This Year’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ Produce Named Worst for Pesticide Exposure – and ‘Clean 15’

Strawberries.jpg

April 12, 2016 | By Ashley Hayes | WebMD Health News

Strawberries claim the top spot on this year’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce containing pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Apples, which had topped the annual list for the past five years, dropped to second. The list was released Tuesday.

Nearly all strawberry samples tested – 98% — had detectable pesticide residues, according to the advocacy group. Forty percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides, while some had residues of 17 different pesticides.

Some of those chemicals are “relatively benign,” according to the organization, but others may be linked to diseases, hormone disruption, neurological problems and reproductive or developmental damage.

“It is startling to see how heavily strawberries are contaminated with residues of hazardous pesticides,” says Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst, in a statement. The levels are acceptable under current regulations; Lunder called for government levels to be updated to reflect the latest research.

Avocadoes, meanwhile, topped the EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list, of produce least likely to be tainted by pesticides.

The group bases its analysis on testing of more than 35,000 samples by the USDA and FDA. USDA washed and peeled the produce to mimic what consumers do at home.

The annual report has received criticism, with some experts saying the rankings are arbitrary and there’s no need to fear conventionally-grown produce .

The “Dirty Dozen” list has been “discredited by the scientific community,” the Alliance for Food & Farming, a nonprofit group including about 50 agricultural associations, commodity groups and individual growers and shippers, in a statement Tuesday.

The EWG bases its report on the USDA Pesticide Data Program report, the Alliance for Food & Farming says, but the USDA has said those findings “pose no safety concern.”

Before a pesticide can be used, the EPA must determine “that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment.”

For its part, the EWG says on its website it “always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, over processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.”

The 2016 Dirty Dozen list:
1. Strawberries
2. Apples
3. Nectarines
4. Peaches
5. Celery
6. Grapes
7. Cherries
8. Spinach
9. Tomatoes
10. Sweet bell peppers
11. Cherry tomatoes
12. Cucumbers

Also of note, according to the EWG, are leafy greens such as kale or collard greens and hot peppers. While those foods did not meet traditional ranking criteria for the Dirty Dozen list, they are “frequently found to be contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system,” according to the report.

The 2016 Clean Fifteen:
1. Avocados
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Frozen sweet peas
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Honeydew melon
13. Grapefruit
14. Cantaloupe
15. Cauliflower

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

 

 

Depressed? Landmark 20-Year Study Finds Pesticides Linked to Depression In Farmers

farmersad.jpeg

A landmark study indicates that seven pesticides, some widely used, may be causing clinical depression in farmers. Will the government step in and start regulating these chemical tools?

Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study, a study that hasn’t received the amount of coverage it deserves. About 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers were interviewed since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer. We called up Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, to find out what the team learned and what it all means. Spoiler: nothing good.

“There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression,” says Kamel. “We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.

“I don’t think there’s anything surprising about the fact that pesticides would affect neurologic function.”

Because the data is so excessive, the researchers have mined it three times so far, the most recent time in a study published just this fall. The first one was concerned with suicide, the second with depression amongst the spouses of farmers (Kamel says “pesticide applicators,” but most of the people applying pesticides are farmers), and the most recent with depression amongst the farmers themselves.

There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression, that much is very clear, but not all pesticides. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90% and 80%, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.

These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either; one, called malathion, was used by 67% of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, for what that’s worth.

I asked whether farmers were likely to simply have higher levels of depression than the norm, given the difficulties of the job — long hours, low wages, a lack of power due to government interference, that kind of thing — and, according to Kamel, that wasn’t a problem at all. “We didn’t have to deal with overreporting [of depression] because we weren’t seeing that,” she says. In fact, only 8% of farmers surveyed sought treatment for depression, lower than the norm, which is somewhere around 10% in this country. That doesn’t mean farmers are less likely to suffer from depression, only that they’re less likely to seek treatment for it, and that makes the findings, if anything, even stronger.

The study doesn’t really deal with exactly how the pesticides are affecting the farmers. Insecticides are designed to disrupt the way nerves work, sometimes inhibiting specific enzymes or the way nerve membranes work, that kind of thing. It’s pretty complicated, and nobody’s quite sure where depression fits in. “How this ultimately leads to depression, I don’t know that anyone can really fill in the dots there,” says Kamel. But essentially, the pesticides are designed to mess with the nerves of insects, and in certain aspects, our own nervous systems are similar enough to those of insects that we could be affected, too. “I don’t think there’s anything surprising about the fact that pesticides would affect neurologic function,” says Kamel, flatly.

