Fertilizer, pest-control, soup: Modern-day reliance on bats makes it hard to banish their virus risk

QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK, UGANDA - AUGUST 25: A fruit bat
Bats contain the highest proportion of mammalian viruses that are likely to infect humans, according to 2017 research.BONNIE JO MOUNT/THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

FORTUNE | by Siraphob Thanthong-Knight and Bloomberg | February 20, 2020

Every Saturday morning, a dozen or so villagers from a province about 60 miles west of Bangkok creep into a bat-festooned cave to scrape up the precious fecal deposits of its flourishing inhabitants.

In three hours, they can amass as many as 500 buckets of bat dung. The guano is packaged and sold at an adjacent temple as fertilizer, reaping more than 75,000 baht ($2,400). Just 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the nutrient-rich material can fetch as much as the daily minimum wage.

Elsewhere in Asia and Micronesia, meat from bats is sometimes sold in markets or cooked at home after being caught in the wild. Although consumption is rare and limited to certain communities, it’s considered a local delicacy in the Pacific island-nation of Palau, and areas of Indonesia, where meat from other mammals is scarce.

With growing awareness of bat-borne viruses — from Nipah to coronaviruses linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome and the new pneumonia-causing Covid-19 disease that’s killed more than 2,000 people in China — human contact with the ancient flying mammal and their excreta is drawing closer scrutiny.

“Anything to do with bats, in theory, can expose yourself to potential viral transmission because we know bats carry so many viruses,” said Linfa Wang, who heads the emerging infectious disease program at Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School.

Bats contain the highest proportion of mammalian viruses that are likely to infect humans, according to research published in 2017 by disease ecologist Peter Daszak in the scientific journal Nature.

Still, very few bat viruses are ready to transmit directly to humans, said Wang, who has been studying bat origins of human viruses for decades and works with a group of researchers sometimes dubbed ‘The Bat Pack.’

“I always say that if they could do that, then the human population would have been wiped out a long time ago because bats have been in existence for 80-to-100 million years — much older than humans,” he said.

Special Precautions

Danger doesn’t stop with bats. Other mammals, such as civets and camels, have been found to act as intermediate hosts that can pass coronaviruses to humans. Undercooked meat and offal, milk, blood, mucus, saliva and urine of virus-carrying mammals can potentially contain pathogens.

“Viruses evolve all the time — there’s no way to know when it will mutate and become dangerous to humans,” said Supaporn Watcharaprueksadee, deputy chief at the Center for Emerging Infectious Disease of Thailand, who has studied bats for two decades. “The best prevention is to avoid the risk and reduce all risky behaviors,” she said.

At the Khao Chong Phran bat cave in the Thai province of Ratchaburi, where the bat dung is mined, there are an estimated of 3 million wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats, an insect-eating species that produces high-nitrogen guano, essential for boosting plant growth.

No Protection

Guano collectors usually enter the cave with long sleeved shirts and long pants, with a T-shirt wrapped around their head as makeshift cover — in contrast to how disease ecologists investigate caves in a full-body suit with masks and gloves. Although dry guano has low risk of infection, miners or cave visitors can potentially be exposed to viruses through the fresh saliva and urine of bats.

It’s not a concern foremost in the minds of the cave’s guano collectors, even weeks after Thailand reported the first of its 35 Covid-19 cases.

“We’ve done this for a long time, for many generations,” said Singha Sittikul, who manages the business and fields orders. It’s a small operation trading guano locally, but such fertilizer is also sold by companies and via online commerce platforms, such as Amazon.com Inc and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. “We carry on as usual.”

Bats are highly valued in Ratchaburi, where they not only produce a potent fertilizer, but also play a role in pollination and pest-control by feeding on insects that ravage rice and other crops. Their cave has been declared an animal sanctuary. Killing or eating them is prohibited.

Bat Soup

The trade and smuggling of wild mammals, including ones that may act as intermediaries of bat-borne viruses, poses a risk. Carcasses and parts of pangolins, lions, rhinos and elephants are routinely being trafficked through Southeast Asia.

Bat expert Supaporn is expanding her research to look at pangolins as well as horseshoe bats, which may have played a role in the emergence of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, she said.

