U.S. NEWS | By Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder | Oct. 21, 2019
NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF THE bald eagles in the United States are infected with a previously unknown virus, according to new research.
The study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports on Friday, tested 47 eagles from 19 states and found that 32% of them had the newly identified virus, called bald eagle hepacivirus.
“This study has opened our eyes to glaring knowledge gaps about infection in a species of great national importance,” Tony Goldberg, lead study author and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement. “It’s a more complicated story than we thought it might be at first, but that makes it more interesting.”
While not deadly, the newly identified disease could be contributing to a separate, fatal disease that has been causing declines in the bird’s populations. Wisconsin River Eagle Syndrome was first described in the 1990s, when observers spotted birds staggering and vomiting. They eventually died from the syndrome or were euthanized.
It is unclear what the link between the two diseases could be, if there is one. Birds outside of Wisconsin that didn’t have the fatal syndrome were still diagnosed with the newly identified virus.
“This study is another piece of the puzzle,” Sean Strom of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said in a statement. “Hopefully we can find more pieces and figure out what is happening.”
Despite being the U.S.’s national symbol, bald eagles have had a rough history in the country. Hunting, pesticide poisoning and habitat loss decimated populations in the 20th century. As few as 412 nesting pairs were in the U.S. at the population’s lowest point.
Strict regulations and the banning of DDT, a pesticide that caused the bird’s egg shells to become too thin, recovered populations to the point that the bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list in 2007.
Despite improved protections, bald eagles are still falling victim to poison. In March, seven bald eagles and one great horned owl were found dead in Maryland. Officials said they were likely unintentionally poisoned with a banned pesticide, carbofuran. The deaths came roughly three years after 13 bald eagles were found dead in the area under similar circumstances. Officials said they were “disappointed and frustrated” at the continued poisonings
After playing around a popular Upstate creek on the Laurens County/Newberry County line, two yellow Labs fell ill and die.
WIS News 10 | By Renee Wunderlich|August 30, 2019
WHITMIRE, S.C. (WYFF) -Deanne Wishert tells WYFF News 4 that, on Aug. 4, her two yellow Labrador retrievers, Max and Ellie, started shaking and foaming at the mouth after playing around Duncan creek off Little North Carolina Road, on the Lauren’s County/Newberry County line.
“They went from healthy to dead in 30 minutes,” said Wishert.
Max died on the way to the vet, and Ellie had to be put down.
A Laurens County sheriff’s deputy went to the scene on the 14th, and noted in their report that the water was ‘stagnant and green.’
At first, Wishert wondered if blue-green algae was to blame, but the toxicology report shows carbamate and carbofuran — insecticides that can be deadly to pups and people. “There’s someone here every day,” said Wishert “The children come down here and swim. And then would swim with my dogs down here.”
Wishert is hoping someone will come forward, or that investigators will figure out why this poison was in an area where dogs and children play.
“Right now, I can’t tell you who did this, but I would hate for this to happen to somebody else!” she said.
Newberry County sheriff Lee Foster tells WYFF News 4 that his office spoke with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on this matter, and that it is not uncommon for farmers or deer hunters to bait coyotes during this time of year.
Sheriff Foster tells WYFF News his office has no evidence, but it is reasonable to believe that the dogs could have accidentally come across poison meant for a coyote.
Both Newberry County and Laurens County sheriff’s offices do not have suspects at this time.
There is a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
Clemson Regulatory Services Criminal Investigative Unit oversees the sale, use and distribution of pesticides, as well as their illegal misuse within the state of South Carolina.
A day after this story aired on WYFF News 4, deputy director Mike Weyman told reporter Renée Wunderlich that the agency has opened up a parallel criminal investigation.
Weyman said that this particular product is an extremely toxic agricultural pesticide. He said, had it been in the water, any fish, bugs or other living things would have been killed.
He told Wunderlich that there is reason to believe the pesticide that killed Max and Ellie was put there on purpose – perhaps as a bait for a predator like a coyote or a fox – but that that the investigation is just beginning.
Weyman said this pesticide is highly regulated, and that placing it in an area like this without the proper permission is a both a state and federal violation of the law.
The person or persons responsible for this crime could face both state and federal charges.
Americans don’t want these jobs, or can’t do them—so nearly a quarter of a million guest workers do them instead.
by John Washington | July 29, 2019
(Krystal Quiles) Hudson Valley, New York
In the late 19th century, Polish and Volga German immigrants drained the muck out of this valley to reveal the residue of an ancient glacial lake—dirt so dark and fertile it resembles potting soil. Today, the farms that blanket the valley—known as the Black Dirt Region—brandish their organic or farm-to-table credentials and ship onion, radish, romaine, cilantro, as well as sod and poppy, to New York City restaurants and farmer’s markets, among other places. Most of the workers here, the ones bending over this black dirt with harvesting knives and hoes, now call the farms “los fields.”
