An insecticide is likely to be behind the deaths of almost 200 native birds in northeast Victoria, environment officials believe.
The agency says sulfoxaflor poses less risk than alternatives and is a critical tool for farmers. The agency's critics were anything but thrilled with Friday's announcement.
More than a year after 17 farmworkers were sicked in a suspected pesticide exposure in Salinas fields, Tanimura & Antle has been issued a proposed fine of $5,000 for failing to immediately take them to medical care when they were ill.
Weed killers in wheat crackers and cereals, insecticides in apple juice and a mix of multiple pesticides in spinach, string beans and other veggies – all are part of the daily diets of many Americans. For decades, federal officials have declared tiny traces of these contaminants to be safe. But a new wave of scientific scrutiny is challenging those assertions.
“There are probably many other health effects; we just haven’t studied them”<p>A team of Harvard scientists published <a href="http://www.ask-force.org/web/Organic/Hemler-Organic-Foods-for-Cancer-Preventio-Worth-the-Investment-2018.pdf" target="_blank">a commentary</a> in October stating that more research about potential links between disease and consumption of pesticide residues is "urgently needed" as more than 90 percent of the U.S. population has pesticide residues in their urine and blood. The primary route of exposure to these pesticides is through the food people eat, the Harvard research team said.</p><p>Several additional Harvard-affiliated scientists published a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29084307" target="_blank">study</a> earlier this year of women who were trying to get pregnant. The findings suggested that dietary pesticide exposure within a "typical" range was associated both with problems women had getting pregnant and delivering live babies, the scientists said. </p><p>"Clearly the current tolerance levels protect us from acute toxicity. The problem is that it is not clear to what extent long-term low-level exposure to pesticide residues through food may or may not be health hazards," said Dr. Jorge Chavarro, associate professor of the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and one of the study authors. </p><h3><em>Related: </em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/industry-studies-on-chlorpyrifos-misleading-2619918322.html" target="_blank"><em>Industry studies show evidence of bias and misleading conclusions on widely used insecticide</em></a></h3><p>"Exposure to pesticide residues through diet is associated [with] some reproductive outcomes including semen quality and greater risk of pregnancy loss among women undergoing infertility treatments. There are probably many other health effects; we just haven't studied them sufficiently to make an adequate risk assessment," Chavarro said. </p><p>Toxicologist Linda Birnbaum, who directs the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), has also raised concerns about pesticide dangers through exposures once assumed to be safe. Last year <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002619.s002&type=supplementary" target="_blank">she called for</a> "an overall reduction in the use of agricultural pesticides" due to multiple concerns for human health, stating that "existing US regulations have not kept pace with scientific advances showing that widely used chemicals cause serious health problems at levels previously assumed to be safe."</p><p>In an interview Birnbaum said that pesticide residues in food and water are among the types of exposures that need greater regulatory scrutiny. </p><p>"Do I think that levels that are currently set are safe? Probably not," said Birnbaum. "We have people of different susceptibility, whether because of their own genetics, or their age, whatever may make them more susceptible to these things," she said.</p><p>"While we look at chemicals one at a time, there is a lot of evidence for things acting in a synergistic fashion. A lot of our standard testing protocols, many that were developed 40 to 50 years ago, are not asking the questions we should be asking," she added.</p>
Legal doesn’t mean safe<p>Other recent scientific papers also point to troubling findings. One by a group of international scientists published in May <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29843725" target="_blank">found glyphosate herbicide</a> at doses currently considered "safe" are capable of causing health problems before the onset of puberty. More research is needed to understand potential risks to children, the study authors said.