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Extreme Weather Events Create Chemical Health Risks

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2017) Response to the recent and powerful hurricanes that buffeted the Caribbean and continental U.S. focused first and rightly on the acute potential impacts: risks to life and limb; loss of power; damaged transportation systems; food and fuel shortages; exposure to pathogens and infectious diseases (via compromised drinking water, exposure to sewage or wastewater from overwhelmed systems, and simple proximity to other people in storm shelters); damage to and destruction of homes and buildings; and mental health issues. Yet, as has become more evident with the experience of many ferocious and flooding storms in recent memory —Katrina (2005), Ike (2008), Irene (2011), Isaac (2012), Sandy (2012), and Harvey, Irma, José, and Maria (all in 2017)— another significant threat to human health accompanies such events. Processing and storage facilities for petroleum products, pesticides, and other chemicals can be compromised by floodwaters, releasing toxicants into those waters and the soil, and explosions and fires from damaged chemical facilities can add airborne contaminant exposure to the list of risks. The chemicals in floodwaters can also infiltrate into groundwater or water treatment systems, and some can be dragged back out to sea as floodwaters recede. If pesticides, petroleum derivatives, and other […]

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Pesticide-Induced Autism Risk Reduced with Important Vitamin

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, September 14, 2017) Children whose mothers took folic acid while pregnant had a significantly lower risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) even when their mothers were exposed to household or agricultural pesticides. Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that taking folic acid during the window around conception, reduced the risk of pesticide-induced autism. In the study, “Combined Prenatal Pesticide Exposure and Folic Acid Intake in Relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder,” children whose mothers took 800 or more micrograms of folic acid (the amount in most prenatal vitamins) had a significantly lower risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, even when their mothers were exposed to household or agricultural pesticides that are associated with increased risk. The study used data from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study, where researchers looked at 296 children between 2 and 5 who had been diagnosed with ASD and 220 who had developed typically. Mothers were interviewed about their household pesticide exposure during pregnancy, as well as their folic acid and B vitamin intake. The team also linked data from California Pesticide Use reports, which provided important details about agricultural spraying, with the mothers’ addresses. The results […]

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Farmers’ Greater Risk of Diabetes Linked to Pesticide Exposure

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, September, 2017) A recently released report, Gallup-Sharecare State of Well-Being: The Face of Diabetes in the United States, looks at high diabetes rates across various U.S. demographic groups, including those in farming. People working in the transportation sector registered the highest incidence of diagnosed diabetes at 10.6%. But those working as farmers and fishermen came in second, with 8.5% reporting a diagnosis of the disease. Based on a self-reporting survey, The Face of Diabetes in the United States did not differentiate between Type 1 diabetes (which typically manifests in childhood or young adulthood) and Type 2 diabetes (which commonly emerges in adulthood). It did, however, consider lifestyle risk factors that can influence development of each form of the disease. The “farmer and fisher” folks placed more-or-less in the mid-range among all occupations vis-à-vis several of the lifestyle factors that can impact development of the disease (smoking, diet, and obesity), and a bit higher in alcohol consumption, but in fact, reported more exercise than any other category of worker. These data points would seem to suggest that farmers would be at less risk than those in some other occupational categories. For instance, those working in “installation and repair” reported […]

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Birth Abnormalities Linked to Pesticide Exposures

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, August 31, 2017) Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara report in a new study that exposure to pesticides as a result of living near agricultural areas increases the risk of giving birth to a baby with abnormalities. These results are more significant for those exposed to very high levels of pesticides, underscoring the continued risks faced by farmworkers and farmworker families, especially mothers living near chemically-intensive treated fields. The study, “Agricultural pesticide use and adverse birth outcomes in the San Joaquin Valley of California,” looked at individual birth and demographic characteristics for over 500,000 birth observations between 1997 and 2011 in the agriculturally dominated San Joaquin Valley, California. The researchers, who report their findings as, “the most comprehensive to date, bringing together the largest data file ever compiled on street-address level birth outcomes and fine scale exposure to agricultural pesticides,” analyzed residential agricultural pesticide exposure during gestation, by trimester, and by toxicity influences on birth outcomes: birth weight, gestational length, or birth abnormalities. Adverse birth outcomes increased by 5–9% among those exposed to very high quantities of pesticides (e.g., top 5th percentile, i.e., ~4,200 kg per square mile applied over gestation). According to the results, “ The magnitude of effects were further enlarged […]