I spent a recent late spring afternoon visiting various farms with Cristian Ávila, of the Workers Justice Center of New York, who drives around Hudson Valley fields evangelizing workers’ rights, work-shopping safety protocols, and giving and gaining respect to guest workers. He told me, for example, of occasionally hearing workers complain of allergies when they see rashes on their skin, and he has to tell them they’re actually suffering from pesticide poisoning. The men we met that day—they were all men—were polite, welcoming, and expressed few complaints—at least initially. After sitting and chatting for a while in their borderline-squalid flophouse trailers, details began to emerge: non-reimbursements for travel to the US-Mexico border, limited or no access to a vehicle to make purchases of food and other necessities, and intensely long hours, sometimes toiling over 90 hours a week.
These men are here as guest workers, part of a massive labor program that brings nearly a quarter-million agricultural guest workers—the majority from Mexico and Central America—to the United States to do the jobs Americans aren’t doing, and seem increasingly unwilling to do. These workers come to toil and sweat on American farms for, typically, a few months (though workers can be contracted for up to three years) before being ushered back to their country of origin. The H-2 guest worker system—H-2A visas for agricultural workers, H-2B visas for service sectors such as landscaping, hospitality, and fishing, which will bring an additional 96,000 workers into the country this year—puts temporary workers in jobs when employers need them most, while, at the same time, blocking imported workers from becoming part of the permanent social fabric of this country.
The set up squeezes guest workers nearly dry, and then disposes them back across the border. Farmworker Justice calls the program an “exploitative model of temporary indentured workers,” and some guest workers, especially if they have to pay high recruiter fees to connect with an employer, actually go home in debt. Contracts between employers and workers stipulate a variety of work expectations and conditions, but reports, including the Southern Poverty Law Center’s exposé, “Close to Slavery,” enumerate a litany of abuses: unpaid wages, dangerous—even deadly—working conditions, squalid living quarters, lack of medical benefits for on-the-job injuries, and being “held virtually captive by employers.”
Ávila and I wound along the valley’s picturesque roads—Celery Avenue, Pumpkin Swamp Road, Jessup Switch—that ran along and over the Wallkill River and through the vast plots of vegetables. As the sun was setting, we humped down a rutted dirt path through a cemetery of rusting, museum-worthy fire trucks—the owner is a collector—to a long, hastily built concrete structure that was temporary home to 25 men. Their knee-stained work pants and long-sleeve shirts were hung out to dry behind the trailer; the sunset was slashing shadows over the crop lines of onions; and a nonchalant woodchuck wobbled up and sniffed at a side door. A dozen men had circled around Ávila to chat about work conditions.
After a while we went inside the kitchen and I met Omar, a genial, soft-spoken Mexican man chopping summer squash while a pot of chicken bubbled on the stove. Omar also had a huge wok of nopales that were starting to soften next to the chicken. Like all the kitchens I saw that day in guest worker trailers, it was bare, not very clean, and young men (it was the end of the day, and they were freshly showered and smelling of cheap body wash) were constantly flitting in and out. Omar was wearing silver athletic shorts, a tan T-shirt, leather sandals worn to a shine, and an old Orioles baseball cap. He chewed gum very slowly. There was dirt under his fingernails.
* * *
OMAR, 42 YEARS OLD
Okay, my name is Omar García García. I’m 42 years old. I’m from Michoacán, from a ranch named El Gigante, which is actually a small village. There are maybe 1,500 to 1,700 people who live there, and… well, that’s where I’m from. I have three kids. They are all in Mexico, in Michoacán. My oldest son is 18, he’s about to enter into university. My daughter is about to start high school, and my youngest is about start elementary school. They live with my wife and my mother-in-law.
I’m one of those people, you know, I’m never happier than when I’m in the fields. It’s the best place for me. I like cities, but just to visit. I’m not used to them. When I was a little boy I first started working in the fields with my grandfather. Back then, working with him, I would just help out in the rainy season, with the corn. Weeding, putting down fertilizer, all that. And then when I grew up I did a little more, I’d work with the neighbors. Clearing a parcel, helping with the harvests. Some people in El Gigante have land, and they pay for help, for workers. And we plant everything. Or almost everything. We don’t have kale or bok choy or tatsoi there. Or green peppers. There we grow the chile serrano and jalapeños. We don’t have arugula, either. But we have everything else, pretty much.
What I earn here in a day though, that’s what I can get in Mexico in a few weeks or more.