</p><p>And in a paper <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2707948" target="_blank">published Oct. 22</a> in JAMA Internal Medicine, French researchers said that when looking at pesticide residue links to cancer in a study of the diets of more than 68,000 people, they found indications that consumption of organic foods, which are less likely to carry synthetic pesticide residues than foods made with conventionally grown crops, was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. </p><p><a href="https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2009/11001/Assessing_Children_s_Dietary_Pesticide.235.aspx" target="_blank">A 2009 paper</a> published by a Harvard researcher and two FDA scientists found 19 out of 100 food samples that children commonly consumed contained at least one insecticide known to be a neurotoxin. The foods the researchers looked at were fresh vegetables, fruits and juices. Since then, evidence has grown about the harmful human health impacts of insecticides, in particular. </p><p>"A number of current legal standards for pesticides in food and water do not fully protect public health, and do not reflect the latest science," said Olga Naidenko, senior science advisor to the non-profit Environmental Working Group, which has issued several reports looking at potential dangers of pesticides in food and water. "Legal does not necessarily reflect "safe," she said. </p>
Unacceptable levels<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODkyNjc3Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDAxMDgyNX0.Xz2WoTh2Uf9rFxvYCb8gXAKn26kWcGsh9ccmM-vij18/img.jpg?width=980" id="c8e7d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0537558bbb7bfe14368494019e7b5bac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Moms Clean Air Force/flickr<p>One example of how regulatory assurances of safety have been found lacking when it comes to pesticide residues is the case of an insecticide known as chlorpyrifos. Marketed by Dow Chemical, which became the DowDuPont company in 2017, chlorpyrifos is applied to more than 30 percent of apples, asparagus, walnuts, onions, grapes, broccoli, cherries and cauliflower grown in the U.S. and is commonly found on foods consumed by children. The EPA has said for years that exposures below the legal tolerances it set were nothing to worry about.</p><p>Yet <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jnc.14077" target="_blank">scientific research</a> in recent years has demonstrated an association between chlorpyrifos exposure and cognitive deficits in children. The evidence of harm to young developing brains is so strong that the EPA <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0653-0001" target="_blank">in 2015 said </a>that it "cannot find that any current tolerances are safe." </p><p>The EPA said that because of unacceptable levels of the insecticide in food and drinking water it planned to ban the pesticide from agricultural use. But <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-epa-pesticide-dow-20170627-story.html" target="_blank">pressure from Dow</a> and <a href="https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/croplife-corteva-respond-to-chlorpyrifos-ruling/" target="_blank">chemical industry lobbyists</a> have kept the chemical in wide use on American farms. The FDA's recent report found it the 11<sup>th</sup> most prevalent pesticides in U.S. foods out of hundreds included in the testing.</p><p>A <a href="https://apnews.com/e87ad38befdc4a58b0778286404ee826" target="_blank">federal court in August said</a> that the Trump Administration was endangering public health by keeping chlorpyrifos in use for agricultural food production. The <a href="http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2018/08/09/17-71636.pdf" target="_blank">court </a><a href="http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2018/08/09/17-71636.pdf" target="_blank">cited</a> "scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children" and ordered the EPA to revoke all tolerances and ban the chemical from the market. The EPA has yet to act on that order, and is <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/408173-trump-admin-appeals-ruling-ordering-epa-to-ban-pesticide" target="_blank">seeking a rehearing</a> before the full 9<sup>th</sup> Circuit Court of Appeals.</p><p>When asked how to explain its changing positions on chlorpyrifos, an agency spokesman said that the EPA "plans to continue to review the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects" of the chemical. </p><p> The fact that it is still in wide use frustrates and angers physicians who specialize in child health and leaves them wondering what other pesticide exposures in food might be doing to people.</p><p> "The bottom line is that the biggest public health concerns for chlorpyrifos are from its presence in foods," said Dr. Bradley Peterson director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. "Even small exposures can potentially have harmful effects." </p><p>The EPA decision to continue to allow chlorpyrifos into American diets is "emblematic of a broader dismissal of scientific evidence" that challenges human health as well as scientific integrity, <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003671" target="_blank">according to </a><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003671" target="_blank">Dr. </a><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003671" target="_blank">Leonardo Trasande,</a> who directs the Division of Environmental Pediatrics within the Department of Pediatrics at New York University's Langone Health. </p><p>Epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, director of Boston College's Global Public Health initiative, and a former scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is advocating for a ban on all organophosphates, a class of insecticides that includes chlorpyrifos, because of the danger they pose to children. </p><p>"Children are exquisitely vulnerable to these chemicals," said Landrigan. "This is about protecting kids."</p>
