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The toxic avalanche

16 Apr

“Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year, in a toxic avalanche that is harming people and life everywhere on the planet”, says Julian Cribb, author of ‘Surviving the 21st Century’ (Springer International 2017).  

He is quoted in an article published by Phys.org™, a web-based science, research and technology news service whose readership includes 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month:

“Every moment of our lives we are exposed to thousands of these substances. They enter our bodies with each breath, meal or drink we take, the clothes and cosmetics we wear, the things we encounter every day in our homes, workplaces and travel . . . “

The European Chemicals Agency estimates there are more than 144,000 man-made chemicals in existence.

The US Department of Health estimates 2000 new chemicals are being released every year. The UN Environment Program warns most of these have never been screened for human health safety.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 12 million people – one in 4 – die every year from diseases caused by ‘air water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change and ultraviolet radiation’, all of which result from human activity . . .

Medical science is increasingly linking issues such as obesity, cancers, heart disease and brain disorders such as autism, ADHD and depression to the growing volume of toxic substances to which humans are exposed daily.

Cribb says that the poisoning of the planet through man-made chemical emissions is probably the largest human impact – and the one that is least understood or regulated. It is one of ten major existential risks now confronting humanity:

Examples of the toxic avalanche include:

  • Manufactured chemicals – 30 million tonnes a year
  • Plastic pollution of oceans – 8mt/yr
  • Hazardous waste – 400 mt/yr
  • Coal, oil, gas etc – 15 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) a year
  • Lost soil – 75 Gt/yr
  • Metals and materials – 75 Gt/yr
  • Mining and mineral wastes – <200 Gt/yr
  • Water (mostly contaminated with above wastes) – 9 trillion tonnes a year.

“Industrial toxins are now routinely found in new-born babies, in mother’s milk, in the food chain, in domestic drinking water worldwide. They have been detected from the peak of Mt Everest (where the snow is so polluted it doesn’t meet drinking water standards) to the depths of the oceans, from the hearts of our cities to the remotest islands. The mercury found in the fish we eat, and in polar bears in the Arctic, is fallout from the burning of coal and increases every year. There is global concern at the death of honeybees from agricultural pesticides and the potential impact on the world food supply, as well as all insect life – and on the birds, frogs and fish which in turn depend on insects.”

Cribb says an issue of chemical contamination largely ignored by governments and corporations is that chemicals act in combination, occur in mixtures and undergo constant change. “A given chemical may not occur in toxic amounts in one place – but combined with thousands of other chemicals it may contribute a much larger risk to the health and safety of the whole population and the environment.” 

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In the same vein, Isle of Wight reader Richard Bruce reminds us that way back in 1997 US scientists called for a ban on all OP pesticides used on food crops because of the cumulative risk to children. Read more here. The UK regulators referred to the paper as “a challenging document” but nothing was done. Some 1000 scientists wrote a letter of complaint when George W Bush refused to take action on their advice to ban all OPs.

He points out that the 2016 UK Pesticide Guide clearly states that the chemical is dangerous to the environment. For the similar chlorpyrifos methyl it states that the chemical must NOT be used on grain for seed. But both are add-mixed with the grain at harvest and there is no requirement to declare this poisonous addition on food labels “because it is a pesticide”. Often unsupervised, untrained, farm and grain store workers use methods that inevitably create “hotspots” of massive overdose. Some of those methods are no longer recommended but there is still no control over application, or the methods used. the Health and Safety Executive which is supposed to enforce the regulations all too often fails in its duty.

Prensa Latina, the official state news agency of Cuba. reports that the UN Council on Human Rights, the organization’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Food, Hilal Elve (left), warned in its yearly report that most of the population around the world is exposed to pesticides through food, water, air or direct contact with the chemicals and toxic waste. The problem is worse in poor and developing nations, but no country is immune to these harmful substances. pregnant women run the risk of abortion, premature birth and congenital malformations. There are irreversible consequences to health, such as cancer, Alzheimer, Parkinson, hormone disorders, sterility and growth disorders.

Richard Bruce also points out that we are exposed to cumulative poisons every day, adding, “and no one cares”.

 

 

 

Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.

 

 

 

 

Agrichemical industry resists OP pesticides ban proposed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

19 Feb

In January EcoWatch reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its first nationwide assessments of the effects of three pesticides, all organophosphates, on endangered species. It found that 97% of 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by malathion and chlorpyrifos, two commonly used pesticides. The World Health Organization last year announced that malathion and diazinon are probable carcinogens.

TRAUDT AERIAL SERVICE

Another 78% are likely to be hurt by the pesticide diazinon. The results are the final biological evaluations the EPA completed as part of its examination of the impacts of these pesticides on endangered species. (See April draft here).

The three pesticides are all organophosphates, a class of insecticides which researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found in 87% of human umbilical-cord samples.