The first time I came as a guest worker, in 2005, it was really hard. Because you aren’t where you were born, where you’re used to living. And, you know, it’s hard because even if the work seems simple, if you haven’t done it before, it’s more complicated. The hard part was doing work that I thought was going to be easier, but you do it different here. Even if you’re used to it, with just a little difference, it makes it more complicated. Back in Michoacán we only had one type of green bean, and we harvested when it was still tender, but here, no, you have different kinds. You have to cut the big ones when they’re not too tender and not too hard, so the machine can husk them. In Mexico, we harvest only when the bean is really dry, when it’s about to open out of the pod, but it’s different here. And bunches of kale, you have to tie them up, so you have to cut them with the knife and then tie them up. I’d lived my whole life in the fields, but everything was different in the US.
The hardest part was just getting used to being so far from my home. Being outside of my country. I wasn’t used to it. I wanted to go back to Mexico. I really wanted to go back, and I asked myself, What am I doing here? But if I go, what do I go back to? Because it was expensive to come. I had this debt. I don’t remember how much, maybe 6,000 pesos. The bus to Monterrey, the hotel, the food. We had to wait in the hotel for a while, two days I think, while we were giving our information and doing the interview. I was thinking, I want to go back. But back to what? I had rent, had to pay for electricity, gas. I would have had to find work again, figure out how to get to work.
So I didn’t know what to do. I thought, Okay, I’m already here. I gotta keep going. If the other workers can do it, I can do it, because I have two hands like they have. I can use them, just like they can. I don’t think the others came and already knew everything. They had to learn, too. So if you learn, you move up, you learn to work like the others.
After that first season in Florida, I was able to fix up my bathroom back in Michoacán. That first trip, my earnings were mostly the experience. It was worth it, because it pushed me. I was able to save a little, not much. Everything you don’t have, you suffer a little bit for. We just had a small tub, and we bathed with a bowl. Our house had two windows and a door. The door was just a curtain. And the windows had plastic bags so the wind wouldn’t come in. But after that first year, I put a door in, put two windows in. Put a solar heater in. And ever since, I’m still fixing up the house. And I said to myself, Okay, I have two kids who are growing up, already in school, and then the youngest one. And I thought, Okay, I can’t stay here. If I can’t provide enough for my kids. Because I don’t want them to live like me. I couldn’t provide for my family, not by staying home.
My wife never said anything, but, I mean, when someone was selling a piece of land, and we didn’t have any money to buy any land, you notice. Or when my son says that he wants a car, or wants something smaller, anything, and working in the fields I couldn’t buy it for him… You have to give priority to food, shoes, clothes, education. Your family needs to eat. To go to the doctor. The basic things.
It’s not shameful to work in the fields. You’ll be able to eat. But it’s hard. So [in 2014, nine years after his first H-2A experience, in 2005] I told myself, told my wife, I’m going to go back to the US. This, 2019, is now my fourth year in New York, working for the same boss. I made about $5,000 that second trip.
Strawberry picking is the hardest. Even in Mexico you work all day, and you have to bend down all day, but not quite all day, because in Mexico it’s different. You stand up, you chat for a minute. You sit down for a minute. I don’t know, it’s calmer. But here, no. When they’re paying you by the hour, they’re paying for those hours. And they want you to work. They don’t want to see you standing. If the work is hunched over, they want you hunched over. If the work is standing up, they want you standing. If they want you kneeling, they want you kneeling and working. And they ask you, Why are you standing? I mean, if you just stand up for a bit to stretch or to drink water, it’s okay, but if you’re standing there for a bit—I mean it’s logical—they’re like, Hurry up. Because I’m paying you. And I understand. I’d do the same.
We usually work six days a week here. We work 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes more. It depends on what work there is. Sometimes we’re doing 14 or 16 hour days. And sometimes we work Sundays. They pay us by the hour when we’re packaging for the market. They pay us by the box for cilantro, parsley, beets. If you’re only working three hours or so, you make more if you’re working by the box. But the longer you work, the more tired you get, and you start to slow down. It doesn’t go down that much, but you can’t fill the same number of boxes at two or three in the afternoon—in the heat, when you’re tired—that you were filling at six in the morning. I’m making now about $500, $400, sometimes $300 a week. Later in the season maybe $700, $800, even $900 a week. And we work Sundays later in the season.
We keep track of our own hours. They give us little sheets that we mark down hours on, from Friday to Thursday. The week starts on Friday and it’s over on Thursday. And you mark down when you started, when you finished, your lunch. They pay us on Saturday. There’s not time to do anything else but work. Sometimes you’re only sleeping four or five hours a night. Right now we have a little more free time, because it’s early in the season. We’re getting off at five or six, and we don’t go in until seven tomorrow morning. So we’ll wake up at six, drink a little coffee, eat something, and then go to work.
