Dig1 protects against locomotor and biochemical dysfunctions provoked by Roundup
- Steeve Gress,
- Claire Laurant,
- Nicolas Defarge,
- Carine Travert and
- Gilles-Éric Séralini
Background Plant medicinal extracts may be claimed to prevent or cure chemical intoxications. Few of these are tested for their mechanisms of actions in vivo and for their cellular impacts. In 2011, we demonstrated that hepatic cell mortality induced by environmentally realistic levels of the widely used herbicide Roundup (R) in vitro can be almost entirely prevented by plant extracts called Dig1 (D, Digeodren).
Methods We tested the in vivo effects of D alone (1.2 ml/kg bw/d), but also prior to and during 8 days of R intoxication (at 135 mg/kg bw/d) in a total of 4 groups of 40 adult Sprague-Dawley male rats each. After treatments, horizontal and vertical locomotor activities of the animals were measured by use of actimeters. Brain, liver, kidneys, heart and testes were collected and weighted. Body weights as well as feed and water consumption were recorded. Proteins, creatinine, urea, phosphate, potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride ions, testosterone, estradiol, AST and ALT were measured in serum. In liver S9 fractions, GST, GGT, and CYP450 (1A2, 2C9, 2C19, 2D6, 3A4) were assessed.
Results D did not have any physiological or biochemical observable impact alone at 2 %. Out of a total of 29 measured parameters, 8 were significantly affected by R absorption within only 8 days. On these 8 parameters, only 2 were not restored by D (GGT activity and plasmatic phosphate), 5 were totally restored (horizontal and vertical locomotor activities, CYP2D6 activity, plasmatic Na + and estradiol), and the 6th was almost restored (plasmatic K+). The specificities of the toxic effects of R and of the therapeutic effects of D treatment were thus demonstrated, both at the behavioural and biochemical levels.
Conclusions D, without any side effect observable in these conditions, presented strong preventive and therapeutic properties in vivo after a short-term intoxication by the widely used pesticide Roundup.
(D is a mixture of diluted organic plant extracts obtained by Sevene Pharma (Monoblet, France) from independent saturating macerates, corresponding to 1/10 of dried plants in a water-alcohol solution of 45 to 55 %. These are afterwards diluted in 70 % alcohol, with Taraxacum officinalis at 100 ppm (part per million), as well as for Arctium lappa, and Berberis vulgaris at 10 ppm)
Source : BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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Two widely used pesticides likely to harm 97% of endangered species in US
Malathion and chlorpyrifos are each likely to harm most of the 1,782 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants listed under the Endangered Species Act
Almost all of the 1,700 most endangered plants and animals in the US are likely to be harmed by two widely used pesticides, an alarming new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis has found.
Malathion, an insecticide registered for use in the US since 1956, is likely to cause harm to 97% of the 1,782 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants listed under the Endangered Species Act. Malathion is commonly used to treat fruit, vegetables and plants for pests, as well as on pets to remove ticks.
A separate pesticide, chlorpyrifos, is also a severe risk to 97% of America’s most threatened flora and fauna. Chlorpyrifos, which smells a little like rotten eggs, is regularly deployed to exterminate termites, mosquitoes and roundworms.
A third pesticide, diazinon, often used on cockroaches and ants, threatens 79% of endangered species. The EPA study is the first of its kind to look at whether common pesticides harm US wildlife.
The risk posed by malathion and chlorpyrifos is so widespread across the US that the few species considered not at risk are mainly those already classified as extinct, the EPA study found. In March last year, the World Health Organization said that malathion and diazinon are “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “For the first time in history, we finally have data showing just how catastrophically bad these pesticides are for endangered species – from birds and frogs to fish and plants.
“These dangerous pesticides have been used without proper analysis for decades, and now’s the time to take this new information and create commonsense measures to protect plants, animals and people from these chemicals.”
Environmental groups and some farmers have been pushing the federal government to better explain the impact of pesticides upon wildlife and humans. There have been calls to ban seven organophosphate pesticides – used on corn, cotton, watermelon and wheat – due to evidence that they can cause cognitive problems in children and thousands of deaths among bird species.
In January, the EPA acknowledged that imidacloprid, one of the world’s most commonly used pesticides, can be harmful to honeybees, the most important pollinators of crops. Jonathan Lundgren, a senior entomologist, has accused federal agencies of suppressing negative research into the effects of pesticides. Federal officials have rejected the claims.
“The EPA has allowed chemical companies to register more than 16,000 pesticides without properly considering their impacts. That has to stop,” Burd said. “These evaluations are a huge step forward for the EPA. Now that we know the magnitude of danger these pesticides pose, it’s clear we need to take action.”
The EPA was contacted for comment on further action as a result of the studies.
Source : The Guardian
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More evidence of Roundup's link to kidney, liver damage
Long-term exposure to tiny amounts of Roundup—thousands of times lower than what is permitted in U.S. drinking water—may lead to serious problems in the liver and kidneys, according to a new study.
The study looked at the function of genes in these organs and bolsters a controversial 2012 study that found rats exposed to small amounts of the herbicide Roundup in their drinking water had liver and kidney damage.
It is the first to examine the impacts of chronic, low exposure of Roundup on genes in livers and kidneys and suggests another potential health impact for people and animals from the widely used weed killer.
“Given even very low levels of exposure, Roundup can potentially result in organ damage when it comes to liver and kidney function,” said senior author Michael Antoniou, head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London.
“The severity we don’t know, but our data say there will be harm given enough time,” he said.
It’s the latest health concern for the most widely used herbicide in the United States. Evidence has been mounting that Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, is toxic. In recent years, scientists have increasingly suspected it might be at least partially behind a widespread kidney disease epidemic in Sri Lanka and parts of India and Central America.
Meanwhile, use of the herbicide has skyrocketed, increasing more than 250 times over the past four decades in the U.S., according to estimates.
Glyphosate has increasingly made headlines as the debate on genetically modified foods ramps up because many seeds from Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer, are genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide.
Both health researchers and environmental groups have called on governments to either ban or more strictly regulate glyphosate, especially after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in March determined glyphosate is probably cancer-causing in humans.
In the 2012 study, different groups of rats were fed mixtures of genetically modified corn and Roundup. Researchers, led by Gilles-Éric Séralini, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen in France, reported cancers and other health impacts from both the corn itself and the herbicide.
"Given even very low levels of exposure, Roundup can potentially result in organ damage when it comes to liver and kidney function."-Michael Antoniou, King's College LondonBut the experiment design and results were highly controversial; the paper was retracted and eventuallyrepublished last year.
Among other findings, the original experiment showed that very tiny amounts of Roundup added to rats’ water—a dose that is thousands of times lower than what is allowed in U.S. drinking water—for two years seemed to spur kidney and liver damage.
In the current study, Antoniou and colleagues compared the female mice from the 2012 group and found big differences in their genes compared to rats that were not fed Roundup.
“There were more than 4,000 genes in the liver and kidneys whose levels of expression had changed” in the dosed rats compared to the non-dosed rats, Antoniou said. Genes serve as the body's switches, controlling different functions. Turn one gene off at the wrong time, or fail to turn it on at the proper time, and serious consequences could happen. Different patterns of gene function are known to underlie the health and disease status of organs.
Given that they “used very low dose levels in drinking water, as a country that uses a lot of glyphosate and it’s found widely across U.S. streams, this study should have some kind of public health influence,” said Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates against toxic pesticides.
While the number of genes was high, the actual changes in levels of expression between the dosed and non-dosed group were pretty small. “We don’t know what to make of such changes, they may be meaningful and may not,” said Bruce Blumberg, a professor and researcher at the University of California who was not involved in the study.
Antoniou and colleagues can’t pin the specific organ problems to glyphosate. The changes they saw in the genes are linked to the types of organ damage originally seen in the rats—such as scarring and dead tissue.
“They can’t say which caused what, but what you have is an association—the group treated with a little Roundup had a lot of organ damage and the gene expression findings supported that,” Blumberg said.
Monsanto did not return requests to comment on Antoniou’s study. The company has repeatedly maintained Roundup’s safety and attacked the science behind the WHO’s decision to label glyphosate a probable carcinogen.
The findings, while in rats, are concerning for people. These tests are the kind used to test what chemicals may do to humans, Antoniou said, which is concerning given glyphosate's widespread use.
“Normally when you see negative effects in these rats from a chemical treatment, then you get very worried,” he said. “And normally you would consider whether to approve the use of the chemical or not.”
Source - Environmental Health News
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Pesticide alters personalities of helpful spiders
Jumping spiders are like natural pesticides, preying on insects that damage crops. But a common synthetic pesticide may disrupt this service by changing their personalities.
Nature provides free pest control, from bats and birds to snakes and spiders. These predators can help protect agricultural crops, but we often try to supplement their services with our own synthetic pesticides. And as a new study suggests, one common insecticide might affect pest-killing spiders' ability to do their job.
The chemical in question is Phosmet, a broad-spectrum insecticide that's used in fields and orchards across North America. It's highly toxic to a wide range of insects — including honeybees, unfortunately — but it was thought to be relatively safe for spiders. As the study's authors report, however, it can have an insidious effect on at least one key species ofjumping spider that normally protects crops.
"Bronze jumping spiders play an important role in orchards and fields, especially at the beginning of the agricultural season, by eating many of the pests like the oblique-banded leafroller, a moth that attacks young plants and fruit," lead author and North Dakota State University researcher Raphaël Royauté says in a statement.
"Farmers spray insecticides on the plants to get rid of these same pests, and it was thought that it had little significant effect on the spiders' behaviors. But we now know that this isn't the case."
Yes, spiders have personalities
Previous research has shown that spiders — like humans and many other animals — have distinct personalities, resulting in different decisions made by "bold" and "shy" individuals. This can affect their ability to catch prey or their interest in exploring new territories, both of which are key to their survival and their success in limiting pests.
