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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.
"We are turning off the manufacture of this chemical ... for garden and home uses," said Browner, who called the chemical one in a whole family of older pesticides that can cause illness in people, especially children.
According to the EPA, chlorpyrifos has been one of the most widely used pesticides on food and lawns for some 30 years, with between 20 million and 24 million tons applied annually. The manufacturer, Dow Chemical, claims its product is safe, but in order to avoid a long legal battle it has agreed to phase out its use in virtually all nonagricultural uses. In exchange, the chemical will continue to be sold for many agricultural uses, albeit under tighter restrictions - and the home products that contiain it will stay in stores until supplies run out.
Uses- Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, acaricide and miticide used to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests on a variety of food and feed crops.Approximately 10 million pounds are applied annually in agricultural settings. The largest agricultural market for chlorpyrifos in terms of total pounds ai is corn (~5.5 million).
Health Effects- Chlorpyrifos can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans; that is, it can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at very high exposures (e.g., accidents or major spills), respiratory paralysis and death.
Risks- Dietary exposures from eating food crops treated with chlorpyrifos are below the level of concern for the entire U.S. population, including infants and children. Drinking water risk estimates based on screening models and monitoring data from both ground and surface water for acute and chronic exposures are generally not of concern.
- In June, 2000, the Agency entered into an agreement with the technical registrants to eliminate virtually all homeowner uses, except ant and roach baits in child resistent packaging.
- Residential postapplication exposures may occur after termiticide use in residential structures. To mitigate risks from this use, the technical registrants agreed in June 2000 to limit termiticide treatments to 0.5% solution, and cancel all postconstruction uses. Pre-construction use will remain until 2005, unless acceptable exposure data are submitted that show that residential postapplication risks from this use are not a concern.
- Occupational exposure to chlorpyrifos is of concern to the Agency. Exposures of concern include mixing/loading liquids for aerial/chemigation and groundboom application, mixing wettable powder for groundboom application, aerial application, and application by backpack sprayer, high-pressure handwand, and hand-held sprayer or duster. Generally, these risks can be mitigated by a combination of additional personal protective equipment and engineering controls, and by reductions in application rates. Additionally, the Agricultural Handler Task Force will be developing exposure data to better characterize the risk from certain uses (e.g., applying granulars by air).
- Risk quotients indicate that a single application of chlorpyrifos poses risks to small mammals, birds, fish and aquatic invertebrate species for nearly all registered outdoor uses. Multiple applications increase the risks to wildlife and prolong exposures to toxic concentrations. To address these risks, a number of measures including reduced application rates, increased retreatment intervals, reduced seasonal maximum amounts applied per acre, and no-spray setback zones around water bodies will be needed.
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.
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).