But sometimes when we’re coming back at eight or even nine, there’s not really time to do anything. We eat some cookies maybe. A juice, and then fill up our lunchboxes with some crackers, a juice, a soda, whatever we have, for the next day.
In this house there are 25 people. We all know each other. We get along. We all chat. Nobody gets out of hand, nobody looks down at other people. We walk a little when we have downtime, or talk to our families. Or just sit around. There’s no TV, but we listen to music, or just talk. We play soccer sometimes, but we don’t always have enough energy. I talk to my family every day. With these phones, it’s easy. I talk to my wife for twenty or thirty minutes a day, with my kids, too. Or we send messages to each other.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t feel good here. I’m too far from my family. I’m too far from the place where I was born, where I grew up. I lived all my life there, and now I come here, I come because I want my kids to study. In Mexico, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It would even be hard to send my kids to high school. But I can do it working here. God willing, I’m going to send all three of my kids to college. My son, he’s not sure yet what he wants to study. Maybe industrial processing. I don’t know much about that field. But maybe he’ll study agricultural engineering. I know more about that. But there’s not much demand for that where we live. My son likes working in the fields as well. He’s like me, but in the end, I told him he needs to think hard about it, because it’s his future. I tell him, Look, I don’t know about all these things, but look around you, look around at what you can do. Look at what I have to do. If I had the chance, I’d think hard about another line of work.
I think the United States is really beautiful. It has so much. It has a lot that Mexico doesn’t have, but I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t want to move here. Not me. My rancho is my rancho, and I’ve thought a lot about it, and I tell my wife, I don’t come here because I want to. I don’t come here because I don’t want to be with you. I come to give you something better. Something better, something we can’t get there.
I’ll wake up tomorrow at six. I’ll drink a coffee, maybe a shake. The driver, or maybe the boss, will take us to los fields. I don’t know, maybe to pick radishes, or, who knows, we won’t know until tomorrow. We’ll probably be packing veggies for the Saturday market [it’s Thursday night when we’re speaking]. We’ll cut lettuce, romaine and Boston, red and green. We cut the hearts and put twelve in a box, or depends on what brand we’re working for, and then we cut the cilantro, also for the market. Depends on what box, but usually 24 bunches per box. Maybe we’ll finish packing for the market by noon, or maybe earlier, and then we’ll get together, and we’ll go to some other fields, for the radishes, or the kale. The radishes you pull out, seven or eight at a time, then wrap them with a band. It’s not too hard. The earth here is really soft. Dark and soft. So you don’t need to really tug too hard. What’s difficult is to be doing it for so long. You don’t get like crazy tired, but you get tired.
I don’t know why Americans don’t do this kind of work. I don’t understand why. Maybe it’s the pay, or the work itself. Maybe it’s cheap seeming. There are a lot of reasons. I don’t know which it is. Or maybe it’s because, how can I put it, we’re the people who accept this kind of work because we’re used to hard work. And maybe Americans try to find ways not to do this kind of work. Not this kind of hard work. But I don’t know what the exact reason is. There may be multiple reasons. There are a lot of Americans who, okay, they do work on the tractors, or weed a little, but they don’t harvest. A lot of them just give orders.
My interest is just to come to this country, do the work, and then leave it. That’s all. My work is what interests me. That’s all I do here. My family tells me they miss me. But then I think about coming home with nothing, without having food to eat… I like the US, I like it a lot. But this isn’t where my life is. All there is here for me is working and sleeping. In Mexico it’s different. You can have more free days, you can be with your family.
MADRID, Jul 10 2019 (IPS) – In case you were not aware or just do not remember: all you eat, drink, breathe, wear, take as a medicine, the cosmetics you use, the walls of your house, among others, is full of chemicals. And all is really ALL.
For instance, in your bathroom, formaldehyde often sits in your shampoo, microbeads in your toothpaste, phthalates in your nail polish and antimicrobials in your soaps, while your medicine cabinet contains a myriad of synthetic pharmaceuticals.
In your kitchen, a juicy strawberry may carry traces of up to 20 different pesticides.
The size of the global chemical industry exceeded 5 trillion dollars in 2017. It is projected to double by 2030. Consumption and production are rapidly increasing in emerging economies.
And the perfumed bin-liners and air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds that can make you nauseous and give you a headache. And the list goes on…
Who tells all these and many other shocking facts is one of the top world organisations dealing with the sources and dangers of pollution and contamination – the UN Environment, which on 29 April 2019 released its Global Chemicals Outlook.
Chemicals, chemicals, chemicals everywhere
See what Tanzanian microbiologist and environmental scientist Joyce Msuya, the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said in her introduction to this report:
“Chemicals are part of our everyday lives. From pharmaceuticals to plant protection, innovations in chemistry can improve our health, food security and much more. However, if poorly used and managed, hazardous chemicals and waste threaten human health and the environment.