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Neurotoxic Pesticide Detected in Air at High Levels in California County

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2017) Air monitoring in Kern County, California, finds levels of the highly neurotoxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, in excess of the levels of concern established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for pregnant women. Chlorpyrifos is linked to low IQs, autism and other developmental neurological effects. Earlier this year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt refused to ban chlorpyrifos to the dismay of many scientists, medical professionals, and farmworker organizations. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released its 2016 air monitoring data where it was revealed that chlorpyrifos air concentrations for a one-month period at the air monitoring site on the campus of Shafter High School in Kern County was 39.4 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) – more than 18 times higher than EPA’s level of concern for pregnant women (2.1 ng/m3).  Shafter High School is some distance from fields in an area where chlorpyrifos use is not as high as in other parts of Kern County or elsewhere in California. More than 1.1 million pounds of chlorpyrifos was used in California in 2015, and more than a quarter of that is used in Kern County. High chlorpyrifos levels at a school means that children and unsuspecting teachers and […]

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Take Action: Back-to-School; Stop the Toxic Pesticide Use

Monday, August 28th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2017) School policies must protect children from pesticides by adopting organic land and building management policies and serving organic food in cafeterias. At the start of the school year, it is critical for school administrators to make sure that students and teachers are learning and teaching in an environment where no hazardous pesticides are used in the school’s buildings or on playing fields. It is also essential that children have access to organic food in food programs and manage school gardens organically. Send a letter to your local officials urging them to tell school districts to adopt organic management and serve organic food to students. In addition, there are other things you can do: Whether a parent, teacher, student, school administrator, landscaper or community advocate, there are steps that should be taken to make sure the school environment is a safe from toxic chemicals, as the new school year begins. For Parents and Teachers: Because children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure due to their smaller size and developing organ systems, using toxic pesticides to get control insects, germs, and weeds can harm students much more than it helps. The good news is that these poisons are unnecessary, given the availability of […]

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Ask Your Senators to Co-Sponsor Bill to Ban Chlorpyrifos, the Neurotoxic Pesticide that Harms Children—After EPA Reversal

Monday, August 14th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2017) Ask your U.S. Senators to co-sponsor legislation to ban the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the previous administration’s proposal to discontinue its food uses. [The bill is currently co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).] With EPA’s own assessment that the chemical is too toxic to children, it is time for Congress to intervene to get this highly toxic pesticide off the market. In March 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed a 2015 proposal to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos. A revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances would have effectively banned the chemical from use in agriculture. Instead, Administrator Pruitt’s decision indicated the agency will continue to study chlorpyrifos and would not take any action until 2022. EPA’s assessment, which incorporates recommendations from a 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), finds that children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos have developmental delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders. The SAP agreed with EPA that there is an association between chlorpyrifos prenatal exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children. In 2016, EPA concluded […]

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Bill to Ban Neurotoxic Chlorpyrifos Introduced in the U.S. Senate

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2017) Earlier this week U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill that would ban use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos. The Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act, S. 1624, comes one week after an appeals court refused to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make a decision over whether to ban the chemical. Removing this neurotoxic insecticide from the environment would significantly reduce health risks for children and farmworkers in underserved rural communities, build pressure to address all toxic organophosphates, and help push U.S. agriculture in a more sustainable direction. As with other organophosphate class chemicals, chlorpyrifos, first registered in 1965 by Dow Chemical, is derived from nerve agents used during World War 2. The chemical is linked to a range of negative health and environmental outcomes that warrant its prohibition. Children are at particular risk from the chemical due to their developing immune, organ, and nervous systems.  As with other organophosphate nerve agents, the chemical acts on the body’s nervous system, inhibiting the movement of neurotransmitters called cholinesterase. Chlorpyrifos chemically binds to the site where cholinesterase would in the body, preventing normal nerve impulse transmission. […]

