How many more will fall ill or die because of exposure to pesticides and herbicides?

25 Aug

First published on India’s CHS-Sachetan website

 

Last year Richard Bruce, who has suffered severely for many years following exposure to pesticides in the course of his work, sent news of research into links between diabetes and exposure to organophosphate, the most frequently and largely applied insecticide in the world, undertaken by a team from Madurai Kamaraj University, published in Genome Biology. It is accessible to all readers and may be accessed here.

He now draws attention to the Hindu’s report of a food poisoning incident in Navi Mumbai which led to the death of three children and 40 people falling ill (200 according to the Hindustan Times).

Dr. Ajit Gawli, Raigad district civil surgeon, said “The serum test reports of two patients indicated presence of organophosphate compound in the food. The cholinesterase enzyme level was found to be around 800, which ideally should be around 1,200. It does confirm the presence of organophosphate compound found in insecticides and pesticides. After the reports of the serum of the deceased come in, we can confirm the saturation of the compound and what exactly the chemical was.” The food samples have been sent to a forensic science laboratory at Kalina and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for further analysis.”

An American campaign

Richard earlier sent news of a press release issued from Portland, Oregon, by the Center for Biological Diversity, a national, non-profit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

It reported that group of farmworkers, child-safety and environmental advocates sent a letter to the government’s Environmental Protection Agency urging it to ban seven organophosphate pesticides, currently under review, that are used on crops such as corn, cotton, watermelon and wheat. It was submitted in response to the EPA’s request for public comments on new releases of human-health and ecological risk assessments for organophosphate insecticides.

“Every spring season, children around the U.S. are facing low-dose exposure to this dangerous chemical,” says a Minnesota mother who was sickened, along with her infant son, by chlorpyrifos. “It is in the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat,” she adds. “By leaving this chemical on the market, we are gambling with the lives of children. It is stealing their futures from them and increasing the amount of health care dollars they will need for treatment.”

Chemical & Engineering News reported that no ban was imposed; there was ‘pushback’ from Dow Sciences and others in the chemical industry.

Leonardo Trasande, an internationally renowned authority on children’s environmental health, in a study published in 2017 writes:

“A regulatory ban was proposed, but actions to end the use of one such pesticide, chlorpyrifos, in agriculture were recently stopped by the Environmental Protection Agency under false scientific pretenses”.

“Strong evidence now supports the notion that organophosphate pesticides damage the fetal brain and produce cognitive and behavioral dysfunction through multiple mechanisms, including thyroid disruption.

 

 

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Biomedical research: the gender dimension

1 Aug

Dr Elizabeth Pollitzer, Director of Portia, recently wrote to the Financial Times.

Portia was established by a group of female scientists working at Imperial College, to respond to government concerns about under-representation of women in Science, Engineering and Technology.

Portia’s mission is to help women and men have the same opportunities for engagement and advancement in science, across all science disciplines, and to further the understanding and appreciation of the gender dimension in science knowledge making.

Dr Pollitzer responded to Anjana Ahuja’s article: “Britain must stop inflating the biomedical bubble” (July 17, probable paywall) which highlighted the issue of the failure of biomedical industry to translate the huge investment in research into improvements in the quality of medicine.

She pointed out that in 2014, following problems in replicating early pre-clinical studies and differences in efficacy and adverse effects of drugs in women and men, the US National Institutes of Health called for gender to be taken into account in study design and data analysis.

Between 1997 and 2000, ten prescription drugs were withdrawn from the market in the US; eight were judged to be more dangerous for women than for men.

Dr Pollitzer continued:

“Gene expression, immune response and how drugs are metabolised have been shown to differ between women and men. Taking into account these basic biological differences would improve the rigour, transparency and generalisability of pre-clinical research findings.

“Biomedical research has historically relied on experiments that used significantly more males than females as subjects (cells, tissues, animals, people) creating bias in fundamental knowledge of disease processes”.

She ends by saying that this research bias has an impact on how disease outcomes and responses to treatment are determined, resulting potentially in poorer quality of results for women.

Elizabeth Pollitzer has 20 years’ experience teaching and researching in the Department of Computing at Imperial College, University of London. Her original training was in Biophysics. She now applies this scientific background to promoting effective strategies for gender equality in Science, Engineering and Technology.

 

 

 

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Monsanto update

11 Jul

A Moseley reader draws attention to this Guardian article:

Opens:  

Monsanto has long worked to “bully scientists” and suppress evidence of the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, a lawyer argued on Monday in a landmark lawsuit against the global chemical corporation.

