Beyond Pesticides, September 14, 2011) A ruling last week by the European Court of Justice states that honey produced though cross-pollination with a genetically modified (GM) crop must be authorized as a GM product before being sold. The ruling means that the European Union (EU) will have to ban imported honey containing traces of pollen from GM crops that have not been approved for entry. Honey exports from the United States, Canada, Argentina or Brazil, countries with no regulations on the subject, will now be virtually impossible.

In the ruling, which, in part, addressed the viability of GM pollen, delivered September 6, 2011, the Court observes, first, that the pollen in question may be classified as a GMO only if it is an ‘organism’ that is a ‘biological entity capable’ either of ‘replication’ or of ‘transferring genetic material.’ If the pollen in question has lost all specific and individual ability to reproduce, it should be determined whether that pollen is otherwise capable of ‘transferring genetic material.’ taking due account of the scientific data available and considering all forms of scientifically-established transfer of genetic material. The court concludes, “Honey and food supplements containing pollen derived from a GMO are foodstuffs produced from GMOs which cannot be marketed without prior authorization.” Further, “authorization for foodstuffs containing ingredients produced from GMOs applies irrespective of whether the pollen is introduced intentionally or adventitiously into the honey.”

Events leading up to this new ruling began in Germany in 2005 after a dispute arose between Karl Heinz Bablok, an amateur beekeeper, and a neighboring farm cultivating a number of plots of GM maize. Mr. Bablok brought legal proceedings against the farm before the German courts, in which four other amateur beekeepers joined. GM maize DNA and other GM proteins were detected in the maize pollen harvested by Mr. Bablok in beehives situated 500 meters from the plots of land under GM cultivation. Very small amounts of GM maize DNA were also detected in a number of samples of Mr Bablok’s honey. The German court requested the European Court of Justice to clarify issues surrounding GM pollen and the presence of GM material in honey. Read press release for ruling here.

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 GM approach to pest management is short-sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GM crops. GM contamination to non-GM and organic crops is a serious concern that has been played down by industry and regulatory officials. Several lawsuits in the past decade however have demonstrated that contamination is a real life phenomenon. GM crops present a unique risk to organic growers especially. Wind-pollinated and bee-pollinated crops, such as corn and alfalfa, have higher risks of cross-pollination between GM crops and unmodified varieties. For organic farmers, the costs to remain GM-free can be burdensome. Most organic farmers in Spain have given up growing maize because of the high contamination risks and the fact that contamination with GMO maize has already happened. Many farmers face enormous costs as they have to import GMO-free and organic maize from abroad to feed their animals according to the organic rules and market demand. GM crops are already known to contaminate conventional non-GM and organic crops through “genetic drift” and take a toll on the environment by increasing resistant insects and weeds, contaminating water and affecting pollinators and other non-target organisms. Recently, a study by University of Notre Dame researchers found that streams throughout the American Midwest are contaminated with GM materials from corn crop byproducts, even six months after harvest. The long-term health effects of consuming GM food are still unknown.

Currently, no provision exists to effectively protect organic farms from contamination, although EPA has required “refuges” or non-GM planted barriers around sites planted with GM crops to help mitigate contamination risks. Read “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market” for more on GM regulation. However, a 2009 study shows that one out of every four farmers who plants GM corn is failing to comply with at least one important insect-resistance management requirement. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is responsible for developing USDA standards that govern the production of organic honey and honey-related products. Because the biology and behavior of honey bees is so markedly different from other types of organic livestock, and because they fly and forage a wide area, specific standards are required to ensure consistency among organic certifiers and to ensure that organic honey meets consumers’ expectations. Among other practices, the NOSB proposed standard requires that organic bee keepers establish a 1.8 mile (3km) radius organically managed “forage zone.” For property within the zone that is not managed by the beekeeper, an affidavit stating that prohibited pesticides have not been used for three years is required. GMOs are not permitted under organic standards.

Pollinators like honey bees face unique hazards from pesticides and GM crops that they pollinate. Contaminated pollen is taken back to the hive where the entire colony can be exposed to various quantities of pesticide residues and GM material, where irrevocable damage is done to hives. The recent losses of thousands of hives across the country and in Europe, termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), demonstrate the importance of a precautionary approach when it comes to pesticides and GMOs. Protecting pollinators is just one of the many reasons to eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database shows that nearly all conventional crops may be treated with pesticides known to kill bees and other wildlife. View this information by crop at www.EatingWithAConscience.org.

Take Action: Avoid GM contaminated honey by buying your honey from an organic honey producer.