Increased tolerances at industry request<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODkyNjc5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NzQwMjAwNn0.f0HX-m0PFSH6ADA3KAPqzZcXThK9gd8lEd1viuIxAk0/img.jpg?width=980" id="2653b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7c11b1ac1ccb857952fe87e71f90d324" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Warming Up Again/flickr<p>The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act authorizes the EPA to regulate the use of pesticides on foods according to specific statutory standards and grants the EPA a limited authority to establish tolerances for pesticides meeting statutory qualifications. </p><p>Tolerances vary from food to food and pesticide to pesticide, so an apple might legally carry more of a certain type of insecticide residue than a plum, for instance. The tolerances also vary from country to country, so what the U.S. sets as a legal tolerance for residues of a pesticide on a particular food can – and often is – much different than limits set in other countries. As part of the setting of those tolerances, regulators examine data showing how much residue persists after a pesticide is used as intended on a crop, and they undertake the dietary risk assessments to confirm that the levels of pesticide residues don't pose human health concerns. </p><p> The agency says that it accounts for the fact that the diets of infants and children may be quite different from those of adults and that they consume more food for their size than adults. The EPA also says it combines information about routes of pesticide exposure - food, drinking water residential uses - with information about the toxicity of each pesticide to determine the potential risks posed by the pesticide residues. The agency says if the risks are "unacceptable," it will not approve the tolerances. </p><p>The EPA also says that when it makes tolerance decisions, it "seeks to harmonize U.S. tolerances with international standards whenever possible, consistent with U.S. food safety standards and agricultural practices."</p><p>Monsanto, which became of unit of Bayer AG earlier this year, has successfully asked the EPA to expand the levels of glyphosate residues allowed in several foods, including in wheat and oats. </p><p>In 1993, for example, <a href="https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/endanger/litstatus/effects/glyphosate-red.pdf" target="_blank">the EPA had a tolerance</a> for glyphosate in oats at 0.1 parts per million (ppm) but in 1996 <a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1996-12-24/pdf/96-32531.pdf" target="_blank">Monsanto asked EPA</a> to raise the tolerance to 20 ppm and the <a href="https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/reregistration/tred_PC-417300_11-Apr-97.pdf" target="_blank">EPA did as asked.</a> In 2008, at Monsanto's suggestion, the <a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2008-05-21/pdf/E8-11420.pdf" target="_blank">EPA again looked to raise the tolerance</a> for glyphosate in oats, this time to 30 ppm. </p><p>At that time, it also said it would raise the tolerance for glyphosate in barley from 20 ppm to 30 ppm, raise the tolerance in field corn from 1 to 5 ppm and raise the tolerance of glyphosate residue in wheat from 5 ppm to 30 ppm, a 500 percent increase. The 30 ppm for wheat is matched by more than 60 other countries, but is well above the tolerances allowed in more than 50 countries, according to an <a href="https://globalmrl.com/home/index.html" target="_blank">international tolerance database</a> established with EPA funding and maintained now by a private government affairs consulting group. </p><p>"The Agency has determined that the increased tolerances are safe, i.e, there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue," the EPA stated in the May 21, 2008 Federal Register. </p><p>"All these statements from EPA - trust us it's safe. But the truth is we have no idea if it actually is safe," said Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a clinician scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute, BC Children's Hospital, and a professor in the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. Lanphear said that while regulators assume toxic effects increase with dose, scientific evidence shows that some chemicals are most toxic at the lowest levels of exposure. Protecting public health will require rethinking basic assumptions about how agencies regulate chemicals, he argued <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003066" target="_blank">in a paper</a> published last year.</p><p>In recent years both Monsanto and Dow have received new tolerance levels for the pesticides dicamba and 2,4-D on food as well. </p><p>Raising tolerances allows farmers to use pesticides in various ways that may leave more residues, but that doesn't threaten human health, according to Monsanto. <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-goldstein-76b06b9/" target="_blank">In a blog posted last year,</a> Monsanto scientist Dan Goldstein asserted the safety of pesticide residues in food generally and of glyphosate in particular. Even when they exceed the regulatory legal limits, pesticide residues are so minuscule they pose no danger, according to Goldstein, who posted the blog before he retired from Monsanto this year. </p>