"Most individuals have an individual signature in their behaviors, what scientists call 'personality types,'" Royauté says. "Some individuals are willing to take risks when predators are present, explore new territories faster, or capture prey more quickly."
Yet the effects of insecticides on spider personalities are poorly understood, he adds. "We know that drinking alcohol can make us act in weird ways, by removing some social inhibitions for example. So one of the primary questions of my research became: can insecticides cause similar personality shifts in individual spiders?"
To shed more light on this, the study's authors focused on how spiders behaved before and after sublethal doses of Phosmet. They found that, in general, the spiders' behavior grew less predictable, with individuals deviating from their personality types once they were exposed. This could be because some individual spiders are more sensitive to the insecticide than others, the researchers say.
Male and female spiders also showed different responses to the toxin. Males were able to continue capturing prey about as well as they had before, but their personality types seemed to fade away when exploring their environment. Females, on the other hand, showed a much stronger effect in their hunting behavior.
"Inactive females were quicker to capture prey in the absence of insecticide exposure, a tendency no longer expressed in the treated group," the researchers write in the journal Functional Ecology. "Males did not show evidence for such an activity-prey capture syndrome, even in the control group, but showed a decrease in correlation strength among all activity traits. Taken together, our results suggest that insecticide-exposed individuals showed a strong departure from their personality tendencies."
Our spider sense is tingling
Phosmet is mainly used on apple trees to control codling moths, according to a fact sheet by the Oregon State University Extension Service, but it's also used on various other crops to fight aphids, suckers, mites and fruit flies.
While Phosmet was the focus of this study, the researchers say the real lesson of their findings isn't about a single pesticide. It's about how we evaluate the safety of all pesticides for non-target wildlife, especially beneficial, pest-controlling predators. The spiders' personality shifts weren't evident when researchers averaged the behavior of a whole population, but they were significant on an individual level.
"By looking at the way that insecticides affect individual spider behaviors, rather than averaging out the effects on the spider population as a whole, as is traditionally done in scientific research, we are able to see some significant effects that we might have otherwise missed," says co-author and McGill University ecologist Chris Buddle.
"It means we can measure the effects of insecticides before any effects on the spider population as a whole are detected, and in this case, it's raising some red flags."
Source : Mother Nature Network
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Glyphosate damages DNA, says World Health Organisation expert
Prof Christopher Portier, one of the co-authors of the recent report by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which determined that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, said at a scientific briefing today, “Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind.”
“Genotoxic” means it damages DNA. It is widely believed by regulators that for genotoxic chemicals that are also carcinogenic, as glyphosate appears to be, there is no safe level of exposure.
Prof Portier was speaking today at the briefing in London, organised by the Soil Association.
The Soil Association is calling for a UK ban on the use of glyphosate sprayed on UK wheat as a pre-harvest weedkiller and its use to kill the crop to ripen it faster. New figures analysed by the Soil Association from government data were released at a scientific briefing in London on 15 July 2015. This revealed that glyphosate use in UK farming has increased by 400% in the last 20 years and it’s one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread - appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the Defra committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).
At the briefing, Dr Robin Mesnage of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Kings College in London presented data showing Roundup is 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate alone. He said, “Glyphosate is everywhere throughout our food chain - in our food and water. The lack of data on toxicity of glyphosate is not proof of safety and these herbicides cannot be considered safe without proper testing. We know Roundup, the commercial name of glyphosate-based herbicides, contains many other chemicals, which when mixed together are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on its own.”
Claire Robinson, an editor at GMWatch.org, said that the international response to the IARC finding had been dramatic: “Some retailers in Switzerland and Germany have removed glyphosate products from their shelves; France has committed to stop selling them to consumers via self-service by 2018. German states are calling for an EU wide ban. The Danish Working Environment Authority has declared glyphosate a carcinogen. El Salvador and Sri Lanka have banned it and the Colombia government has banned aerial spraying of the herbicide on coca crops.”
Three months ago, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded, “Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans”. The newly recognised dangers of glyphosate come against a background of increased use in the UK. Glyphosate is used in public parks and other urban areas to kill weeds. In the last year for which government figures are available, nearly a third of UK cereals, wheat and barley, were sprayed with glyphosate – a total of just over one million hectares.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director, said; “If glyphosate ends up in bread it’s impossible for people to avoid it, unless they are eating organic. On the other hand, farmers could easily choose not to use glyphosate as a spray on wheat crops – just before they are harvested. This is why the Soil Association is calling for the immediate ending of the use of glyphosate sprays on wheat destined for use in bread.”
Claire Robinson said at the meeting that people cannot rely on regulators to protect their health: the battle will be won by consumers pressuring retailers to remove glyphosate from their shelves.
In the case of bread, a Soil Association statement said retailers and manufacturers should insist their products don’t contain any glyphosate. Although the quantities found are below the official safety level, that limit was agreed before the latest scientific findings about the dangers of glyphosate. The glyphosate spraying season starts now. In the interests of human health and the quality of British bread, the government must call a halt to the spraying before it starts.
A recent European study on city dwellers found that in the UK, 7 out of 10 people had traces of this weedkiller in their urine. The food industry tells us that the levels of glyphosate in food poses no danger to the British public. But the findings from IARC, and the cocktail of chemicals often found in bread, call this into serious question.
The levels of glyphosate found in bread are well below the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) set by the EU. However, the MRL was set well before this latest determination by the WHO. In addition, the MRL for glyphosate has always been a matter of controversy because if glyphosate is an endocrine disrupter, as some scientists suggest, there may be no safe lower level for human consumption. Whatever the MRL, research into public opinion shows that the presence of any chemicals in food is one of the main health concerns for consumers, especially those with children.
Source : GMWatch
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Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals during Pregnancy and Weight at 7 Years of Age: A Multi-pollutant Approach
Keren Agay-Shay,1,2,3 David Martinez, 1,2,3 Damaskini Valvi,1,2,3 Raquel Garcia-Esteban,1,2,3 Xavier Basagaña,1,2,3 Oliver Robinson,1,2,3 Maribel Casas,1,2,3 Jordi Sunyer,1,2,3,4 and Martine Vrijheid1,2,3
Background: Prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may induce weight gain and obesity in children, but the obesogenic effects of mixtures have not been studied.
Aims: To evaluate the associations between pre- and perinatal biomarker concentrations of 27 EDCs and child weight status at 7 years of age.
Methods: In pregnant women enrolled in a Spanish birth cohort study between 2004 and 2006 we measured the concentrations of ten phthalate metabolites, bisphenol A, cadmium, arsenic, and lead in two maternal pregnancy urine samples, six organochlorine compounds in maternal pregnancy serum, mercury in cord blood, and six polybrominated diphenyl ether congeners in colostrum. Among 470 offspring at 7 years, body mass index (BMI) z-scores were calculated and overweight was defined as BMI >85th percentile. We estimated associations with EDCs in single pollutant models and applied principal component analysis (PCA) on the 27 pollutant concentrations.
Results: In single pollutant models, HCB, βHCH, PCB138, and PCB180 were associated with increased child BMI z-scores; HCB, βHCH, PCB138, and DDE with overweight risk. PCA generated four factors that accounted for 43.4% of the total variance. The organochlorine factor was positively associated with BMI z-scores and with overweight (adj RRs tertile 3 vs 1: 2.59; 95% CI: 1.19, 5.63) and these associations were robust to adjustment for other EDCs. Exposure in the second tertile of the phthalate factor was inversely associated with overweight.
Conclusions: Prenatal exposure to organochlorines was positively associated with overweight at age 7 years in our study population. Other EDCs exposures did not confound this association.
Source : Environmental Health Perspectives
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International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides
Lyon, France, 20 March 2015 – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has assessed the carcinogenicity of five organophosphate pesticides. A summary of the final evaluations together with a short rationale have now been published online in The Lancet Oncology, and the detailed assessments will be published as Volume 112 of the IARC Monographs.
What were the results of the IARC evaluations?
The herbicide glyphosate and the insecticides malathion and diazinon were classified as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).
The insecticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion were classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).
What was the scientific basis of the IARC evaluations?
The pesticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion were classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) based on convincing evidence that these agents cause cancer in laboratory animals.
For the insecticide malathion, there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and prostate cancer. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. Malathion also caused tumours in rodent studies. Malathion caused DNA and chromosomal damage and also disrupted hormone pathways.
For the insecticide diazinon, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer. The evidence in humans is from studies of agricultural exposures in the USA and Canada published since 2001. The classification of diazinon in Group 2A was also based on strong evidence that diazinon induced DNA or chromosomal damage.
For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals. On the basis of tumours in mice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group C) in 1985. After a re-evaluation of that mouse study, the US EPA changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans (Group E) in 1991. The US EPA Scientific Advisory Panel noted that the re-evaluated glyphosate results were still significant using two statistical tests recommended in the IARC Preamble. The IARC Working Group that conducted the evaluation considered the significant findings from the US EPA report and several more recent positive results in concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Glyphosate also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests using bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby. How are people exposed to these pesticides? Tetrachlorvinphos is banned in the European Union. In the USA, it continues to be used on livestock and companion animals, including in pet flea collars. No information was available on use in other countries. Parathion use has been severely restricted since the 1980s. All authorized uses were cancelled in the European Union and the USA by 2003.
Malathion is currently used in agriculture, public health, and residential insect control. It continues to be produced in substantial volumes throughout the world. Workers may be exposed during the use and production of malathion. Exposure to the general population is low and occurs primarily through residence near sprayed areas, home use, and diet. Diazinon has been applied in agriculture and for control of home and garden insects. Production volumes have been relatively low and decreased further after 2006 due to restrictions in the USA and the European Union. Only limited information was available on the use of these pesticides in other countries.
Glyphosate currently has the highest global production volume of all herbicides. The largest use worldwide is in agriculture. The agricultural use of glyphosate has increased sharply since the development of crops that have been genetically modified to make them resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate is also used in forestry, urban, and home applications. Glyphosate has been detected in the air during spraying, in water, and in food. The general population is exposed primarily through residence near sprayed areas, home use, and diet, and the level that has been observed is generally low.