“As the second Global Chemicals Outlook lays out, global trends such as population dynamics, urbanisation and economic growth are rapidly increasing chemical use, particularly in emerging economies.
“In 2017, the industry was worth more than 5 trillion dollars. By 2030, this will double.
“Large quantities of hazardous chemicals and pollutants continue to leak into the environment, contaminating food chains and accumulating in our bodies, where they do serious damage.
“Estimates by the European Environment Agency suggest that 62 per cent of the volume of chemicals consumed in Europe in 2016 were hazardous to health.
“The World Health Organization estimates the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives in 2016. The lives of many more are negatively impacted…”
Referring to the agreed objective that, by 2020, chemicals will be produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse effects on the environment and human health, Joyce Msuya warned “At our current pace, we will not achieve the goal.”
The following are three key findings included in the report, among many others.
One is that the size of the global chemical industry exceeded 5 trillion dollars in 2017. It is projected to double by 2030. Consumption and production are rapidly increasing in emerging economies. Global supply chains, and the trade of chemicals and products, are becoming increasingly complex.
Another one is that, driven by global mega-trends, growth in chemical-intensive industry sectors (e.g. construction, agriculture, electronics) creates risks, but also opportunities to advance sustainable consumption, production and product innovation.
And a third one is that hazardous chemicals and other pollutants (e.g. plastic waste and pharmaceutical pollutants) continue to be released in large quantities. They are ubiquitous in humans and the environment and are accumulating in material stocks and products, highlighting the need to avoid future legacies through sustainable materials management and circular business models.
The Global Chemicals Outlook covers three broad inter-linked areas building upon the findings of existing and concurrent studies:
Production, trade, use and disposal of chemicals
Both the continuous growth trends and the changes in global production, trade and use of chemicals point towards an increasing chemical intensification of the economy.
This chemical intensification of the economy derives largely from several factors, such as the increased volume and a shift of production and use from highly industrialised countries to developing countries and countries in economic transition.
Another factor is the penetration of chemical intensive products into national economies through globalisation of sales and use.
Then there are the increased chemical emissions resulting from major economic development sectors.
According to the report, products of the chemical industry that are increasingly replacing natural materials in both industrial and commercial products.
Thus, petrochemical lubricants, coatings, adhesives, inks, dyes, creams, gels, soaps, detergents, fragrances and plastics are replacing conventional plant, animal and ceramic based products.
Industries and research institutions which are increasingly developing sophisticated and novel nano-scale chemicals and synthetic halogenated compounds that are creating new functions such as durable, non-stick, stain resistant, fire retardant, water-resistant, non-corrosive surfaces, and metallic, conductive compounds that are central to integrated circuits used in cars, cell phones, and computers.
Penetration of chemical intensive products
The Global Outlook also informs that many countries are primarily importers of chemicals and are not significant producers. Agricultural chemicals and pesticides used in farming were among the first synthetic chemicals to be actively exported to developing countries.
Today, as consumption of a wide range of products increases over time, these products themselves become a significant vehicle increasing the presence of chemicals in developing and transition economies, the report explains, adding the following information:
These include liquid chemical personal care products for sale directly to consumers; paints, adhesives and lubricants; as well as chemically complex articles ranging from textiles and electronics, to building materials and toys. Emissions from products pose different management challenges from those associated with manufacturing, as they are diffused throughout the economy, rather than being concentrated at manufacturing facilities.
Trade in articles has been identified as a significant driver of global transport of lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants.
It is often the case that electrical and electronic equipment, which contain hazardous or toxic substances, are purchased in developed countries before being disposed of or recycled in unsafe and unprotected conditions in developing states or countries with economies in transition.
Products such as cell phones and laptops are being purchased and used in regions of the world recently thought to be too remote.
Increasing consumer demand for electrical/electronic goods and materials, along with rapid technology change and the high obsolescence rate of these items have led to the increasing generation of large quantities of obsolete and near end of life electronic products.
These trends contribute to global electronic waste generation estimated at 40 million tons per year.
Chemical contamination and waste associated with industrial sectors of importance in developing countries include: pesticides from agricultural runoff; heavy metals associated with cement production; dioxin associated with electronics recycling; mercury and other heavy metals associated with mining and coal combustion, explains the Global Outlook.
They also include: butyl tins, heavy metals, and asbestos released during ship breaking; heavy metals associated with tanneries; mutagenic dyes, heavy metals and other pollutants associated with textile production; toxic metals, solvents, polymers, and flame retardants used in electronics manufacturing, and the direct exposure resulting from the long range transport of many chemicals through environmental media that deliver chemical pollutants which originate from sources thousands of kilometres away.