“Monsanto has specifically gone out of its way to bully … and to fight independent researchers,” said the attorney Brent Wisner, who presented internal Monsanto emails that he said showed how the agrochemical company rejected critical research and expert warnings over the years while pursuing and helping to write favorable analyses of their products. “They fought science.”

Wisner, who spoke inside a crowded San Francisco courtroom, is representing DeWayne Johnson, known also as Lee, a California man whose cancer has spread through his body. The father of three and former school groundskeeper, who doctors say may have just months to live, is the first person to take Monsanto to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the Roundup brand is linked to cancer. Thousands have made similar legal claims across the US  . . .

 

 

 

 

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Weigh the value of new ‘tools’; apply the precautionary principle

3 Jun

There is mounting evidence of unintended harmful consequences in many sectors – including medicine, pharmacology, agriculture, energy generation, finance, engineering and transport. The most widely read post on this site in May reported the Lancet’s publication of the World Health Organisation’s finding that glyphosate, a widely used ingredient in weedkiller, is probably carcinogenic.

Michael J. Coren‘s article in Quartz magazine summarised the findings of Jameson Wetmore, an engineer turned social researcher at the Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Wetmore opened:

“The motto of the 1933 World Fair in Chicago was “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms. Governments and companies were saying that technology can lead us out of this. It may not always be comfortable, but we have to ride it out. Household technologies were all the rage. When you hit the 1960s and 1970s, there is this shift.

“I think the hallmarks of that shift are the dropping of the atomic bomb, and then of course you have Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, and you also have Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring”.

“Whereas much of the contemporary world sees technological progress as inevitable, even a moral imperative, Wetmore finds that the Amish watch their neighbours and carefully consider how each one will change their culture before embracing it: They . . . watch what happens when we adopt new technology, and then they decide whether that’s something they want to adopt themselves.”

We don’t think about the impact technology might have on our lives beyond the initial big idea.

“The automobile was sold to us with this idea of a freedom we never had before. With that freedom came a heavy toll of injury and death. So can we anticipate unintended consequences way the Amish do, or are these systems just too complex to go much beyond first-order effects?

A more rigorous application of the EU’s Article 191 (left) would help to do this.

“Less than a mile from where I’m standing [in Phoenix, Arizona], Elaine Herzberg was killed by an autonomous Uber vehicle. I fully recognize the only way we’re going to automated vehicles is running in this world is to test them on city streets. Now, if we were to sit back and think about the values of the society here, we might say that testing those vehicles at 10 PM at night outside of a concert hall where a huge amount of alcohol had been served was not the best place to be testing. Perhaps testing in a school zone when children are present is not the best place to test an autonomous vehicle. But those are decisions that local people did not have the chance to make.”

The idea that technology is an unmitigated good is beginning to be questioned

Wetmore thinks that today Americans have a much more nuanced view of things. The number of people who think technology is an unmitigated good is continuing to shrink, but most haven’t abandoned the idea that there are a lot of problems and technology will play a role in solving them.

The precautionary principle detailed in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative decision-taking in the case of risk. It also covers consumer policy, European Union (EU) legislation concerning food, human, animal and plant health. It has been recognised by various international agreements, notably in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS) concluded in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  

Jeremy Corbyn led the proposal (right) to retain Article 191’s environmental principles after exit day, narrowly defeated by 16 votes.

 

Time for change?

 

 

 

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Russia is winning the battle for the health of the people and the environment.

19 May

Ellen Brown, president of the Public Banking Institute, (UC, Berkeley & UC, Los Angeles School of Law) reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned GMOs and has set out to make Russia the world’s leading supplier of organic food.

Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments), predominantly organically. Dacha gardens produced more than 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, more than 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. Russian author Vladimir Megre comments:

Russian gardeners demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world—and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat.

Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year—so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens—and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.

In the end, the Green Revolution engineered by Kissinger to control markets and ensure U.S. economic dominance may be our nemesis. While the U.S. struggles to maintain its hegemony by economic coercion and military force,

In the U.S., only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. Most farmland is soaked in pesticides and herbicides. But the need for these toxic chemicals is a myth. In an October 2017 article in The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot cited studies showing that reducing the use of neonicotinoid pesticides actually increases production, because the pesticides harm or kill the pollinators on which crops depend. Rather than an international trade agreement that would enable giant transnational corporations to dictate to governments, he argues that we need a global treaty to regulate pesticides and require environmental impact assessments for farming. He writes:

Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global pesticide industry. It has ensured its products should not be properly regulated or even, in real-world conditions, properly assessed. … The profits of these companies depend on ecocide. Do we allow them to hold the world to ransom, or do we acknowledge that the survival of the living world is more important than returns to their shareholders?