Smuggling Threat

The Freeland Foundation, a counter-trafficking organization, has alerted Asian nations to the direct virological threat wildlife smuggling poses to “wider human populations.”

Closing markets and refraining from consumption of the animals is the only sure way to prevent the spread and recurrence of outbreaks, it said.

“There are so many bat-borne diseases that we have yet to discover, and they can be dangerous,” said Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, a senior adviser to the Thai Ministry of Public Health. “Now is the time to discourage eating and trading them.”

Backyard gardeners can act to help bee populations

Backyard gardeners can act to help bee populations

This photo taken July 1, 2016 shows a group of first-year honeybee hives in a pasture near Langley, Wash. Chemicals are routinely applied to kill insect pests and troublesome weeds but many are indiscriminate, devastating beneficial insects in the process. Landowners should avoid using pesticides in areas attractive to pollinators and instead use non-toxic methods to get rid of such pests as aphids. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

Chemicals are routinely applied around residential landscapes to kill insect pests and troublesome weeds, but many are indiscriminate and devastate pollinators in the process.

Pesticide contamination of lawns, gardens and waterways is widespread, and even at sub-lethal levels can impact pollinators’ foraging ability and hive productivity.

“Honeybees are not the most impacted of pollinators,” said Katie Buckley, pollinator coordinator with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. “Once-common butterfly and native bee species have become rare, with some on the verge of extinction.”

The rusty patched bumblebee, island marble butterfly, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and the familiar monarch butterfly were among those singled out by Buckley as greatly depleted.

Pesticides are over-applied by many backyard gardeners, said James Dill, a pest management specialist with University of Maine Extension.

“They don’t read the labels, or they eyeball the amounts,” Dill said. “Sometimes, if maybe an ounce is called for, they’ll use 2 ounces. They often will use a calendar spray schedule or just spray because they had a problem in the past.”

But well-informed gardeners can be a big help in reversing the pollinator declines, especially those caused by chemical poisoning.

Backyard gardeners can act to help bee populations

This photo taken Aug. 2, 2015 in Langley, Wash., shows a beekeeper checking her honeybee hive boxes for production and ensuring that the queen is still healthy and laying eggs for the next generation of workers. The best defense against bee poisoning is to avoid spraying plants that are in bloom. If you must use pesticides, use those with a short half-life and low toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

“In general, the best defense is to avoid spraying plants that are in bloom, use pesticides that have a short half-life when possible, and use pesticides with low toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects,” Buckley said. “Whether as a farmer or a homeowner, it is critical to always read and follow the label.”

Clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are highly toxic to honeybees by contact and ingestion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s toxicity classification scale for bees. Thiacloprid and acetamiprid are moderately toxic, the federal agency says.

If you keep bees, finding the right apiary location is an important way to reduce pesticide exposure.

“Keeping colonies as far away from commercial agriculture as possible (4 to 5 miles) is the safest,” Dill said. “Drive around your area where you intend to keep hives and get the lay of the land so you know what you are dealing with. If you have a large, pesticide-free foraging area with diverse flowering plants nearby, that would be ideal.”

Supplying honeybees with uncontaminated water is also an effective deterrent, said Kevin Jensen, a pesticide management compliance investigator with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

“If the bees do not have a water source in the apiary, they will be forced to look for water elsewhere during the hot months,” Jensen said. “This can result in bees being attracted to an area that is being sprayed, even though that area may not have flowers blooming in it.”

Even pesticides allowed for use in organic agriculture can harm bees and other beneficial insects like flies, beetles, moths and wasps, entomologists say.

“Homeowners should avoid using pesticides in backyards and instead use nontoxic methods such as soapy water to get rid of pests such as aphids,” said Ramesh Sagili, an associate professor-apiculture with Oregon State University.

Midtown home infested with bed bugs; renter calls on state to fix clean-up mistake

State warns property manager over pesticide after bedbugs found in home

 

02132020MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – A bed bug infestation soon turned into a much bigger health concern for the woman renting a midtown home. State inspectors say her property manager improperly sprayed pesticide hoping to get rid of the problem.

Eva Woywod moved into her midtown home a couple of days before Christmas in 2018.