About half of foods sampled contained traces of pesticides<p>Amid the scientific concerns, the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Pesticides/UCM618373.pdf" target="_blank">most recent FDA data</a> on pesticide residues in food found that roughly half of the foods the agency sampled contained traces of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other toxic chemicals used by farmers in growing hundreds of different foods.</p><p>More than 90 percent of apple juices sampled were found to contain pesticides. The FDA also reported that more than 60 percent of cantaloupe carried residues. Overall, 79 percent of American fruits and 52 percent of vegetables contained residues of various pesticides – many known by scientists to be <a href="https://www.who.int/features/qa/87/en/" target="_blank">linked to a range of illnesses</a> and disease. Pesticides were also found in soy, corn, oat and wheat products, and finished foods like cereals, crackers and macaroni. </p><p>The FDA analysis "almost exclusively" is focused on products that are not labeled as organic, according to FDA spokesman Peter Cassell. </p><p>The FDA downplays the percentage of foods containing pesticide residues and focuses on the percentage of samples for which there is no violation of the tolerance levels. In its most recent report, <a href="https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Pesticides/UCM618373.pdf" target="_blank">the FDA said</a> that more than "99% of domestic and 90% of import human foods were compliant with federal standards."</p><h3><em>Related: </em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/another-round-of-tests-finds-weedkiller-widespread-in-popular-cereals-and-snack-bars-2614597933.html" target="_blank"><em>Another round of tests finds weedkiller widespread in popular cereals and snack bars</em></a></h3><p>The report marked the agency's launch of testing for the weed killer glyphosate in foods. The Government Accountability Office said in 2014 that both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should start regularly testing foods for glyphosate. The FDA did only limited tests looking for glyphosate residues, however, sampling corn and soy and milk and eggs for the weed killer, the agency said. No residues of glyphosate were found in milk or eggs, but residues were found in 63.1 percent of the corn samples and 67 percent of the soybean samples, according to FDA data. </p><p>The agency did not disclose findings by one of its chemists of glyphosate <a href="https://www.nacrw.org/2016/presentations/O-27.pdf" target="_blank">in oatmeal</a> and <a href="https://www.usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FDA1.pdf" target="_blank">honey products</a>, even though the FDA chemist made his findings known to supervisors and other scientists outside the agency. </p><p>Cassell said the honey and oatmeal findings were not part of the agency's assignment. </p><p>Overall, the new FDA report covered sampling done from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2016, and included analysis of 7,413 samples of food examined as part of the FDA's "pesticide monitoring program." Most of the samples were of food to be eaten by people, but 467 samples were of animal food. The agency said that pesticide residues were found in 47.1 percent of the samples of food for people produced domestically and 49.3 percent of food imported from other countries destined for consumer meals. Animal food products were similar, with pesticide residues found in 57 percent of the domestic samples and 45.3 percent of imported foods for animals. </p><p>Many imported food samples showed residues of pesticides high enough to break the legal limits, the FDA said. Nearly 20 percent of imported grain and grain product samples showed illegally high levels of pesticides, for example. </p><p><em>Carey Gillam is a journalist and author of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Whitewash-Killer-Cancer-Corruption-Science/dp/1610918320/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543264941&sr=1-1&keywords=whitewash+the+story+of+a+weed+killer" target="_blank">Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science.</a><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Whitewash-Killer-Cancer-Corruption-Science/dp/1610918320/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543264941&sr=1-1&keywords=whitewash+the+story+of+a+weed+killer">.</a> She's also a researcher for <a href="https://usrtk.org/" target="_blank">US Right to Know</a>, a nonprofit food industry research group.</em></p>
Industry studies show evidence of bias and misleading conclusions on widely used insecticide: Scientists
Researchers who examined Dow Chemical Company-sponsored animal tests performed two decades ago on the insecticide chlorpyrifos found inaccuracies in what the company reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compared to what the data showed.