What do Groups 2A and 2B mean?
Group 2A means that the agent is probably carcinogenic to humans. This category is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (called chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out. This category is also used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and strong data on how the agent causes cancer. Group 2B means that the agent is possibly carcinogenic to humans. A categorization in Group 2B often means that there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer in experimental animals but little or no information about whether it causes cancer in humans.
Why did IARC evaluate these pesticides?
The IARC Monographs Programme has evaluated numerous pesticides, some as recently as 2012 (anthraquinone, arsenic and arsenic compounds). However, substantial new data are available on many pesticides that have widespread exposures. In 2014, an international Advisory Group of senior scientists and government officials recommended dozens of pesticides for evaluation. Consistent with the advice of the Advisory Group, the recent IARC meeting provided new or updated evaluations on five organophosphate pesticides. How were the evaluations conducted? The established procedure for Monographs evaluations is described in the Programme’s Preamble. Evaluations are performed by panels of international experts, selected on the basis of their expertise and the absence of real or apparent conflicts of interest. For Volume 112, a Working Group of 17 experts from 11 countries met at IARC on 3–10 March 2015 to assess the carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate. The in-person meeting followed nearly a year of review and preparation by the IARC secretariat and the Working Group, including a comprehensive review of the latest available scientific evidence. According to published procedures, the Working Group considered “reports that have been published or accepted for publication in the openly available scientific literature” as well as “data from governmental reports that are publicly available”. The Working Group did not consider summary tables in online supplements to published articles, which did not provide enough detail for independent assessment.
What are the implications of the IARC evaluations?
The Monographs Programme provides scientific evaluations based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature, but it remains the responsibility of individual governments and other international organizations to recommend regulations, legislation, or public health intervention.
Source : World Health Organisation
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Lawsuit launched over US EPA’s approval of a new insecticide.
A group of environmental and food safety organizations will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its approval of an insecticide that the groups say will harm threatened and endangered wildlife.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety and the Defenders of Wildlife sent a formal notice of intent to sue to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy this week claiming that by approving the insecticide flupyradifurone in January the agency is in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
“EPA’s registration of flupyradifurone — and its approval of three products containing flupyradifurone — will likely jeopardize federally-listed species and adversely modifies the critical habitat of listed species,” the letter said.
The EPA has 60 days to respond to the groups’ claims or the matter goes to court.
The agency approved the insecticide as an alternative to neonicitoinds, which are suspects behind the widespread bee kill offs in recent years. The EPA’s approval followed a 2012 application from Bayer CropScience, which simultaneously submitted applications to Canadian and Australian agencies to review the insecticide.
Flupyradifurone, sold as the formula Sivanto, is registered for a number of crops including citrus, cotton and potatoes, according to the EPA, and protects against difficult-to-control insects such as aphids, whiteflies and thrips.
While most pesticides stay on the surface of plants, flupyradifurone, like neonicitoinds, works by infiltrating all plant tissues.
“This toxic, systemic insecticide poisons an entire plant and anything that feeds on it, but the EPA has turned a blind eye to how it will hurt imperiled wildlife like the endangered Karner blue butterfly,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a prepared statement.
The groups’ letter said that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act by not consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service about flupyradifurone’s potential to harm endangered and threatened species.
The EPA reported the compound was a low risk to non-target plants and animals.
In its announcement about the approval, the EPA said, “laboratory-based studies indicate that the compound is practically non-toxic to adult honeybees.”
The EPA report found that, according to 38 bee tests it reviewed, the pesticide did not result in any “adverse effects on overall colony performance or overwintering capacity” compared to bee colonies that were not exposed.
The groups charge that, while flupyradifurone may be less harmful than neonicotinoids for bee colonies, solitary bees are still at risk.
“There are 4,000 species of solitary bees living in the United States whose wellbeing the agency’s claim effectively ignores,” their letter said.
Reed Johnson, an entomologist and assistant professor at The Ohio State University, said in an email that “Bayer has done an unprecedented number of lab and field tests on bees in support of this registration.”
“That being said, I know of no independent research that has been done on this compound,” he said.
Source : Environment Health News
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EPA report finds pesticide poses risk to workers, spurs calls for ban
An insecticide used on corn and other U.S. crops poses health risks to workers who mix and apply it and also can contaminate drinking water, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report released this week.
The report is an update, based on new research, to a 2011 assessment of the health impacts of the pesticide chlorpyrifos (pronounced KLOR – pie -ra – phos), which remains one of the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticides. It has been banned for more than a decade for household use but is still used commercially on corn, soybeans, fruit and nut trees and some golf courses.
The findings may mean more restrictions to protect worker's health and drinking water sources as the pesticide undergoes its registration review, a licensing process required of pesticides by the EPA.
Industry maintains chlorpyrifos is safe at levels currently in the environment and greatly benefits farmers. But some environmental organizations say that increasing restrictions will not do enough to protect people’s health.
“The science on health impacts - together with many personal stories -overwhelmingly supports the need for a phase out,” said Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network, in a statement. In 2007 the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council urged the EPA to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos.
In 2012 the EPA required homes and schools to have buffers to reduce exposure. The EPA estimates about 10 million pounds are applied annually in agriculture across the country.
“We are concerned about some workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos to agricultural and other non-residential sites,” the EPA wrote about the report. “We are also concerned about workers who work around areas that are treated with chlorpyrifos, even if they are not using chlorpyrifos products as part of their jobs.”
The agency did not find any additional risks from airborne or food exposure. It cited the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data that found “no concerns for chlorpyrifos in food, with the pesticide detected in less than 1 [percent] of samples.”
However, researchers believe inhalation is likely a major exposure route for people living near heavily treated fields, said Janie Shelton, an epidemiologist who led a study linking chlorpyrifos to autism in babies born to moms near treated fields in farm-heavy Northern California last year.
This bystander exposure is likely a “sub-clinical exposure” - where the mom would not experience any effects herself, but the constant chronic exposure in drift or house dust could impact an unborn child, Shelton said.
Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin that prevents the synapses of the nerves from stopping activity, causing over-stimulation, Shelton said. It has been linked to birth defects, low birth weights and impaired brain development problems, and endocrine disruption.
Fetuses are at much higher risk from the pesticide, she said.
“Adults have an enzyme that can metabolize organophosphates like chlorpyrifos,” Shelton said. “That is something that only comes online after birth. So babies in the womb don’t have the metabolizing enzyme.
“If they’re exposed to a neurotoxin it would take much lower levels to see observable effects.”
The EPA did not return requests to comment on the new report.
Despite household bans, some evidence suggests people are still exposed to the chemicals. A study of Northern California families and floor wipe samples last year found that 99 percent of floor wipes and 65 percent of study participants had some chlorpyrifos in them.
“We know there’s enough of a reason to prohibit residential use because of the neurodevelopmental impairments in children,” Shelton said. “I do see cause for concern [with continued use].”
A spokesperson for Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures chlorpyrifos, noted that the EPA’s announcement is part of a revision, not the final assessment and that “no pest control product has been more thoroughly tested.”
But Nichelle Harriott, staff scientist with Beyond Pesticides, said the mounting evidence suggests chlorpyrifos poses “unacceptable risks to workers and the environment.”
“They [the EPA] should be moving toward getting the chemical off the market, that is the only acceptable way to protect human and environmental health,” she said.
There is a 60-day comment period for the new announcement and the EPA plans to release a report on the chlorpyrifos impact on endangered species later this year.
Source : Environmental Health News
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Neonicotinoids linked to recent fall in farmland bird numbers Research demonstrates for the first time the knock-on effects to other species of class of insecticides known to harm bees
New research has identified the world’s most widely used insecticides as the key factor in the recent reduction in numbers of farmland birds.
The finding represents a significant escalation of the known dangers of the insecticides and follows an assessment in June that warned that pervasive pollution by these nerve agents was now threatening all food production.
The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, and a two-year EU suspension on three of the poisons began at the end of 2013. But the suspected knock-on effects on other species had not been demonstrated until now.
Peer-reviewed research, published in the leading journal Nature this Wednesday, has revealed data from the Netherlands showing that bird populations fell most sharply in those areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest. Starlings, tree sparrows and swallows were among the most affected.
At least 95% of neonicotinoids applied to crops ends up in the wider environment, killing the insects the birds rely on for food, particularly when raising chicks.
The researchers, led by Hans de Kroon, an ecologist at Radboud University, in the Netherlands, examined other possible reasons for the bird declines seen during the study period of 2003 to 2010, including intensification of farming. But high pollution by a neonicotinoid known as imidacloprid was by far the largest factor.
“It is very surprising and very disturbing,” de Kroon said. Water pollution levels of just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per litre led to a 30% fall in bird numbers over 10 years, but some water had contamination levels 50 times higher. “That is why it is so disturbing – there is an incredible amount of imidacloprid in the water,” he said. “And it is not likely these effects will be restricted to birds.”
De Kroon added: “All the other studies [on harm caused by neonicotinoids] build up from toxicology studies. But we approached this completely from the other end. We started with the bird population data and tried to explain the declines. Our study really makes the evidence complete that something is going on here. We can’t go on like this any more. It has to stop.”
David Goulson, a professor at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in the new studies, said the research was convincing and ruled out likely alternative causes of bird decline. “The simplest, most obvious, explanation is that highly toxic substances that kill insects lead to declines in things that eat insects.”
There was little reason to doubt that wildlife in the UK and other countries were not suffering similar harm, he said. “This work flags up the point that this isn’t just about bees, it is about everything. When hundreds or thousands of species or insect are being wiped out, it’s going to have impacts on bats, shrews, hedgehogs, you name it. It is pretty good evidence of wholesale damage to the environment.”
Goulson said that, unlike the Netherlands, the UK did not monitor neonicotinoid pollution and the EU ban would not remove the substances from the environment. “They are still being widely used, as the moratorium only applies to three neonicotinoids and some crops. There is still a lot of them going into the environment. The door is far from shut.”
