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27
Apr

Whole Foods to Rate Household Cleaning Products, Requires Full Disclosure for Products Sold

(Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2011) Whole Foods Market has introduced its Eco-Scale™ Rating System – an industry-first set of tiered, green household cleaning standards – to help shoppers make smarter, greener choices. Product ingredients will be evaluated and those that do not meet the standards set, such as the antimicrobial triclosan, phosphates and phlalates, will not be sold at Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods Market is the first national retailer to provide its own comprehensive, color-coded rating system for household cleaners. Under the new evaluation system, products will be rated—red, orange, yellow or green—based on the specific set of environmental and sourcing standards each product meets. The company is committed to working with vendors to evaluate and independently audit every product in its cleaning category. Each product will be required to meet – at the very minimum – the new baseline orange standard by Earth Day, 2012. Red-rated products do not meet the Eco-Scale standards and will not be sold at Whole Foods Market.

Products rated Eco-Scale Green, the highest level of Whole Foods Market’s new standard, will contain no ingredients with significant environmental or safety concerns and required to have full transparency, disclosure of ingredients on packaging by April 2012, and only 100% natural ingredients. Intermediate ratings include Eco-Scale Yellow and Orange and will also be required to have full disclosure of all ingredients. Eco-Scale Red products will not be sold. For more information on the rating system, visit Whole Foods Market Website.

Currently, the U.S. government does not mandate full disclosure of ingredients on cleaning products. Environmental advocates have urged Federal authorities for years to disclose all ingredients on product labels, especially inert ingredients. Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules that would allow for full disclosure of all ingredients in pesticide products. However, the agency has yet to make a final decision. Under the Eco-Scale Rating System, Whole Foods Market’s household cleaning vendors will be required to list every single ingredient on product packaging. To ensure compliance of the company’s strict standards, all products will be audited through an independent third-party for verification before they are color-rated and labeled on shelves.

“Shoppers have a right to know what’s actually in the products they use to clean their homes,” said Jim Speirs, global vice president of procurement for Whole Foods Market. “We’ve always carefully monitored ingredients. Now, with Eco-Scale, we’re able to help shoppers buy eco-friendly products with confidence and provide safer alternatives for their households and for the planet as a whole.”

A recent New York Times article touched on the marketing of the green version of products marketed by big name brands such as Clorox that have seen declining sales. Often, these products do not disclose all ingredients and contain some that are still hazardous to human health and the environment. Declining sales of these products indicate that consumers committed to green products are not taken in by the ‘greenwashing’ of major brands such as Arm & Hammer, Windex and Palmolive, but remain loyal to truly green product lines such as Seventh Generation which have seen their sales continue to grow. However, almost three out of four (73 percent) adults falsely believe that the government requires household cleaning products to provide a list of ingredients on the label, according to a Whole Foods Market survey conducted online in April among 2,483 U.S. adults aged 18+. Another two-thirds (64 percent) believe that many household cleaning brands opt to disclose the full list of ingredients on packaging, when, in fact, few provide this information on product labels.

The survey also confirmed that many adults understand that there are risks involved with common household cleaning products. When asked if they agree or disagree that common household cleaning products are not harmful to the environment, two-thirds (66%) disagreed. Chemicals found in many cleaning products can cause health problems, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches. Using green cleaning products and practices may avoid these health effects.

“With Eco-Scale, we’ll be able to offer more solutions for eco-conscious shoppers, and those with sensitive skin and allergy concerns who often reach for natural cleaners first,” said Mr. Speirs. “Now parents and pet owners can also rest assured that they know exactly what ingredients they are using in the company of their loved ones.”

Several national cleaning products have already been rated – from liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener to all purpose, glass and toilet bowl cleaners. The lineup includes 14 of Whole Foods Market’s store brand cleaning products, as well as a total of 34 products from natural cleaning brands Better for Life™, Ecover®, Greenshield™ and Method®.

Shoppers will ultimately, be able to easily identify products’ environmental impact and safety based on the red-orange-yellow-green color scale. The orange rating represents the baseline of acceptable standards that the yellow and green standards build on, with green labeled products topping the tier.

For more information on Whole Foods Market’s Eco-Scale including prohibited ingredients for each tier, visit: wholefoodsmarket.com/eco-scale.

Sources:
Boston Globe
Whole Foods Market

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26
Apr

Report Examines Impact of Pesticides on Farmworker Children

(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2011) One year after the President’s Cancer Panel released its groundbreaking report highlighting environmental causes of cancer, the non-profit Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) released a new report, Dangerous Exposure: Farmworker Children and Pesticides. The report focuses on farmworker children, examining birth defects, neurological and behavior disorders, respiratory disease, as well as leukemia and other childhood cancers and their connections to pesticides.

“The weight of evidence described in our report, Dangerous Exposure: Farmworker Children and Pesticides, is overwhelming, if not conclusive,” notes Levy Schroeder, Director of Health & Safety Programs at AFOP. “The risk is high for farmworker children whose lives are surrounded by dangerous agricultural toxins.”

In a ten-month immersion in evidence-based findings on pesticide exposures, farmworker children and various illnesses, including cancer, the AFOP Health and Safety team reviewed primary scientific research published in professional medical and public health journals. In an effort to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the issue of pesticide exposure to farmworker children, the team also conducted focus groups and interviews with farmworker parents around the country. The parents shared stories of exposure, of having to make choices they know are not healthy for their children, of their fears for their families, and of hope that one day things will change.

In the introduction, the report states: Pesticide exposure occurs at work in the fields and also at home. Farmworkers may bring their families into contact with pesticides inadvertently through their clothes or unsafe storage of chemicals. However, thousands of children all over the country are more directly exposed to pesticide residues while they labor in fruit, vegetable, and flower crops. Discriminatory laws exempting farmworker youth from safe working conditions as they harvest on farms put them at particular risk for contact with these chemicals. Parents in farm work, who largely earn below a living wage, often opt for their children to work with them in the fields in order to provide the basics for the family. Whether exposed through parents’ field work or their own, children who develop illnesses as a result of pesticide exposure pay the price for our demands for cheap food. Coupled with the concerns of farmworker parents in their own voices about pesticide exposure, the following findings demonstrate that the health of these children is at stake.

The authors recommend that consumers know where their food comes from and encourages people to research labor practices of the companies you. They recommend eating organic and fairly traded foods whenever possible, and given the opportunity, “thank farmworkers for their necessary and important labor.”

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.

For more information on the importance of eating organic food for you, workers and the environment, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide and organic food program page.

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is a non-profit, national federation of 52 non-profit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all farmworkers and their families through advocacy, education, and training. Dangerous Exposure: Farmworker Children and Pesticides, authored by AFOP’s Health and Safety Programs, is the first volume in The Fields, a new annual publication series that will center on farmworker health and safety issues.

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25
Apr

USDA Proposes To Allow Biotech Companies To Evaluate Own GE Products

(Beyond Pesticides, April 25, 2011) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a proposal which would allow industry groups seeking deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) products to submit their own environmental evaluations as part of the deregulation process. The proposal, detailed in the Federal Register notice, launches a pilot program that would allow companies to either (1) prepare an environmental report, which APHIS would then use to develop an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS), or (2) contract out to a third party group, which would prepare the actual EA or EIS and submit it to APHIS. Under the second option, the company would provide the funding for developing the EA or EIS, while APHIS would choose the actual contractor.

APHIS is calling the proposal the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Pilot Project. NEPA, first passed in 1969 and later amended, requires the agency to evaluate any potential environmental effects of releasing GE materials into the environment (see relevant regulations at 7 CFR 340). Under these regulations, GE materials are considered by default to be “regulated articles,” meaning that APHIS must govern and issue permits for their importation, interstate movement, or environmental release. However, anyone – usually manufacturers – can petition the agency to determine that a particular GE product does not need to be regulated. Part of this petition process requires APHIS to prepare an EA or EIS to, in theory, ensure that there are no adverse environmental impacts of deregulation. The integrity of previous EIS’s has recently been brought into question, notably that of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa.