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Doctor in South Florida Sues to Block Hazardous Mosquito Spray

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2017) South Florida resident Michael Hall, M.D., filed an emergency request in federal court last week to block Miami-Dade County’s continued use of the organophosphate insecticide naled to control mosquito populations. There have been two rounds of aerial naled applications in Miami-Dade this year. Widespread use of the chemical in efforts to control the transmission of Zika last year prompted protests from residents complaining of health effects from the spraying, and calls to focus on less toxic, alternative methods of mosquito breeding prevention and control. The present use of naled in Miami-Dade is not focused on Zika control, but addressing the native salt marsh mosquito, which does not transmit human diseases, but can be a significant nuisance in shoreline areas. According to WLRN, officials are no longer using naled for Zika control as the mosquito species that carries it, Aedes aegypti, usually stays well hidden under vegetation and shrubbery. A study released last year confirmed that the county’s use of naled did little to reduce mosquito populations. “Naled, a potent organophosphate adulticide applied aerially, produced a transitory suppression in Wynwood but lost efficacy after two or three applications. In Miami Beach, aerial application of naled produced […]

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Did Dow Chemical Influence the EPA Administrator’s Decision to Reverse Chlorpyrifos Ban?

Friday, June 30th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, June 30, 2017) Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), met privately with Dow Chemical’s CEO several weeks before reversing EPA’s tentative decision to ban chlorpyrifos, according to records recently obtained by the Associated Press (AP). A copy of Mr. Pruitt’s schedule reveals he met with Dow CEO, Andrew Liveris, on March 9 at a Houston hotel and “twenty days later Pruitt announced his decision to deny a petition to ban Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide from being sprayed on food.” At a hearing this week, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) pressed Mr. Pruitt to name a peer-reviewed study that indicates that chlorpyrifos is safe. Mr. Pruitt answered by saying that “he had relied on ‘interagency dialogue’ with USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] before denying the petition to ban the chemical.” In a congressional hearing earlier this month regarding chlorpyrifos’ safety, Mr. Pruitt stated that his decision was founded on “meaningful data and meaningful science.” However, AP followed up with EPA to provide details on this science, and Mr. Pruitt’s office replied with quotes from trade groups and USDA, but failed to provide any scientific studies on the chemical’s safety. In March 2017, in an about-face, EPA’s Administrator […]

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Common Mosquito Control Insecticides Decrease Motor Function in Infants

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2017) Prenatal exposure to commonly used mosquito and agricultural insecticides is associated with decreased motor function in infants, according to a study published in Environment International by a team of Chinese and U.S. researchers. The results of the study should give pause to insecticide-heavy efforts to control mosquitoes as the season ramps up this summer and fall. Frequent spraying as part of efforts to control Zika in Southern Florida last year resulted in large protests and calls for a preventive management approach not dependent on toxic chemicals. For the current study, over 350 pregnant Chinese mothers were tested for the presence of organophosphate pesticides in their umbilical cord blood. Researchers looked at exposure to the insecticides naled, methamidophos, trichlorfon, chlorpyrifos, and phorate. After giving birth, their children’s motor function was tested at both six and nine months of age. Tests included an analysis of the infant’s reflexes, locomotion, grasping, stationary and visual-motor integration abilities. Scores were categorized based on gross, fine, and total motor skills, and standardized quotients were created for each of the categories. Of the over 300 mothers, roughly 240 had detectable levels of one of the insecticides in their samples. Although no differences […]

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Groups, AGs Challenge EPA Decision to Allow Insecticide Chlorpyrifos in Agriculture