Credit: UN Environment.
Health and environmental effects
According to the report:
Chemicals released to the air can act as air pollutants as well as greenhouse gases and ozone depleters and contribute to acid rain formation.
Chemicals can contaminate water resources through direct discharges to bodies of water, or via deposition of air contaminants to water. This contamination can have adverse effects on aquatic organisms, including fish, and on the availability of water resources for drinking, bathing, and other activities.
It is common for soil pollution to be a direct result of atmospheric deposition, dumping of waste, spills from industrial or waste facilities, mining activities, contaminated water, or pesticides.
Persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals are found as widespread contaminants in wildlife, especially those that are high in the food chain. Some of these chemicals cause cancers, immune system dysfunction, and reproductive disorders in wildlife.
In some countries, the runoff of pesticides and fertilisers from agricultural fields or the use of chemicals in mining in neighbouring countries, may leach into ground water, or run into estuaries shared across national boundaries.
Fisheries, an important source of protein and of economic value for populations around the world, can be severely affected by chemicals. Persistent organic pollutants can accumulate in fish, especially those high in the food chain. As a result, the value of this otherwise excellent protein source is diminished or lost completely.
Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause or contribute to a broad range of health outcomes. These include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation; damage to organs such as the brain, lungs, liver or kidneys; damage to the immune, respiratory, cardiovascular, nervous, reproductive or endocrine systems; and birth defects and chronic diseases, such as cancer, asthma, or diabetes.
Workers in industries using chemicals are especially vulnerable through exposure to toxic chemicals and related health effects.
These include an increased cancer rate in workers in electronics facilities; high blood lead levels among workers at lead-acid battery manufacturing and recycling plants; flame retardant exposures among workers in electronic waste recycling; mercury poisoning in small-scale gold miners; asbestosis among workers employed in asbestos mining and milling; and acute and chronic pesticide poisoning among workers in agriculture in many countries.
In spite of these and other immense negative impacts on health and the environment, the more than 400 scientists and experts around the world, who worked over three long years to prepare the Global Chemicals Outlook, underscore that the goal to minimise adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020.
“Solutions exist,” the 400 world experts emphasise, “but more ambitious worldwide action by all stakeholders is urgently required.”
Last year, Kaylynn Knull and Tom Schwander were enjoying a relaxing vacation in the Dominican Republic when the couple started experiencing alarming symptoms. Now the two have filed a $1 million lawsuit against the resort called The Grand Bahia Principe La Romana.
The couple is seeking restoration for their experiences in the wake of 3 more American deaths that occurred there that same week.
TOXICOLOGIST SAYS A COLORLESS, ODORLESS ‘INTOXICANT’ COULD BE CAUSE OF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC DEATHS
According to The Sun, Knull and Schwander woke up one morning after several days at the resort, suffering from dizziness, blurred vision, drooling and stomach cramps among other symptoms.
After flying home, doctors suspected pesticide poisoning, specifically from organophosphates. That diagnosis aligned with many of their symptoms.
Knull now wonders if chemicals sprayed on plants outside the resort’s rooms were to blame, reports The Sun in an interview with the couple. Knull and Schwander wanted the resort to state the name of the chemicals used in its gardening. The two filed a lawsuit after the resort refused.
Unfortunately, last year’s cases aren’t the only episodes of tourist illness in the Dominican Republic. Investigations are ongoing for 11 recent deaths. The FBI and CDC are also investigating.
The cause of these deaths are still unknown. But media and the tourists involved speculate they could be related to harmful pesticides, spiked alcohol or tainted food.
The Problem of Pesticide Poisoning
In the United States, pesticide poisoning often happens to residents and workers around farming regions. However, the World Health Organization recognizes that poisoning does occur more often in developing countries.
Studies in Central American countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua have shown poisonings to occur twice as much in the general population as in America’s agricultural population. That amounts to 35 cases per 100,000 versus the United States’ 18 cases in the farming community, states WHO.
However, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number because of lack of surveillance, long-term side effects, and inconsistent study methods.
Since millions of U.S. tourists visit areas like the Dominican Republic every year, this situation could truly happen to anyone. According to The Sun, 2.7 million Americans visit the resort where Knull and Schwander stayed last June.
Signs of Pesticide Poisoning
The big takeaway is that Americans should understand pesticide poisoning and take precautions against it, especially when traveling out of the country.
Pesticides can fall into several different categories. Those include organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethrins or pryethroids, the last of which are considered natural pesticides.
Common symptoms you should watch for:
Diarrhea or incontinence
Eye irritation or tearing
Muscle weakness or lack of coordination
Sensitivity to light or sound
Shortness of breath
Slow or irregular heartbeat
Tingling or numbness
If you experience any of the above symptoms after traveling to agricultural or international regions, you should seek medical help immediately.