Previously, APHIS itself prepared the appropriate environmental reports. It has proposed the NEPA Pilot Project partly out of concern that the process is too resource intensive. However, advocates point out that NEPA charges the agency with performing these duties. Advocates say it is reasonable to expect the agency to allocate resources in a way that would allow it to lend appropriate time and energy to its evaluation of GE products, especially in light of recent concern and controversy over what some have perceived as its lack of dedication to the regulatory review process. The project will operate in the pilot stage for two years, after which APHIS will evaluate the results of the project and determine which evaluation option it believes is the most successful and cost effective for future petitions.

The APHIS proposal is similar to provisions in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) governing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of pesticides. This law allows pesticide companies seeking to have their products registered, or approved for use, by EPA to submit their own studies, or studies which they have funded, regarding the health and environmental safety of their product. Advocates have voiced concern that the FIFRA process, and now potentially the NEPA Pilot Project, essentially allow chemical manufacturers and agribusiness corporations to regulate themselves, providing the public with little assurance of the safety of approved products.

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

Sources: Grist, Federal Register

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22
Apr

Studies Link Prenatal Organophosphate Exposure to Reduced IQ

(Beyond Pesticides, April 22, 2011) Three independent investigations published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) have reached similar conclusions, associating prenatal exposure to organophosphate (OP) pesticides with IQ deficits in school-age children. The fact that three research groups reached such similar conclusions independently adds considerable support to the validity of the findings.

The three studies were conducted at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. All three involved cohorts of women enrolled during pregnancy. The Berkeley and Mount Sinai investigators measured OP pesticide breakdown products in the pregnant women’s urine, while the Columbia investigators measured the OP pesticide chlorpyrifos in umbilical cord blood. Intelligence tests were administered to children of these mothers between ages 6 and 9 years at Mount Sinai and at age 7 years at Berkeley and Columbia.

Although the study findings are not directly comparable, all three investigations found evidence linking prenatal OP pesticide exposures with adverse effects on cognitive function that continued into early childhood.

“It is well known that findings from individual epidemiologic studies may be influenced by chance and other sources of error. This is why researchers often recommend their results be interpreted with caution until they are supported by similar findings in other study populations,” said EHP Editor-in-Chief Hugh A. Tilson. “As a group, these papers add substantial weight to the evidence linking OP pesticides with adverse effects on cognitive development by simultaneously reporting consistent findings for three different groups of children.”

The Berkeley study, examining families in the intensive agricultural region of Salinas Valley, California, found that IQ levels for children with the most OP exposure were a full seven IQ points lower than those with the lowest exposure levels. This is a very significant drop. According to USA Today, lead poisoning can result in a drop of less than half that amount, usually about two to three IQ points, which is still cause for grave concern. The Berkeley team also found that every tenfold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the 7-year-olds.

The findings of the three studies support the suggestions of recent research on a phenomenon known as “inverse dose response.” This refers to the idea that it is often the timing of chemical exposure that is most important, rather than the actual degree of exposure. The studies found that exposure to OPs while a child was still in the womb correlated to lower IQ scores, but exposures during early childhood, even at higher amounts, did not result in similar findings.

Organophosphates, derived from World War II nerve agents, are a common class of chemicals used in pesticides and are considered to be among the most likely pesticides to cause an acute poisoning. Many are already banned in several European countries. Organophosphate pesticides are extremely toxic to the nervous system, as they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. In finally responding to concerns stemming from this information, EPA reached agreements with chemical manufacturers to phase out residential use of two common organophosphate pesticides, chlorpyrifos and diazinon, in 2000 and 2002 respectively. However, these pesticides remain registered for other uses, including in agricultural production.

One of the researchers involved in the recent studies, Dana Boyd Barr, PhD, recently spoke at Beyond Pesticides 29th Annual National Pesticide Forum. Video of her presentation at the forum will soon be available on our website.

The three articles are available online from EHP, free of charge:
Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates, Paraoxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood.” Study coauthors include Stephanie M. Engel, James Wetmur, Jia Chen, Chenbo Zhu, Dana Boyd Barr, Richard L. Canfield, and Mary S. Wolff.

Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year-Old Children.” Study coauthors include Maryse F. Bouchard, Jonathan Chevrier, Kim G. Harley, Katherine Kogut, Michelle Vedar, Norma Calderon, Celina Trujillo, Caroline Johnson, Asa Bradman, Dana Boyd Barr, and Brenda Eskenazi.

7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide.” Study coauthors include Virginia Rauh, Srikesh Arunajadai, Megan Horton, Frederica Perera, Lori Hoepner, Dana B. Barr, and Robin Whyatt.

Sources: Environmental Health Perspectives Press Releases, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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21
Apr

Scientists Consider Grapefruit Derivative for Pest Control

(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2011) Citing consumer’s growing aversion to the toxic chemical DEET and other harmful pesticides, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are pushing to develop a new natural repellent and insecticide from the chemical nootkatone, found in grapefruits. Nootkatone is derived from the essential oils of plants, including grapefruit, vetiver grass and Alaskan yellow cedar. As an essential oil, it is highly volatile and evaporates quickly. This means that it doesn’t last very long and may need to be applied frequently. As a result, researchers are seeking ways to make it longer-lasting.

In one cooperative project by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), entomologists Kirby Stafford, PhD and Robert Behle, PhD use lignin to encapsulate nootkatone in order to extend the chemical’s residual activity. The study, “Lignin + Nootkatone = Dead Ticks” published in the January 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Researcher Marc Dolan, PhD of the CDC’s vector-borne infectious diseases laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado stresses nootkatone’s safety: “If you’ve had a grapefruit, you’ve consumed some nootkatone,” he said to NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Essential oils [such as nootkatone] kill bugs and then break down and are no longer active,” Dr. Dolan told Morning Edition. “So you don’t get a lot of soil contamination. We don’t see groundwater contamination. And we don’t have a high impact on other nontarget insects that may come into the sprayed area, such as bees and butterflies.”

Whether new derivatives of nootkatone will actually be “safe” remains to be seen, however. Since researchers hope that nootkatone will be formulated to last longer, it will no longer be able to claim the benefits of having low-environmental persistence. Furthermore, this same argument for safety has been made for other “natural” chemicals, such as permethrin and its very toxic chemically synthesized derivative counterparts, synthetic pyrethroids.

Though nootkatone and its future synthetic counterpart may be considered to be less toxic than most synthetic pesticides, it is important to remember that as a chemical with insecticidal properties, there is still a potential to cause harm to human and environmental health. The best way to combat a pest problem is through an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that focuses on prevention, monitoring, and control to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of only least-toxic pesticides. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems. For more information on safer methods to protect yourself from insects and other pests, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Alternative Fact Sheets page and Mosquito Management program page.

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20
Apr

“Safe Chemicals Act of 2011″ Introduced in U.S. Senate

(Beyond Pesticides, April 20, 2011) Last Thursday, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to update and modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) which has allowed tens of thousands of toxic substances onto the marketplace with little or no testing. The new ‘Safe Chemicals Act of 2011,’ utilizing risk assessment methology, would, in theory, require chemical companies to prove their products are “safe” for human health and the environment when allowed in commerce. While creating priority reviews for the higher tisk categories of chemicals, many analysts are concerned that 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.

Sen. Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, seeks to require that chemical manufacturers demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals used in everyday household products. “The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” would require safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and puts the burden on industry to prove that chemicals are safe in order to get on or stay on the market. Currently, EPA may not regulate a chemical unless it can first prove that the chemical presents or will present an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. Under this onerous cost-benefit standard, EPA has been powerless to ban any substance -even asbestos, for which the science has long been clear about its dangers. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. Previous government reports document a systemic failure by EPA to adequately regulate chemicals due to a lack of data. The new legislation will give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals and require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market.

“The average American has more than 200 industrial chemicals in their body, including dozens linked to cancer and other health problems. The shocking truth is that the current law does not require tests to ensure chemicals used in everyday household products are safe,” said Senator Lautenberg. “The EPA does not have the tools to address dangerous substances and even the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws to assure consumers that their products are safe. My ‘Safe Chemicals Act’ will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to separate the chemicals that help from the chemicals that hurt.”