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2017) On Monday, numerous organizations filed an administrative appeal to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeking to reverse Scott Pruitt’s order to continue allowing the toxic organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos in agriculture, and revoke all tolerances (allowed food residues) of the chemical. On the same day, Attorneys General (AGs) from seven states announced legal objections to Scott Pruitt’s order, also calling for a reversal of the decision and a revocation of all tolerances. Allowing the continued use of chlorpyrifos runs counter to findings of independent science and EPA’s own scientists, which establish unacceptable risks to humans and the environment. The administrative appeal, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of 12 environmental, labor, and civil rights organizations, resulted from the decision by EPA to allow the use of chlorpyrifos while it studies the safety of the chemical. The seven AGs, in their filing, are charging that EPA wrongfully approved the continued use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture without first gathering and assessing the full safety data, as required by the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Many environmental groups spoke out in favor of these filings. “There’s a good reason this dangerous toxin has been banned from indoor use for more […]

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Pruitt’s EPA Delays New Rules to Protect Pesticide Applicators

Monday, May 15th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2017) Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the direction of new Administrator Scott Pruitt, announced that it will delay for one year the implementation of a final rule that revised and updated protections for certified pesticide applicators –the workers who apply the most hazardous pesticides, restricted used pesticides. The new rules require increased training for certified applicators and increase the minimum age of a worker to 18 years, updates to which industry has objected. Against the backdrop of recent high-profile poisonings, the delay requested by industry interests places these workers and the public at continued risk. The Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule was made final on January 4, 2017, revising regulations regarding the certification of applicators of restricted use pesticides (RUPs). The rule was scheduled to go into effect March 6, 2017, but was delayed to March 21, 2017 by the new Trump Administration, which placed a mandatory freeze on all new regulations coming out of federal agencies. Now the Pruitt-led EPA states in the notice that it has “determined that the effective date of the revised Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule should be extended until May 22, 2018. EPA is taking this […]

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Exposure to Heavy Pesticide Use Can Impact Neurobehavioral Performance in Children

Friday, May 12th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2017) Researchers from the University of California San Diego, School of Medicine, in collaboration with scientists from Ecuador and Minnesota, have found that exposure to heavy pesticide use during peak periods can impact neurobehavioral performance in children. The study focused on exposure to organophosphate pesticides, which have been associated with a broad range of diseases in both children and adults. The study, published in NeuroToxicology, involved 308 non-worker Ecuadorian children between the ages of 4 and 9. Neurobehavioral performance for each child was tested once between 63 and 100 days after the Mother’s Day flower harvest, which is a period of high pesticide use in Ecuador. The researchers found that children examined sooner after Mother’s Day had lower scores than children who were tested later. “Children examined sooner after the flower harvest displayed lower performance on most measures, such as attention, self-control, visuospatial processing (the ability to perceive and interact with our visual world) and sensorimotor (eye-hand coordination) compared to children examined later in a time of lower flower production and pesticide use,” said Jose R. Suarez-Lopez, MD, PhD, and lead author of the study, to ScienceBlog. Dr. Suarez-Lopez continued, “This discovery is novel because it […]

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Infected Mosquito Trial Launched Against Zika and Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Monday, May 1st, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, May 1, 2017) The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District released 20,000 male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria near Key West, as a trial strategy to manage mosquitoes that carry Zika and other viruses. The district and others have been exploring new ways to suppress infected Aedes aegypti mosquito populations, which thrive in urban environments and can spread Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya. It is unclear what impacts, if any, these infected mosquitoes will have on non-target organisms or public health. The trial is the second U.S. test conducted with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, developed by the Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate. The first test occurred in Clovis, California, last year. In September 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which registers mosquito control products, approved and expanded an experimental use permit (EUP) for Wolbachia pipientis-infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (not to be confused with genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes).  According to the agency, Wolbachia are naturally occurring bacteria commonly found in most insect species, but not in the Aedes aegypti. This strain of Wolbachia is extracted from Aedes albopictus embryos and microinjected into Aedes aegypti embryos. Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are shipped to testing sites where they are released and mate with wild-type Aedes aegypti females that do not carry Wolbachia. After mating, the […]

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Dow Urges Trump Administration to Ignore Pesticide Impacts on Endangered Species

