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New Research Links Pesticides to Cardiovascular Disease

Friday, October 14th, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, October 14, 2011) Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have found that environmental toxicants such as dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides can pose a risk for cardiovascular disease. The results of the study, entitled “Circulating Levels of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Carotid Atherosclerosis in the Elderly,” show a link between exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including several organochlorine pesticides, and the development of atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease. The study will be published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and a version of it is available online ahead of print. Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, are the most common cause of death in industrialized countries, and the most important underlying cause of these diseases is atherosclerosis. Unbalanced blood fats, diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure are traditionally recognized risk factors for atherosclerosis. Previous studies have also reported possible links between cardiovascular disease and high levels of persistent (long-lived and hard-to-degrade) organic environmental toxicants, such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides. These compounds are fat-soluble and can therefore accumulate in vessel walls. However, no earlier studies have investigated possible links between exposure to these compounds and atherosclerosis. Of the POPs that were screened […]

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Persistent Organic Pollutants Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, July 5, 2011) Recent findings add to a growing body of evidence that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) might drive changes in the body that lead to diabetes, researchers say. A new study finds that environmental exposure to some POPs substantially increased risk of future type 2 diabetes in an elderly population. POPs are lipophilic (fat-loving) chemicals that accumulate mainly in adipose tissue and have recently been linked to type 2 diabetes. This current study, “Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Organochlorine Pesticides in Plasma Predict Development of Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly: The Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) Study,” sought to follow up on previous findings that had linked these chemicals with type 2 diabetes and was performed to evaluate prospective associations of type 2 diabetes with selected POPs among the elderly. The team recruited a group of 725 diabetes-free elderly adults in Sweden and took blood samples to measure their levels of the pollutants. Then, the researchers followed them for the next five years. Thirty-six of the study participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over that time. Nineteen POPs (14 polychlorinated biphenyl [PCB] congeners, 3 organochlorine pesticides1 brominated diphenyl ether, and 1 dioxin) were […]

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DDT-Era Pesticide Endosulfan Finally Banned Globally

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2011) Nations gathering in Geneva last week finally agreed to add endosulfan, an antiquated persistent insecticide, to the Stockholm Convention’s list of banned substances. The decision follows recommendations from the December 2009 Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), which call for urgent “global action” to address health and environmental impacts of the toxic pesticide. Scientific experts at the POPRC concluded that endosulfan is likely to cause significant adverse human health and environmental effects as a result of the chemical’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media. Environmental health and justice organizations from around the world who have been working toward a ban welcomed the decision. Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide that was first registered for use in the U.S. in the 1950s. It is an endocrine disruptor and exposure in male children may delay sexual maturity and interfere with sex hormone synthesis. Male school children exposed to the highly toxic insecticide endosulfan showed delayed sexual maturity compared with similar children who were not exposed. Endosulfan also appears to interfere with sex hormone synthesis in males aged 10-19 years in a community of cashew plantations in […]

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Indian Government Resists Ban on Endosulfan, A Chemical It Manufactures

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2011) Despite the numerous scientific data on the devastating health and environmental consequences of endosulfan —a pesticide so toxic that is banned in over 60 countries including the U.S., officials in India say that a ban on the widely used chemical would put the country’s food security at risk and harm the welfare of farmers. However, thousands of villagers in Kerala, India, who have become disabled due to the use of the pesticide, pushed for a state ban in 2004 and have since joined the global movement to ban endosulfan. Doctors say that over 550 deaths and health problems in over 6,000 people in the region are related to the aerial spraying of the pesticide over cashew farms between 1979 and 2000. “Six thousand patients living with disabilities is not enough scientific evidence to enforce a national ban?,” asked B.C. Kumar, to the Washington Post. Kumar’s father, a cashew farm laborer, died of cancer. The endosulfan industry in India is estmiated to be worth over $100 million, making it the world’s largest producer, exporter and user of the product. The three companies that produce the product in India, including one that is partially government-owned, claim that […]

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Study Links Low Dose POPs Exposure to Type 2 Diabetes

