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#660 - Pesticides In The News, 21-Jul-1999

Pesticides continue to produce unpleasant surprises around the

** In April, researchers in Switzerland announced that much of
the rain falling on Europe contains such high levels of
pesticides that rainwater would be illegal if it were supplied
as drinking water.[1] Rain over Europe is laced with atrazine,
alochlor and other common agricultural poisons sprayed onto

The European Union has set a drinking water standard of 100
nanograms per liter for any individual pesticide. Stephan
Muller at the Swiss federal Institute for Environmental
Science and Technology in Dubendorf reported finding one sample
of rain containing 4000 nanograms per liter of
2,4-dinitrophenol, a common pesticide (not to be confused with
the weed killer 2,4-D).

Muller had previously studied samples of rain from 41 storms
over Europe and found Atrazine at levels exceeding 100 nanograms
per liter in 9 of them. A 1999 study of rainfall in Greece found
one or more pesticides in 90% of 205 samples taken. Atrazine was
measurable in 30% of the 205 samples.[2]

Atrazine is a weed killer used on 96% of the U.S. corn crop each
year. Introduced in 1958, some 68 to 73 million pounds were used
in the U.S. in 1995, making it the best-selling pesticide in the
nation. Atrazine interferes with the hormone systems of mammals.
In female rats, it causes tumors of the mammary glands, uterus,
and ovaries. Two studies have suggested that it causes ovarian
cancer in humans. EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
categorizes it as a "possible human carcinogen." Atrazine is
found in much of the drinking water in the midwestern U.S., and
it is measurable in corn, milk, beef and other foods. (See REHW

** Last March, well-known Swedish scientists Lennart Hardell and
Mikael Eriksson published a case-control study (404 cases and
741 controls) showing once again that non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
(NHL) is linked to pesticide exposures. Hardell and Eriksson
published their first study linking phenoxy herbicides to
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) in 1981.[3]

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is a group of cancers that arise in
the white blood cells. NHL is increasing rapidly in the U.S. and
elsewhere in the industrialized world.

Between 1973 and 1991, the incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
increased at the rate of 3.3% per year in the U.S., making it
the third fastest-growing cancer (after prostate cancer, growing
at 3.9% per year, and melanoma of the skin, also growing at 3.9%
per year).[4] In Sweden, the incidence of NHL has increased at
the rate of 3.6% per year in men and 2.9% per year in women
since 1958.

In recent years, AIDS patients have contributed to the increase
in NHL, but a steady rise in the incidence of this disease was
apparent long before the AIDS epidemic. Together the known "risk
factors" for NHL --including immune-suppressing drugs, rare
immune-system diseases, and AIDS, explain only a small
proportion of NHL cases.

One of the herbicides linked to NHL by the most recent Hardell
study is glyphosate, sold by Monsanto under the trade name
Roundup. A previous study of human subjects in 1998 had
implicated Roundup in hairy cell leukemia (cancer of the
blood-forming organs), a rare kind of NHL.[5] Several animal
studies have shown that Roundup can cause gene mutations and
chromosomal aberrations.[3]

The use of Roundup is expected to increase substantially in the
next few years because several of Monsanto's genetically
engineered crops (such as potatoes and corn) are "Roundup Ready"
which means they have been specifically designed to withstand a
thorough dousing by Roundup. The goal is to create crops that
are not affected by Roundup so that unusually large quantities
of Roundup can be applied to eradicate weeds without harming the
crop. Roundup is Monsanto's most profitable product. (See REHW
#637, #638, #639.)

** Last month, researchers in the U.S. and Canada announced that
they had measured pesticides in the amniotic fluid of 30% of a
sample of 9 pregnant women in Los Angeles, California.[4] A baby
growing in the womb floats in amniotic fluid for 9 months before

The particular pesticide found in amniotic fluid -- p,p'-DDE --
is a breakdown byproduct of DDT and is known to interfere with
male sexual development by de-activating the male sex hormone,
testosterone. Until now, pesticides had not been measured in
amniotic fluid.