Monday, April 24th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2017) After contributing $1 million to Donald Trump’s presidential festivities, pesticide maker Dow Chemical Co. is asking the Administration to set aside previous findings of federal scientists across multiple agencies that confirm the risks that organophosphate pesticides pose to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species. This comes after the Administration abandoned plans to restrict the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, also an organophosphate pesticide created by Dow, despite mountains of evidence that show the chemical’s neurotoxic impacts on children’s brains. In letters sent to government officials, lawyers for Dow urge Administration officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set aside “biological evaluations” that detail how three highly toxic organophosphate insecticides –chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon– harm nearly all 1,800 threatened and endangered animals and plants, claiming the process to be “fundamentally flawed.” Federal agencies tasked with protecting endangered species –EPA, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture– have worked for years to identify the risks posed by pesticides to threatened and endangered species under to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under Section 7 of ESA, states that any agency action must find that it “is not likely to jeopardize […]

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Environmental Groups Turn Back to the Courts to Ban Chlorpyrifos

Friday, April 7th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2017) On Wednesday, Earthjustice, representing the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) turned to the courts to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban chlorpyrifos. Their action comes on the heels of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision last week to reject the conclusions of EPA scientists and reverse a proposed agency decision to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos. In the new petition, the environmental groups assert that, “Because EPA has sidestepped this Court’s orders and failed to act on the substance of the petition, PAN/NRDC respectfully ask the Court to [give] EPA 30 days to act on its findings that chlorpyrifos exposures are unsafe and to establish deadlines for the next steps in the revocation and cancellation process.” In an interview with The Intercept, Patti Goldman, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Northwest regional office in Seattle, WA, stated that, “It’s outrageous that the new EPA administrator would reject the scientific findings of its own agency and defy the law and court orders to keep this nasty pesticide on the market.” In its most recent analysis of chlorpyrifos, EPA determined that children between one and two years of age […]

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EPA Reverses Course and Allows Continued Use of Highly Neurotoxic Pesticide, Chlorpyrifos

Friday, March 31st, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2017) On Wednesday, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rejected the conclusions of EPA scientists, and independent scientific literature, and reversed a tentative decision from 2015 to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos due to the chemical’s neurotoxic impacts. This would have effectively banned chlorpyrifos from agriculture. This decision stemmed from a petition and lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)  ten years ago, calling for EPA to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all registrations. A Federal Appeals court mandated that EPA take final action by March 31, 2017. Mr. Pruitt’s decision leaves the door open for continued neurotoxic dangers for humans, especially children, who have been shown to be especially vulnerable to chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is part of the organophosphate (OPs) class of pesticides, which were used in World War II as nerve agents. As potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, given that they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. The scientific evidence of neurotoxic dangers associated with chlorpyrifos exposure is extensive and consistent. Epidemiological data also […]

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U.S. House Passes Bill that Supports EPA’s Pesticide Regulatory Program

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2017) The U.S.  House of Representatives voted last week to pass H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017 (PREA), reauthorizing the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2003 (PRIA) under the nation’s pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). When passed in 2003, PRIA established the legal authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect fees from pesticide makers for safety reviews and market approval. Over time, PRIA has been supported by pesticide manufacturers that are seeking approval for pesticide products, and public health and environmental groups seeking rigorous review and restriction of pesticides to protect human health and the environment. In a time of great uncertainty for the future of EPA, given proposed large-scale budget cuts, swift passage of H.R. 1029 with bipartisan support may signal acknowledgement by Congress that EPA performs a regulatory function that all sides agree is necessary, even though there is rarely agreement on the positions that the agency may take. Proposed reductions in EPA staff speak to the idiosyncrasies inherent in the Trump administration’s promise to reduce regulatory burdens while simultaneously making sweeping cuts to agency staff. E&E News points out that Trump’s plan to […]

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California Weakens Rules to Protect Children from Pesticide Drift, Comment Period Open until April 4