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

Public health groups have long urged Congress to strengthen the law by restricting chemicals known to be dangerous and requiring testing of new and existing chemicals to ensure that they are safe. After introducing similar legislation last year, Sen. Lautenberg chaired a series of hearings to solicit feedback from chemical industry leaders, public officials, scientists, doctors, academics, and non-profit organizations. Based on that feedback, Sen. Lautenberg made several changes to improve the bill. For example, the updated bill establishes risk-based prioritization categories so that the EPA can focus resources on the highest-risk chemicals. It also requires chemical companies to initially submit basic hazard and exposure data to quickly determine the risk and assess the need for further testing or restrictions.

Unlike last year’s bill, this version would divide chemicals into three categories. The lowest category would include chemicals that are considered safe. The middle category would be for ones that need safety determinations, and the highest category would be for ones that require immediate action. That top category would include chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, meaning they don’t break down in the environment and can build up in people and other living things. The bill also calls for the promotion of “the use of safer alternatives and other actions that reduce the use of and exposure to hazardous chemical substances and reward innovation toward safer chemicals, processes, and product,” to “encourage the replacement of harmful chemicals and processes with safer alternatives.”

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.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN).

Source: Greenbiz.com

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19
Apr

Ohio Passes Bed Bug Resolution on Propoxur

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2011) On Saturday, April 16, the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously (97-0) approved a resolution sponsored by State Representative Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati) regarding bedbugs and propoxur, asking Congress to help convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the emergency use of the toxic pesticide. Propoxur, a neurotoxin and probable human carcinogen, has been canceled for indoor residential uses due to the unacceptable risks posed to children’s health and should not be used for indoor treatment. Resolution HR 31, however, urges the use of an emergency exemption under federal law to control bedbugs, a follow-up to an earlier request in 2010. The resolution seeks to invoke a so-called Section 18 emergency use permit , a controversial loophole in the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that allows for unregistered uses of a pesticide, and in many cases unregistered pesticides, under “emergency circumstances.”

In a letter to Administrator Lisa Jackson, dated April 19, 2010, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland supported the state’s request for the exemption claiming, “Without the use of propoxur, there is very little that can be done to meaningfully stop the spread of bed bug infestations.” Environmental and public health groups, including Beyond Pesticides, has urged EPA to deny the exemption.

In comments to EPA last December, Beyond Pesticides stated that indoor uses of propoxur increase exposure and health risks of residents, especially children who are vulnerable. Beyond Pesticides also reminded the agency that propoxur should not be considered for a Section 18 exemption since the pesticide was already canceled for indoor uses that expose children, and that the treatment of bed bugs is now routine, and cannot be considered an “emergency” as defined under FIFRA.

EPA has refused the state of Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption to use the restricted pesticide propoxur in residential settings for control of bed bugs, stating that the chemical “presents unreasonable risk.”

Recently, Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican member of Congress and a mmber of the House Agriculture Committee -which has jurisdiction over pesticide registration law, introduced an earmarked bill a few weeks ago to establish a government panel and grants for chemical product research. The bill requires taxpayers to pay for the research of new chemicals to manage bedbugs. Rep Schmidt’s bill, H.R. 967, the Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act of 2011 is hailed by the pest control industry because it will push for expedited use of chemicals in the fight against bedbugs just as many in the industry are shifting to integrated pest management (IPM) practices that focus on non-chemical methods utilizing pest exclusion techniques, steam treatment, and other non-toxic methods.

While bed bug populations have rebounded in recent years, due to growing resistance to widely used insecticides, relying on even more toxic chemical control is not a feasible option. Currently, EPA and other stakeholders are working to develop new methods of combating the surge in bed bug infestations, including increasing the role of integrated pest management (IPM), which, according to the agency in its letter, “is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that considers pest life cycles and relies on a combination of common-sense chemical and non-chemical solutions.”

Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests, such as ants, cockroaches, and bed bugs. It is also commonly used in flea and tick collars. Propoxur can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Common symptoms of poisoning include malaise, muscle weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, nausea, and diarrhea may also result. EPA considers propoxur a possible human carcinogen, while the state of California classifies it as a known human carcinogen. Propoxur is also highly toxic to beneficial insects such as honeybees as well as crustaceans, fish, and aquatic insects.

Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are among many cities in the U.S., as well as cities worldwide, that saw a recent surge in bed bug infestations. According to a survey of pest control firms bed bug outbreaks have tripled since 2005. Infestations commonly occur in homeless shelters, and low income housing, as well as hospitals, college dorms, and hotels. Bed bugs are tiny insects up to ¼ inches when full grown that usually live in cracks and crevices of bed frames and the seams of mattresses. Their bites result in sore spots or itchy welts usually found in a line, but bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases.

Fortunately, the chemical treatments, which are often more harmful than the bed bugs themselves, are not actually necessary. These pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An IPM approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can control an infestation without the 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.

For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic” on our Bed Bug Program Page.

Take Action!

A vote by the house of 97-0 in favor indicates, that if you live in Ohio, you should express your dissatisfaction with your elected representative.

Please Email Rep. Dale Mallory to express your disappointment with his actions: district32@ohr.state.oh.us

Source: The Cincinnati Herald

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18
Apr

Farm Workers File Lawsuit Over Labor Violations, Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2011) Citing civil rights and labor law violations, along with pesticide misuse, a group of 15 Mexican guest workers employed through the H-2A guest worker visa program are suing Newport, TN-based tomato grower Fish Farms. They are charging the company with a series of abuses including spraying pesticides near their trailers, subjecting them to inhumane working conditions, threatening them with firearms, and other violations of civil rights and labor laws.

On behalf of the workers, Southern Migrant Legal Services filed the lawsuit last week in Greeneville. Southern Migrant Legal Services, a Project of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, provides free employment-related legal services to eligible migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

The law firm Hughes, Socol, Piers, Resnick & Dym Ltd is representing the farmworkers, where they are seeking compensation for lost wages, emotional distress and other punitive damages as deemed appropriate by the court. The lawsuit claims Fish Farms failed to meet minimum employment standards for the guestworker program. “Instead, believing they had a captive labor force that was Hispanic and Mexican and could not or would not complain or enforce the law, defendants flagrantly violated federal H-2A standards,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit maintains that Fish Farms housed workers in overcrowded and squalid trailers, and failed to provide them with potable water with no clothes washing facilities beside a river nearby. Furthermore, the workers allege that Fish Farms sprayed pesticides in close proximity to their living quarters and in the fields while they were working.

“Labor laws mean nothing if employers can intimidate workers into accepting deplorable working conditions,” said Mel Fowler-Green of Southern Migrant Legal Services. “These workers had the courage to speak out about their treatment, and we believe Fish Farms broke the law when it tried to silence them.”

The plaintiffs complained to the U.S. Department of Labor, and when officials arrived at the farm to investigate, the employers began their retaliation, the lawsuit claims. When investigators arrived, one of the plaintiffs, holding a knife he was using to make a sandwich, came out to see what was going on and employers had him arrested for aggravated assault. They then surrounded the plaintiffs’ trailers, brandishing firearms.

Two weeks later, the workers attempted to record their pesticide exposure on cell phone video cameras. Fish Farms managers responded by raiding the workers’ housing, yelling racial slurs, kicking in the door of one home, and wrenching cell phones from some workers’ hands. Fish Farms then fired the workers massively, detained them for many hours on a bus, and carried out what was, in effect, a private deportation by taking the workers to a bus station and insisting they return to Mexico.

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.

For more information on the importance of eating organic food for you, workers and the environment, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide and organic food program page.

Source: Farm Worker Justice Press Release

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15
Apr

Pesticide Spray Notification Under Threat in Maine

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2011) Several bills have been introduced in the Maine State Legislature which seek to weaken or eliminate the state’s pesticide spray notification registry. Testimony on the bills was heard last week by the state’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (ACF). No votes were taken, but committee decisions are expected as soon as this week on bills concerning the registry.