“The history. I’m drawn to historic places. It’s a beautiful home,” said Woywod.

She moved to Memphis from Wisconsin to be closer to her son but she was unknowingly moving closer to some unwanted guests.

“The next morning my son woke up covered in bites, just bites all over his body,” said Woywod.

Bed bugs were found all over her son’s bedroom wall.

“They attack at night. They literally attack. It’s like an army of bugs coming at you at night,” said Woywod.

Woywod spent months asking her property manager Bernard Evans to hire an exterminator. Bed bugs are incredibly difficult to get rid of. According to the Centers for Disease Control, bed bugs are tiny and excellent at hiding. They can go months without feeding and only come out when an appropriate host is available.

Waywod says she spent more than nine months in her home before her property manager offered to come fix the problem, but instead of hiring a professional he decided to do it himself.

“He left puddles down the hallway. He saturated our furniture with it. My furniture got ruined,” said Woywod.

As Woywod suspected, her property manager shouldn’t have been spraying her home in the first place.

“Pesticides are regulated by state law. It by nature is named a pesticide. It means it’s designed to kill something and if used improperly it can cause a lot of damage,” said Jerry Seabolt with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Pesticide Department.

Seabolt says state law only allows certified, licensed professionals to use those types of chemicals.

“The appropriate way to take care of a bedbug issue is to call a professional,” said Seabolt.

Bernard Evans of First Choice Properties was issued a warning last November for violation of the Pesticides Act of 1978. If he does it again, he could face criminal charges.

Pesticide use is taken seriously because Seabolt says improper use of pesticides can cause skin burns and if ingested can damage the kidney, liver and lungs.

“Well yeah, that kind of kicked him in the butt. He got a real exterminator,” said Woywod.

Woywod says her home is now bed bug-free but hopes other renters learn from what she calls a nightmare. She says it’s also important to know who actually owns your rental, not just the property manager.

“It is extremely important because like in this situation the middle man wasn’t communicating and doing his job,” said Woywod.

Tuesday afternoon we went by the property manager’s home. He did not want to be on camera but said he is no longer managing that property.

It’s unclear at this time if he manages any other properties in the city.

The State Department of Agriculture tells WMC Action News 5 that they will follow-up with Evans within the next six months.

 

Wash tomatoes with warm water to escape poisoning from chemicals – study

PML Daily| October 17, 2019 |by Micheal J. Ssali
Clean_Tomates
KAMPALA – The production of a big number of foodstuffs involves the use of poisonous substances that could be harmful to our health. It is almost impossible for farmers nowadays to successfully grow crops like tomatoes or Irish potatoes without the use of pesticides. It is equally difficult for farmers working on more than five acres to keep weeds under control without using herbicides.

Agro-chemicals are almost indispensible in modern farming, if not handled carefully they are dangerous not only to the farmers using them but also to the consumers and the environment.

Studies carried out by PHE (Pesticide Use, Health and Environment Project) and UNACOH (Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health) and whose findings were released last August in Kampala indicate that only 23% of farmers in Uganda have received training in pesticide and herbicide usage such as proper application techniques, storage, and safety measures. The studies further indicated that of the farmers who use synthetic pesticides only 14% had had training in its usage. Yet a growing number of our farmers use chemicals to safeguard their crops and livestock against diseases. Pesticides are also applied on stored crops like beans and maize.

Most farmers don’t take the trouble to follow manufacturers’ instruction when using chemicals, probably due to lack of training. The chemicals have also been discovered to have negative effects on the environment, polluting the soil and public water sources. Three hundred and ninety cases of acute poisoning were registered in 43 of the 66 health facilities in Wakiso and Pallisa districts between 2013 and 2017, according to the studies. Majority of the cases were non-intentional while the rest were occupational poisonings or due to unclear causes. Agro-chemical shopkeepers are among the high risk cases as they too hardly observe the required safety measures.