A spokesman for Bayer CropScience, which makes the neonicotinoid that was examined in the study, disputed the findings. “It provides no substantiated evidence of the alleged indirect effects of imidacloprid on insectivorous birds. Bayer CropScience is working with the Dutch authorities and agricultural stakeholders to ensure the safe use of imidacloprid-containing crop protection products and to preserve the environment.”
He added: “Neonicotinoids have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions.”
But de Kroon said new research, including his own, was showing that neonicotinoids posed an even greater threat than had been anticipated and new regulations had to take this into account. In 2012, MPs warned regulators appeared to be “turning a blind eye” to the harm caused by neonicotinoids.
David Gibbons, head of the RSPB centre for conservation science, said: “This elegant and important study provides worrying evidence of negative impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on birds. Monitoring of neonicotinoid pollution in UK soils and waterways is urgently required, as is research into the effects of these insecticides on wildlife.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “Pesticide use across Europe is tightly regulated to protect the environment and public health – [pesticides] are a safe, effective and economical means of managing crops. We continue to review evidence on neonicotinoids.”
Also on Wednesday, further research showing that neonicotinoids damage the natural ability of bees to collect food was published in the journal Functional Ecology. The work used tiny tags to track bees and found those exposed to the insecticide gathered less pollen.
“Exposure to this neonicotinoid seems to prevent bees from being able to learn essential skills,” said Nigel Raine, a professor at the University of Guelph, Canada. He said the regulatory tests, which only looked for short-term, lethal effects, were failing to prevent serious harm. “These tests should be conducted for extended periods to detect the effects of chronic exposure.”
Source The Guardian
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Pesticides Put Global Food Production at Grave Risk, International Task Force Warns
In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that large-scale, chemical-based agriculture is posing an outright threat to the world’s food supply. Its dangers now far outpace any benefits that might be had in terms of efficiency. As recently reported by The Guardian,1 an international team of scientists has concluded that pesticide regulations have “failed to prevent poisoning of almost all habitats,” thereby putting global food production at great risk.
Indeed, the insanity is such that you more or less have to be a sociopath to insist on business as usual in light of the ravaging harm agricultural chemicals are causing. ...
To read more and see short videos click on Source
Source : Dr. Mercola
Autism Risk Higher near Pesticide-Treated Fields, Study Says
Babies whose moms lived within a mile of crops treated with widely used pesticides were more likely to develop autism, according to new research published today.
The study of 970 children, born in farm-rich areas of Northern California, is part of the largest project to date that is exploring links between autism and environmental exposures.
The University of California, Davis research – which used women’s addresses to determine their proximity to insecticide-treated fields – is the third project to link prenatal insecticide exposures to autism and related disorders.
The weight of evidence is beginning to suggest that mothers’ exposures during pregnancy may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders,” said Kim Harley, associate director of University of California, Berkeley's Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health. She was not involved in the new study.
One in every 68 U.S. children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder – a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by difficulties with social interactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This study does not show that pesticides are likely to cause autism, though it suggests that exposure to farming chemicals during pregnancy is probably not a good thing,” said Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a child psychiatrist at University of California, San Francisco who studies autistic children. He did not participate in the study.
The biggest known contributor to autism risk is having a family member with it. Siblings of a child with autism are 35 times more likely to develop it than those without an autistic brother or sister, according to the National Institutes of Health.
By comparison, in the new study, children with mothers who lived less than one mile from fields treated with organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy were about 60 percent more likely to have autism than children whose mothers did not live close to treated fields. Most of the women lived in the Sacramento Valley.
When women in the second trimester lived near fields treated with chlorpyrifos – the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticide – their children were 3.3 times more likely to have autism, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Chlorpyrifos, once widely used to kill insects in homes and gardens, was banned for residential use in 2001 after it was linked to neurological effects in children. It is still widely used on crops, including nut trees, alfalfa, vegetables and fruits.
“We need to understand how multiple exposures interact with each other and with genetics to understand all that is involved in the causes of autism.” –Alycia Halladay, Autism Speaks The study also is the first to report a link between pyrethroids and autism. Application of pyrethroids just prior to conception meant an increased risk of 82 percent, and during the third trimester, the risk was 87 percent higher.
That finding is particularly concerning because “pyrethroids were supposed to be better, safer alternatives to organophosphates,” said the study’s senior author, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist who leads the UC-Davis project to investigate environmental and genetic links to autism.
Use of pyrethroids has increased in recent years, both on farms and in the home, due to bans of other insecticides. Some studies now suggest pyrethroids may carry risks for developing fetuses.
The autism risk that could be attributed to an individual pesticide is likely slight, said Alycia Halladay, senior director for environmental and clinical sciences at the nonprofit Autism Speaks. “We need to understand how multiple exposures interact with each other and with genetics to understand all that is involved in the causes of autism,” she said.
But while the risks reported in the study pale in comparison to some hereditary factors, Hertz-Picciotto said they are comparable to other risks for autism, such as advanced parental age or not taking prenatal vitamins.
“In any child who develops autism, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at work. There’s an accumulation of insults to the system. What we’re seeing is that pesticides may be one more factor that for some kids may push them over the edge,” she said.
For the study, researchers obtained the women’s addresses and compared them to a state database that provides details about where, when and how often specific commercial pesticides were used. About one-third of the women lived within approximately one mile of pesticide-treated fields. The researchers, however, do not know whether the women were exposed to the insecticides.
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required buffers around fields near homes and schools to help reduce exposure to chlorpyrifos.
“Provided that pesticides are applied responsibly and according to federally mandated label instructions, people, including expectant mothers, should not be concerned about exposure to agricultural pesticides,” said Clare Thorpe, senior director of human health policy for CropLife America, which represents pesticide manufacturers.
More than 1.1 million tons of chlorpyrifos were applied to 22,000 California farms in 2012, down from 2 million pounds on 40,000 farms in 2005, according to the database from the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Most of the mothers lived near fields treated with several different pesticides over their pregnancies, so it’s difficult to tease apart the potential risk of individual chemicals, said epidemiologist Janie Shelton, the lead study author. Shelton is now a consulting scientist to the United Nations.
The study also reported an increased risk of developmental delays, but not autism, in kids whose moms lived near fields where carbamates, including methomyl and Sevin, were applied.
The researchers said that pesticides could impair brain development and signaling in a way that affects social interactions, learning and behavior.
Previous studies have also linked pesticide use in California to autism spectrum disorders. In 2007, Harley and colleagues found a two-fold increase in pervasive developmental disorders (the larger group to which autism belongs) among 531 children in California’s Salinas Valley whose mothers’ urine had higher levels of organophosphate pesticides. Another study from 2007 found that mothers who lived near fields with the highest applications of two now-banned pesticides – endosulfan and dicofol – were six times more likely to have kids with autism spectrum disorders.
In recent years, rates of autism have been on the rise in the United States. Between 2012 and 2014 alone, rates jumped 30 percent. The increase has largely been attributed to changes in diagnostic criteria for autism.
“Many children that we used to call intellectually disabled and many more with social deficits are now recognized as being on the autism spectrum,” said Kathy Katz, a pediatric psychologist at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC.
But some experts suggest that environmental exposures may also be contributing to the climbing rates. In California alone, autism diagnoses were up 600 percent between 1990 and 2001. Yet researchers found that only about one-third of the rise could be explained by changing diagnoses or kids being diagnosed at increasingly younger ages.
Earlier this year, scientists examining more than two million births in Sweden reported that inherited genes make up about 50 percent of a child’s autism risk, while environmental factors make up the other half.
It’s tempting to tie the increase in prevalence to environmental factors, said Halladay, but it’s hard to know for sure what’s going on, since some environmental risks have increased over the past few decades while others have decreased.
“Use of pesticides has gone up, so has autism. But air quality has also improved, and we know that air pollution plays a role in autism spectrum disorder risk,” she said.
Some studies are starting to look how environmental exposures may act differently in people whose genetics make them more susceptible. Earlier this year, researchers showed that people with a gene variant associated with autism and high exposure to air pollution had an increased risk of autism over people with the same gene variant but lower exposure to air pollution.
Next, Shelton hopes to look for autism risk from pesticide exposure among mothers with certain genetic variations.
“We need to know if some moms are at higher risk than others and what that risk is. Knowing who is most vulnerable is key to understanding how to better protect them,” she said.
Source : Environmental Health News
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Neonicotinoids Interfere with Specific Components of Navigation in Honeybees
- Johannes Fischer,
- Teresa Müller,
- Anne-Kathrin Spatz,
- Uwe Greggers,
- Bernd Grünewald,
- Randolf Menzel
Three neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiacloprid, agonists of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the central brain of insects, were applied at non-lethal doses in order to test their effects on honeybee navigation. A catch-and-release experimental design was applied in which feeder trained bees were caught when arriving at the feeder, treated with one of the neonicotinoids, and released 1.5 hours later at a remote site. The flight paths of individual bees were tracked with harmonic radar. The initial flight phase controlled by the recently acquired navigation memory (vector memory) was less compromised than the second phase that leads the animal back to the hive (homing flight). The rate of successful return was significantly lower in treated bees, the probability of a correct turn at a salient landscape structure was reduced, and less directed flights during homing flights were performed. Since the homing phase in catch-and-release experiments documents the ability of a foraging honeybee to activate a remote memory acquired during its exploratory orientation flights, we conclude that non-lethal doses of the three neonicotinoids tested either block the retrieval of exploratory navigation memory or alter this form of navigation memory. These findings are discussed in the context of the application of neonicotinoids in plant protection.
Source : PLOS One
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Pesticide suspected in bee die-offs could also kill birds
Controversial pesticides linked to catastrophic honeybee declines in North America and Europe may also kill other creatures, posing ecological threats even graver than feared, say some scientists.