The unpublished study of pesticides in amniotic fluid was
reported at the 81st annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in
San Diego, California, in June.[6] The researchers released a
statement in San Diego saying, "The concentrations of p,p'-DDE
found (range of 0.01 to 0.63 nanograms per milliliter [parts per
billion]) are sufficient to cause concern, since the levels
measured are in the same range as some steroids [hormones] which
occur naturally in the fetus at the same time of development."
The statement also said, "Of the various health problems
associated with these chemicals, developmental abnormalities of
the male reproductive tract, suppression of immune function,
development of the brain and neurobehavioral problems in
children are of major concern because they are potentially
avoidable and irreversible."

One of the authors of the study, Siu Chan of the University of
Calgary in Canada, told NEW SCIENTIST magazine that researchers
cannot be sure that DDE would have any affect on babies exposed
continuously in the womb.[7] But Chan pointed out that
alligators were harmed by exposure to a similar chemical in
Florida after a chemical spill. "In males, the penis was much
smaller than normal," Chan said. (See REHW #372.) Several
studies of laboratory animals have confirmed that DDE can
interfere with normal sexual development of males and can cause
enlarged prostate glands.[8,9]

** A study published in May in ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
PERSPECTIVES, a U.S. government science journal, makes the case
that insecticides sprayed on forests in eastern Canada in the
mid-1970s led to a dramatic decline in the population of
Atlantic Salmon (45% reduction in small salmon, 77% reduction in
large salmon).[10] Salmon are born in fresh water but after 2
or 3 years they undergo physical changes called
"smoltification," after which they move downstream into salt
water. Smoltification is controlled by hormones. Researchers
believe the pesticide interfered with the hormones of the
salmon, somehow disrupting smoltification, leading to the loss
of large numbers of fish.

The pesticide in question was called Matacil 1.8D. The "active
ingredient" in Matacil 1.8D is aminocarb, which makes up about
25% of the insecticide by weight. The other 75% of Matacil 1.8D
is an "inert ingredient" called 4-nonylphenol (4-NP for short).
In laboratory tests, 4-NP is anything but inert. It is a
powerful hormone disrupter.

The authors of the study point out that many U.S. streams
contain levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals comparable to the
levels that they believe wiped out so many Atlantic salmon. (See
REHW #545.)

** Consumer's Union, publisher of CONSUMER REPORTS magazine
announced last February that many U.S. fruits and vegetables
carry pesticide residues that exceed the limits that EPA
considers safe for children. "Using U.S. Department of
Agriculture statistics based on 27,000 food samples from 1994 to
1997, the magazine looked at foods children are most likely to
eat," the NEW YORK TIMES reported.[11] "Almost all the foods
tested for pesticide residues were within legal limits, but were
frequently well above the levels the Environmental Protection
Agency says are safe for young children. According to the
Consumer's Union Report, even one serving of some fruits and
vegetables can exceed safe daily limits for young children," the
TIMES reported.

"Methyl parathion accounts for most of the total toxicity on the
foods that were analyzed, particularly peaches, frozen and
canned green beans, pears and apples. Late last year [EPA] said
that methyl parathion posed an 'unacceptable risk' but that it
had not taken any action to ban it or reduce its use.
Organophosphates [such as methyl parathion] are neurological
poisons and work the same on humans as they do on insects," the
TIMES said.

One of the main aims of the CONSUMER REPORTS study was to
compare pesticide levels on U.S.-grown foods vs. imported foods.
In almost every case imported foods had lower levels of
pesticides and/or less toxic pesticides than U.S.-grown foods.

In sum, many of us are being exposed -- without our informed
consent -- to industrial poisons starting in the womb, then in
our food and water more or less continuously throughout
childhood and into adulthood. Wildlife are being continuously
exposed as well. Many of these substances interfere with mental
and sexual development and can cause learning disorders and
violent behavior. (See REHW #529, #551, and #648.) Science has
no way of assessing what effects combinations of these poisons
will have.