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2010) A study published in the September 2010 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives links low dose exposure to some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to type 2 diabetes. The authors report that some POPs, including highly chlorinated PCBs, PBB153 and the organochlorine insecticides trans-nonachlor, oxychlordane and mirex, were associated with type 2 diabetes over an 18-year period, especially in obsese people. However, POPs did not show a traditional dose—response relationship with diabetes. Instead, POPs showed strong associations at relatively low exposures. The authors conclude that exposure to relatively low concentrations of certain POPs may play a role in the increased incidence of diabetes in the United States. The study, “Low Dose of Some Persistent Organic Pollutants Predicts Type 2 Diabetes: A Nested Case—Control Study,” examines participants who were diabetes free in 1987—1988. By 2005—2006, the 90 controls remained free of diabetes, whereas the 90 cases developed diabetes. Using serum collected in 1987—1988, the authors measured 8 organochlorine pesticides, 22 polychlorinated biphenyl congeners (PCBs), and 1 polybrominated biphenyl (PBB). They compare POP concentrations from Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) cohort and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2003—2004. Persistent organic […]

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International Panel Recommends Global Action on Endosulfan, Groups Again Urge EPA To Act

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2009) Following a recent recommendation by the international Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to take “global action” to address health and environmental impacts, a broad coalition of 42 environmental, health, labor, and farming groups sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging EPA to finally take action to ban the antiquated insecticide. Acute poisoning from endosulfan can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and even death. Studies have linked endosulfan to smaller testicles, lower sperm production, an increase in the risk of miscarriages and autism. Endosulfan is a potent environmental pollutant and is especially toxic to fish and other aquatic life. It also affects birds, bees, earthworms, and other beneficial insects. Endosulfan travels such long distances that it has been found in Sierra Nevada lakes and on Mt. Everest. This persistent pesticide can also migrate to the Poles on wind and ocean currents where Arctic communities have documented contamination. “It’s time for the U.S. to step up to the plate and get rid of endosulfan,” notes Karl Tupper, Ph.D., staff scientist with Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). “EPA’s review of endosulfan has been dragging on for years. Since 2006 they’ve […]

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Bayer Says It Will Stop Sale of Endosulfan by 2010

Monday, August 10th, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2009) The multinational chemical company Bayer has stated that it will end distribution of the pesticide endosulfan in 2010, and to replace the toxic pesticide with safer alternatives. The decision follows an innovative action in 16 countries, led by Pants to Poverty, the organic and Fairtrade underwear company, and its coalition of partners including Pesticide Action Network, Fairtrade Alliance Kerala and Zameen Organic. In a letter addressed to Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, Bayer said: “We plan to stop the sale of the substance endosulfan by the end of 2010 in all the countries where it is still legally available.” The letter, signed by Bayer CropScience’s head of investor relations, Judith Nestmann, said endosulfan would be replaced by alternatives “with a significantly better risk profile”. Bayer’s decision comes after years of global campaigning by the PAN Network and its partners and allies against this persistent pesticide, which is linked to autism, birth defects and male reproductive harm, as well as deaths and acute injuries to farmers through direct contact. It is banned in over 60 countries including those in the European Union. In the United States endosulfan is used primarily on cotton in the state of California […]

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Stockholm Convention Expanded to Ban Lindane, Other Toxic Chemicals

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2009) Last week, nine new hazardous chemicals were added to the list of chemicals to be banned under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Lindane, a pesticide commonly used in head lice treatments in the U.S. and whose use has already been banned in many countries, was added to the list for phase out. The U.S. Congress has never ratified the Stockhom Convention because of controversy associated with ratification legislation that would weaken federal pesticide law rather than adhere to more protective international standards. Meanwhile, environmental and public health groups in the U.S. have been urging U.S. officials to ban lindane due to its toxic and bioaccumulative effects. More than 160 governments (including those countries that have ratified the Stockholm Converntion) agreed last Saturday to include the nine pesticides and industrial chemicals to the list of 12 other persistent organic pollutants (POPS) in order to strengthen a global effort to eradicate some of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind. The nine chemicals are: ”¢ alpha hexachlorocyclohexane – produced as an unintended byproduct of lindane; ”¢ beta hexachlorocyclohexane -produced as an unintended byproduct of lindane; ”¢ hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether- used in flame […]

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New Zealand Joins Others in Banning Endosulfan, U.S. Use Continues

