Tag Archives: Organophosphates

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.


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.”






House of Commons meeting on the health impact of organophosphates

11 May

Forthcoming organophosphates meeting: Wednesday 14th May, 2.00pm – 3.30pm, Committee Room 9

You are invited to a meeting on the health impact of organophosphates to be held at the House of Commons. Issues to be discussed include:

  • Have sheep dipping caused long-term damage to health?
  • Were the products safe?
  • Were the warnings adequate?

The meeting will be held on Wednesday May 14th in Committee Room 9, Palace of Westminster 14.00 – 15.30.

It will be chaired by Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP, with introduction by the Countess of Mar and speakers will include experts in toxicology, such as Dr Sarah Mackenzie Ross.

committee room 9 commons map

 Use Cromwell Green entrance

RSVP tom.rigby2@btopenworld.com – 01942 671020

Tom adds: on the day only, mobile: 07833 764015 – any problems give me a call.

A disturbing lack of official information in the public domain about organophosphates

13 Aug

The subject of hyperactive children, once more in the headlines, recalls the research finding which supports the hypothesis that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, is a factor and warrants further research.

Toxicology journal coverAn email message from Peter Evans, Chairman of the OP Action Group North West, included a reflection on the recent research into neurobehavioral problems following low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides, led by Dr Sarah Mackenzie Ross, a consultant clinical neuropsychologist & honorary senior lecturer at University College London – see the UCL post. Its findings were published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology and the abstract said:

“The majority of well designed studies found a significant association between low-level exposure to OPs and impaired neurobehavioral function which is consistent, small to moderate in magnitude and concerned primarily with cognitive functions such as psychomotor speed, executive function, visuospatial ability, working and visual memory”.

He said that farmer Margaret Percival recently rang the Health and Safety executive in Liverpool for the latest advice regarding organophosphate sheep dips.

The HSE assists employees to prosecute an employer in the event of ill-effects arising from the use of OPs but is unable to provide employers with any advice concerning the “safe” use of OPs. She was referred to the Veterinary MD in Northern Ireland but initially no one there could assist. The following day she was promised that an effort would be made to acquire leaflets that provide recommendations to farmers using OP sheep dips.

The questions that arise are these:

  • What is being done in other countries?
  • Is there an effective alternative to OP sheep dip being used abroad?
  • What action is being taken abroad to tackle/control sheep scab (if any)?

Other groups affected include:

  • Gulf War Veterans, who were exposed to pesticides on a daily basis during their tour of duty to protect them from pests such as sand flies, mosquitoes and fleas which carry infectious diseases
  • airline pilots and cabin crew, who can be exposed to organophosphates in engine oil.

A chilling reminder from Peter Evans implies that very few people will be unaffected. He points out the perils accompanying the current use of OPs in the growing, transport and storage of food:

  • in the holds of ships bringing produce from abroad,
  • as an insecticide during the growing process,
  • in warehouses,
  • and supermarkets where the air conditioning is employed to distribute OPs around the store every 3 weeks to kill insects and other pests.

Time for the precautionary principle to come into play – better late than never.