Kamel speaks slowly and precisely, and though her voice is naturally a little quavery, she answered questions confidently and at one point made fun of me a little for a mischaracterization I’d made in a question. The one time she hesitated was when I asked what she thought the result of the study should be; it’s a huge deal, finding out that commonly used pesticides, pesticides approved for use by our own government, are wreaking havoc on the neurological systems of farmers. Kamel doesn’t recommend policy; she’s a scientist and would only go so far as to suggest that we should cut down on the use of pesticides in general.

Others are going further. Melanie Forti, of a farmer advocacy group based in DC, told Vice, “There should be more regulations on the type of pesticides being used.” With any luck, this study will lead to a thorough reexamination of the chemical weapons allowed by farmers.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Outbreak of BED BUGS on British Airways flight from the U.S. to London

  • One passenger claims they were ‘nipped at 30,000ft,’ and eggs spotted
  • The Boeing 747 was taken out of service on landing, and fumigated
  • British Airways says that reports of bed bugs on board are ‘extremely rare’ 

An outbreak of bed bugs caused a British Airways passenger plane to be taken out of service.

On a flight from the US to Heathrow last week, staff are believed to have spotted the parasitic insects and logged the issue.

The outbreak caused one row in the economy section of the plane to be closed off during the Transatlantic flight.

A British Airways Boeing 747 was taken out of service after bed bugs were discovered on board last week

A British Airways Boeing 747 was taken out of service after bed bugs were discovered on board last week

One passenger told The Sun that they were 'nipped at 30,000ft, while others reported seeing 'eggs'

One passenger told The Sun that they were ‘nipped at 30,000ft, while others reported seeing ‘eggs’

The Sun reports how ‘one passenger was nipped at 30,000ft and others saw the bugs and their eggs.’

Once the Boeing 747 had landed in London, British Airways launched an investigation. The aircraft was inspected and removed from the flight schedule while the issue was resolved and the plane was fumigated.

However, days later another ‘severe’ infestation was reported as the same plane flew from Cape Town to London, according to The Sun.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Will We Be Forced To Welcome Our Insecticide-Resistant Bed Bug Overlords?

Bed bugs

February 23, 2016 | by Keith Wagstaff | Forbes

Bad news for people who hate bed bugs. The insects are developing a resistance to widely used chemicals, according to a new study.

Researchers tested bed bugs taken from homes in Cincinnati and throughout Michigan, and found “high levels of resistance” to neonicotinoid insecticides.

Bed bugs were a big problem until the 1930s, when use of DDT kept them in check. Then came Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962 and concerns over the environmental and health effects of DTT.

Over the last few decades, thanks to the rise of international air travel and declines in the usage and effectiveness of DDT, bed bug infestations have exploded. In 2015, nearly every pest control professional (99.6 percent) had to deal with bed bugs. That is up from 25 percent in 2001, according to the National Pest Management Association. Neonicotinoids looked like at least one solution to the problem — until now.

“It’s a constant arms race,” Richard Pollack, an entomologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, told me in an interview. “We find something new, it works, and then they use Mother Nature’s laboratory to come up with ways to get around it.”

The resistance to neonicotinoids might be new, Pollack said, but it’s not unexpected. Insecticides can be incredibly effective for decades at a time. But if even a tiny percentage of bed bugs are resistant, they will survive and reproduce, eventually creating entire populations that can’t easily be killed off.

In the study, published recently in the Journal of Medical Entomology, researchers found that the bed bugs from Cincinnati and Michigan were far more resistant to four types of neonicotinoids (acetamiprid, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) than bed bugs raised in a colony maintained by entomologist Harold Harlan.

Thanks to the “detoxifying enzymes” their bodies produced, the bed bugs from Cincinnati and Michigan were 33,333 times more resistant to acetamiprid than the colony-raised bed bugs. They were more than a hundred times more resistant to the other neonicotinoids, as well.

So, should we simply welcome our new insect overlords and resign ourselves to waking up covered in itchy red bites?  Not so fast, according to Pollack.

“A lot of things bed bugs have become resistant to still work,” he said. In other words, if one pesticide doesn’t kill your bed bugs, pest control workers can just try several of them until one does the trick. Chances are the bed bugs in your home won’t be resistant to them all. There are other options out there too, like fumigation and applying extreme heat to a home. (Yes, houses have caught fire during heat treatments. Nobody said insecticide alternatives were perfect.)

To be clear, it’s not good that in some areas, human beings have one less weapon in their arsenal when it comes to killing bed bugs. But that doesn’t mean that people won’t develop new pesticides— potentially ones that are more effective and less toxic than old chemicals like DDT.