The studies led by Dr Aggrey Atuhaire revealed a total of eight different pesticides –Mancozeb, Malathion, Metalaxyl, Profenofos, Cypermethrin, Dichlorvos, Chlorpyrifos and Lambda-cyhalothrin – found in tomato samples randomly picked from market stalls in the different research districts. Of particular concern was Mancozeb, a fungicide, which was found in much higher concentrations than the rest in detectable levels for all samples from the farm and market. The studies indicated that most tomato farmers mindlessly spray big amounts of pesticides on the crop which can easily be identified on the tomatoes in market stalls.

Consumers have been advised to wash the tomatoes with warm water or to peel off the outer skin before eating

them. Among other recommendations to are: looking out for pesticide free tomatoes, growing personal vegetables at home with limited or careful usage of chemicals, invigorated national farmers’ education and practical guidance by agricultural extension workers, kicking out counterfeit agrochemicals, and passing and implementing the Uganda Organic Agriculture Policy.

A Food and Agriculture (FAO) report dated 23 June 2017 said that mindless use of agro-chemicals leads to soil pollution. It said, “Excess nitrogen and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury can impair plant metabolism and cut crop productivity, ultimately putting pressure on arable land. When they enter the food chain, such pollutants also pose risks to food security, water resources, rural livelihoods and human health.”

Ugandan farmers apply agricultural chemicals like Glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, in fields close to swamps and public water sources. Running rainwater carries the chemicals from the fields to unintended areas in the valley. In the two studies, Glyphosate was the herbicide with the highest overall average concentration for the 86 water points for two sampling regimes in Budaka, Kamwenge, Gulu, Bushenyi, Rakai (Lake Kijanibarora) and in Sembabule.

Other toxic chemicals found in public water sources in the areas include Aldicarb, Dichlovos, Atrazine and Chlorfenvinphos. The research findings indicated that surface water sources had an over-all average higher pesticide concentration compared to groundwater sources. The most polluted water points were fetch ponds (in Budaka, Rakai, Pallisa, districts) streams (in Kamwenge, Sembabule, Kapchorwa) a lake (Kijanibarora, Rakai District) protected springs (in Bushenyi District) and boreholes (in Gulu Districts).

Another cause of worry, according to the study, is the way Ugandan farmers handle the empty containers of the agrochemicals. Most farmers abandon the containers in the compounds of their houses where children use them as toys and from where the containers are driven by running water into swamps and public water points. The researchers recommend that the government should put in place incentives to compel farmers to return empty triple rinsed and punctured pesticides

containers to pesticide shops or to central collection points for proper disposal. Empty pesticide containers remain poisonous and dangerous. The research projects also revealed that most farmers don’t use protective gear when handling or applying pesticides which is a big health risk.

The study reports emphasized the need for increased training of medical workers in dealing with herbicide and pesticide poisoning cases. It was emphasized that those taking a patient to the hospital should carry the container of the agro-chemical that caused the accident for the doctors to know what treatment to provide.

“Approximately 90% of the respondents agreed that pesticides are harmful to human health and that tomatoes sold in their local markets contain pesticide residues,” says the study report. “The reason for buying tomatoes containing pesticide residues is that majority (58.97% have no alternative. Approximately 82% mentioned peeling of the tomatoes as the best preparation method of reducing pesticide residues, though in practice, less than 24.63% of the consumers reported to actually peel the tomatoes during preparation of meals.”

Dr. Deogratias K Sekimpi, Executive Director of UNACOH (Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health) said, “We are not saying that farmers should completely stop using agro-chemicals. Rather we are asking everybody to be careful with them. All safety measures should be observed by everybody using them and they should all apply the right doses and avoid randomly mixing the chemicals without any expert guidance. Consumers should be cautious of the dangers of pesticide residues and wash the vegetables or peel off their outer skin during meal preparation.”

NC – Recent bed bug infestation marks growing trend in Asheville’s housing developments

Asheville Citizen Times | by Brian Gordon and Joel Burgess | Aug. 29, 2019

An apartment complex for the city’s low-income and disabled seniors is struggling with a bedbug infestation.

About 50 of the 248 units at the Asheville Terrace public housing development have been infested with bedbugs in recent weeks, according to the Asheville Housing Authority. This infestation represents a growing prevalence of bedbugs infestations across public housing in Asheville.

“Bedbugs have become something we deal with on a regular basis, all around our properties,” said David Nash, executive director at the Asheville Housing Authority. “It’s a trend.”

