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Bringing To Justice Those Who Poison The Environment With Pesticides
(from February 19, 2003)

In the past week, two lawsuits, one in Louisiana and one in Tennessee, highlight the role that the courts can play in bringing to justice those who poison the environment with pesticides. In Louisiana, a water contamination case against Aventis chemical company will go forward and in Tennessee a guilty verdict was issue for the poisoning of birds.

An appeal filed by Aventis was denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court last week regarding a lawsuit brought by crawfish farmers in the state, according to the Associated Press. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruling allows the lawsuit to go forward as a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all crawfish farmers with similar claims against the pesticide manufacturer. The farmers charge that the Icon, a pesticide manufactured by Aventis, that was applied to rice seed to kill water weevils killed the state's 2000 and 2001 crawfish harvest.

ICON contains the active ingredient fipronil, which disrupts insects' central nervous system, acting with contact and stomach action. According to the U.S. EPA Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential, fipronil is classified as a possible human carcinogen.

Studies show that fipronil is highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates, highly toxic to bees, and highly toxic to upland game birds. The photodegradate of fipronil, MB46513, is about ten times more acutely toxic to mammals than fipronil itself and there is potential for bioaccumulation in fatty tissues. The metabolite MB 461 is more highly toxic to birds, and the metabolites MB 46136 and MB 45950 are more highly toxic to freshwater invertebrates than fipronil itself.

Meanwhile, a federal court in Tennessee found a man guilty of poisoning federally protected red-tailed hawks and black vultures with the pesticide aldicarb, according to the Commercial Appeal. The U.S. Department of Justice stated in a press release that in January 2001, the defendant applied the restricted use pesticide to two deer carcasses and one goat carcass that were then placed in a field where various animals and birds consumed them. This resulted in the death of seven red-tailed hawks and two black vultures. The birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Aldicarb is a highly acutely toxic pesticide. Like other carbamate pesticides, aldicarb, and its metabolic products, aldicarb sulfoxide and aldicarb sulfone, reversibly inhibit cholinesterase, an important nervous system enzyme. Studies show that aldicarb is highly toxic to mammals, birds, estuarine/marine organisms, and freshwater organisms.