The first bill, L.D. 16, “An Act to Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticides Applications Using Aircraft or Air-carrier Equipment,” would significantly weaken the law by reducing the required notification radius for aerial sprays from ¼ mile (1320 ft.) to just 100 feet. Democrats on the ACF Committee, who oppose the bill, have pointed to previous state research showing that pesticides sprayed aerially on blueberry fields can drift as far as 1500 feet. The bill would also reduce the required notification distance when spraying fruit trees or Christmas trees from 500 ft. to 50 ft.

A second bill, L.D. 228, “An Act to Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticide Application,” would effectively abolish the registry completely. According to the Kennebec Journal, the bill’s sponsor intends for the responsibility for notification to fall to the landowner, as opposed to the farmer or land manager. However, in its repeal of the current law, the bill would also remove any legal requirement mandating that local residents be notified at all.

The state law requiring pesticide notification was first adopted in 2009. However, it was previously weakened by a 2010 law which was designed to lessen the burden on farmers. According to the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, the state body regulating pesticides, the law as it currently stands contains three separate provisions regarding notification of outdoor pesticide applications. For non-agricultural applications, residents can sign up to receive word of any spraying within 250 feet of their property. For aerial spraying, the current requirement is for applicators to notify anyone listed in the registry who lives within ¼ mile of the application site. Finally, for non-aerial agricultural applications, residents who wish to be notified of spraying within 500 feet of their property must initiate contact with the land manager who is spraying and declare their wish to be informed. The applicator is then required by law to notify anyone who has declared such a desire.

In its testimony to the ACF committee in opposition to these bills, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) pointed out the many reasons for why this registry, and others like it around the country, are a necessary service for local residents, especially those who may have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, which make them more sensitive to pesticides in the air. MOFGA also noted that it is often the application technology (air/ground, liquid/gas, etc.), rather than environmental factors such as wind or spray area, that is most significant in determining potential risks. Following this argument it would seem somewhat illogical for there to be a notification distance for aerial spraying (100 ft.) that is less than half that of the distance for residential and neighborhood spraying (250 ft.), as proposed in L.D. 16.

MOFGA has chosen to support a third bill, L.D. 1041, “An Act to Simplify Pest Control Notification,” which seeks to clarify existing regulations regarding setting specific distances for specific technologies, ensure that the registrant list is accurate and up to date, and establish the state registry as the only such system, so that information is kept in one place. The bill also removes specific references to aerial pesticide spraying and applies the relevant rules to all outdoor applications, regardless of application method, providing for enhanced ability of residents to obtain notification.

Source: MOFGA, Kennebec Journal, Maine House Democrats

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14
Apr

Study Finds Common Fungicide Deadly to Frogs

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2011) Researchers at the University of South Florida have discovered that the most widely used fungicide in the U.S., chlorothalonil, is lethal to frogs even at low doses. Chemical pollution, according to the researchers, is considered the second greatest threat to aquatic and amphibious species in the U.S. Because many vital systems of amphibians are similar to those in humans, researchers believe that amphibians may be an underused model for studying the impacts of chemicals in the environment on human health and set out to quantify amphibian responses to chlorothalonil. The study, lead by Teagan McMahon, PhD, was published in Environmental Health Perspectives and opens the door for researchers to quantify the effects of the chemical on other species as well as other toxic pesticides on amphibian populations and human health.

Researchers looked at Rana sphenocephala (Southern leopard frog) and Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog) in outdoor aquatic mesocosms (experimental water enclosures) with and without the expected environmental concentration as well as twice the amount of chlorothalonil. They also conducted two dose-response experiments on O. septentrionalis, Hyla squirella (squirrel treefrog), H. cinerea (green treefrogs), and R. sphenocephala, evaluating the effects of the fungicide on the stress hormone corticosterone. At the expected environmental concentration levels in the mesocosm experiment, researchers find that chlorothalonil kills 87% of the population. At twice the expected environmental concentration levels, 100% of the species are killed. In the dose-response experiments, at concentrations to which humans are frequently exposed, it increases mortality in frogs and increases levels of corticosterone and changes in immune cells.

Chlorothalonil is a broad-spectrum fungicide originally registered in 1966. The chemical is widely used on field crops such as peanuts, vegetables and fruit (including citrus) and on turf in chemical lawn care products. It is registered for use against plant diseases such as powdery mildew, early and late blight and various rots and molds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers chlorothalonil to be a likely carcinogen. It is a neurotoxin that has been linked to reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage and is a sensitizer/irritant.

Previous studies have found higher concentrations of chlorathalonil in bee hives, which leads researchers to question whether it could be partly responsible for the bee population decline. Large concentrations of the fungicide have also been previously discovered in high altitudes, where polluted air from farm land often gets pushed, which helps to shed light on shrinking amphibian populations at high altitudes.

Source: Tampa Bay News

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13
Apr

EPA Urged To Ban Toxic Antibacterial Chemical Linked to Hormone Disruption and Widespread Water Contamination, as Comment Period Closes

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2010) In response to a petition submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for a ban on the non-medical uses of triclosan, Beyond Pesticides is again urging the agency to halt the use of the antibacterial triclosan in consumer products. Citing recent scientific evidence detailing hormone disruption, impaired fetal development, water and crop contamination, the petitioners state that given the emerging science and the violation of numerous environmental statues by triclosan’s use constitutes placing a ban on the chemical.

In comments submitted in support of the petition, Beyond Pesticides state that such a dangerous chemical has no place on the consumer marketplace. “The nonmedical uses of triclosan are frivolous and dangerous, creating serious long-term health problems and environmental hazards associated with its continued use. EPA has a responsibility to ban consumer triclosan use in a marketplace where safer alternatives are available to manage bacteria” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Triclosan’s impact on the consumer market has been aided by a false public perception that antibacterial products are best to protect and safeguard against potential harmful bacteria. However, research into triclosan’s health and environmental impacts shows triclosan does more harm than good, despite its widespread consumer use. Studies find that it persists in the environment, has endocrine disrupting properties, accumulates in breast milk and other fatty tissues, and can cause adverse health problems not only in humans, but in wildlife species. Studies released this past year find that triclosan interferes with estrogen metabolism in women and can disrupt a vital enzyme during pregnancy. This is troubling because triclosan is detected in the bodies of pregnant women at levels higher than nonpregnant women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports document triclosan in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with the most recent 2010 update finding that the levels of triclosan in the U.S. population have increased by 42% between 2004 and 2006. Similarly, USDA scientists found that triclosan is only slowly degraded in biosolids and persists at low levels in the environment for long periods of time. Biosolids are typically recycled onto agricultural lands. This persistent chemical can then be taken up and translocated in plants like the soybean, a cornerstone of the American diet. The prevalence of triclosan in the nation’s waterways is a cause for concern since triclosan is converted into several toxic compounds including various forms of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds when exposed to sunlight in an aqueous environment.

Triclosan has exploded onto the marketplace in hundreds of consumer products ranging from antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics, toys, and other household and personal care products. While antibacterial products are marketed as agents that protect and safeguard against potential harmful bacteria, studies conclude that antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps.

The petition, filed January 2010, is supported by over 80 environmental and public health groups and cites triclosan’s violation of numerous federal statues including the Clean Water Act, as well as the increasing scientific data on triclosan’s hormone disrupting effects and long-term environmental contamination, have placed triclosan under media and congressional scrutiny.

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12
Apr

Take Action: Oppose Senate Bill to Strip Clean Water Act Protections from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 12, 2011) Ask your Senators to stand with you in opposing S. 718, the pesticide industry’s latest move in their assault on the Clean Water Act (CWA). Like HR 872 that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate bill would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. Take action now.