President Trump has boasted of winning awards for environmental protection. If he is sincere about championing the environment, he needs to block the merger of Bayer and Monsanto, two agribusiness giants bent on destroying the ecosystem for private profit.

 

 

 

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March visitors

6 Apr

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People from 37 countries visited the site in March.

                         

 

TOP POST

Sick and dying aircrew? The establishment’s favourite phrase: no causal link established

Reports of ill health after exposure to radiation, fluoridation, contaminated blood, dental mercury, pesticide poisoning and a range of other conditions the protective cry goes up, backed by interested scientists, that there is ‘no causal link’.

For many years social and mainstream media have covered allegations that the health of aircrews has been adversely affected after leaks of smoke or fumes into cabins.

According to the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive group ‘contaminated bleed air events’ have been acknowledged since the 1950s. Established in 2006, GCAQE, which organisations from 17 countries have joined, argues that such events are significantly under-reported – see their video, first shot opposite. It names one ingredient in the engine oil, organophosphate, references to which have often appeared on this site, and calls for a less toxic alternative.

SNIP!

 

 

 

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Toxic pesticides: will Hawaiians get a better deal than Brits?

24 Mar

As a 2015 post on a related website said, Self-regulation is not effective: reconsider. From the recent horsemeat scandal, to the frequent withdrawals of harmful medicines and the banking collapse, it can be seen that self-regulation of food, pharmaceutical and banking corporates is not working. Many other sectors are failing – notably accountancy and the trade in illicit armaments. To these sectors we now add the agrochemical industry.

Earlier this month a post was prompted by Richard Bruce who drew attention to a case reported by Reuters in February; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had won a settlement from Syngenta, after dozens of workers at Syngenta Seeds’ former research farm on Kauai, Hawaii were exposed to the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in 2016 and 2017.

Readers learnt that Hawaii is now considering bills in the state’s House and Senate (above) to ban chlorpyrifos, as well as a proposal to require farmers to notify the public when they use certain pesticides and to create buffer zones around some schools.

Richard commented, (based on personal experience), “Interestingly in the UK there is no requirement to post warnings after spraying crops – and most of us never get warnings before use either!”

This assertion is confirmed by two answers in the online FAQs section of The Health and Safety Executive, part of the DWP responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, and for research into occupational risks in Britain:

  1. Does the local farmer have to tell me when he is going to spray pesticides?

It is good practice, but except in some circumstances it is not a legal requirement to notify neighbours of an intention to spray pesticides (see section 3.7 of the ‘Code of practice for using plant protection products’ for further information on when members of the public should be informed). It would be difficult for farmers or other pesticide users to notify neighbours of planned pesticide use on all occasions because weather conditions play a significant part in determining when spraying takes place. It is not uncommon for spraying to occur at short notice or at times which seem unusual. Equally, it is not uncommon for spraying to be cancelled or postponed at short notice if the weather changes suddenly.

  1. How do I find out what pesticides a local farmer has been spraying?

By law, all professional users must keep records for at least 3 years of all the pesticides applications they undertake. The ‘Code of practice for using plant protection products’ explains how they might record this information. You can ask the farmer about what pesticides they have been using. They will usually just tell you, although they do not currently need to by law (Ed: a scandal!).

The Good Neighbour Initiative

Government ministers asked the National Farmers Union to collaborate with industry partners and interested stakeholders to draw up a ‘good neighbour’ guide to advise and assist farmers and crop sprayers using pesticides where people are living or working nearby.

As a result the NFU published the Best Practice Leaflet (opp) which may be read here.

Explicit sanctions advocated

Years ago, the Academy of Management Journal published  Industry Self-Regulation Without Sanctions: The Chemical Industry’s Responsible Care Program (A.A. King, New York University). The findings of this study highlighted the potential for opportunism to overcome the pressures of powerful self-regulatory institutions; they suggested that effective industry self-regulation is difficult to maintain without explicit sanctions.

This country has a shameful history of denying the reality of the damage to health inflicted by government agencies and wealthy and powerful agro-chemical and pharmaceutical industries. They delay this for as many years as possible before they acknowledge faulty and compensate the victims. Many GPs, for a variety of reasons, conclude that these patients have a psychological condition rather than a physical one – as Richard Bruce says sardonically:

“Of course we in the UK are a different human species and cannot be poisoned – we only imagine the symptoms out of a fear of chemicals!”

Britain’s organic market has had six years of steady growth and is now worth £2.2 billion, growing 6% in 2017. The amount of farmland in conversion to organic rose 22% last year, as farmers responded to the rise in demand for organic produce. 

In time will this trend, reported in a related website, drive out bad practice which is injuring and killing British citizens?

 

 

 

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