According to a report by the American Bird Conservancy, the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides to birds, and also to stream- and soil-dwelling insects accidentally exposed to the chemicals, have been underestimated by regulators and downplayed by industry.
"The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise environmental concerns that go well beyond bees," stated the report, which was co-authored by pesticide policy expert Cynthia Palmer and pesticide toxicologist Pierre Mineau, both from the American Bird Conservancy.
Chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer, a major neonicotinoid manufacturer, said the criticisms lack solid evidence. "This report relies on theoretical calculations and exposure estimates that differ from accepted risk assessment methodologies, while disregarding relevant data that are at odds with its claims," the company said in a statement.
Neonicotinoids became popular in the late 1990s, largely replacing earlier insecticides that posed blatant health and environmental risks. Derived from nicotine, which short-circuits the nervous systems of insects that try to eat tobacco plants, neonicotinoids at first seemed both effective and safe.
They now account for some one-quarter of global insecticide sales, used on hundreds of crops and also in gardens and cities. In the last several years, though, it's become evident that regulators, especially the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US, overlooked the extreme toxicity of neonicotinoids to honeybees and other pollinators. Regulatory approvals were partly based on industry studies now considered unreliable, and sometimes despite the concerns of the EPA's own scientists.
Neonicotinoids subsequently emerged as a prime suspect in colony collapse disorder, the unexplained malady that since 2005 has annually killed about one-third of the nation's commercial honeybees, and may also affect bumblebee populations. The pesticides are blamed for triggering collapses outright or making bees vulnerable to diseases and parasites.
We're going to see profound changes in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems Pesticide toxicologist Pierre Mineau
A group of beekeepers and environmental groups have sued the EPA, which now plans to review evidence of neonicotinoid harms. Yet amidst the honeybee furore, far less attention has been paid to what the pesticides may do to other creatures.
Early toxicity studies suggested the risks were relatively small: vertebrates don't have precisely the same receptors to which neonicotinoids bind so tightly in insects, so higher doses are needed to cause harm.
It was also assumed that neonicotinoids wouldn't accumulate in the environment at levels capable of harming either vertebrates or non-pest, non-pollinator invertebrates -- the countless insect species that are the foundation of terrestrial and aquatic food webs.
Since then, however, researchers have found widespread evidence of neonicotinoids spreading beyond their crop targets, and the methodologies used to establish neonicotinoid safety have come under question.
"The more studies I see, the more I think the preponderance of evidence is leaning towards neonicotinoids being tremendously bad for lower animals in the food chain, especially all the invertebrates," said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation group.
Seeds used to grow crops like corn, sunflowers and canola are routinely coated in neonicotinoids, which then spread through plants as they grow. Many species of birds eat seeds. In the absence to date of studies directly observing farmland birds and their day-by-day fates, the question of whether neonicotinoids harm them quickly becomes an argument over methods used to set toxicological guidelines.
In the American Bird Conservancy report, Mineau and Palmer note that the EPA typically sets guidelines for bird exposures using laboratory tests on just two species, mallard ducks and bobwhite quail. Their results become the basis of standards for other birds, but this elides widely varying sensitivities among hundreds of species.
For example, the LD50 -- a standard toxicological measure for a dose that kills half of exposed animals -- for bobwhite and mallards consuming imidacloprid, the most common neonicotinoid formulation, are 152 and 283 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. For canaries, that number drops to about 35 mg/kg, and for grey partridge it's just 15 mg/kg.
Were the guidelines calculated more carefully, say Mineau and Palmer, drawing broadly on peer-reviewed literature and accounting for heightened sensitivity in certain species, they'd be very different. What are now considered safe exposure levels would be recognised as poisonous -- and many birds could reach them by eating just a few seeds.
Asked for comment, the Environmental Protection Agency said the report "uses a method to compare risks across chemicals that differs from the long-standing peer-reviewed approach EPA uses. The agency will carefully consider the report's studies, analytic methods and conclusions."
David Fischer, director of environmental toxicology and risk assessment in Bayer's CropScience division, said the report misrepresented industry testing. "We tested a lot of species. We did tests beyond what was required by the EPA," Fischer said. If neonicotinoids really were killing birds, said Fischer, it would already have been reported, as were die-offs from the earlier, more-toxic chemicals that neonicotinoids largely replaced.
"There have been few instances of mortality in the field. They're extremely rare," Fischer said. "I don't know of any incidents in North America." Mineau responded that, even with earlier chemicals, researchers didn't find evidence of bird deaths until they actively looked for them. That hasn't yet happened with neonicotinoids, he said, and poisoned birds don't immediately and visibly drop dead on fields. They may die hours or days later in a tree or bush, making it unlikely that anyone will even notice.
The report also notes that chronic toxicity -- effects that don't kill animals outright, but over time cause health, reproductive and behavioural problems -- has largely been overlooked. Preliminary studies suggest a potential for embryo development disorders and decreased immune responses, but guidelines were again set by reference to bobwhite and mallards. Tests only measured obvious birth defects, ignoring the many other ways that animals can be impaired.
Mineau thinks neonicotinoids are at least playing a role in the precipitous decline of birds that live in or migrate through agricultural areas. "I believe this is happening right now," he said. Yet that, said Mineau, may be just a prelude to other problems. "I think the aquatic and soil impacts are even greater," he said. "We're going to see profound changes in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems."
Soil and Streams
Neonicotinoids are what's known as "systemic" pesticides, which spread through plant tissue, suffusing it from root to tip. For any given dose, a large proportion of any dose ends up in soil, carried there by roots or plant debris. Depending on conditions, neonicotinoids can remain active for weeks or even months.
What this does to soil-dwelling insects, which would generally be extremely sensitive to exposure, is uncertain. Fischer said neonicotinoids bind to particles of clay, effectively removing them from circulation and making keeping them from being absorbed by other insects. Black said some invertebrates, such as earthworms, do pick up neonicotinoids, and that the pesticides are re-absorbed by subsequent generations of plants, creating new and unintentional exposures.
Soil-bound neonicotinoids also leach into groundwater, ending up in streams and waterways. The danger to fish appears low, if not negligible, but is much higher for aquatic invertebrates. Not only are they neurologically vulnerable to neonicotinoids, said environmental scientist Jeroen van der Sluijs of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, but each exposure builds on the last. Damage caused by neonicotinoids their nervous systems is irreversible, producing compounded effects from multiple exposures.
The EPA's own reviews state that imidacloprid is "acutely very highly toxic" to aquatic invertebrates, with lethality to common creatures seen at concentrations of .05 parts per million, and chronic damage at even lower concentrations. In the United States, where just one-fifth of all streams are considered healthy, systematic watershed testing for neonicotinoids hasn't been conducted, but concentrations well above those levels have been measured in multiple locations.
Over a six-month period at waterways near Marietta and Whitesburg, Georgia, for example, imidacloprid levels averaged 7.13ppm, or some 142 times higher than what the EPA had considered highly toxic. Neonicotinoids have also been detected in water in California, Wisconsin, New York and Quebec.
According to Bayer, their own laboratory tests show that, even at the reported concentrations, effects are not significant. "We've tested entire aquatic communities, in microcosm tests," with no decline in biomass until well beyond routinely measured concentrations, said Fischer.
Yet van der Sluijs argues that real-world effects are visible. Large-scale neonicotinoid in the Netherlands started around 2004, and preliminary research from his own laboratory has correlated neonicotinoid levels in Dutch waterways with large drops in insect populations. "This will likely have an impact on insect-feeding birds," said van der Sluijs.
Insect-eating birds are indeed declining in the Netherlands and elsewhere, a trend that dates to the 1960s and is blamed on a variety of factors, including earlier generations of pesticides, habitat alteration and climate change. Neonicotinoids represent a fairly new threat, but van der Sluijs is not alone in his concerns.
Ecotoxicologist Christy Morrissey of the University of Saskatchewan said there is "considerable circumstantial evidence that these chemicals are causing large-scale reductions in insect abundance. At the same time, we are observing serious declines in many species of birds in Canada, particularly aerial insectivores, swifts and swallows for example, that are highly dependent on insects to raise their young."
Like the EPA, Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency is also reviewing neonicotinoids. Morrissey's research is still preliminary, but in most of the wetlands she's sampled, she's found neonicotinoids. "It is moving off the seeds in the fields and into the water," Morrissey said. There appear to be fewer insects in heavily agricultural sites than elsewhere, she said, and birds nesting nearby have lower body weights.
Concerning as these observations may be, correlations are not proof of causation. Still, the American Bird Conservancy and Xerces Society think there's concern enough for the EPA to accelerate their neonicotinoid review, which is expected to finish in 2018, and consider limiting some uses of the pesticides immediately.
Though prompted by concerns over pollinators, the EPA's review "is not limited to evaluating potential impacts on bees," but will include comprehensive ecological assessments, said the agency. Companies will be required to monitor the environmental presence of neonicotinoids.
Bayer argues that neonicotinoids have become invaluable to farming, and trying to replace them could backfire. "Without these products, an additional three million acres of corn would need to be planted to compensate for the lost productivity," the company said in the statement. "There would be pressure to convert land currently set aside for nature to farmland."
Black said that integrated pest management, or IPM, which combines precisely targeted chemical use with other, non-chemical means of pest control, can deliver industrial-scale yields in an environmentally sustainable way. "We've moved away from IPM, from scouting your farm, putting in habitat for beneficial insects, and spraying only if there's damage," he said. "With neonicotinoids, you don't do that any more."
In coming months, more studies are expected to be published on the ecological effects of neonicotinoids. These may provide a more conclusive diagnosis of what's happening. For Black, the situation resembles what happened with the pesticide classes they replaced, which were rushed to market to replace environmentally toxic DDT. Only later were their dangers recognised. "We've gone full circle here," he said. "We seem to approve these products before we have all the information."
Source : Wired
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What Is the "Monsanto Protection Act," and How Did It Sneak Into Law?
A provison that protects the biotech giant from litigation passed Congress without many members knowing about it.