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2008) The New Zealand’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has announced it will ban the controversial organochlorine pesticide endosulfan, effective January 16, 2009. Endosulfan, already banned in numerous countries including all the European Union countries, is an insecticide used on a wide range of fruits and vegetables and also on athletic fields in New Zealand. Illegal residues have been found in beef destined for South Korea, resulting in enormous costs for New Zealand exporters. Use of endosulfan for agriculture continues in the U.S., despite causing severe health and environmental problems. A coalition of groups, including the Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand (PAN ANZ), Soil and Health Association and Safe Food Campaign, have long campaigned for the banning of endosulfan. Earlier this year, the three organizations carried out a number of residue tests on produce to draw attention to the extent of endosulfan residues, especially in tomatoes. “We are delighted that ERMA has overturned its earlier ”˜proposed’ decision to keep using this pesticide,” stated Meriel Watts, Ph.D., co-coordinator of PAN ANZ. “It would have been deeply embarrassing for New Zealand to continue its use when the pesticide has entered the process for a global ban under […]

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Testicular Defects in Newborns Linked to Prenatal Chemical Exposure

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2008) A new study has found a link between total chemical contamination in the bodies of pregnant women and the risk of cryptorchidism in their male babies. Mothers whose babies were born with the defect had the highest concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), mostly organochlorines like PCB and DDE, in their breast milk. The study, entiltled “Cryptorchidism at birth in Nice area (France) is associated with higher prenatal exposure to PCBs and DDE, as assessed by colostrum concentrations,” and published in the journal Human Reproduction, compared prebirth exposure to chemicals, as measured through their mother’s milk, and the risk of undescended testicles or cryptorchidism, during a three-year period. 164 mother/infant pairs were used and within 3-5 days of delivery, the researchers collected samples of colostrums, or “first milk” from the mother. Colostrum is a form of breast milk that is produced late in pregnancy and immediately after birth before the more creamy milk comes in. It is used as a proxy for what was circulating in the mother’s body and in her fetus during pregnancy. The colostrum was analyzed for three different chemical pollutants including seven polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethylene (DDE) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). […]

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Arsenic Exposure Linked to Diabetes

Monday, September 8th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2008) Inorganic arsenic may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Common sources of inorganic arsenic exposure include dietary exposure, drinking water pollution, and contamination associated with arsenic wood preservatives such as sawdust, smoke, direct contact, and hazardous waste sites. The study found that individuals with diabetes have higher levels of arsenic in the urine compared to individuals without diabetes. Researchers examined randomly selected urine samples taken from 788 U.S. adults 20 years or older that participated in a 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results were adjusted for diabetes risk factors, including body mass index and for organic arsenic compounds found in seafood. “Our findings suggest that low levels of exposure to inorganic arsenic may play a role in diabetes,” said Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. “While prospective studies are needed to establish whether this association is causal, these findings add to the existing concerns about the long-term health consequences of low […]

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Pesticides Contaminate Deep-Sea Food Web

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2008) A new study reports that pesticides, including DDT and tributyltin (TBT), have been found in deep-sea squids and octopods. This study is the first to analyze the chemical contamination of these deep sea organisms, and adds to the body of literature that demonstrates the far-reaching effects of pesticide use on global ecosystems. Pesticide contamination has been documented as far away from the point of use as the arctic and now the deep sea. In the study, to be published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, Michael Vecchione of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and colleagues from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science of The College of William and Mary report finding a wide variety of chemical contaminants in nine species of cephalopods, a class of organisms that includes cuttlefishes and nautiluses along with squids and octopods. Cephalopods are important to the diet of cetaceans, which are marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the blubber of whales and some deep sea fish has already been documented. The twenty-two specimens analyzed were taken from depths between 1000 and 2000 meters (approximately 3,300 and 6,600 ft.) in the North […]

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Study Shows Increased Diabetes Risk from Pesticide Exposure

Friday, June 6th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, June 6, 2008) A recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), finds pesticide applicators with regular exposure to pesticides to be at a greater risk of type-2 diabetes. Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwn028), the study shows specific pesticides produce between a 20 and 200 percent increase in risk. Researchers looked at data from 31,787 pesticide applicators in North Carolina and Iowa over a period of five years. In that period, 1,171, or 3.7 percent, had developed diabetes, particularly for applicators in the highest category of lifetime days of use of any pesticide. “The results suggest that pesticides may be a contributing factor for diabetes along with known risk factors such as diabetes, lack of exercise and having a family history of diabetes,” said Dale Sandler, PhD, chief of the Epidemiology Branch of NIEHS. “Although the amount of diabetes explained by pesticides is small, these new findings may extend beyond the pesticide applicators in the study.” Freya Kamel, PhD, of NIEHS noted that “all of the seven pesticides” associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes are […]