What to Expect with Pesticide Poisoning Treatment
If you suspect pesticide poisoning, you should get medical help for even mild symptoms like headache or dizziness. Pesticide poisoning can have long-term effects that your doctor might help to improve.
For more serious cases, your doctor might prescribe medications to help with symptoms and an IV to hydrate and clear your body of toxins.
Because poisoning symptoms can escalate quickly, you should contact emergency help if you suspect a high level of exposure.
Pesticide poisoning happens in the US and even more often in developing countries where pesticides are less regulated. In the midst of planning your exciting international vacation, watch for concerning news reports beforehand and stay on guard for poisoning symptoms while you’re abroad.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny’s work, visit AskDrManny.com.
TAMPA, Florida — May 27, 2016 – By Anastasia Dawson, Times Correspondent
The University of South Florida is dealing with an infestation of bedbugs.
But instead of invading USF’s beds or dorms, the bugs have infested its classrooms.
Six classrooms and a reception area in the Muma College of Business building are infested with Cimex lectularius — the common bedbug — USF officials said.
University employees discovered the bedbugs last week after a student complained about bugs in Room 118. They had infested chairs and furniture, and they can travel along the floors and walls.
Pest-control company Terminix treated the building, including spots where the bugs weren’t found. The area is being monitored for followup treatments.
[BedBugs are heat and pesticide resistant, carry over 40 different pathogens, including MRSA, and ARE known to transmit deadly Chagas disease. A. Steiner]
“While repulsive, bedbugs are not considered a medical or public health hazard,” College of Business dean Moez Limayem wrote in an email to faculty and staff on May 19.
In what Limayem called an “abundance of caution,” all classes in the newest portion of the Business Administration Building, where the bugs were found, have been relocated for the rest of the Summer A semester, which ends June 24.
This isn’t the first time the building has been besieged by bugs. In 2013, three classrooms were treated for bedbugs over a monthlong period. Two of those rooms saw the bugs return in this latest infestation.
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Travis Keels, said the agency doesn’t keep track of bedbug infestations in universities or schools, only in places that offer food and lodging. If a state inspector finds bedbugs in a hotel room, for example, a 14-day warning is issued and the specific room cannot be rented until it clears another inspection.
Bedbugs are known to be excellent “hitchhikers,” said National Pest Management Association spokeswoman Cindy Mannes. When they bite, the bugs numb the surrounding skin and can latch on without being noticed, she said. They also stick to fabric and are known to be an elusive and hard-to-control pest.
“People can bring them in with them and not even know it, and then the (bugs) can survive for 30 days without a blood meal,” Mannes said.
Bedbugs shouldn’t be viewed as a sign that an area is unclean, said Brittany Campbell, an entomologist at the University of Florida. The bugs feed off human blood, but so far haven’t been found to carry any diseases. Still, they can cause allergic reactions like blisters or, if an infestation gets out of hand, can lead to anemia from blood loss, Campbell said.
“We call them bedbugs because they’re attracted to heat and carbon dioxide,” she said, “so when you’re asleep and lying there breathing for a few hours, it’s very attractive to bedbugs.”
This year, the Tampa and St. Petersburg area ranked 31st on Orkin’s list of “Top 50 Bedbug Cities,” which ranks locations based on the number of bedbug treatments the pest-control company administered in 2015. Mannes said Chicago topped the list for the fourth year in a row, likely because of the amount of international travel in the city.
While no government agency keeps track of bedbug infestations, the National Pest Management Association’s annual surveys have found the populations grow every year as the bugs adapt.
“Bedbugs are a great pest, from a biological standpoint, because they’re really difficult to get rid of,” Campbell said. “They build up resistances and their bodies have a way of fighting off insecticides.”
The most effective treatment is to bring in external heaters and heat the affected areas to 120 degrees, she said. But reinfestation is still a risk: “Then, of course, you have to worry about bringing them back in.”
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.”
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.
April 5, 2016 | by Michael Howell | Bitterroot Star
Local wildlife rehabilitator Judy Hoy is one of the authors cited in a study recently published in the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine which claims to demonstrate that even low doses of glyphosates, a chemical ingredient in many pesticides, can be considered a serious health problem. Lead author of the study is Nancy Swanson, PhD from Abacus Enterprises in Washington state, and Stephanie Seneff, from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. The article is entitled: “Evidence that glyphosate is a causative agent in chronic sub-clinical metabolic acidosis and mitochondrial dysfunction.”