“We are in a free market economy,”Pollack said. “There is money to be made by developing new products.”

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

New Study Suggests Even the Toughest Pesticide Regulations Aren’t Nearly Tough Enough

As in most states, regulators in California measure the effect of only one pesticide at a time. But farmers often use several pesticides together—and that’s a big, toxic problem.

“Acting together, these effects multiply. So even pesticides that don’t cause cancer on their own might do so together by interfering with or overwhelming the body’s ability to clear toxic substances, or harming DNA and then blocking mechanisms to repair it.”

February 23, 2016 | by Liza Gross | The Nation

California officials have long touted their pesticide regulations as the toughest in the nation. But a new report from the University of California, Los Angeles, reveals a major flaw in the state’s approach to evaluating safety, one that has broad implications for the way pesticides are regulated nationally: Regulators assess pesticide safety one product at a time, but growers often apply pesticides as mixtures. That’s a serious problem, the authors argue, because pesticide interactions can ratchet up toxic effects, greatly enhancing the risk of cancer and other serious health conditions.

“The federal EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) have not adequately dealt with interactive effects,” says John Froines, a report coauthor and a chemist with decades of experience assessing health risks of toxic chemicals as a scientist and regulator. “People are exposed to a large number of chemicals. You can’t simply look chemical by chemical to adequately address the toxicity of these compounds.”

Fumigants, used to combat a range of pests and diseases, are among the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture. They are a staple of high-value crops like tomatoes and strawberries. Studies in humans and animals have linked them to acute respiratory and skin damage and serious chronic health problems, including cancer and neurological and reproductive disorders.

To get around the state’s failure to collect data on cumulative exposures to these fumigants, Froines and his colleagues drew on what’s known about the chemical and biological properties of three of the most heavily used fumigants in California: chloropicrin, Telone (the trade name for 1,3-dichloropropene), and metam sodium.

Individual fumigants are highly reactive chemicals that damage DNA and interfere with proteins that perform critical cell functions. Acting together, these effects multiply. So even pesticides that don’t cause cancer on their own might do so together by interfering with or overwhelming the body’s ability to clear toxic substances, or harming DNA and then blocking mechanisms to repair it.

These interactive effects would not be detected in studies of individual pesticides.

Pesticide regulators are aware of the report, says California DPR spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe, but adds that the agency rarely comments on such studies because “the information often lacks the extensive rigorous science for a regulatory department to make regulations.” What’s more, she notes, “DPR has the most protective and robust pesticide program in the country.”

Froines, who served as director of the Office of Toxic Substances at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under President Jimmy Carter and has led several scientific review panels at the state’s request to assess chemical toxicity, has revealed flaws in pesticide regulations before. In 2010, he headed a California scientific review panel that deemed chloropicrin—one of the fumigants studied in the current report—a “potent carcinogen.” State officials ignored the panel’s advice and decided the evidence was ambiguous. The same year, he chaired another review panel that called the fumigant methyl iodide a “highly toxic chemical” that poses a serious threat to public health. This time, manufacturers withdrew the product from the market.

With few restrictions on combining pesticides, growers often use multiple-chemical formulations or apply different fumigants to adjoining fields or in close succession. That exposes people who live, work, and go to school near these fields to several fumigants at once, despite growing evidence that these chemical concoctions pose even greater health risks.

As reported by the Food & Environment Reporting Network and The Nation last April, residents of Oxnard, a strawberry-growing stronghold in Southern California where most residents are Latino, had worried for years about the risks of heavy exposure to fumigants.

Rio Mesa High School students were twice as likely as white kids to go to schools near heavy fumigant use. And though regulators admitted as much in addressing a complaint filed by several parents, they did little to restrict fumigant use near schools. In fact, the year after EPA officials dismissed the families’ complaint, growers dramatically increased their use of toxic fumigants around Rio Mesa.

Less than a month after the Nation story ran, the Department of Pesticide Regulation announced it would revisit restrictions on pesticide use near schools after seeking public input through statewide workshops. Officials promised to deliver new rules last December, then pushed back the date, saying they hadn’t reviewed all the public comments. DPR spokesperson Fadipe says they’re still working on draft regulations but can’t say for sure when they’ll issue the draft rules.

The UCLA report shows that going to school at Rio Mesa still poses a health risk. The authors used standard EPA air dispersion models and pesticide use data collected by state regulators to simulate likely fumigant dispersion patterns around the school. They chose Rio Mesa in part because an on-site air monitor shows that fumigants are escaping into the air. As expected, their modeling results show that overlapping exposures occur at Rio Mesa—two years after EPA dismissed community concerns—and at other locations, including schools and daycare centers.