Asheville Terrace, off Tunnel Road, is designed specifically for tenants age 55 and older. Pest control costs at Asheville Terrace, which includes bedbug exterminations, have risen from nearly $14,000 in 2016 to over $30,000 last year. So far in 2019, the housing authority has dedicated $27,815 to pest control at the development.

“We have a full-time staff member dedicated to it,” Nash said. The housing authority contracts with Orkin Pest and Termite Control to handle bedbug situations.

While bedbugs are gently inserted into night-time nursery rhymes, infestations are serious matters.

The tiny, round insects sustain themselves on the blood of humans and animals. They seek out crevices that provide easy access to their food source, and their bites leave red marks on exposed skin. According to WebMD, female bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs over a lifespan.

Nash said bedbugs are often carried into units on used furniture. Tenants with impacted apartments must exit the room as spray is applied. Infested clothes must be washed, and any furniture exposed to bedbugs must be thrown away. Tenants are not financially compensated for any furniture lost to bedbugs, including any chairs or beds with special features for disabled tenants.

The housing authority provides tenants tips on how to avoid bringing bedbugs into apartments after each infestation, but not before.

Several tenants at Asheville Terrace expressed concern about voicing their complaints over bedbugs or other facility issues, saying they feared eviction. Asheville Terrace is categorized as a project-based property, meaning the public voucher that subsidizes rent stays with the apartment if a tenant were to leave. To relocate to another public housing development, tenants would have to reapply and be put on a waiting list. The main waiting list for the housing authority has 1,518 applicants.

Nash said tenants are not evicted for voicing concerns. “Speaking with the press is not a lease violation,” Nash stated in an email. “They just need to be sure they pay their rent and comply with the other terms of their lease.”

Study: South Dade Plant Nursery Workers Earn Low Pay, Susceptible To Heat Illnesses

WLRN |by Nadege Green | July 30, 2019

“They put me in a shower to get all the chemicals off me,” she reported. “I kept falling down. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t, my body got weaker…I felt like my throat was awful, as if it were cut on the inside.”

A new study that looks at the working conditions of ornamental plant nursery workers in South Miami-Dade found that low wages, harmful exposure to pesticides and inadequate access to drinking water and shade are among the top complaints from workers in the industry.

Miami-Dade County is home to more than 1,500 ornamental nurseries that provide flowering plants, shrubs and trees used for commercial and residential landscaping projects. WeCount, a farmer workers rights group in Homestead, surveyed 300 workers in a workforce largely dominated by immigrant women for the study called “The Human Landscape.”

An ornamental plant nursery in South Miami-Dade.

Workers, largely from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, complete a range of jobs such as potting plants, weeding, driving tractors, digging up trees, loading pallets and customer assitance. They provide a portrait of working long hours outside in intense heat with little reprieve and low pay.

Nearly 70 percent said they experienced heat related illnesses including fainting and headaches due to a lack of shade breaks.

“Folks are under pressure to work fast. They have their order they have to get out and so they don’t want them to take breaks, they want them to produce and that’s that’s a big issue,” said Jonathan Fried, executive director of WeCount.

Miami-Dade recently recorded record-breaking heat and as it gets hotter because of climate change, Fried says farm workers are on the frontline of serious health risks with little protections.

The study also found many workers did not receive proper training to handle pesticides as required by law and industry regulations.

Of the workers surveyed who used pesticides for work, 64 percent said they did not receive any safety training.

Miguel Bernal, a nursery plant worker and member of WeCount, told WLRN when he worked with pesticides, his employer instructed him to lie and say he had proper training if an inspector visited the nursery.

“She told me to spray, but to not tell them that she told me to do it,” he said.

Other workers who didn’t handle pesticides said they were still exposed because spraying would happen in close proximity to where they were working, according to the surveys. Sixty two percent of the workers reported symptoms of pesticide exposure—dizziness, vomiting and skin rashes.

Nora, one of the women who responded to the survey, described symptoms of pesticide poisoning after another worker was allowed to spray near where she and several other people were working. He had practically sprayed it in our faces, she said. Nora ended up in the hospital shortly after.