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2017) Last week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released revised rules regarding notification of pesticide applications near schools, weakening standards despite opposition from community and public health groups. The new rules rescind a requirement that schools be granted 48 hours prior notification for a planned application of agricultural pesticides within ¼ mile of a school site. CDPR has re-opened public comments on the new rules, and concerned residents have until April 4 to submit a short statement urging increased protections to the Department at dpr16004@cdpr.ca.gov. Public health, farmworker, and community groups had urged CDPR to strengthen, not weaken common-sense protections for children’s health. As the rules currently stand, applications of toxic, drift-prone pesticides will only be restricted within ¼ mile of a school site, and only during the hours of 6am to 6pm on weekdays. The original proposal required 48 hour prior notification for other agricultural pesticide applications occurring within ¼ mile of school sites during these times. However, CDPR’s revised rules now only require 48 hour notification if the pesticides applied are not on a list provided to school officials at the beginning of the year. Applicators will still be required to submit annual reports […]

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Study Finds Pesticide Use Does Not Increase Profits for Farmers

Friday, March 10th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2017) A French study published last week has found that higher pesticide use does not mean larger profits, demonstrating that farmers can reduce their usage of pesticides without worrying about their profits being affected, in most cases. Similar studies have shown that organic and conventional yields are comparable, supporting the case for farmers to transition from high pesticide use to healthier, safer, and more profitable alternatives. The study, led by Martin Lechenet, a PhD student with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, looked at data from 946 French farms, including yields, pesticide application rates, soil characteristics, and local climate conditions. The researchers then used a model to focus on the relationship between pesticide application rates and productivity or profitability. They found that, in 77% of the farms, higher pesticide use was not linked to a higher profit. The researchers then estimated that pesticide use could be reduced by 42% without any negative effects on current profit levels in 59% of farms in their national network. According to the researchers, their results demonstrate the ability to reduce pesticide usage for most farmers in current production situations. In addition, other studies support the finding that farmers do not have […]

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Organic Agriculture Offers Clear Human Health Benefits, According to European Report

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2017) A recent European Parliament (EP) report concludes that organic agriculture and food offer clear human health benefits over chemical-intensive agriculture. The report, Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture, which was written by scientists from universities across Europe, used existing scientific literature to assess the human health effects from organic agricultural systems. The authors determined that organic agriculture has considerable benefits, including reduction in antibiotic resistance, lowered levels of cadmium in organic crops, and decreased dietary pesticide exposure levels. According to the EP report, “Overall, consumption of organic food substantially decreases the consumer’s dietary pesticide exposure, as well as acute and chronic risks from such exposure.” Organic farming is a systems approach that values healthy, biologically active soils to support plant life and provide critical environmental benefits, such as improved water infiltration, pest suppression, and carbon storage. It is through this preventive, systems approach that organic agriculture eliminates the necessity for pesticides, and instead relies upon soil health to prevent the problems that chemical-intensive agriculture cannot. This report adds to the growing body of evidence on impaired learning and lowered IQs in children prenatally exposed to low levels of certain pesticides, such as organophosphates. The […]

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Common Household Pesticides Again Linked to Behavioral Problems in Children

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2017) Another study, published by a team of French scientists in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, links childhood behavioral problems to pyrethroid insecticide exposure. Synthetic pyrethroids are a class of insecticides that have increased in use over the past decade due to assumptions that they pose fewer risks to human health than older pesticide chemistries, such as organophosphates. However, this latest study is part of a growing body of research showing that pyrethroids share similar neurocognitive health concerns as these older pesticides. .   In this research, scientists investigate the interplay between pyrethroid exposure and behavioral problems through a longitudinal cohort study, which tracks levels of pyrethroid metabolites, or breakdown products, in the urine of mothers beginning between six and 19 gestational weeks and then in their children up through six years of age. Children’s behavior is measured through a screening questionnaire known as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). SDQ measures how social a child is (altruism), whether the child has difficulty sharing problems or asking for help (internalizing disorders), as well as how defiant or disruptive a child is (externalizing disorders). The study controlled for a number of confounding factors, such as weight, education, location (rural or […]

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