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From July 18, 2006                                                                                                        

Pesticide Warning Labels to Protect Salmon Seldom Making it to Store Shelves
(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2006)
Following a 2004 court-order to mandate warning labels on consumer pesticides, home and garden stores up and down the West Coast are required to warn consumers of the dangers to salmon posed by seven common pesticides. As of June 19, 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) distributed ‘Salmon Hazard’ signs to a list of 4,000 chain stores as part of a legal settlement with consumer and salmon advocates.

The consumer education campaign intends to target hundreds of products containing seven pesticides that contaminate urban streams, and can harm salmon or salmon habitat. All pesticides with the ingredients malathion, carbaryl, 2,4-D, diazinon, diuron, triclopyr, or trifluralin must carry the warning.

"People need to know that the choices they make in the pesticide aisle make a real difference in the health of our salmon runs," said Erika Schreder of Washington Toxics Coalition. "The 'Salmon Hazard' warnings will help consumers buying lawn and garden products make better choices for salmon, and for their families."

The warning label reads: “SALMON HAZARD: This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas pollutes salmon streams.”

"Waterborne pesticides have long been a serious problem for salmon," added Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), a co-plaintiff in the original case. "It is far better to keep these chemicals out of the river in the first place, and much harder to clean up a river after the damage has been done."

Though environmentalists remain hopeful about the prospects of the court order, concern has been raised about the mandated warning actually making its way to store shelves. A spot check of retailers and stores conducted by the Associated Press and the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) found few warnings posted. According to an article in Salem, OR’s Statesman Journal, NCAP checked eight stores in Eugene and found two posting warnings. Washington Toxics Coalition found one store with a warning out of eight checked in Seattle. The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network found four stores posting signs out of 11 checked in western Marin County in California.

“We are not seeing enough stores with the signs up, and it’s concerning,” said Aimee Code of Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides in Eugene, OR. “It is a hugely important issue people need to know about. We would hate to have the breakdown happen in the mailroom of the store.”

In response, EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said, “There is no authority we have to make sure it happens. We are doing our job. It’s up to retailers to just take the responsible path.”

A similar consumer education effort failed in 2004 when the pesticide industry sent consumer warning signs to stores without adequate instructions for posting. "The pesticide industry tried to sink this important consumer education campaign," said Aimee Code of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. "This year, there's no hiding the fact that some pesticides hurt salmon and salmon streams."

The case that mandated the consumer warning signs also mandated no-spray buffers for 38 pesticides along thousands of miles of salmon-supporting waters. The consumer warning signs were included in the order to address the specific concerns of pesticide runoff present in the urban environment where storm drains act as conduits, moving pesticides miles from lawns and gardens to streams and rivers.

For more information, see the Clean Water For Salmon campaign webpage.