A number of readers have requested to know exactly where in the HR 933 they might find the provision dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act.” It is Section 735 in the bill, the full text of which can be read here. Original post: Slipped into the Agricultural Appropriations Bill, which passed through Congress last week, was a small provision that’s a big deal for Monsanto and its opponents. The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks and has thus been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by activists who oppose the biotech giant. President Barack Obama signed the spending bill, including the provision, into law on Tuesday.
Since the act’s passing, more than 250,000 people have signed a petition opposing the provision and a rally, consisting largely of farmers organized by the Food Democracy Now network, protested outside the White House Wednesday. Not only has anger been directed at the Monsanto Protection Act’s content, but the way in which the provision was passed through Congress without appropriate review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The biotech rider instead was introduced anonymously as the larger bill progressed — little wonder food activists are accusing lobbyists and Congress members of backroom dealings.
The Food Democracy Now and the Center for Food are directing blame at the Senate Appropriations Committee and its chairman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. According to reports, many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the “Monsanto Protection Act” even existed within the spending bill, HR 933; they voted in order to avert a government shutdown.
“It sets a terrible precedent,” noted the International Business Times. “Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.”
Source : Alternet
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DDT linked to high blood pressure in women
Women exposed before birth to the banned pesticide DDT may have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure later in life, according to a study published today. The study of San Francisco Bay Area women is the first to link DDT exposure in the womb to hypertension, which raises the risk of stroke and heart disease.
A widely used insecticide, DDT was banned in the United States in 1972 because it was building up in the environment. It is still used in Africa to combat malaria-infected mosquitoes.
“Our findings suggest that DDT may be targeting the system in the body that keeps blood pressure under control,” said Michele La Merrill, a toxicologist at the University of California, Davis and lead author of the study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives.
In previous research, pesticide applicators with high blood pressure had higher DDT exposures than those with healthy blood pressure. Research also has suggested that DDT interferes with hormones, and it has been linked to decreased fertility, preterm delivery and diabetes.
In the new study, more than 500 women born between 1959 and 1967 participated. They were the daughters of more than 15,000 women from the Oakland area who were recruited by scientists to investigate how environmental exposures, even those that occur before birth, can affect health over a lifetime.
Because DDT can pass to the child through the placenta, the blood of the mothers, collected shortly before or after birth, served as a proxy for fetal exposure.
Several decades later, 111 of the daughters, 21 percent, reported having been diagnosed with hypertension.
Overall, the women in the highest two-thirds of prenatal DDT exposure were 2.5 to 3.6 times more likely to develop high blood pressure before age 50 than women in the lowest one-third of exposure. “We are now seeing the potential long-term health consequences of introducing chemicals whose safety we know very little about,” said Jonathan Chevrier, an environmental health scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who did not participate in the new study.
Almost one-third of adult U.S. women have hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence in postmenopausal women is much greater than in premenopausal women.
The researchers found that the association between DDT and high blood pressure held after accounting for some factors known to raise the risk of hypertension, including age, race, body mass and diabetes status.
However, it is unclear how factors they did not test, such as how much salt a person eats, may have affected the findings.
It also is impossible to know whether some women had undiagnosed high blood pressure or how blood pressure levels differed across exposure groups.
“The degree of hypertension matters in terms of clinical significance, so from a clinical perspective it’s hard to say anything about the relative importance of the findings,” said Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, a non-profit organization.
However, he added, “anything that raises the blood pressure of an entire population, even a small amount, can have large public health consequences.”
DDT breaks down slowly, so most people alive today have traces in their bodies, and it remains in the environment and the food web.
“Each of us carries with us this history of past exposures,” said Barbara Cohn, director of the Oakland-based study group.
While the findings are thought-provoking, we have no control over our past exposures, said Dr. Keith Ferdinand, a cardiologist at Tulane University in New Orleans.
“We must continue to focus on risk factors that are modifiable, including obesity, sedentary lifestyle and socioeconomic stress,” he said.
Source : Environmental Health News
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GMO Journal: U.S. Grassland Bird Decline Hastened By Pesticide Use
Analyzing over 20 years of data, two researchers concluded that pesticide use, not habitat loss, was the most important factor contributing to widespread declines in populations of U.S. grassland birds.
The findings of their statistical study were published in PLOS ONE, the peer-reviewed open-access online scientific publication. Dr. Pierre Mineau, a recently retired senior research scientist on pesticide ecotoxicology with the Science and Technology Branch of Environment Canada, and Mélanie Whiteside of Health Canada, examined the decline of grassland birds across Europe and North America.
The study compared different factors that may be contributing to grassland bird declines on the two continents. This meant looking at the change in cropped pasture, lethal pesticide risk, insecticide and herbicide use, farming intensity and change in permanent pasture. “It was remarkable that loss of permanent pasture did not appear to be much of a predictor of grassland bird declines,” in North America, noted the study authors. And while habitat loss is still a serious concern, the conclusion was that the “use of lethally toxic insecticides cannot be ignored when trying to identify causes of grassland population declines in North America.”
Populations of grassland birds in the United States have declined faster than elsewhere in the world and, while habitat protection has been and remains the main focus of conservationists, the lethal risk to birds from the use of current insecticides appears to be most directly correlated to their declines across the continental states.
The study authors highlighted the difficulty in obtaining statistics on true pesticide use and they stressed the major role that habitat loss plays in bird declines despite their findings, but the pesticide link that emerged in their analysis requires further study.
The pattern of variables contributing to bird declines in Europe, however, was different according to study results. Evidence from Europe suggests that typical habitat dangers including the agricultural intensification and loss of insect food resources were partly responsible for the decline, more so than pesticide applications. This is supported by the fact that European Union regulators use a more precautionary approach to pesticide approvals and place more restrictions and bans on the use of the more dangerous insecticides and herbicides than regulators in the United States.
Among the more alarming conclusions in this study was the finding that “only a small proportion of total cropland need be treated with a dangerous pesticide to affect overall [bird] population trends.” Not only birds that had only “casual association” with treated cropland were affected as a result of immediate and persistent deadly effects, but the lethal impacts were extended through pesticide drift. Pastures that are typically treated with fewer pesticides also proved lethal to many species of birds.
Source : GMO Journal
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Chemicals linked to problems with otters' penis bones
Otters' reproductive organs may be affected by chemicals in our waterways, according to scientists.
Experts studying the reproductive health of the mammals in England and Wales were concerned to find a decrease in the weight of otters' penis bones.
Other health problems in males included an increase in undescended testicles and cysts on sperm-carrying tubes.
Experts suggest that, based on previous research, the changes could be linked to hormone-disrupting chemicals.
The study, funded by the Environment Agency, was co-authored by the Chemicals, Health and Environment (CHEM) Trust and the Cardiff University Otter Project, and features on BBC One series Countryfile.
"We were surprised to see the reduction in the baculum weight," said co-author Dr Elizabeth Chadwick, project manager at the Cardiff University Otter Project, referring to the bone found in males' penises.
"[It's] certainly something that needs further investigation."
During the 1970s, England's otter population plummeted, the decline attributed to high levels of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in rivers. However contaminants such as organochlorine pesticides have mostly since been banned, and otter populations have steadily increased.
Scientists examined hundreds of dead otters in a post-mortem laboratory to test if existing traces of POPs in rivers were still having an effect on the animals' health.
But they found no association between these old chemicals and the animals' penis bones becoming lighter over time.
Instead the report speculates that some modern contaminants could be causing the abnormalities. Previous studies have linked Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) to changes in animals' reproductive organs, such as male penis size.
"It's from that that we're drawing a possible inference that some of these Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals may be the reason that baculum weight has changed," Dr Chadwick explained.
EDCs are a range of synthetic and natural chemicals that can affect animals' hormone systems, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Chadwick said: "With many of these contaminants, there can be all sorts of different sources... so it might be things like drugs that we're taking and they flush through our sewerage systems and end up in the rivers."
She added that dust from industrial production travelling into the atmosphere could also carry contaminants that end up in rivers as rainfall, even travelling long distances between countries.
"Fantastic indicator species" The current report adds to some scientists' concern about the feminisation of male animals, according to CHEM Trust.
For example, previous studies in the UK have linked now-restricted POPs with male fish producing eggs in their testes and female egg-yolk protein.
As top predators in the UK's river systems, otters are a "fantastic indicator species", explained Countryfile director Anna Jones, who has been following urban otters in Bristol for the programme.
"The health of an otter can reveal a lot about the health of the environment they live in, and the health of the fish," she said.
Dr Chadwick added that health problems found in otters "could be a warning for all mammals really, which include us humans".
"People are very quick to say: otters are in our rivers. That must mean rivers are perfect, they're so clean, everything's fine again… but it's not really that simple," said Ms Jones.
"It's not just a clear-cut, rosy picture that all is well for otters just because they're back. There are still challenges."
In order to prove the link, scientists will now need to measure the EDCs present in the otters and their habitat.
Source : BBC News
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How Chemicals Affect Us
Scientists are observing with increasing alarm that some very common hormone-mimicking chemicals can have grotesque effects.
A widely used herbicide acts as a female hormone and feminizes male animals in the wild. Thus male frogs can have female organs, and some male fish actually produce eggs. In a Florida lake contaminated by these chemicals, male alligators have tiny penises.
These days there is also growing evidence linking this class of chemicals to problems in humans. These include breast cancer, infertility, low sperm counts, genital deformities, early menstruation and even diabetes and obesity.
Philip Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says that a congenital defect called hypospadias — a misplacement of the urethra — is now twice as common among newborn boys as it used to be. He suspects endocrine disruptors, so called because they can wreak havoc with the endocrine system that governs hormones.