Source: CTA Brussels Office



District Court Ruling Challenges EPA’s Enforcement Process on Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2011) A recent federal district court ruling is the latest in the series of setbacks against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA’s) ability to enforce the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The decision could affect at least five Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders (SSUROs) issued to pesticide manufacturers since 2006. Even though the case hinged on a procedural issue, the ruling is another hindrance for the agency’s struggle to take action on registered pesticides that it believes are in violation of FIFRA without launching a formal cancellation process, a process that EPA has historically sought to avoid because it views it as lengthy and costly. While this case may hinge on the narrow need for rulemaking to delegate proper enforement authority under FIFRA, advocates have urged the agency’s broader use of its cancellation authority in an effort to bring the chemical industry in line with public health and environmental standards and sound science. With more rigorous use of its cancellation authority, pesticide manufacturers will have a difficult time with its challenges in the face of administrative findings by the agency. and over time ensure a higher degree of compliance.

The case, American Vanguard Corporation (AMVAC) v. Jackson was filed by the company American Vanguard, which claims that it lost $20 million in annual business when its pesticide product, pentachloronitrobenzene (PCNB) was issued a stop order. EPA signed the order on August 12, 2010 after it became aware of an impurity in the golf course pesticide. PCNB exposure is associated with thyroid hypertrophy and hepatocellular hypertrophy and hyperplasia in rats, and these are the primary effects used to evaluate human health risks. Because of its effects on the thyroid gland, specifically in enhancing secretion of thyroid hormone, PCNB is suspected of being an endocrine disruptor. PCNB is also classified as a possible human carcinogen.

Under Section 13(a) of FIFRA, EPA may issue a SSURO to any person who owns, controls, or has custody of a pesticide or device that the agency has reason to believe is in violation of any FIFRA provision or has been or is intended to be distributed or sold in violation of the act. EPA may issue such orders based on only a reasonable belief of a FIFRA violation.

However, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the AMVAC case ruled that the division of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) waste and chemical division that has routinely issued SSUROs for the agency since 2006 has done so without delegated authority under the pesticide law, rendering such orders invalid.

The judge in his Aug. 17 order determined that the waste and chemical had never received delegated authority by the assistant administrator of OECA. The ruling said EPA must go through a formal rulemaking process to re-delegate the authority to the director of the waste and chemical decision.

The ruling would affect orders issued through the office at EPA headquarters but not those issued by the EPA regions, including the most recent order to stop the sale and use of the herbicide Imprelis, which is responsible for a rash of tree deaths across the Midwest, amounting to millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Because EPA Region III issued the order, it is unaffected by the AMVAC ruling, which only impacts orders issued by EPA headquarters’ waste and chemical division of OECA.

In a 2009 FIFRA Enforcement Response Policy document issued by OECA’s waste and chemical enforcement division, the agency says, “A SSURO is among the most expedient and effective remedies available to EPA in its efforts to prevent illegal sale, distribution and use of pesticides,” because it does not require the agency to go through the courts and is generally an easier enforcement channel to go through than seizure of a product.

Source: Inside EPA



Use of Soil Fumigant Still High Despite Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2011) While the fight continues over the use of toxic methyl iodide in California, new research is showing that the banned chemical methyl bromide, which methyl iodide was intended to replace, is continuing to be used in alarming amounts across the state due to a sizeable loophole in the regulations. While some may argue that this is simply a consequence of the controversy surrrounding methyl iodide, those concerned with human health and the environment point out that it is irresponsible and counterproductive to replace a devastating environmental contaminant with a highly toxic human carcinogen, especially when there are more responsible alternatives to both which can be employed.

Most methyl bromide is used to fumigate, or sterilize, agricultural soils, especially those growing strawberries, though it is used for other crops as well. It is also used in high amounts as a structural fumigant to eradicate indoor pests. The most common applications of this kind are for residential termite treatments and for insects in food storage facilities.

An investigation by New America Media has found that use of methyl bromide in California in 2009 was still at nearly 50% of levels from ten years prior, before the supposed ban was enacted. Counties that produce a high volume of strawberries saw an even smaller decline over that decade. Monterey County saw a drop of only 24%, while use in Santa Cruz County declined by 41%. The County of San Luis Obispo actually saw an increase over the ten year period, from 110,000 pounds applied in 1999 to 125,000 pounds in 2009.

Methyl Bromide has been nominally banned in industrialized countries by international treaty. The ban, which was included as part of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, is legally binding on all signatories to the treaty, of which the United States is one, having signed in 1987. It is also banned under federal law, as outlined in the Clean Air Act. These laws mandate that the substance be phased out according to a precise schedule, with 100% phase-out to be achieved by January 1, 2005. However, due to the “critical use exemption” (CUE) stipulation of the laws, which allows the chemical to continue to be used when there are no feasible alternatives, application rates have remained persistently high.

The substance has been banned due to its significant capacity to deplete the ozone layer of the atmosphere, which protects organisms living on the earth’s surface from damaging ultraviolet radiation. Additionally, acute exposure to humans, including those who spray the chemical, has been shown to cause eye and skin irritation as well as damage to the neurological, reproductive, and endocrine systems. Just two weeks ago, EPA acknowledged that, due to health concerns, there had been a violation of the civil rights of Latino school children in agricultural areas of California where methyl bromide was being applied, although the agency unfortunately offered no substantive relief to the individuals affected.