These results underscore the importance of establishing no-spray zones around schools and other sensitive sites as soon as possible, activists say.

“This new report on fumigants is a stark reminder that regulatory agencies have largely failed to regulate toxic chemicals,” says Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University and an expert on the impacts of toxic exposures on the developing brain who was not involved in the report. “We are all exposed to a cocktail of dozens, if not hundreds of chemicals, which can have similar detoxification mechanisms and modes of action.”

Regulators must consider synergistic effects of pesticides in risk assessments, the authors say. They contend that a California law requires state agencies to consider cumulative impacts and that interactive effects from pesticides fall under that law. They urge state officials to make several changes to pesticide regulations to uphold their mission to protect public health.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Federal Charges Filed Against FL Pest Control Company

January 19, 2016 | ABC News WPBF

PALM CITY, Fla. —  Federal charges have been filed against a pest control company after a local boy was poisoned.

Last August, Sunland Pest Control fumigated a Palm City home.

Shortly after, the company said it was safe for the family to return.  However, Peyton McCaughey suffered brain damage.

Sunland is being charged with two federal crimes, including using a restricted pesticide inconsistent with its labeling and false statement.

Count one carries a maximum of one year in prison.

Count two carries a maximum of five years in prison.

The state revoked the company’s license last fall.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES

Some Say Florida is Behind The Times – story behind poisoning

McCaughey exclusive:  ‘We’re angry towards Terminix. Our son is the one who has to suffer’

November 19, 2015 | by Jared Werksma | WPTV 5

For the first time since their 10-year-old son Peyton was poisoned by pesticides, the McCaughey family is sharing their story. They sat down exclusively with the Contact 5 Investigators.

“This is a kid who played baseball, played hockey, was learning to surf and for the doctors to tell us, well, pretty much all of that is more than likely gone…” said Carl McCaughey.  He says it’s a new reality for him and his wife Lori and a new way of life for their son Peyton.

“Do you feel like he was cheated, like your family was cheated?” asked Contact 5 Investigator Jared Werksma.

“We don’t want to publicly criticize anybody or any company but yeah we’re angry towards Terminix,” said Lori.

“We’re mad and we’re hurt and our 10-year-old son is the one who has to suffer for it,” she added with tears in her eyes.

Florida’s Department of Health says Peyton is suffering the effects of sulfuryl flouride poisoning.

The toxic gas used hundreds of times a day in fumigations across Florida.

“From what we’ve been told, people have symptoms like we had, the nausea, not feeling well or they’ve died. Peyton seems to be in this in between,” said Lori.

It’s an ‘in between’ Peyton started to enter on August 17, 2015.  A date the McCaughey family will never forget.

“We got home about 7:30,” said Lori, just after their Palm City home was fumigated.

“There was a placard on the door telling us that any time after 4 was safe to come home,” Lori said. But within a couple of hours Peyton wasn’t feeling well, she added.

By 6 in the morning the following day, the whole family felt ill and Peyton had gone from bad to worse.

“Peyton started to say funny things that didn’t make sense. He said something like ‘mommy how are we going to help all those sick people again?’ Like out of nowhere and that’s when I said ‘Carl, we’ve gotta get out of here, something’s wrong,” said Lori.

The family rushed to a nearby urgent care facility.  Concerned about the possibility of poisoning, Carl says he called Terminix.

“(They) explained to me that there was no possible way that there was any gasses or anything, they had checked (the house),” said Carl.

The family says the urgent care doctor disagreed.

“He said, ‘No, your families been poisoned,'” said Lori.

“He called ahead to St. Mary’s. He said get in the car right now. Peyton may have a seizure on the way down but keep driving,” said Lori.

“Did it hit you at all at that point what was happening or how severe this might be?” Werksma asked.

“To me at that point I was like, ‘OK we’re on our way to Saint Mary’s, they’re going to make it all better,’ “ said Lori.

Unfortunately that was not the case. That evening Peyton started to show signs of the damage done to his brain.

“At that point his head would flop side to side, his tongue’s hanging out of his mouth,” Carl said.

“Uncontrollable movements in all four of his extremities for twelve hours at a time until he was so exhausted he would just sleep for two hours. Then, he’d wake up and it would just gradually start all over again. It was a nightmare,” said Carl.

Was Peyton scared when this was going on?” Werksma asked.

“He couldn’t talk well but he asked if he was going to die at one point,” said Lori.

Peyton spent nearly six weeks at three different hospitals. Lori and Carl refused to leave his side. Some of Peyton’s favorite players from the Miami Dolphins even stopped by to make his hospital stay a little brighter.