Endocrine disruptors are everywhere. They’re in thermal receipts that come out of gas pumps and A.T.M.’s. They’re in canned foods, cosmetics, plastics and food packaging. Test your blood or urine, and you’ll surely find them there, as well as in human breast milk and in cord blood of newborn babies.How
In this campaign year, we are bound to hear endless complaints about excessive government regulation. But here’s an area where scientists are increasingly critical of our government for its failure to tackle Big Chem and regulate endocrine disruptors adequately. Last month, the Endocrine Society, the leading association of hormone experts, scolded the Food and Drug Administration for its failure to ban bisphenol-A, a common endocrine disruptor known as BPA, from food packaging. Last year, eight medical organizations representing genetics, gynecology, urology and other fields made a joint call in Science magazine for tighter regulation of endocrine disruptors.
Shouldn’t our government be as vigilant about threats in our grocery stores as in the mountains of Afghanistan?
Researchers warn that endocrine disruptors can trigger hormonal changes in the body that may not show up for decades. One called DES, a synthetic form of estrogen, was once routinely given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage or morning sickness, and it did little harm to the women themselves. But it turned out to cause vaginal cancer and breast cancer decades later in their daughters, so it is now banned.
Scientists have long known the tiniest variations in hormone levels influence fetal development. For example, a female twin is very slightly masculinized if the other twin is a male, because she is exposed to some of his hormones. Studies have found that these female twins, on average, end up slightly more aggressive and sensation-seeking as adults but have lower rates of eating disorders.
Now experts worry that endocrine disruptors have similar effects, acting as hormones and swamping the delicate balance for fetuses in particular. The latest initiative by scholars is a landmark 78-page analysis to be published next month in Endocrine Reviews, the leading publication in the field.
“Fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health,” the analysis declares. Linda S. Birnbaum, the nation’s chief environmental scientist and toxicologist, endorsed the findings.
The article was written by a 12-member panel that spent three years reviewing the evidence. It concluded that the nation’s safety system for endocrine disruptors is broken.
“For several well-studied endocrine disruptors, I think it is fair to say that we have enough data to conclude that these chemicals are not safe for human populations,” said Laura Vandenberg, a Tufts University developmental biologist who was the lead writer for the panel.
Worrying new research on the long-term effects of these chemicals is constantly being published. One study found that pregnant women who have higher levels of a common endocrine disruptor, PFOA, are three times as likely to have daughters who grow up to be overweight. Yet PFOA is unavoidable. It is in everything from microwave popcorn bags to carpet-cleaning solutions.
Big Chem says all this is sensationalist science. So far, it has blocked strict regulation in the United States, even as Europe and Canada have adopted tighter controls on endocrine disruptors.
Yes, there are uncertainties. But the scientists who know endocrine disruptors best overwhelmingly are already taking steps to protect their families. John Peterson Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences and a co-author of the new analysis, said that his family had stopped buying canned food.
“We don’t microwave in plastic,” he added. “We don’t use pesticides in our house. I refuse receipts whenever I can. My default request at the A.T.M., known to my bank, is ‘no receipt.’ I never ask for a receipt from a gas station.”
I’m taking my cue from the experts, and I wish the Obama administration would as well.
Source : The New York Times
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Shocking Health Effects of Commonly Used Pesticide: Brain Problems, Sexual Deformities and Paralysis
Dow's pesticide Dursban was banned for home use, but continues to be sprayed on our food despite horrific health threats.
Endocrine disruptors, synthetic chemicals that mimic and interfere with natural hormones, lurk everywhere from canned foods and microwave popcorn bags to cosmetics and carpet-cleaning solutions. The chemicals, which include pesticides, fire retardants and plastics, are in thermal store receipts, antibacterial detergents and toothpaste (like Colgate's Total with triclosan) and the plastic BPA which Washington state banned in baby bottles. Endocrine disruptors are linked to breast cancer, infertility, low sperm counts, genital deformities, early puberty and diabetes in humans and alarming mutations in wildlife. They are also suspected in the epidemic of behavior and learning problems in children which has coincided, many say, with wide endocrine disruptor use.Like Big Pharma, Big Chem holds tremendous sway at the FDA, which gave the endocrine disruptor BPA a pass in March, citing "serious questions"about the applicability of damning animal studies to humans. But in April, research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presented new evidence of the ability of endocrine disruptors--in this case the pesticide, chlorpyrifos--to harm developing fetuses. Janette Sherman, a pesticide expert and toxicologist, has studied the effects of chlorpyrifos (found in Dow's pesticide Dursban) for many years and spoke with AlterNet about what her research has revealed.
Martha Rosenberg: Published studies, including your own, signaled safety problems with Dursban years ago. The EPA's own data found eight out of 10 adults and nine of 10 children had "measurable concentrations." Dow paid a $2 million penalty for hiding Dursban's risks from 1995 and 2003 in New York. But the pesticide was not banned for residential use until 2000, and after it was banned, people were allowed to use remaining quantities. Why did the cases that you and others uncovered seem to have little effect?
Janette Sherman: Dow attorneys took my deposition for four eight-hour days in the mid-1990s and I supplied over 10,000 pages of medical records, depositions, EPA documents, patent information and toxicology studies on which I based my opinion. Even though genetic analyses were conducted for the paper and genetic causes for the defects were ruled out--siblings who were not exposed to chlorpyrifos, for example, were normal--Dow termed the cases genetic and was able to stop most, if not all, chlorpyrifos birth-defect suits.
Dow has almost unlimited money and personnel to fight families and small-town attorneys and they send multiple personnel to the EPA to argue their side. There is also no penalty for withholding information.
MR: Dow claimed there was insufficient proof of chlorpyrifos exposure.
JS: Yes and one of the ironies, that I have cited in several papers, is that monitoring data for pesticide levels, either at the time of application or at the time of birth, is simply not done. People have no records and no way of collecting records of pesticides they have been exposed to.
MR: Lorsban, the agricultural version of Dursban, is still widely in use in crops like apples, corn, soybeans, wheat, nuts, grapes, citrus and other fruit and vegetables. Virginia Rauh, the author of the recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper cautioned pregnant women to seek organic produce to avoid chlorpyrifos.
JS: I believe farm workers and pregnant women are at risk and obviously, a pesticide that is used widely in crops will also get in the drinking water. I don't know how widespread chlorpyrifos use is overseas and in poor countries but the same risks apply.
MR: You published a paper in the European Journal of Oncology in 1999 which is eerily predictive of recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research about children exposed in the womb to the pesticide chlorpyrifos. This research found actual structural changes in exposed children's brains, especially related to emotion, attention and behavior control.
JS: Dursban (chlorpyrifos) is a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical Co. and Eli Lilly that has both organophosphate and tri-chlorinated pesticide characteristics and toxicities. Working as a legal consultant, I evaluated eight children with profound abnormalities whose families had proof of their child’s exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb. I was stunned by how much the children resembled one another--they looked so similar they could have been siblings or cousins. The children were all severely retarded and needed feeding and diapering. One had quadriplegia and another died soon after I examined him.
MR: In your 1999 paper you refer to the brain problems cited in the Proceedings research as possibly pesticide-related.
JS: Yes. The children also had corpus callosum defects, which means there was no connection between their right and left side of their brains.
MR: Where were the children located and where did you examine them?
JS: The children were in Arkansas, on Long Island and in California. The use of Dursban occurred in the homes. Since Dursban has been restricted from home use [in 2000] of concern are agricultural use of chlorpyrifos that continues and questions of birth defects in women agricultural workers. I examined some of the children in their homes. In other cases, the parents brought them to be examined, if they had vans equipped to move the children.
MR: In addition to the mental retardation, paralysis and structural brain problems you found deafness, cleft palate, eye cysts and low vision, nose, brain, heart, tooth and feet abnormalities and many sexual deformities.
JS: Yes, the sexual and reproductive defects included undescended testes, microphallus [tiny penis], fused labias [vaginal lips] and widespread nipples. I also report in the paper, 13 adverse reproductive cases linked to chlorpyrifos from Dow's own research database (European Journal of Oncology, Vol. 4, n.6, pp 653-659 1999).
MR: Anyone who is aware of the effects of endocrine-disrupting pesticides on wildlife can't help but think of the frogs reported with no penises in so many U.S. streams or the sexual abnormalities reported in both male and female birds and other animals.
JS: Yes, the children's defects mirrored effects of endocrine disrupters seen in wildlife. They also mirrored Dow's own rat studies which showed testicular and urogenital deformities, skull and sternebrae (part of breast bone) abnormalities and cleft palate in exposed animals, especially from in utero exposure to chlorpyrifos (European Journal of Oncology, Vol. 4, n.6, pp 653-659 1999).
MR: You have not been one to shirk from doing battle with Dow and other giant chemical companies. You write in one paper, "Dow has been reluctant to accept that exposure to a chlorinated organophosphate chemical designed to kill insects by interfering with neurological function could harm the developing human." That's pretty direct.
JS: Dow works powerfully against criticism. During one legal proceeding, I overheard a Dow attorney say, "This is the last deposition Sherman will appear at." It takes nerve to go up against them.
MR: Before medical school you worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and at the U. S. Navy Radiological Laboratory. But now you publish outspoken books and papers about radiation poisoning related to Chernobyl, Fukushima and other sources. What shaped your medical career?
JS: In the 1970s, I began doing worker compensation cases involving people working in foundries and I began to see a high incidence of lung disease. When the occupational medicine department at my university told me the information was anecdotal and there were not enough cases to be statistically significant, I sent the information to former Senator Phil Hart, D-Mich, who was working with the consumer advocate Ralph Nader at the time. Soon, the information I had uncovered was on the front page of the New York Times and I began to be flooded with information and requests from people who had knowledge of other apparent environment toxicity cases. I became specialized in toxicology and continue to cover environmental hazards presented by radiation, chemicals and pesticides like Dursban.
MR: Since Dursban's ban, there have been calls for a Lorsban ban because of its effects on farmworkers. In India, Dow's offices were raided by Indian authorities for allegedly bribing officials to allow chlorpyrifos to be sold in the country. (Dow bought the Union Carbide plant in India where the 1984 Bhopal gas leak occurred.) And In 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service sought chlorpyrifos restrictions because of dangerous levels seen in Pacific salmon and steelhead. Yet, like DDT, there have been calls to bring Dursban back into wider use--especially when bedbug infestations hit major cities.