S. 718 – the so-called “Bill to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to improve the use of certain registered pesticides,” would ensure that CWA permits are not required for the application of pesticides and amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA. This bill would mean that pesticide applicators will be able to discharge pesticides into US waterways without any government oversight. Should this bill pass in the Senate it would mean final legislation can be signed by the President effectively making it law that EPA cannot uphold the CWA when it comes to protecting U.S. waters from pesticides.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the companion legislation, HR 872, by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), reversed a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, the EPA must require such permits.

The January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit would be in addition to the less protective label requirements under FIFRA. EPA drafted proposed rules in 2010 outlining the applicability of the permits for pesticide usage. Since then, industry has lobbied hard to get Congress to prevent this measure from going into effect this year.

Sen. Roberts and the other cosponsors of the bill: Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Richard Lugar (R-IN), James Risch (R-ID), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy (Blunt R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), claim that NPDES permits are burdensome on farmers, even though the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and does not affect terrestrial agricultural spraying. NPDES permits will monitor the discharge of pesticides into waterways by local and state authorities, including evaluation of the potential risks discharges might present to aquatic and semi-aquatic species and help safeguard against contaminated fish and drinking water.

Meanwhile, stating that “the provisions of this permit are designed to improve protection of public health and our nation’s water quality,” EPA has posted a pre-publication version of its draft final pesticide general permit. The pre-publication version of the draft final pesticide general permit has concluded interagency review by the Office of Management and Budget. Since EPA is currently engaged in consultation with federal resource agencies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), this version of the draft final permit does not contain any additional or revised conditions that may result from ongoing ESA consultation.

According to the agency, this draft final permit is not considered a “final agency action.” Even though legislation passed the House of Representatives that would remove the need for the permit, EPA states that it is still providing a preview of the draft final permit to assist states in developing their own permits and for the regulated community to become familiar with the permit’s requirements before it becomes effective.

The draft has not significantly changed from the proposed permit in 2010. The draft version of the final permit covers operators who apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit would not cover 1) non-target spray drift, or 2) discharges of pesticides to waterbodies that are impaired for that pesticide. Agricultural runoff and irrigation return flows are exempt from permitting under the Clean Water Act and, thus, do not require CWA permits. The permit also does not cover, nor is permit coverage required, for pesticide applications that do not result in a point source discharge to waters of the U.S. such as terrestrial applications for the purpose of controlling pests on agricultural crops, forest floors, or range lands.

Take action using Beyond Pesticides action center. Your letter will automatically be sent to your Senators. Edit the letter for greater impact.

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07
Apr

Join Us at Sustainable Community, the 29th National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2011) From protecting pollinators, managing bed bugs, banning genetic engineering to going organic in the food we eat and the way we manage our yards, parks and open spaces – these are just a few of the pressing health and environmental issues that will be addressed at Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, the 29th National Pesticide Forum, April 8-9 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, Colorado.

Beyond Pesticides, says about the conference, “This national forum convenes at a critical crossroads –as we strive for sustainability in our personal and community choices. Central to the concept of sustainability are the issues and practices addressed at this gathering that challenge us to adopt strategies to protect and nurture the web of life in the context of economic pressures that raise affordability issues.”

The program begins Friday evening and continues through Saturday night. Registration is $35 ($5 for students) and includes all sessions and organic food. The conference is cosponsored by Colorado School of Public Health – Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Denver Beekeepers Association, Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club, Slow Food Denver, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Denver Urban Gardens, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Grow Local Colorado, Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center, and the University of Colorado Environmental Center.

Prior to the conference, join us for a tour of Denver community gardens and urban farms. Meet at 1:00pm in the lobby of the Comfort Inn Downtown (across from the Brown Palace).

Speaker Highlights

Maria Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto and CEO of Rodale Inc., publisher of Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines;

Tom Theobald, beekeeper who exposed EPA’s memo showing its flawed science in registering a bee-killing pesticide;

Dana Boyd Barr, PhD
, Emory University researcher who linked pesticide exposure to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other learning problems;

George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety lawyer leading the fight to ban genetically engineered alfalfa;

Theo Colborn, PhD, author of Our Stolen Future and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange;

Benjamin Ross, PhD, author of The Polluters, the acclaimed book about the history of the chemical industry;

Timothy Scott, author of Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives;

Chip Osborne, national organic turf expert responsible for the organic conversion of parks and playing fields across the country.

See the full list of speakers and schedule of events.


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06
Apr

Take Action: Efforts to Dismantle Clean Water Act Protections Continue in the Senate

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2011) In yet another move to dismantle Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations regarding pesticides, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry introduced legislation (S. 718) aimed to “eliminate a burdensome, costly and redundant permit requirement for applications of pesticides.” Last week a similar bill, H.R. 872, passed in the House which prevents the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from applying the protective CWA permit regulations to monitor pesticides applied to and near U.S. waters. However, EPA has moved forward and published its draft version of the final permit.

Like HR 872, S. 718, “Bill to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to improve the use of certain registered pesticides,” would ensure that Clean Water Act permits are not required for the application of pesticides and amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA. This bill would mean that pesticide applicators will be able to discharge pesticides into US waterways without any government oversight. Should this bill pass in the Senate it would mean final legislation can be signed by the President effectively making it law that EPA cannot uphold the Clean Water Act when it comes to protecting U.S. waters from pesticides. Take Action.

Last week HR 872 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), amended FIFRA and CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. The bill reversed a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, the EPA must require such permits.

The January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit would be in addition to the less protective label requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA drafted proposed rules in 2010 outlining the applicability of the permits for pesticide usage. Since then, industry has lobbied hard to get Congress to prevent this measure from going into effect this year.

Sen. Roberts and the other cosponsors of the bill: Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Richard Lugar (R-IN), James Risch (R-ID), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy (Blunt R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), believe that NPDES permits are burdensome on farmers, even though the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and does not affect terrestrial agricultural spraying. NPDES permits will monitor the discharge of pesticides into waterways by local and state authorities, including evaluation of the potential risks discharges might present to aquatic and semi-aquatic species and help safeguard against contaminated fish and drinking water.

Meanwhile, stating that “the provisions of this permit are designed to improve protection of public health and our nation’s water quality,” EPA has posted a pre-publication version of its draft final pesticide general permit. The pre-publication version of the draft final pesticide general permit has concluded interagency review by the Office of Management and Budget. Since EPA is currently engaged in consultation with federal resource agencies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), this version of the draft final permit does not contain any additional or revised conditions that may result from ongoing ESA consultation.

According to the agency, this draft final permit is not considered a “final agency action.” Even though legislation (HR 872) passed the House of Representatives that would remove the need for the permit, EPA states that it is still providing a preview of the draft final permit to assist states in developing their own permits and for the regulated community to become familiar with the permit’s requirements before it becomes effective.

The draft has not significantly changed from the proposed permit in 2010. The draft version of the final permit covers operators who apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit would not cover 1) non-target spray drift, or 2) discharges of pesticides to waterbodies that are impaired for that pesticide. Agricultural runoff and irrigation return flows are exempt from permitting under the Clean Water Act and, thus, do not require CWA permits. The permit also does not cover, nor is permit coverage required, for pesticide applications that do not result in a point source discharge to waters of the U.S. such as terrestrial applications for the purpose of controlling pests on agricultural crops, forest floors, or range lands.

Take Action:
Let your Senator know that they must not support S. 718.
Send a letter urging them to instead protect our fish, food and drinking waters from pesticide contamination.

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05
Apr

Make Your Voice Heard at Upcoming USDA Organic Meeting (April 11 deadline)

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2011) Do you care about synthetics in your organic food? How about antibiotics? Do you think organic farmers should be spraying a known human carcinogen, nickel, or using pheromone products with toxic inert ingredients? Take action now.

The documents on these issues that will be considered at the Spring 2011 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (April 26-29, Seattle, WA) are open for public comment until April 10. Public involvement is vital for the organic regulatory process. The NOSB depends on input from the organic community, including organic consumers, farmers and processors, in making its decisions. It seeks comments from concerned consumers, farmers, professionals, or anyone with an interest in protecting the integrity and the future of organic food and farming.