“They put me in a shower to get all the chemicals off me,” she reported. “I kept falling down. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t, my body got weaker…I felt like my throat was awful, as if it were cut on the inside.”

Miami-Dade County is consistently ranked as one of the most unaffordable metro areas in the country when it comes to housing. That reality is especially stark for farmwokers. According to the people surveyed, most earn the Florida minimum wage of $8.05 or slightly above.

A smaller percentage of workers reported earning less than minimum wage.

As is the case in most other industries, there is a pay gap for women. On average women earn 36 cents less than men. Workers also reported a pay gap for speakers of indigenous Mayan languages. Speakers of Mayan languages earned 34 cents less on average than Spanish and English speakers.

And across the industry, workers reported little room for economic advancement. Workers with more than 15 years of experience working in South Dade ornamental plant nurseries earned about 45 cents more than someone with one year of experience, according to the study.

WLRN intern Aaron Sanchez-Guerra contributed to this report. 

Poisoned for Profit: We Are Not the Agrochemical Industry’s Guinea Pigs

disident

by Colin Todhunter / July 27th, 2019

Environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has just written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Chemicals Regulation Division (HSE) in the UK claiming that the glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup has poisoned her nature reserve in South Wales and is also poisoning people across the UK (she includes herself here, as she struggles with a neurodegenerative condition). She notes that the widespread spraying of glyphosate went against the advice of directive 2009/128/EC of the European parliament but was carried out at the behest of the agrochemicals industry.

Mason has sent a 24-page fully referenced document with her letter in support of her claims. It can be accessed in full here. What follows is a brief summary of just a few of the take-home points. There is a lot more in Mason’s document, much of which touches on issues she has previously covered but which nonetheless remain relevant.

The thrust of her open letter to these agencies is that glyphosate is a major contributory factor in spiralling rates of disease and conditions affecting the UK population. She also makes it clear that official narratives — pushed by the pesticides industry, the media and various key agencies — have deliberately downplayed or ignored the role of agrochemicals in this. Instead, the focus has been on the role of alcohol use and obesity, conveniently placing the blame on individual behaviour and the failure of people to opt for ‘healthy lifestyle’ choices.

Mason argues that Monsanto emails released into the public domain have revealed that Roundup was kept on the market by capturing regulatory agencies, corrupting public officials, bribing scientists and engaging in scientific fraud. In addition, she notes that documents show that the European Commission bowed to the demands of pesticide lobbies. Former PM David Cameron, Defra, the European Food Safety Authority, the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency all ignored the warnings that GM crops and Roundup were hazardous to human health and the environment.

In the run-up to the relicensing of glyphosate in the EU, Mason states that in its analysis the Glyphosate Task Force omitted key studies from South America (where herbicide-tolerant GM crops are grown) that associate Roundup with cancer, birth defects, infertility, DNA damage and neurotoxicity. She refers to many studies in support of her claim that glyphosate is deleterious to human health and the environment. It is worth noting that the European Chemicals Agency has classified glyphosate as a substance causing serious eye damage and toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.

Mason reserves a special place for Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in her letter, saying that the agency has been hi-jacked by the pesticides industry and has persuaded key figures in the medical establishment to repeat certain claims: that alcohol, cigarette smoking and obesity are the main causes of cancer. She argues that Monsanto and the US EPA have known for a long time that Roundup is carcinogenic.

CRUK recently made a bold statement about its vision to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. However, Mason asserts this is fantasy for public consumption. She argues there are a huge number of cancers in the UK and their prevalence is increasing each year in tandem with the rising use of glyphosate and other agrochemicals.