Yet risk assessors working for the poisoners, and their
apologists in government, make a good living manipulating
mathematical models to "prove" that all of this is acceptably
safe. They are the conductors keeping the trains running on time
to Auschwitz, just doing their jobs.

But of course the owners of the trains are the industrial
poisoners and the political representatives they own.

It boils down to this: we must get private money out of our
elections so that we can choose political representatives who
are not in the pockets of the poisoners. Until that happens, the
poisoning will continue.

--Peter Montague(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)


[1] Fred Pearce and Debora Mackenzie, "It's raining pesticides;
The water falling from our skies is unfit to drink," NEW
SCIENTIST April 3, 1999, pg. 23. See www.newscientist.com/ns/-
19990403/newsstory12.html .

[2] Emmanouil Charizopoulos and Euphemia Papadopoulou-Mourkidou,
"Occurrence of Pesticides in Rain of the Axios River Basin,
14 (July 15, 1999), pgs. 2363-2368.

[3] Lennart Hardell and Mikael Eriksson, "A Case-Control Study
of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides," CANCER Vol.
85, No. 6 (March 15, 1999), pgs. 1353-1360.

[4] Angela Harras and others, editors, CANCER RATES AND RISKS
4TH EDITION [NIH Publication No. 96-691] (Bethesda, Maryland:
National Cancer Institute, 1996), pg. 17.

[5] M. Nordstrom and others, "Occupational exposures, animal
exposure, and smoking as risk factors for hairy cell leukaemia
evaluated in a case-control study," BRITISH JOURNAL OF CANCER
Vol. 77 (1998), pgs. 2048-2052.

[6] Warren Foster, Siu Chan, Lawrence Platt, and Claude Hughes,
"[P3-357] In utero exposure of the human fetus to xenobiotic
endocrine disrupting chemicals: Detection of organochlorine
compounds in samples of second trimester human amniotic fluid
[abstract presented June 14, 1999 at the Endocrine
Society's 81st Annual Meeting in San Diego, California]."
Available from The Endocrine Society, 4350 East West Highway,
Suite 500, Bethesda, MD 20814-4426. See also, "P3-357 Lay
explanation of abstract" also available from the Endocrine

[7] Alison Motluk, "Bad for the Boys," NEW SCIENTIST June 26,
1999, pg. 15.

[8] L. You and others, "Impaired male sexual development in
perinatal Sprague-Dawley and Long-Evans hooded rats exposed in
utero and lactationally to p,p'-DDE," TOXICOLOGICAL SCIENCES
[ISSN 1096-6080] Vol. 45, No. 2 (October 1998), pgs. 162-173.

[9] I.K. Loeffler and R.E. Peterson, "Interactive effects of
TCDD and p,p'-DDE on male reproductive tract development in in
utero and lactationally exposed rats," TOXICOLOGY AND APPLIED
PHARMACOLOGY Vol. 154, No. 1 (January 1, 1999), pgs. 28-39.

[10] Wayne L. Fairchild and others, "Does an Association between
Pesticide Use and Subsequent Declines in Catch of Atlantic
Salmon (SALMO SALAR) Represent a Case of Endocrine Disruption?"
pgs. 349-357.

[11] Marian Burros, "High Pesticide Levels Seen in U.S. Food,"
NEW YORK TIMES February 19, 1999, pg. unknown. See http://-
archives.nytimes.com .

Descriptor terms: pesticides; agriculture; atrazine; switzerland;
sweden; ;ennart hardell; non-hodgkin's ;ymphoma; phenoxy
herbicides; herbicides; roundup; glyphosate; biotech; amniotic
fluid; dde; ddt; p,p'-dde; salmon; fish; wildlife; matacil 1.8d;
methyl parathion; consumer's union; food safety; children's health;