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used insecticide sprayed on a variety of crops including oranges, apples, cherries, grapes, broccoli and asparagus. The pesticide, in use since 1965, was linked to illnesses among farm workers and neurodevelopmental problems in children. However, Dow AgroSciences and others in the agrichemical industry successfully resisted the proposal.

ecowatch-2-logoEcoWatch reports that Chemical & Engineering News (paywall) states the EPA is under a court order to make a determination about the use of chlorpyrifos by March 31 — about a decade after the agency initially failed to respond to a petition raising concerns about the chemical from environmental advocates.

Following these final evaluations from the EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service will issue final biological opinions to identify mitigation measures and changes to pesticide use by December 2017 to help to ensure that chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon will no longer potentially harm any endangered species in the U.S. when used on agricultural crops.

“We’re now getting a much more complete picture of the risks that pesticides pose to wildlife at the brink of extinction, including birds, frogs, fish and plants,” said Nathan Donley, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity:

“The next step will hopefully be some commonsense measures to help protect them along with our water supplies and public health.”

 

 

 

 

MSM downplays EU ban/delay on use of glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, for 18 months

9 Feb

TRAUDT AERIAL SERVICE

On February 8th, Agranet reported that the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) was launched in several European cities. It calls on the commission to propose a “ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use”.

Its main objectives: Ban glyphosate-based herbicides, exposure to which has been linked to cancer in humans, and has led to ecosystems degradation; ensure that the scientific evaluation of pesticides for EU regulatory approval is based only on published studies, which are commissioned by competent public authorities instead of the pesticide industry; set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use, with a view to achieving a pesticide-free future.

In January this year, the Farmers Weekly recorded the European Commission’s registration of petition calling for a ban on the use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weedkiller. The initiative was formally registered on 25 January, starting a one-year process for the collection of signatures in support of the proposal. If the proposal receives the support of a million people from at least seven member states, the Commission will be obliged to consider a legislative response and provide justification for its decision.

The FW article adds that the European Chemicals Agency is undertaking a review into glyphosate and will consider whether it should be classified as a carcinogen by the EU. The review is due to be published this summer. It comes after a study, led by Michael Antoniou, at King’s College, London, linked glyphosate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats. Monsanto maintains glyphosate, when used according to label directions, “does not present an unreasonable risk of adverse effects to humans, wildlife or the environment”.

On 2nd February William Bowles blogged The EU has refused to give Monsanto’s glyphosate the green light. It’s delayed the decision for 18 months while glyphosate is re-evaluated” adding ruefully:

“(Banned) but not, it seems in Lambeth in London where the stuff is sprayed regularly on the pavements in my neighbourhood”.

 

 

It’s time to stop farming salmon

23 Jan

Quartz announces, “Lox lovers and sashimi devotees, prepare to shell out this year. According to the Nasdaq Salmon Index, salmon prices are at historic highs—and it’s all because of one tiny, nefarious little creature.

The culprit behind the rising price of salmon is about the size of an aspirin: a parasite known as the sea louse, or salmon louse. Acute outbreaks in Scotland and Norway this year have, er, eaten into the global supply of farmed Atlantic salmon. Norway, the planet’s biggest salmon producer, exported around 5% less by volume than in 2015. Globally, production fell around 9%.

Mark Macaskill reported in The Times that the use of toxic chemicals on Scottish salmon farms to fight sea lice has soared in the past decade, according to official data. Between 2006-16, farmed salmon production increased by 35% while the use of toxic chemicals to control flesh-eating lice rose 932%.

salmon-sea-lice

The sea louse is a parasite that kills millions of farmed fish every year cause serious fin damage, skin erosion and deep open wounds that are prone to infection. 

The latest figures, obtained under freedom of information from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), show that Scottish salmon farms used 45kg of chemicals in 2006 but this increased to 467kg in 2016. Since 2002, nearly four tonnes of chemicals have been dumped into the seas around Scotland

“Scottish salmon farming is fighting a losing battle against chemically resistant sea lice,” said Don Staniford of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture. “The drugs don’t work anymore.

Treatments used by Scottish salmon farms included cypermethrin, a pesticide that was abandoned in 2012 after sea-lice developed resistance. Scientific studies have suggested that it impairs fertility in wild salmon. SEPA records also show that just over two tonnes of azamethiphos, an organophosphate insecticide  has been used in the past decade by salmon farmers. A paper published last month by scientists in Canada raised concern that azamethiphos poses a serious health risk to marine wildlife; tests on lobsters found repeated exposure can impair the nervous system and cause death.

Efforts are underway to reduce the use of chemicals to control sea lice. Scottish Sea Farms, one of the country’s leading producers of farmed salmon, recently bought a Thermolicer, a £4m delousing device. Fish are pumped into the machine and pass through heated water that kills the lice. Quartz reports, “the scalding-hot bath kills off the sea lice—and also, sometimes, the fish themselves. Last year, salmon-farming giant Marine Harvest inadvertently cooked 95,000 caged salmon with a thermolicer. Though that killed 95% of the sea lice, it also left the company with 600 tonnes of dead salmon to incinerate. Along with rampant salmon deaths from pesticide treatments, the thermolicer incident caused a 16% drop in the company’s Scottish salmon output for 2016”.

