Common Pesticide to Be Banned Over Links to Problems in Children

The Biden Administration said Wednesday that a widely used pesticide will be banned because it’s been linked to neurological damage in children.

The new rule to block the use of chlorpyrifos on food will take effect in six months, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

“Today [the] EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health,” EPA head Michael Regan said in an agency news release. “Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide.”

Available since the mid-1960s and among the most widely used pesticides, chlorpyrifos is routinely applied to corn, soybeans, apples, broccoli, asparagus and other produce, The New York Times reported.

In April, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the EPA to stop agricultural use of the pesticide unless it could demonstrate its safety.

The court order gave the EPA a deadline of Aug. 20 to either prove that chlorpyrifos is harmless to children or to end its use on food crops.

“It is very unusual,” Michal Freedhoff, E.P.A. assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, said of the court’s directive. “It speaks to the impatience and the frustration that the courts and environmental groups and farmworkers have with the agency.”

“The court basically said, ‘Enough is enough,'” Freedhoff told the Times. “Either tell us that it’s safe, and show your work, and if you can’t, then revoke all tolerances.”

Several states have already banned chlorpyrifos, the Times said.

Studies have linked exposure to the pesticide with lower birth weights, reduced IQs and other developmental problems in children, and a wide range of groups have long fought for a ban on chlorpyrifos, the Times reported.

“It took far too long, but children will no longer be eating food tainted with a pesticide that causes intellectual learning disabilities,” Patti Goldman, an attorney at EarthJustice, told the Times. “Chlorpyrifos will finally be out of our fruits and vegetables.”

Chlorpyrifos can still be used on golf courses, turf, utility poles and fence posts as well as in cockroach bait and ant treatments, the Times reported.

Source: HealthDay

Study Finds Potential Link between Cardiovascular Death and Some Types of Pesticides

Tom Snee wrote . . . . . . . . .

A new study from the University of Iowa suggests that people who have higher levels of a chemical in their body that indicates exposure to commonly used insecticides die of cardiovascular disease at a significantly higher rate.

Findings from the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest those who have high levels of exposure to pyrethroid insecticides are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than people with low or no exposure.

Wei Bao, assistant professor of epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the study’s corresponding author, says the findings come from an analysis of a nationally representative sample of American adults, not just those who work in agriculture. That means the findings have public health relevance to the general population.

He also cautions that as an observational study, the research does not determine if the people in the sample died as a direct result of their exposure to pyrethroids. He says that the results indicate a high likelihood of a link, but more research is needed to replicate the findings and determine the biological mechanisms.

Pyrethroids are among the list of commonly used insecticides with the largest market share and they constitute the majority of commercial household insecticides. They are found in numerous commercial insecticide brands and are used widely in agricultural, public, and residential settings for pest control. Metabolites of pyrethroids, such as 3-phenoxybenzoic acid, can be measured in the urine of people who are exposed to pyrethroids.

Bao and his team of researchers analyzed data on 3-phenoxybenzoic acid levels in urine samples collected from 2,116 adults aged 20 and over who participated in the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2002. They cross-referenced mortality records to determine how many of those adults in their data sample had died by 2015 and of what cause.

They found that during an average 14 years of observation, those people who had the highest levels of 3-phenoxybenzoic acid in their urine samples were 56% more likely to have died of any cause by 2015 than people with the lowest levels of exposure. Cardiovascular disease was by far the leading cause of death, with a three times greater likelihood.

While Bao’s study did not determine how the subjects became exposed to pyrethroids, he says previous studies show that most exposure to pyrethroids is through food, as people who eat fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with them ingest the chemical. Residential use of pyrethroids in gardens and homes for pest-control is also a significant source of exposure. Pyrethroids are also present in household dust in homes that apply these pesticides.

Bao notes that the market share of pyrethroid insecticides has increased since the 1999–2002 study period, which makes it likely the rate of cardiovascular disease-related deaths related to its exposure has increased, as well. However, Bao says, further investigation is needed to assess whether this hypothesis holds.

Source: The University of Iowa


Today’s Comic

Controversial Pesticides Are Suspected Of Starving Fish

Dan Charles wrote . . . . . . . . .

There’s new evidence that a widely used family of pesticides called neonicotinoids, already controversial because they can be harmful to pollinators, could be risky for insects and fish that live in water, too.

The evidence comes from Lake Shinji, which lies near Japan’s coast, next to the Sea of Japan.

Masumi Yamamuro, a scientist with the Geological Survey of Japan, says the lake is famous for its views of the setting sun. “It’s amazingly beautiful,” she says.