To make your comments more effective and easily understood, comment on each issue (see Beyond Pesticides’ positions on key issues) separately and clearly indicate what issue or materials your comments are concerning. If you would like to submit comments on multiple issues, it is preferable to submit them individually. However, if you do choose to comment on multiple issues in a single submission, please clearly separate them with subheadings.

Submit your comments before April 10 or register if you would like to present a statement to the board in person at the meeting in Seattle. View the full docket to view other comments already submitted.

Take Action: Making Your Voice Heard
The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. USDA maintains a National List, set by the NOSB, of the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that may not be used in organic production and handling. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and NOP regulations provide for the sunsetting of listed substances every five years and relies on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substance’s status.

ISSUES BEFORE THE NOSB (April 2011 Meeting)
Beyond Pesticides urges public comments on the following issues. All these issues and use of substances have direct bearing on organic integrity, so it is critical to have public input into the NOSB decision making process. Submit your comments before April 10.

See Beyond Pesticides analysis and position on the following issues. A synopsis of the issue follows with a link to additional background on the subject.

* Identifying/reviewing synthetics in organics
* Classification of materials: What level of a synthetic should be reviewed for harm?
* Antibiotics
* Nickel
* Chlorine
* Copper compounds
* Pheromones
* Sodium nitrate
* Other substances/inputs

Organic vs. Conventional: Don’t forget the big picture
As we raise our voices in defense of the integrity of the organic label, it is important to bear in mind the differences between organic farming and conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that focuses on feeding the soil and growing naturally healthy crops.

Conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals that poison the soil, as well as the air, water, and consumers of the crops. Organic farmers can use natural pesticides, after exhausting other strategies including crop rotation, cultural practices, beneficial species, etc. However, synthetic chemicals can only be used in organic farming and processing if they are approved by the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a process that includes a detailed checklist of possible health and environmental impacts and considers the need for the chemical.

In contrast, the process for registering pesticides for crops explicitly does not consider the need for the chemical. Currently, about 50 entries are included on the “National List” of allowable synthetic materials. These include alcohols used as disinfectants, soap-based insecticides, newspaper weed barriers, and vitamins. On the other hand, there are tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals, including over 200 pesticide “active ingredients,” approved for use in conventional systems, not to mention chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), antibiotics, sewage sludge and irradiation.

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04
Apr

Send a Letter to Your Representative After U.S. House Votes To Weaken Protection of Water Sources from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 04, 2011) After Friday’s vote (April 1, 2011) to weaken protections from pesticides in the Clean Water Act, send a message to your U.S. Representative today. See action steps, as easy as two clicks, at the end of this post. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (H.R. 872) by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. The bill effectively reversed a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must require such permits.

Sponsors of the bill said 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 is a disastrous step backwards.

The 2009 court ruling came in the case National Cotton Council v. EPA. Prior to this case, EPA had deemed it unnecessary to require permits for pesticide applications near waterways. These previous regulations meant that, in instances where pesticides were applied directly to water to control pests such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds, or when pesticides were applied to control pests over or near water, applications were held to the much less stringent (FIFRA) standards. FIFRA, unlike the CWA, does not fully regulate or monitor water quality and the protection of aquatic ecosystems in the local context. When a pesticide is registered under FIFRA, the dangers of heightened toxicity because combinations of chemicals and chemical drift are not fully considered. EPA, in implementing FIFRA, uses controversial and, many studies say, inadequate exposure and essentiality assumptions in its risk assessment and does not take least-toxic alternatives into account. CWA, in contrast, uses a health-based standard, setting maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requiring permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams. In deciding the case, the court ruled that pesticides, when entering waterways, constitute pollutants, and as such, are subject to the permitting requirements of the CWA.

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

The current bill eliminated the elements in the NPDES program which require these permits, and thus allow for the associated regulatory review, through removing the associated provisions in FIFRA and the CWA.

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

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

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

Take Action:
Let your Member of Congress know how you feel about their vote using our automated system.

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01
Apr

British Government to Investigate Pesticides Linked to Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2011) A British government scientist on Wednesday announced that he has ordered a review of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, to determine what effects they may have on bee and pollinator health. Neonicotinoids, such as clothianidin and imidacloprid, have come under intense scrutiny recently due to concerns regarding their toxicity to honeybees, which are essential for a secure food supply in their role as crop pollinators. This has led some to suggest that chemicals such as these could be contributors to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

According to the London Daily Mail, the chief scientist at the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Professor Robert Watson, has directed DEFRA scientists to reexamine findings on neonicotinoids and their effects on bees. The Mail suggests that Watson may have been partly motivated by a recent study done by Dr. Jeffrey Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. This study was the first to show that neonicotinoids impact the survival of bees at levels below the level of detection, meaning that field studies would not have considered the role of the pesticide, because they would not have detected it.

Although a spokesman for DEFRA has dismissed the new evaluation as little more than a routine review, Watson was quoted in the Mail as saying “I’ve got people in the bee-health pollinating area and people in pesticides to review the literature for me and to come back to me exactly on this issue. It’s clear that we have to be concerned generally about bees and other pollinators. There is a genuine concern that if indeed there were to be a serious decline in the various pollinators, it could have implications for agriculture, no question.”

After discovery of a leaked memo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2010 citing a flawed study on precisely this issue, Beyond Pesticides along with beekeepers and other environmentalists, called on EPA to remove the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin from the market. EPA responded by defending clothianidin and the agency’s pesticide review process, saying that they “are not aware of any data that reasonably demonstrates that bee colonies are subject to elevated losses due to chronic exposure to this pesticide.”

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

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

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

The impact of pesticides on honeybees and other pollinators will be a featured topic at Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Researchers and beekeepers, including Tom Theobald, who first exposed the EPA memo, will be speaking at the event. There will also be a free screening of the award winning film Vanishing of the Bees immediately prior to the Forum on Wednesday, April 6 at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Source: London Daily Mail, The Independent

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31
Mar

Lawsuit Seeks Protection Against Monsanto’s GE Seed Patents

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2011) In an effort to protect them from patent infringement in the event of drift contamination by Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) seed, 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations preemptively filed suit against the agribusiness giant. The case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan on behalf of Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

This year has seen a series of decisions by USDA to allow the unrestricted cultivation of genetically engineered crops. In January, USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa seed, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers. Then, in February, a federal appeals court decided to reverse a federal order to destroy GE sugar beet seedlings. Most GE crops are engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup. Currently, USDA data show that 93% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. is grown without the use of any herbicides. The recent decision to fully deregulate GE alfalfa fails to take several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of GE gene flow in crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainties in making safety determinations.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”

Specifically, PUBPAT asks the presiding judge in the case, Judge Naomi Buchwald, to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, they need not fear accusations of patent infringement. One justification is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT’s Ravicher, plaintiffs’ lead attorney in the case. Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing shows that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds, LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC; Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas; Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc; Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.; Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature’s Way Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.

Beyond Pesticides is currently involved with another lawsuit concerning GE crops lead by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), Earthjustice, and farm and environmental groups. The lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), argues that the agency’s recent unrestricted approval of GE alfalfa is unlawful.

Center for Food Safety’s senior attorney and counsel for the lawsuit to be filed against the USDA regarding GE alfalfa, George Kimbrell, is scheduled to speak at Beyond Pesticides’ “Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment,” April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Among other cases, Mr. Kimbrell was counsel in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms (2010), the first case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on the impacts of GE crops.

For more information on this issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ page on genetic engineering and see our related Daily News entries.

Source: Public Patent Foundation Press Release

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30
Mar

Limits to Lawn Fetilizers to Protect Chesapeake Bay Passes Maryland House

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2011) The Maryland House of Delegates passed the Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 (HB 573) on March 23 to limit ferilizer use on lawns, while a new report published by Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center finds that turf grass management, not agriculture, is the leading cause of fertilizer-based nitrogen runoff that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay. The report recommends an additional 30 percent reduction in nutrient levels in order to achieve a clean, sustainable Bay. The Maryland legislation would set limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in lawn-fertilizers and prohibit the application of lawn fertilizers within 15 feet of a waterway, when the ground is frozen, or between November 15 and March 1. the Maryland Senate version, SB 487, is now under consideration.

Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay – which supports over 3,600 species of plants, fish, and other animals – increases when nutrients wash into its waters from snow and rainfall. And many synthetic lawn fertilizers, including ‘weed and feed’ products, have an excess of two problematic nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous. Maryland requires cities and farms to keep a close eye on nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay, but the report, “Urban Fertilizers and the Chesapeake Bay: An Opportunity for Major Pollution Reduction,” says the state does not pay enough attention to turf grass and its contribution to bay pollution. Grassy turf, not farmland, is the most dominant crop in the bay watershed. There were almost 1.3 million acres of planted turf in Maryland in 2009, compared with 1.5 million acres of all other crops.

The study calls on Maryland to consider following other states, such as New York and New Jersey, which recently banned the use of fertilizers with phosphorous and imposed buffer zones around bodies of water.

“All 17 million of us who live in the watershed need to be part of the restoration effort,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). Not just wastewater facilities, municipalities and farmers, he said, but “homeowners and businesses also need to be part of the solution by reducing the chemicals we put on our lawns and other green spaces.”

The study criticizes Maryland’s regulation of the state’s turf crop as lax. Tracking “fertilizer use on developed land is such a low priority that the state doesn’t keep statistics on it, but Maryland Department of Agriculture records show non-farm-use fertilizers are quickly catching up to farm fertilizer sales,” the report says. As a result of nutrient pollution, more than 80 percent of the bay and its tributaries are either low-oxygen or no oxygen. Furthermore, the bay and its waters are plagued with harmful algae blooms, causing seafood harvests that support commercial fisherman to plummet.

The best estimates suggest that Maryland landowners apply at least 86 million pounds of nitrogen fertilizer to state lawns every year. In a watershed in suburban Baltimore, researchers found that 56 percent of nutrients in one stream came from lawn fertilizer. Maryland’s law on fertilizer usage is weak. The state reviews less than 10 percent of fertilizer use reports each year. State reviewers routinely find that roughly one-fourth of the companies fail to take basic steps to minimize fertilizer use, such as testing the soil to find out whether additional fertilizer is needed.

Homeowners can play a critical role in reducing urban fertilizer pollution. The report states reducing urban fertilizer pollution means both limiting the nutrients in the fertilizer itself and ensuring applicators put less fertilizer on the ground, including:
• Ban phosphorus from all fertilizers, organic and synthetic, intended for use on established turf grass.
• Require a science-based upper limit on the amount of nitrogen in all fertilizers intended for use on established lawns, and require that at least a fifth of the nitrogen be “slow release,” which leads to less runoff.
• Provide adequate funding so the state can enforce fertilizer usage by professional applicators as well as fertilizer manufactures and distributors.
• Prohibit application of fertilizer in specific situations that would facilitate runoff.
• Rewrite the existing guidelines that dictate how and when professionals apply fertilizer such that the guidelines are aligned with statewide water quality restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Similar reports studying the Bay have also found that nitrogen and phosphorus loads, along with pesticide pollution from farm fields and households contribute to the Chesapeake Bay’s decline. Pesticides pollution may well be linked to declines in frogs across the region and intersex fish seen in the Potomac River. However, not enough attention is being paid to the potential harm being done by pesticides. In a White Paper produced by the Maryland Pesticide Network and the Pesticides and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Project explains, in a study of Chesapeake waters in 2004, in 100% of water samples taken at sixty different stations spread across five different Bay tributaries detected the herbicide atrazine.

President Obama signed an Executive Order in 2009 stipulating seven reports: reducing pollution and meeting water quality goals, targeting conservation practices, strengthening storm water management at federal facilities, adapting to impacts of a changing climate, conserving landscapes, strengthening science for decision making, and conducting habitat and research activities to improve outcomes for living resources. These reports are to be used to create a strategy defining the actions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

You can play a part in restoring the Bay. Limiting the cosmetic use of chemicals on residential lawns can go a long way for reducing nitrogen runoff to the Chesapeake Bay. Beyond Pesticides has information about the growing movement in the U.S. to eliminate the cosmetic use of chemicals on lawns and landscapes. Please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Pesticides Fact Sheets page.

Source: The Washington Post

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29
Mar

Study Links Prenatal Atrazine Exposure to Adverse Birth Outcomes

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2011) According to a French study published March 2, 2011 in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, prenatal exposure to the herbicide atrazine is linked to small head circumference and fetal growth restriction. The authors say the study “raises particular concerns for countries where atrazine is still in use.” Atrazine is a widespread contaminant in drinking water and is linked to various birth defects, endocrine disruption and cancer, even at concentrations below EPA standards. Although it has been excluded from re-registration in the European Union because it is found above allowable thresholds in groundwater, it is still one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. and around world.

The study, “Urinary Biomarkers of Prenatal Atrazine Exposure and Adverse Birth Outcomes in the PELAGIE Birth Cohort,” used a case-cohort design nested in a prospective birth cohort conducted in the Brittany region from 2002 through 2006. It collected maternal urine samples to examine pesticide exposure biomarkers before the 19th week of gestation.

Quantifiable levels of atrazine were found in urine samples from 5.5% of 579 pregnant women, and various metabolites were identified in 20-40% of samples. The presence versus absence of quantifiable levels of atrazine or a specific atrazine metabolite was associated with fetal growth restriction and small head circumference. Head circumference was also inversely associated with the presence of the herbicide metolachlor.

Atrazine is used to control broad leaf weeds and annual grasses in crops, golf courses, and even 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.

In 2007, Indiana researchers reported in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery that in their state, where rates of such birth defects are also very high, atrazine levels are significantly linked with the rate of gastroschisis and other defects. Another study, published last year in Acta Paediatrica, found similar results for the general rate of birth defects in the U.S. population; it found that atrazine upped the risk of nine birth defects in babies born to mothers who conceived between April and July, when surface water levels of the pesticide are highest. Another study also found that atrazine triggers the release of stress hormones, leading researchers to believe that this may explain how the popular weed killer produces some of its harmful reproductive effects.

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. Research found that intersex frogs is also common in suburban areas than agricultural areas. Another study suggests it is a possible cause of male infertility.

Atrazine is a major threat to wildlife. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

The European Union banned atrazine in 2004, after repeated testing found the herbicide in drinking water supplies, and health officials were unable to find sufficient evidence that the chemical is safe. In much of Europe the burden of proof falls on the pesticide manufacturer to prove it is safe, unlike in the U.S. where EPA has assumed the burden of proving a pesticide does not meet acceptable risk standards before taking regulatory action.

For more information on the chemical atrazine, please see our atrazine fact sheet on our pesticide gateway.

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28
Mar

Study Links Pesticides to Low Semen Quality

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28 2011) Researchers found that exposure to organochlorine pesticides significantly alters semen quality in young men from southeast Spain. The study found 18 pesticides in the blood of the study participants, including some banned in Spain, such as DDT, and others legal in in the country, such as the fungicide vinclozolin.

The analysis was conducted by Clemente Aguilar from the Medical Research Laboratory of the University Hospital San Cecilio, Granada, Spain, and coordinated by Marieta Fernández, Marina Lacasaña and Nicolás Olea (University of Granada), basing on a sample of 280 volunteer students aged 18-23 years from the University of Almería, Spain.

All the study participants had at least one pesticide in considerable concentrations. The average number of pesticides detected in the blood tests was 11.

Southeast Spain is a region where two out of ten young men have poor sperm density. Even though exposure to some organochlorines proved to increase total spermatic number and total sperm motility levels, other pesticides were highly associated with a reduction in sperm levels. This might be due to the fact that some of these pesticides are considered to be estrogenic endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are substances that interfere with natural hormones in the body responsible for reproduction, development and/or behavior. In the case of vinclozolin, a known endocrine disruptor, the study showed a strong correlation between exposure to it and malformation rates in spermatozoa.

Another similar study in the United States has linked pesticides to abnormal genitals in baby boys, such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias, and decreased sperm counts in men.