Mason provides the statistics:

In the UK, there were 13,605 new cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2015 (and 4,920 deaths in 2016): there were 41,804 new cases of bowel cancer in 2015 (and 16,384 deaths in 2016); 12,547 new cases of kidney cancer in 2015 (and 4,619 deaths in 2016); 5,736 new cases of liver cancer in 2015 (5,417 deaths in 2016); 15,906 new cases of melanoma in 2015 (2,285 deaths in 2016); 3,528 new cases of thyroid cancer in 2015 (382 deaths in 2016); 10,171 new cases of bladder cancer in 2015 (5,383 deaths in 2016); 8,984 new cases of uterine cancer in 2015 (2,360 deaths in 2016); 7,270 cases of ovarian cancer in 2015 (4,227 deaths in 2016); 9,900 new cases of leukaemia in 2015 (4,712 deaths in 2016); 55,122 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2015 (11,563 deaths in 2016); 47,151 new cases of prostate cancer in 2015 (11,631 deaths in 2016); 9,211 new cases of oesophageal cancer in 2015 (8,004 deaths in 2016); and 5,540 new cases of myeloma in 2015 (3,079 deaths in 2016); 2,288 new cases of testicular cancer in 2015 (57 deaths in 2016); 9,921 new cases of pancreatic cancer in 2015 (9,263 deaths in 2016); 11,432 new cases of brain cancer in 2015 (5,250 deaths in 2016); 46,388 new cases of lung cancer in 2015 (and 35,620 deaths in 2016). In the US in 2014 there were 24,050 new cases of myeloma.

Arguing that UK farmers are “drowning” their crops in pesticides, Mason notes that it is therefore not surprising that Pesticide Action Network UK’s analysis of the last 12 years of residue data (published by the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food) shows there are unacceptable levels of pesticides present in the food provided through the Department of Health’s (DoH) School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS).

Residues of 123 different pesticides were found, some of which are linked to serious health problems such as cancer and disruption of the hormone system. Moreover, residues contained on SFVS produce were higher than those in produce tested under the national residue testing scheme (mainstream produce found on supermarket shelves). However, Mason says that when PAN-UK sent its findings to the DOH, the agency was told that pesticides are not the concern of the DoH.

Perhaps they should be, given what Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, stated in 2017:

Our children are growing up exposed to a toxic cocktail of weed killers, insecticides and fungicides. It’s on their food and in their water, and it’s even doused over their parks and playgrounds. Many governments insist that our standards of protection from these pesticides are strong enough. But as a scientist and a lawyer who specialises in chemicals and their potential impact on people’s fundamental rights, I beg to differ.

He added:

Paediatricians have referred to childhood exposure to pesticides as creating a ‘silent pandemic’ of disease and disability. Exposure in pregnancy and childhood is linked to birth defects, diabetes, and cancer. Because a child’s developing body is more sensitive to exposure than adults and takes in more of everything – relative to their size, children eat, breathe, and drink much more than adults – they are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals. Increasing evidence shows that even at ‘low’ doses of childhood exposure, irreversible health impacts can result.

Tuncak says that most victims cannot prove the cause of their disability or disease and this limits our ability to hold those responsible to account. But this is changing. The public is becoming increasingly aware of the industry’s criminal strategy for keeping Roundup on the market, thanks to the various high-profile litigations in the US. Maybe it’s time for the (taxpayer-funded) agencies Rosemary Mason has continually written to over the years to finally act in the public interest. Or would that be too much to expect?

In finishing, we should take note of the current orchestrated campaign (cheer-led by those outside of India with industry links) to get herbicide-tolerant seeds planted in India. Aside from Bt cotton, GM crops are not allowed in the country. This cynical campaign is aimed at increasing GM seed, glyphosate and other toxic agrochemical sales. Given increasingly saturated markets elsewhere, the global GM seed and herbicide industry regards India as a massive potential money spinner.

However, Punjab took the lead in 2018 and banned glyphosate. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have since followed. But there is still no nationwide ban. With this in mind, author and academic Ashwani Mahajan has started a petition campaign (here) to stop the use of glyphosate in India.

He says that pesticide companies are taking advantage of farmers’ ignorance about the deadly risks associated with glyphosate. Mahajan notes that industry is sending its agents to approach farmers directly and trap them with attractive promotional offers. This is part of a wider strategy to get farmers to break with effective traditional practices and lure them onto agrochemical (and GMO) treadmills as described in the 2017 paper The Ox Fall Down: Path Breaking and Technology Treadmills in Indian Cotton Agriculture (Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs).

Farmers are being subjected to slick PR and lured because they are told this herbicide is a cost-effective method to kill weeds quickly. What they are not told is that its effectiveness is limited, that it’s a health and environmental hazard and that it’s a risk to their lives. But it’s not just farmers’ lives that are at risk. We just need to look at the statistics provided earlier in this article to realise the risk to the wider public health.