Lake Shinji was also the site of thriving fisheries. People harvested clams, and eels, and small fish called smelts. But, Yamamuro says, about a decade ago, people noticed that fish populations had declined drastically. “I was asked to investigate the cause of this decrease,” she says.

It was a puzzle. Yamamuro says the decline in fish populations did not seem to coincide with anything that people were keeping track of, like the lake’s salinity, or levels of pollution.

But she noticed something curious. One kind of fish in the lake was doing fine. This one had a more diverse diet; it could eat algae, as well as tiny insects in the water. The eels and the smelts that were dying off relied on insects and crustaceans for food. And that food source was vanishing.

“So we concluded [that] something killed the food of the eels and the smelt,” Yamamuro says.

She and her colleagues now believe that they’ve identified the culprit: pesticides called neonicotinoids.

The evidence is circumstantial. Right around the time the fish started having problems, early in the 1990s, farmers near the lake started using these pesticides on their rice paddies to control insect pests. Yamamuro also found traces of these chemicals in some parts of the lake. Those levels, she thinks, are high enough to cause problems for tiny aquatic animals. Also, neonicotinoids kill insects, but not the algae that the thriving fish were eating.

She and her colleagues just published their findings in the journal Science.

Jason Hoverman, an ecologist at Purdue University, in Indiana, says this study doesn’t really prove that neonicotinoids are guilty. There’s no historical data showing levels of neonicotinoids in the lake back when the fish started to die off.

But he says that it is logical to suspect them, and the new report is a good reminder that chemicals can have really complicated effects on an ecosystem.

“When we think about chemicals, we often just go right to direct toxicity, not thinking about the food web implications; the food of the fish, and the impact of the chemicals on that food,” he says.

Neonicotinoids have become really controversial in recent years. That’s partly because of how widely they’re used. Corn and soybean and other seeds that are coated with these pesticides are planted on close to 200 million acres of land every year. Also, neonicotinoids are extremely toxic to bees and other pollinators.

Scientists like Hoverman now are starting to pay much closer attention to the effects on insects that live in streams and rivers. “These chemicals can definitely end up in water. We apply them on land, but they don’t stay on land. The question becomes, are they at levels that are high enough to cause a problem?” he says.

Hoverman says that in some cases, it looks like they may actually be causing problems. But much of the time, scientists still are searching for the answer.

Source: npr

Pesticide Exposure May Increase Heart Disease and Stroke Risk

On-the-job exposure to high levels of pesticides raised the risk of heart disease and stroke in a generally healthy group of Japanese American men in Hawaii, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the open access journal of the American Heart Association.

“This study emphasizes the importance of using personal protective equipment during exposure to pesticides on the job and the importance of documenting occupational exposure to pesticides in medical records, as well as controlling standard heart disease risk factors,” said Beatriz L. Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., co-author of the study and professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The findings are the latest to emerge from the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program, which enrolled over 8,000 Japanese American men on Oahu between 1965 and 1968. Men enrolled in the study were 45 to 68 years of age and self-reported their occupation. The group has since undergone multiple examinations and researchers are also tracking all causes of death and some disease outcomes. Data on rates of heart disease and stroke were available through December 1999, for up to 34 years of follow-up.

Pesticide exposure was estimated using a scale from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that assesses the intensity and length of occupational exposure for each job. Compared to men who were not exposed to pesticides at work, in the first 10 years of follow-up, the researchers found:

  • Roughly a 45% higher risk of heart disease or stroke in those with high pesticide exposure, (46% after adjusting for age, and 42% after adjusting for other heart disease risk factors as well as age); and
  • There was no significant relationship between low to moderate exposure to pesticides and the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Pesticides have a long half-life, so health effects may occur years after exposure. By analyzing different time lags, the researchers found that the maximum effect of exposure on heart disease and stroke risk was during the first 10 years.

“After following the men for 34 years, the link between being exposed to pesticides at work and heart disease and stroke was no longer significant. This was probably because other factors tied to aging became more important, masking the possible relation of pesticides and cardiovascular disease later in life,” Rodriguez said.

The study was conducted only in men of Japanese descent, and the results may not apply to women or other races.

“Previous studies have found that men and women may respond differently to pesticide exposure. One class of pesticides may give women heart attacks but not men and other pesticides may give men heart disease but not women. Hormones may also play a role in the impact of pesticide exposure and the development of cardiovascular disease,” said Zara Berg, Ph.D., co-author of the study and adjunct science professor at Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, Montana.