Peyton was finally able to return home on September 25.

“Explain to me a little bit about why Peyton isn’t here?” asked Werksma.

“Peyton just doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. He just wants to be a normal kid going about his normal business. This was not his choice, no one gave him a choice,” said Lori.

Unfortunately Peyton’s life has been anything but normal since returning home.

“From the time he gets up to the time he goes to bed he needs one of us there,” said Carl.

The family’s dining room is now the physical therapy room. It’s where his mom says he spends hours a day.

“He has his speech therapy. He has some exercises he does with his mouth and his tongue to regain some strength and he is talking a lot better. He has his occupational therapy to help him re-learn how to go to the bathroom by himself, dress himself, brush his hair, brush his teeth,” said Lori.

The McCaugheys say their son has taken every challenge in stride.

“Never once has he said, ‘Why me, why is this happening to me?’ He’s just pushing through it,” Carl said, with a proud look on his face.

“As far as he’s concerned, he’s fine,” said Lori “And he’s gonna be fine,” she continued.

“(Peyton) talks to all of his therapists and he says ‘When I’m all the way better we’re going to have a kickball game and I want you to be there’, and um,” Lori teared up in mid sentence, turned to her husband and said simply, “sorry.”

Peyton’s injuries may leave him with the need for life-long care, according to his parents. It’s part of the reason the McCaugheys are suing Terminix, its subcontractor Sunland Pest Control and the chemical manufacturer Ensystex.

The McCaugheys are hoping their story will help change pest control practices.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES

Fearing bedbugs, Franciscan Center discards donated clothes

About 700 people a day visit there Franciscan Center of Baltimore, which has a $2 million annual budget.

The Franciscan Center of Baltimore is throwing away thousands of pounds of clothing, toys and other donations, for fear of infestation by bedbugs, Executive Director Christian Metzger said Wednesday.

“It’s breaking my heart to do this, but safety has to come first,” said Metzger, who wore a disposable hazardous materials suit as he and his staff disposed of the goods, ranging from shirts and pants to stuffed animals, in a large trash receptacle outside the center in North Baltimore on Wednesday morning.

Metzger said evidence of bedbugs in a storage area of the Franciscan Center, 101 W. 23rd St., came to light Monday when employees and visitors complained of bites on their arms and legs.

“This is the first time it’s happened,” he said.

Metzger said he asked officials at Bay City Pest Control, the company that the center uses for extermination services, for advice on what action to take, and that they told him, “You gotta start over from scratch.”

Fumigation of the clothing storage area was expected to be done this week, and the area was expected to reopen Nov. 9, Metzger said. He also said the center would put in place a protocol that would include installing a machine that can “bake” donated clothes to decontaminate them.

Other areas of the Franciscan Center, including its food pantry, soup kitchen and computer lab for job skills training, remained open and were not believed to be in danger of contamination by bedbugs, Metzger said.

About 700 people a day visit the 48-year-old center, which has an annual budget of $2 million and is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. The mission of the center, as stated on its website, http://fcbmore.org, is “to provide emergency assistance and supportive outreach to persons who are economically disadvantaged in an effort to assist them in realizing their self-worth and dignity as people of God.”

“Unfortunately, when you open yourself up to taking donations from the community, this kind of stuff happens,” he said.

Metzger urged the public to clean clothing, toiletries and other items before donating them. He said he has also reached out to his counterparts at other private agencies in the area that provide such services, including Goodwill Industries, Planet Aid and Paul’s Place in Southwest Baltimore, urging them to put protocols in place if they have not done so already.

“I told them, ‘You’re living on borrowed time,'” he said.

Metzger said the center’s budget and donor base are substantial enough that he expects the center to recover pretty quickly from the loss of the clothing.

The disposal of so much donated clothing saddened Robert Williams and Dan Griffin, both of Rodgers Forge, who packed Griffin’s van with boxes and bags of clothing and drove to the Franciscan Center, but never unpacked the van there, because Metzger gently turned them away and told them to come back next week.

They were trying to donate women’s clothing that they had picked up from Prologue, Inc., a resource center in Towson that serves mostly homeless men and had little use for the women’s clothing that had been donated to Prologue.

Although Griffin and Williams said they did not blame the center for its safety precautions, “It’s disheartening to see,” Griffin said.

“You’re throwing out what’s (intended) to help people who already have very little,” said Williams, who recently started his own small group called Homeless Outreach CALM (Compassion, Aid, Love, Mercy). “I’m just glad our stuff did not get thrown out.”

Said Griffin, “Imagine if we had come yesterday.”

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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