West Nile virus detected across Michigan in mosquitoes, goose

mosquito_westnile.jpg

Body bent towards the skin surface, this image depicts a lateral view of a feeding female Anopheles merus mosquito. This specimen had landed on a human hand, and was in the process of obtaining its blood meal through its sharp, needle-like labrum, which it had inserted into its human host. (Courtesy of CDC/ James Gathany)

 

Mosquitoes collected in Saginaw and Oakland counties, as well as a Canada goose from Kalamazoo County, have all tested positive recently for West Nile virus, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

This is the first sign of the virus in 2019, officials said.

“It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, in a statement. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using insect repellant wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors during those time periods.”

West Nile virus is a risk every year for Michigan residents, as it is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes who have bitten an infected bird.

The virus can cause illness three to 15 days after the mosquito bite. Adults age 60 and older are at the highest risk for West Nile — but anyone can get sick from the virus.

Symptoms of the virus include high fever, confusion, muscle weakness and a severe headache. In 2018 in Michigan there were nine deaths and 104 incidents of severe illness from the virus — which include meningitis and encephalitis.

In 2018 officials tested 4,142 mosquito pools; 159 of which tested positive for West Nile virus.

Officials are recommending people follow the following precautions to decrease their exposure to mosquitoes this summer:

  • Use insect repellent that is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, and 2-undecanone
  • Infants under 2 months of age should not use insect repellent and instead should wear clothes that cover their arms and legs, and their crib, stroller and baby carrier should be covered with a mosquito net
  • Wear socks, shoes, light-colored long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outside
  • Ensure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens; make repairs to tears or other openings
  • Use bed nets if your windows don’t have screens
  • Eliminate sources of standing water that could support mosquito breeding near your home at least once a week — like bird baths, abandoned swimming pools, wading pools and old tires

Bed Bug Infestation Sweeping Metro Denver

FOX31 – July 18, 2017, by Keagan Harsh

DENVER — Tourists are coming to Colorado in droves this summer, and it’s not just visitors of the two-legged kind.  Our state is seeing an infestation of bed bugs.

Christina Thomas experienced it first hand. Thomas was visiting an Extended Stay America in Colorado Springs and says she woke up to find bed bugs all over her pillow.


“I woke up and three inches from my face I see a spot, and I look at it and say ‘no way, is that a bed bug?'” she said.

Christina isn’t the only person dealing with bed bugs in Colorado.

Jacob Marsh is one of several Denver exterminators absolutely overwhelmed with bed bug calls.

“It’s infestation levels over the whole city pretty much,” he said. “Right now we’re working 6 or 7 days a week,” said Marsh.

He says this is the worst time of year for bed bugs. However, Colorado’s infestation actually began several years ago. He estimates more than 3,500 homes are treated for bed bugs in the Denver area every year.


It’s a problem Marsh attributes to both the state’s growing population and Colorado’s popularity as a tourist destination.

“Denver is usually ranked 4th to 6th worst in the nation. We get a lot of good things when things are booming like it is, but unfortunately when people are coming in and traveling you also get a lot of unwanted visitors,” he said.

If you’re staying at a hotel there are things you can do to try and keep the bugs away.

First, store your luggage away from the bed on luggage racks or even in the bathroom.


Also, check the sheets, mattress, and bed frame for signs of the bugs.

One of the biggest misconceptions about bed bugs is that they’re too small to see. Most are actually about the size of an apple seed, and similar in appearance.

As for Christine Thomas, she isn’t taking any chances. She checked out of the hotel and left.

BedBugs Plague New Jersey Library – Summer Reading?

 

June 29, 2016 | by Miranda Leah for FiOS1

City officials say that after receiving a complaint, staff at the South Orange Library found bedbugs inside the library furniture.

Library patrons say they’re not surprised by the news, and extermination experts say that anyone who has visited the library should thoroughly examine their homes for the bugs and bug bites.

Community members say they just hope the library takes care of the problem quickly.

There is no word yet on when the library will re-open.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!