Although the study was conducted solely in first or second-generation Japanese American men, similar results were found in Taiwan for high pesticide exposure in middle age.

Source: American Heart Association


Today’s Comic

Kale Joins the Ranks of the Annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ Pesticide List

Denise Powell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Kale, that popular green of the health conscious, has joined the ignoble list of 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group. The last time kale was on the list was in 2009 when it was ranked eighth. Strawberries and spinach took the top two spots again this year, respectively, followed by kale.

Since 2004, the group — a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental organization — has annually ranked pesticide contamination in popular fruits and vegetables for its Shopper’s Guide, noting those with the highest and lowest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled. Pesticides include an array of chemicals that kill unwanted insects, plants, molds and rodents. These chemicals keep pests from destroying produce but also expose humans to residues through their diet. This guide shares the results of the 47 tested fruits and vegetables, so consumers can buy foods with lower amounts of pesticides.

The “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen,” a list of the top 15 tested produce contaminated with the least amounts of pesticide, are based off more than 40,900 fruit and vegetable samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture. The types and amounts of pesticides used vary based upon pests and weather, according to EWG.

Analysis of recent data showed that 70% of this produce sold for consumption contained pesticide residues.

How do pesticides impact health?

While pesticides are used to protect growing fruits and vegetables, they can also endanger humans, per the World Health Organization. Human consumption of pesticides has been shown by studies to be associated with cancer risk, fertility and other health concerns. EWG research analyst Carla Burns explained in statement, “The main route of pesticide exposure for most Americans who do not live or work on or near farms is through their diet.” By helping consumers know what foods to be more health-conscious about or to gravitate toward in the grocery store, this guide intends to assist making decisions about the way pesticide regulation impacts health.

Fear shouldn’t be a part of the decision whether to buy foods on the pesticide list, said Teresa Thorne, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit that represents organic and conventional farmers of fruits and vegetables.

Thorne noted a past study in the Journal of Toxicology that was critical of EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, and found that eating organic produce didn’t decrease consumer risk. “That’s largely because residues are so low, if present at all,” she said.

Research on the effects of pesticides on humans is ongoing, and there is not a complete understanding of whether there is a particular amount of pesticides considered to be safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges there are reasons to be concerned about the exposure of developing children to pesticides, especially before birth. Concerns include effects on development and behavior.

What produce has high amounts of pesticides on the list?

In order of pesticide concentration, 2019’s Dirty Dozen list is: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes. Among these, kale and spinach contained 1.1 to 1.8 times more pesticide residue in weight than other batches of produce. This list varies, as does pesticide use in agriculture. “The types and amount of pesticides a grower uses is going to depend upon the pests that the grower is dealing with and the weather. Wetter weather will often increase the use of fungicides,” says Chris Campbell, EWG’s vice president for information technology.

Despite the high pesticide residues of spinach and kale, strawberries have maintained their place at the top of the Dirty Dozen list. Strawberries are popular — Americans eat an estimated 8 pounds per year — but the chemicals used to protect and preserve strawberries raise concern and some have been banned by the European Union. The fruit gained its notorious status because of the United States Department of Agriculture concluding strawberries are most likely, among the tested produce, to retain pesticide residues even after being picked and washed.

What is so surprising about kale being number three on the Dirty Dozen list?

Kale is known for being a source of vitamins and other nutrients, but the vegetable could also be tainted by cancer-causing pesticides. The report’s results showed that 92% of the samples of conventionally grown kale were positive for two or more pesticide residues, and a single sample of kale sometimes contained as many as 18 different pesticide residues. The most common pesticide detected was Dacthal, also known as DCPA, and has been identified as a potential cancer-causing agent. Europe has prohibited its use since 2009.

What produce has low amounts of pesticides?

Produce that are among the top of the list for reducing the exposure of consumers to pesticides include avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas and onions. In contrast to the Dirty Dozen, there was no detection of pesticide residues in 70% of these foods. Less than 1% of avocados and sweet corn tested positive for pesticides and were considered the cleanest of the list.

How can you avoid pesticides?

The recommendations from the Environmental Working Group are to buy and eat organic produce, especially fruits and vegetables found on the Dirty Dozen list. However, if your budget does not allow you to eat organic, fruits and vegetables are better than none.

“The science shows that what people need to know is to eat more fruits and vegetables every day, conventional or organic, choose either. No list needed,” said Thorne of the Alliance for Food and Farming.

Source: CNN