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Melting Glaciers Source of Persistent Pollutants

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2008) New research shows that melting Antarctic glaciers are releasing once frozen stores of persistent organic chemicals, now banned in many parts of the world. Marine biologist, Heidi Geisz, a Ph.D. student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science studying the fate and effect of organic contaminants in the Antarctic, has found that DDT concentrations in penguins has remained at the same levels as they were 30 years ago, when DDT was widely used. Arctic animals such as whales, seals and birds have had a significant decline in their DDT levels during the past decades, while the more stationary Antarctic penguins have not. The study, “Melting Glaciers: A Probable Source of DDT to the Antarctic Marine Ecosystem,” published in Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/es702919n), identifies the melting snow and ice as the continued source of total DDT in this southern ecosystem. The release of DDT also means that other persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including PCBs and PBDEs — industrial chemicals that have been linked to health problems in humans, are also being released. “DDT is not the only chemical that these birds are ingesting and it is certainly not the worst,” Ms. Geisz says. Ms. […]

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Scientists Say Pesticides and Other Pollutants May Be Linked to Diabetes

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2008) University of Cambridge scientists say there may be a link between persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including pesticides, and Type 2 Diabetes. The Cambridge scientists are advocating additional research into the little understood links between environmental pollution and adult onset diabetes. In the most recent edition of the journal Lancet, Oliver Jones, Ph.D., and Julian Griffin, Ph.D., highlight the need to research the possible link between persistent organic pollutants (POPs, a group which includes many pesticides) and insulin resistance, which can lead to adult onset diabetes. In their commentary, Dr. Jones and Dr. Griffin cite peer reviewed research including that of D. Lee, et al, which demonstrated a very strong relationship between the levels of POPs in blood, particularly organochlorine compounds, and the risk of type 2 diabetes. “Of course correlation does not automatically imply causation,” says Dr. Jones. “But if there is indeed a link, the health implications could be tremendous. At present there is very limited information. Research into adult onset diabetes currently focuses on genetics and obesity; there has been almost no consideration for the possible influence of environmental factors such as pollution.” Interestingly, in the Lee study an association between obesity and […]

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Research Suggests That Risk Assessments for POPs Need Revision

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2007) A study conducted by Canadian researchers show that high concentrations of POPs, or Persistent Organic Pollutants, can be observed in humans and other air-breathing animals even though they may not accumulate in fish. This suggests that current risk assessment methodologies need to be changed for identifying potential POPs in birds and mammals. POPs are synthetic, toxic chemicals that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in food chains and are common contaminants in fish, dairy products and other foods. These compounds are generally accepted to be hydrophobic and fat-soluble. Screening for these bioaccumulative compounds is normally conducted with laboratory tests using fish. However researchers Barry C. Kelly, and Frank Gobas, Ph.D., at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia report that this methodology may overlook a significant number of pollutants that pose health risks to air-breathing animals. The study entitled “Food Web—Specific Biomagnification of Persistent Organic Pollutants” (Science 2007, v317, p236) examines the biomagnification of moderately hydrophobic compounds with octanol-water partition coefficients (Kow) between 100 and 100,000 (currently, compounds with Kow greater than 100,000 are generally categorized as bioaccumulative compounds and tend to be hydrophobic and fat-soluble) and compounds with high octanol-air partition coefficients (Koa). The compounds […]

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Happy Birthday Rachel Carson!

Friday, May 25th, 2007

(Beyond Pesticides, May 25, 2007) Rachel Carson, a timely and key voice responsible for warning the public about the dangers of chemical pesticides, would be turning 100 this weekend. Despite succumbing to breast cancer in 1964, her legacy lives on – Rachel Carson’s fight continues today, as her work is more relevant than ever. Rachel Carson authored the seminal book of the modern environmental movement, Silent Spring, published in 1962. The book detailed detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, focusing on bird decline and DDT use. Her message had and continues to have a profound effect, calling on people to think beyond wilderness conservation efforts when protecting the environment – to think about what is happening in every ecosystem, including our own backyards. Silent Spring was instrumental in setting off a chain of events, including Earth Day and the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which subsequently banned almost all DDT use in 1972. Despite all of the honors, awards and praise that have been given in the memory of Rachel Carson, her cause continues to be controversial, especially regarding the dangers of DDT. The latest row has surfaced over claims that the decline in DDT use internationally […]

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