The article claims that it is a well-established fact that ingesting large amounts of glyphosate causes metabolic acidosis and other pathophysiologic changes. Clinical signs of acute glyphosate poisoning include severe acidosis determined by low blood pH, hyperkalemia, hypernatremia, raised creatinine and blood urea levels, hypotension, hypoxemia and reduced serum bicarbonate. Severe poisoning causes dehydration, pneumonitis, oliguria, altered level of consciousness, hepatic dysfunction, pulmonary edema and dysrhythmias 1, 2, 3.
The authors go on to claim, however, that available scientific reports and records from the CDC examined and compared in their study provide overwhelming “circumstantial evidence” that ingestion of glyphosates in low doses also has serious health effects which are being overlooked in toxicology evaluations and public policy.
“How much evidence is needed?” they ask in the article.
“Taken together, this evidence suggests that glyphosate, in the doses equivalent to allowed residues in food ingested over a long period of time, causes a low-grade, chronic acidosis as well as mitochondrial dysfunction,” states the study.
They also provide evidence from the literature supporting the biochemical pathways whereby this occurs by extracting the reports for symptoms and diseases associated with glyphosate from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Adverse Event Reporting System database. These are compared to the symptoms and diseases reported in the database for drugs that are known to cause mitochondrial dysfunction. They call the results “startlingly consistent.”
Finally, they hypothesize that many modern diseases are primarily acquired mitochondrial disorders caused by chemical pesticides, pharmaceutical drugs, food additives and industrial chemicals.
March 30, 2016 | by Cherise Hoak | Wicked Local Westport News
It seems as though the divide between the beekeepers and the state is still growing and the big elephant in the room is the use of pesticide poisoning.
Although the beekeepers have seen firsthand the effects of the pesticides on their hives, it seems the state is still in denial when it comes to the truth.
Currently, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) is attempting to adopt a “Pollinator Protection Plan” and is holding “listening” sessions in various locations in order to get input from the various beekeepers and farmers that this plan would impact.
The beekeepers, on one hand, have written up their own “Pollinator Protection Plan” and are asking the state to adopt their plan instead of what the state is trying to implement. Each plan has its own merits and each group thinks their plan is for the best practice. It does not seem, in the long run, that either side will get anywhere in the near future.
On March 21, MDAR held one of its “listening” sessions at Bristol Aggie and invited those interested to come and talk so that MDAR could listen and take notes on their concerns regarding the draft plan by the state.
Several beekeepers came to this meeting along with the superintendent-director of Bristol Aggie, and many of the beekeepers voiced their concerns regarding the lack of regulation regarding pesticide usage, which is one of the main problems facing the beekeepers to date. Without concrete proof that pesticides, namely neonicotinoids, are the cause of bee die-offs, the state’s regulations fall short in protecting the bees and beekeepers from hive losses.
The beekeepers have tried and continue to try to get the state’s attention on this matter, especially when they have perfect hives one day only to find thousands upon thousands of dead and dying bees in front of their hives the next day.
The beekeepers have done what is expected of them by calling in the state’s apiary inspector when this occurs.
But according to some of the beekeepers, nothing has come out of this reporting to their satisfaction.
From what I gathered at this “listening” session, the state has not provided or cannot provide concrete proof that the bee die-offs are directly related to pesticide poisoning. One way or the other, the burden of proof should lie on the state and should be mandated by the state to prove that pesticides are harmful to our pollinators.
The beekeepers, as I have seen firsthand, have already seen the destruction of these poisons on their beehives. And you have to ask yourself, if other countries around the world are banning these pesticides from being used and now some of the states in the United States, most recent being Maryland, are banning these pesticides, then why is Massachusetts not doing their due diligence in helping both the farmers and beekeepers alike in finding the truth.
My only concern in this matter came unexpectedly in the “listening” session on March 21 when the superintendent of Bristol Aggie spoke up and was the only person in this meeting to have doubts on the validity of the pesticide damage to the bees. But then again, if your school is partnering with Monsanto on the “AG and STEM” Symposium (http://www.monsanto.com/whoweare/pages/education.aspx), I guess you have no choice in the matter with regards to the educational value that you might be getting from one of the biggest chemical companies.
As for the farmers, I have great respect for them and I firmly believe that they are not intentionally harming the bees. They, of all people involved, have more to lose than anyone else in this game of chemicals and money.
My biggest concern is that the chemicals provided to the general public are one of the most dangerous things that could ever have happened. This is like boxing up hand grenades and selling them as gopher removal and telling the public it’s safe to use!
Until the state puts regulations on these chemicals that are so readily available to the public, in my opinion, I think the farmers are going to continue to get blamed for the bee kills instead of handing the blame directly to those that sell the pesticides to the public and to the independent contractors who have no knowledge on how to use them let alone when the proper time is to use them. Until such time as all parties can come to an agreement on the danger of pesticides, efforts first and foremost should be toward educating our public on the dangers of pesticides and the proper use of them.