There has also been recent controversy over the proposed chemical replacement for methyl bromide in structural fumigation, sulfuryl fluoride. Due to concerns of fluoride overexposure, EPA cancelled sulfuryl fluoride use on stored food products in January of this year. Some environmental advocates worried that this could lead to a resurgence of reliance on methyl bromide CUEs, however, others, including EPA itself, do not believe that this will be the case and instead point to the wealth of other safer alternatives to control stored food pests, such as temperature manipulation.

The fact is that viable alternatives do already exist for all applications in which methyl bromide had been relied upon in the past, making CUEs entirely unnecessary. Organic strawberry growers are currently farming successfully in California without the environmental hazards of methyl bromide or the toxic dangers of methyl iodide. To learn more about organic food and farming see our organic webpage.

Source: Huffington Post



Dow Seeks Approval of New Soybean Resistant to Multiple Herbicides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2011) Despite rising concerns over the side effects of herbicide tolerant, genetically engineered (GE) crops, Dow AgroSciences has recently asked for approval of a new GE soybean variety that will be the first ever to be simultaneously resistant to three different pesticides. The soybean variety, which the company is calling “Enlist,” is designed to compete with Monsanto’s line of “Roundup Ready” crops, which are engineered to be resistant to the company’s glyphosate formulation. The Enlist soybean will be resistant to glyphosate as well as glufosinate and 2,4-D.

Antonio Galindez, CEO of Dow AgroSciences, told Reuters that the Enlist system is the company’s “most important project ever.” This is likely due to the company’s ambitious target of taking over Monsanto’s dominance of the GE market in American agriculture. Herbicide tolerant (HT) Roundup Ready crop varieties have become nearly ubiquitous in the corn, cotton, and soybean seed markets.

Dow will market the product as a replacement for Roundup Ready soybeans. If farmers are finding that weeds in their fields are not responding to applications of Roundup, Dow will argue, then planting Enlist soybeans will allow them to spray a combination of chemicals in order to eradicate the resistant weeds.

Research is increasingly showing that herbicide resistant crops are allowing farmers to rely on a single pesticide and apply it in such great amounts that weeds are also evolving herbicide resistance. This is causing significant problems for farmers as they are forced to either fall back on more toxic chemicals or resort to mechanical methods to control the weeds. Either course is likely to cost farmers more time and money to deal with the tenacious invaders.

While the new soybeans may be a boon to farmers at first, critics point to the likelihood that increasing applications of any chemical, no matter how toxic or in what kind of mixture it comes, will simply lead to weeds evolving resistance to that chemical as well. If the Enlist system is widely adopted, it will likely be only a matter of time before weeds become resistant to glufosinate and 2,4-D as well as glyphosate.

Additionally, the Enlist soybeans are particularly of concern due to the likelihood that their adoption will increase applications of 2,4-D, a highly toxic chemical which has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, and kidney and liver damage. It is also neurotoxic and is 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. It is the fifth most commonly used herbicide in the agricultural sector and total annual usage in the U.S. tops 40 million pounds.

Glyphosate is also cause for continued concern, as 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.

Simply spraying more and different pesticides of increasing toxicity will not solve the problems inherent in a system of agricultural production that relies on monocultures and chemical management rather than harnessing the power of natural systems and cycles. Industrial agriculture requires such intense management because it ignores the processes of the natural world and instead creates perfect breeding grounds for pests and disease. The only way to get away from the cycle of chemical dependence is to alter the way that the land is managed. Organic agriculture provides an alternative management system that reduces the need for external inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers through utilizing natural systems to enhance soil fertility and manage pests and disease.

Beyond Pesticides is currently involved in multiple lawsuits involving Roundup Ready and other GE crops. The first lawsuit is filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and seeks to end cultivation of GE crops on twenty-five national wildlife refuges across the U.S. Southeast. The suit is the latest step in a campaign to banish GE crops from all refuges. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 12, 2011 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and Beyond Pesticides, the federal suit charges that FWS unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight states without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and in violation of FWS policy. This is the third in a series of lawsuits filed by CFS and PEER challenging FWS’s practice of permitting GE crops on wildlife refuges. In 2009 and 2010, the groups successfully challenged approval of GE plantings on two wildlife refuges in Delaware – Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge – which forced FWS to end GE planting in the entire 12-state Northeastern region.

In another case involving GE crops, attorneys for CFS, Earthjustice, Beyond Pesticides, and others filed a lawsuit against USDA in March 2011, arguing that the agency’s unrestricted approval of GE “Roundup Ready” alfalfa violates the Endangered Species Act. USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa in January, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers.

For more news and information on “Roundup Ready” and other GE crops, see Beyond Pesticides’ genetic engineering page.

To learn more about alternatives to industrial agriculture and chemical dependence, visit our organic food and farming page.

Source: Reuters

Image credit: USDA