JS: Well, with many of these harmful chemicals, you need to follow the money. In some cases, companies making harmful chemicals are even making drugs to treat their effects, like anti-cancer drugs. But consumers are not off the hook either, because we fail to ask questions, pay attention and read the fine print.
Source : Alternet
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Fungicide Used on Farm Crops Linked to Insulin Resistance
A fungicide used on farm crops can induce insulin resistance, a new tissue-culture study finds, providing another piece of evidence linking environmental pollutants to diabetes. The results will be presented Saturday at The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.“For the first time, we’ve ascribed a molecular mechanism by which an environmental pollutant can induce insulin resistance, lending credence to the hypothesis that some synthetic chemicals might be contributors to the diabetes epidemic,” said investigator Robert Sargis, M.D., Ph.D., instructor in the endocrinology division at the University of Chicago.
The chemical, tolylfluanid, is used on farm crops in several countries outside of the United States to prevent fungal infestation, and sometimes is used in paint on ships to prevent organisms from sticking to their hulls. Animal studies have indicated that the chemical may adversely affect the thyroid gland, as well as other organs, and that it may increase the risk of cancer in humans.
Within the last decade, research attention has increasingly focused on the link between environmental contaminants and the rising rates of obesity and diabetes throughout many parts of the world. In the United States alone, nearly 26 million adults and children have some form of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. A serious disease by itself, diabetes also increases the risk of other medical complications, including heart and blood-vessel diseases.
Normally, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin, which acts to regulate blood-sugar levels. Among diabetic patients, insulin secretion either decreases or stops altogether, or cells become resistant to the hormone’s activity. These conditions then disrupt the process that transports sugar, or glucose, from the blood to the body’s other cells, which can lead to the dangerously high blood-sugar levels associated with diabetes.
In this project, Sargis and his co-investigators used mouse fat to examine the effects of tolylfluanid on insulin resistance at the cellular level. They found that exposure to tolylfluanid induced insulin resistance in fat cells, which play a critical role in regulating the body’s blood glucose and fat levels. When exposed to tolylfluanid in culture the ability of insulin to trigger action inside the fat cell, or adipocyte, was reduced, which is an early indication of diabetes.
“The fungicide and antifouling agent tolylfluanid may pose a threat to public health through the induction of adipocytic-insulin resistance, an early step in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes,” Sargis said. “Based on these studies, further efforts should be undertaken to clarify human exposure to tolylfluanid and the possible metabolic consequences of that exposure.”
At the same time, tolylfluanid-exposed cells stored more fat, or lipids, in a similar action to a steroid called corticosterone. Like this steroid, tolylfluanid bound receptors in fat cells, called glucocorticoid receptors, which help regulate blood-sugar levels, as well as many other important body processes.
“For the public, this raises the specter of environmental pollutants as potential contributors to the metabolic disease epidemic,” said Sargis, adding that, “hopefully, it will put further pressure on public policy makers to reassess the contribution of environmental pollution as a contributor to human disease in order to encourage the development of strategies for reversing those effects.”
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the University of Chicago Diabetes Research and Training Center funded this research.
Source : Newswise
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Analysis: Food security focus fuels new worries over crop chemicals
Scientists, environmentalists and farm advocates are pressing the question about whether rewards of the trend toward using more and more crop chemicals are worth the risks, as the agricultural industry strives to ramp up production to feed the world's growing population.
The debate has heated up in the last several weeks, with a series of warnings and calls for government action including a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Critics say they fear the push to increase global crop production is translating into mounting health and environmental dangers. As usage expands in some areas, agricultural chemical residues have turned up in water supplies and air samples of U.S. farming communities.
The concerns are rooted in two converging trends:
Growing global demand for food, fuel and livestock feed is pushing many farmers to apply more herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers to crops, hoping to boost production.
At the same time, some favored technologies are starting to lose their edge. Some growers have found they must use more chemicals to combat the very weeds and crop-damaging pests that biotech seeds were engineered to address.
"Production is growing," said Pat Sinicropi, legislative director at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, an organization of municipal water interests. "The pressure on agriculture is mounting to squeeze as much yield out of their land as possible, which is driving more and more chemical use."
Few would dispute that misuse of agricultural chemicals can harm health and the environment. The debate has focused on when that line is crossed, with industry saying U.S. regulatory oversight is already strong enough to ensure safety.
"With any technology there is risk," said Jim Borel, executive vice president of DuPont, which has projected strong growth in sales of insecticide, herbicide and pesticide products. "People tend to focus on either the problems or worse yet the fears that people create about potential problems.
"But," Borel said in an interview, "if we are going to feed 10 billion people in the next 40 years we have to essentially double agricultural production. We all have to work together. We have to be eyes wide open around the challenges and the risks."
Those on the other side of the debate agree that increasing crop production is necessary.
"To feed a growing world population, we have to intensify crop production, but we can't do so at the expense of the natural resource base," Teresa Buerkle, a spokeswoman for the North America office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
SCIENTISTS SPEAK UP
Where industry says regulation is adequate, critics say it is often lacking. They want the government to do more in-depth examination of the impacts of the chemicals in use and change the incentives that encourage farmers to grow more corn and other chemically intensive crops.
One concern is the level of nitrogen fertilizer run-off into water sources. A study released March 13 by researchers at the University of California, Davis, said fertilizers and nitrates from agriculture are contaminating the drinking water for more than 200,000 residents in California's farming communities.
That study came as a separate coalition of water authority officials, pollution control administrators and sustainable agricultural groups calling themselves Health Waters Coalition asked Congress to address excessive use and runoff of agricultural fertilizers in the new Farm Bill.
The group cited data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicating that more than 50 percent of rivers, streams, and lakes and nearly 60 percent of bays and estuaries are impaired because of excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.
"Nitrogen pollution is considered by scientists among the handful of most serious impacts on the environment that humans cause. It has been increasing," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a scientific policy group.
"More and more scientists are speaking up."
Insecticides are also a concern. Twenty-two U.S. plant scientists co-authored a letter March 5 warning the EPA about a biotech corn that is losing its resistance to plant-damaging pests and could trigger "escalating use of insecticides."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group, has taken its concerns to court, filing suit against the EPA on February 23.
The NRDC accuses EPA of not adequately addressing the health threats of 2,4-D, an ingredient in the Agent Orange defoliant used in Vietnam that prompted lawsuits from veterans and others who later contracted cancer. The chemical now is being increasingly used to help fight back "super weeds" that resist glyphosate, also known as Roundup.
NEW PRODUCTS, OLD WORRIES
2,4-D is an herbicide that's been registered for use in U.S. crops since 1948 but may now come into far more widespread usage as Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, seeks government approval for biotech crops engineered to thrive despite dousings of 2,4-D.
Complaints of ties to cancer have dogged the chemical for decades but U.S. regulators have said that research data is insufficient to make a direct link.
A scientific study published in January in the journal BioScience noted that nationwide herbicide use could see a "profound increase" if the new biotech crops being developed see the same rate of adoption that Roundup Ready crops.
Roundup use became so pervasive after the introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans 16 year ago that last summer, researchers with the Geological Survey said significant levels Roundup were detected in air and water samples in Iowa and Mississippi. More than 88,0000 tons of glyphosate were used in the United States in 2007, up from 11,000 tons in 1992, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Critics of 2,4-D fear a similar rise in the use of that herbicide.
"EPA is dragging their feet on this issue," said Gina Solomon, senior scientist with the NRDC. "They need to grapple with the science and the current situation where U.S. agriculture is on the cusp of the vast increase of the use of this chemical."
FARMERS TAKE PRECAUTIONS
Farmers are well aware of the poisonous possibilities of the chemicals they use, and must get trained and approved every year to apply pesticides, and take a range of precautions.
Life-long farmer Dennis Schwab knows the risks. As a corn grower in the top U.S. corn state of Iowa, 61-year-old Schwab has become an expert in the array of toxic chemicals used to fight bugs, weeds and disease.
"Our exposures are higher than the general population ... yeah we are concerned about it. But we recognize pesticides are a necessary part of raising crops today," he said..
Source : Reuters
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Like predators, pesticides morph tadpoles
The world’s most popular weed killer can cause amphibians to change shape in ways normally caused by a predator.
In the first study of its kind, scientists demonstrated that sublethal and environmentally relevant concentrations of Roundup caused two species of amphibians to alter their morphology. Their paper is published in Ecological Applications.
Rick Relyea, professor of biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology, set up large outdoor water tanks containing many of the components of natural wetlands.
Some tanks contained caged predators, which emit chemicals that naturally induce changes in tadpole morphology (such as larger tails to better escape predators). After adding tadpoles to each tank, he exposed them to a range of Roundup concentrations. After three weeks, the tadpoles were removed from the tanks.
“It was not surprising to see that the smell of predators in the water induced larger tadpole tails,” says Relyea. “That is a normal, adaptive response. What shocked us was that the Roundup induced the same changes. Moreover, the combination of predators and Roundup caused the tail changes to be twice as large.”
Because tadpoles alter their body shape to match their environment, having a body shape that does not fit the environment can put the animals at a distinct disadvantage.
Predators cause tadpoles to change shape by altering the stress hormones of tadpoles, says Relyea. The similar shape changes when exposed to the pesticide suggest that it may interfere with the hormones of tadpoles and potentially many other animals.
“This discovery highlights the fact that pesticides, which are important for crop production and human health, can have unintended consequences for species that are not the pesticide’s target,” says Relyea.
“Herbicides are not designed to affect animals, but we are learning that they can have a wide range of surprising effects by altering how hormones work in the bodies of animals.
“This is important because amphibians not only serve as a barometer of the ecosystem’s health, but also as an indicator of potential dangers to other species in the food chain, including humans.”
Source : Futurity
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