Historical studies show that the quality of sperm in humans has decreased rapidly in the last 50 years. Reproductive specialists attribute a worldwide sperm count decline by approximately 50% since the1930s to exposures to high concentrations of estrogens or estrogen-like substances during embryonic, fetal, and early postnatal development.

Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment April 8-9 in Denver, CO is a great opportunity to learn more about endocrine disruptors and their dangers to public health. The President of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Theo Colborn, PhD, is scheduled to speak. She is the author of numerous scientific publications about compounds that interfere with hormones and other chemical messengers that control development in wildlife and humans. Her incisive research has demonstrated that endocrine disrupting chemicals alter development of the fetus in the womb by interfering with the natural hormonal signals directing fetal growth. She is co-author of the groundbreaking 1996 book Our Stolen Future. Her work has prompted the enactment of new important laws around the world.

Photo Source: Inhabitots

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25
Mar

Conference Calls for Sustainability in Personal and Community Choices

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2011) From protecting pollinators and banning genetic engineering to going organic in the food we eat and the way we manage our yards, parks and open spaces – these are just a few of the issues that will be addressed at the 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, April 8-9 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver (Aurora), Colorado. Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale Inc., publisher of Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines, and the author of Organic Manifesto will be a conference keynote speaker. See the full speaker list and schedule of events. Registration is $35 and includes all sessions and organic food.

Leading up to the 29th National Pesticide Forum in Denver, Beyond Pesticides and the Denver Botanic Gardens will be hosting a free screening of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees on Wednesday, April 6th, 7:00pm at the Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York Street). The film, which is narrated by Ellen Page, takes a piercing investigative look at the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee and empowers the audience to fight back.

Call to the Conference:

This national forum convenes at a critical crossroads –as we strive for sustainability in our personal and community choices. Central to the concept of sustainability are the issues and practices addressed at this gathering, Sustainable Community, that challenge us to adopt strategies to protect and nurture the web of life in the context of economic pressures that raise affordability issues.

The signals become clearer every day –threatened honeybees, adverse effects on children’s ability to learn, detrimental impacts on the endocrine system, involuntary chemical exposure through air, land, water and food, uncontrolled dispersal of genetically engineered organisms, and insect resistance and reduced efficacy of chemical control strategies. Policies at the local, state and national level can conspire to ignore issues of sustainability or they can incorporate the scientific awareness of the hazards, gaps in knowledge, and uncertainties, while seeking to prevent them with precautionary strategies.

Sustainability suggests that we advance strategies that support healthy ecosystems which support healthy organisms, be they plants, wildlife, or humans. In this context, unwanted organisms in land and buildings are managed through prevention strategies that focus on site conditions. Many ask, “Can we afford to adopt sustainable policies and practices?” To which others answer, “Can we afford not to?” We have learned time and time again from incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion and the most recent the Japanese nuclear disaster that when we are facing questions of public health and environmental protection prevention is less costly than disease treatment or remediation (if these responses are feasible).

Sustainable strategies protect the general public, and offer the most protection to those at elevated risk because of their vulnerabilities or underlying health condition, hazardous workplace exposures, or living conditions near contaminated sites or prone to high toxic chemical use.

Our approach to sustainability strategies, to be successful, cannot be sidetracked by toxic chemical reduction tactics that fail to embrace a natural systems approach with deep respect for nature’s interdependencies and the impact of minute toxic chemical exposures that wreak havoc with biological systems during critical windows of vulnerability, or create imbalances that lead to pesticide dependency and the chemical treadmill effect.

We join together for this conference with increased enthusiasm and a growing number of households and communities committed to sustainable management approaches. As we advocate and offer support for clearly defined sustainable management systems, we must hold ourselves and decision makers to a core principle of protecting public health and the environment, recognizing that it will pay for itself in the near term and for future generations.

We hope you can join us at the Forum. Register online.

Register online at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Register online at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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24
Mar

Republican Bill Increases Taxpayer Costs To Bring Pesticides to Market

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2011) Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, a Republican member of Congress and the House Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over pesticide registration law, wants taxpayers to pay for the research of new chemicals to manage bedbugs and has introduced an earmarked bill to establish a government panel and grants for chemical product research. Rep Schmidt’s bill, H.R. 967, the Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act of 2011 is hailed by the pest control industry because it will push for expedited use of chemicals in the fight against bedbugs just as many in the industry are shifting to integrated pest management (IPM) practices that focus on non-chemical methods utilizing pest exclusion techniques, steam treatment, and other non-toxic methods.

Using funds appropriated to carry out this Act, three grants will be awarded to State agencies to conduct a pilot program under which political subdivisions of the State and housing authorities in the State use the grant funds to supplement on-going bed bug prevention and mitigation activities. Though the bill does not specify Ohio by name, it states that “At least one of the three grants shall be awarded to one such State agency that, before November 1, 2009, submitted a public health exemption request under section 18, which proposed a use of a pesticide to control bed bugs, but which was voluntarily canceled under section 6(f).

In 2009, the State of Ohio, dealing with infestation in several major cities, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the indoor use of the pesticide propoxur. The agency considers propoxur to be a probable carcinogen and, due to concerns posed to children, banned it for in-home use in 2007. About 25 other states supported Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption. In comments to the agency objecting to the petition for propoxur, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental and public health advocates urged the agency to reject the request, citing numerous serious public health threats associated with the chemical, as well as the availability of alternatives. EPA rejected Ohio’s petition in June 2010.

In addition, H.R. 967 amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to make it easier and faster to register new pesticide products. The announcement for this bill comes at the heels of another bill, H.R 872, Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 which will weaken the Clean Water Act (CWA) requirement to evaluate local impacts of pesticide use on waterways across the nation.

The bill also amends FIFRA to include bed bugs in the definition of “Vector Organisms” along with cockroaches, despite the fact that there have been no known cases of diseases transmitted through these pests. The bill will also expedite the approval or registration of the pest control methods that are identified by the grant-supported research by utilizing some known loopholes, including sections 18 (emergency exemption) and 24 (special local needs) under FIFRA.

It also establish a research program authorizing the use of grants to develop efficacy tests for minimum risk chemicals and for identifying new methods of managing bed bugs. There is no specific mention of what kind of management techniques are to be used, however given that the purpose of the bill is to expedite the approval of pesticides, and given that these grants will be determined through the help of a task force made up of representatives of the pest control industry, among others, it is most likely that the new methods will be chemical oriented.

H.R. 967 authorizes funds to provide subsidized treatments for low and fixed income people. These funds are to be used to hire commercial applicators to provide control that is proven to be effective, to purchase and distribute mattress covers, to conduct bed bug monitoring activities and to treat used mattresses and furniture using methods proven to control all life stages of bed bugs. Steam and heat treatments are both proven to kill all stages of bed bugs safely; however there is no specific mention in the bill for what particular method is to be used.

Unfortunately, this bill misses the mark as a comprehensive solution to the current bed bug problem in the U.S. The resurgence of bed bugs in recent years is believed to be caused in large part by increasingly widespread pesticide resistance. Public anxiety about the pests and drastic attempts to stem the spread through various means often includes the use of highly toxic and harmful chemicals. The bottom line is that chemical treatments are often more harmful than the bed bugs themselves. Fortunately, they are also not actually necessary, as these pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An Integrative 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 program page which includes a detailed fact sheet discussing bed bugs, the problems with pesticide treatments, and alternative control methods.

Additionally, Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, will address issues of pesticide resistance and includes a workshop on managing bed bugs and other pests without toxic pesticides. Entomologist and extension specialist at Rutgers University and national expert on bed bug control Changlu Wang, PhD will be speaking. His research focuses on developing new and improved urban pest management technologies through the study of biology, behavior, and ecology of urban pests. His goal is to identify cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions that will immediately benefit the consumers. Currently, Dr. Wang’s research is focused on bed bug and cockroach resistance to commonly used pesticides and least toxic control strategies. The conference will be in held in Denver, CO April 8-9, 2011. More information, including how to register, can be found at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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