Inaccuracies in the reporting<p>The researchers, led by Axel Mie, an assistant professor in the department of clinical science and education at the Karolinska Institute, requested the data for two industry lab animal studies—one from 1998, and one in 2015.</p><p>One study tested chlorpyrifos exposure on rats, while the other was a rat study of chlorpyrifos-methyl, a breakdown chemical from chlorpyrifos. </p><p>Key findings: </p><ul><li>The lab, Argus Research Laboratories in Pennsylvania, used a 2 percent cut off for what constitutes "statistically significant" findings throughout most of the study, instead of the scientific standard of 5 percent. This is important because it is a stricter interpretation of data and would make it more likely that they wouldn't find impacts from exposure. </li><li>When the lab looked at dimensions of the brain after exposure, they didn't look at individuals but put them all together and took an average. "When we looked at least one dimension in the rats, cerebellum height was decreased and linked to exposure to chlorpyrifos in newborn pups," Grandjean said. "In the other test study where they examined chlorpyrifos-methyl those data were in part missing, so we were unable to see if the same thing happened with the sister compound. And there was no explanation for the data being unavailable." </li><li>The rat studies failed to model human exposure and potential brain impacts. "The brain growth spurt occurs mainly postnatally in rats but prenatally in humans," Mie and colleague wrote. However, the newborn pups in the industry studies had decreased levels of exposure once born because only a fraction of chlorpyrifos is transferred via milk. </li><li>The test facility for the studies was "unable to detect neurobehavioral effects of elevated developmental exposure to lead nitrate, although lead is a confirmed developmental neurotoxicant at very low doses," the authors wrote. </li></ul><p>"We believe there were some inaccuracies in the reporting and in the summary provided by Dow to the EPA and EFSA," Grandjean said. "And this goes back something like 20 years, when all of this testing was being done, and this is what current approval of chlorpyrifos relies on." </p>
"Federal agencies need to stop doing negotiations with registrants"<p>Grandjean said there were several hundred pages of data.</p><p>In communication between EPA toxicologists and those responsible for registering pesticides, it's clear agency scientists were well aware of study interpretation problems. </p><p>"The study was graded unacceptable due to an inadequate presentation of the statistical data analysis," wrote Susan Makris, formerly with the toxicology branch of the EPA, <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/pesticides/chemicalsearch/chemical/foia/web/pdf/059101/059101-427-03-03-2000.pdf" target="_blank">in a 2000 note</a> to the agency's reregistration branch. </p><p>An EPA spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the new study. </p><p>"What happened in the end was EPA management overriding their own science and technical experts," Sass said. </p><p>Sass added that EPA scientists are now on the "right track" — looking at low dose exposures and specific impacts to developing children. </p><p>And now it's up to management and administration officials to follow the science. </p><p>"This [study] just shows that industry can't be trusted on how it reports data, and federal agencies need to stop doing negotiations with registrants," Sass said. </p><p>EHN has reached out to Dow Chemical Company and will update the story when they respond. </p>
Sid Miller's Texas Ag Department knew about dangerous pesticide violations in 2015, did nothing for two years
Our current crisis reaffirms the importance of weighing the health benefits of eating fish against chemical exposure risks.
Two communities — one in Canada, one in the U.S. — share both a border along the St. Marys River and a toxic legacy that has contributed to high rates of cancer. Now the towns are banding together to fight a ferrochrome plant.