Just before Christmas, Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland called for some of Britain’s leading supermarkets to ban the sale of farmed salmon from parts of Scotland where sea lice infestations are “rampant” and pose a threat to the survival of wild salmon and sea trout.

 

 

 

Hawaiian parents and environmentalists campaign against use of harmful sprays

7 Dec

In 2015 an American Academy of Pediatrics’ report, Pesticide Exposure in Children, found “an association between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes, including physical birth defects”. Local schools had been evacuated twice and children sent to hospital because of pesticide drift.

aerial-spray

Years earlier, whilst in America, a friend of the writer, who was in good health at the time, developed emphysema and died prematurely after being exposed to spray drift.

Carla Nelson, a pediatrician, pointed out that doctors need prior disclosure of sprayings: “It’s hard to treat a child when you don’t know which chemical he’s been exposed to.” Read her Guardian coverage here.

In the state legislature in Honolulu, Senator Josh Green, who then chaired the health committee, made his fourth attempt to curb pesticide and herbicide spraying, but ruefully commented that most heads of the agriculture committee have had “a closer relationship with the agro-chemical companies than with the environmental groups”.

A year later, Time magazine reported that there was growing evidence of glyphosate’s potentially dangerous health effects. It was judged a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization last year but despite this, on the Hawaiian island of Maui and elsewhere, sprayers simply sprayed and moved on; no one monitored the observance of the safety directions of their own product.

spray-hackneyHawaii environmentalists have used a little-known law, FIFRA, short for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which requires sprayers to follow the safety instructions on the product’s label down to the letter.

For products containing the herbicide glyphosate, that means keeping people away from the area where the product has been used for four hours after applications for agriculture, or until the product dries when sprayed for non-agricultural purposes. That can be difficult in places like long stretches of roads and highways where extended monitoring to keep people away from recently sprayed areas is virtually impossible.

Parents began to circulate photographs of government employees spraying Round Up, the primary commercial product containing glyphosate. Footage showed authorities spraying on highways, roads and near schools without any visible effort to keep people away.

Finally the uncertainty raised by activists over the labelling issue convinced Stephen Rodgers, who oversees pesticide application on Maui’s state highways to switch to organic pesticides. His department no longer purchases Roundup and will stop using the product entirely – but only when the existing supply has been used.

Significant exposure to glyphosate in farm workers has been linked to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer. Nature magazine, which is sceptical of the impact on human health, at least reports a study showing a link between glyphosate and cancer in mice. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), ruled last year that the pesticide is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a Harvard-educated pediatrician and epidemiologist, Dean for Global Health at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says, “For a long time glyphosate was viewed as an innocuous herbicide. A lot of things have changed”.

His colleague, Chuck Benbrook, an adjunct professor at Washington State University’s crops and soil science department, said “There is growing evidence that glyphosate is geno-toxic and has adverse effects on cells in a number of different ways. It’s time to pull back … on uses of glyphosate that we know are leading to significant human exposures while the science gets sorted out.”

Part 2: studies which conclude that glyphosate does not cause harm.

 

 

 

Causes of diseases are already well-known –  but nothing is done to remove those causes

28 Nov

Richard Bruce recently sent an email reflecting on the Queen’s opening of the £700 million Francis Crick Institute (below), which will have some £130 million in annual funding. Its aim is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative conditions like motor neurone disease. It is the biggest research building under one roof in the entire European Union employing some 1500 scientists and staff.

francis-crick-institute_19_cwellcome-images-copy 

He asks: “Do they need all that money to re-discover what they already know?”

The Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London are involved.  Richard comments: “Some interesting names there with staff who must know what is really going on” and summarises his post examining what the MRC actually knew and what it has reported over the decades.

The Francis Crick Institute in London is said to be “a world-leading centre of biomedical research and innovation, it has scale, vision and expertise to tackle the most challenging scientific questions underpinning health and disease.

The aim is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative conditions like motor neurone disease.”

Richard’s post states that the cause of these illnesses is already well-known and has been known for a very long time but nothing is done to remove those causes. He says that protecting the poisons industry seems to be the real aim: “Poisoned people earn the industry £millions in drug sales and research”.

He asks, “Why is the Medical Research Council now implying that it does not understand the ever present danger not only to the occupationally exposed but to everyone, adult, child and unborn, exposed as we are in our food, clothes, furniture, fuels, paints, oils and our environment?”

And comments: “Shocking really”.

Richard Bruce who has an extensive knowledge on the effects of organophosphates which are used far more widely in agriculture than just sheep dip. He personally was badly affected by Actellic used in grain stores documented at: Trouble in Store