September - November 2004
1. PAN Europe activities
In September 2004 we produced two new briefings entitled Why current European pesticide legislation fails to protect our health and Pesticides in Food- what’s the problem? Both are available on our website under Publications.
Annual Network conference attracts Eastern and Southern Europeans
PAN Europe’s annual network conference took place on 12-13 November 2004, with 81 participants from 15 European and Caucasian countries (Armenia; Belgium; Bulgaria; Czech Republic; Denmark; France; Germany; Hungary; Italy; Poland: Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; UK; and Ukraine). Good representation of organisations from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe was achieved with 11 participants from CEE and Caucasian countries and 53 participants from Catalunya, other parts of Spain and Italy. The conference was supported by the Departments of Health and Environment of the Catalan Regional Government and 8 government officers attended, including from the Catalan Centre for Workplace Health and Safety. This was an important achievement in bringing together civil society public interest groups with public sector officers working in the areas of health and environment. Participants heard about the 38 documented incidents of urban pesticide exposure in the workplace in Catalunya since 1994, affecting over 300 people. We also addressed the importance of agricultural livelihoods and constructive dialogue with farmers’ associations, two of whom made presentations during the conference. Participants visited the Agricultural Park at Baix Llobregat to learn about a unique experience in Europe for conserving agricultural land use and farming livelihoods under threat from urban expansion and industrial pollution. Summary report of the conference presentations and discussions will be made available in early 2005, along with the technical seminar described below.
Sharing best practice in Europe for use reduction
A technical seminar on Best European Practice in Reducing Use of Pesticides and Other Chemicals held 15-16 November attracted 70 participants from local councils, trade unions, local offices of regional and Barcelona district agencies for public health, occupational health and safety, environmental protection, parks and gardens management centres, and NGOs and universities. The seminar was organised by the Catalan campaign Pesticides out of our Lives! and PAN Europe’s role was to select key speakers from the European Commission DG Environment, and from public and private agencies in UK, Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands to give presentations. We also presented our PURE campaign and project work on capacity-building and advocacy for the public right to know in relation to bystander exposure to pesticides. Significant media coverage was obtained via both events for PAN Europe, PURE and European experiences, including articles in five Catalan and one national newspaper, two radio interviews and a short interview on Catalan TV.
Informing decision makers about health impacts
A Round Table entitled “Environmental Impact on Health – Raising Awareness of Decision Makers” was organised on 23 November at the European Parliament by the AREHNA* DG SANCO funded project together with PAN Europe and with the collaboration of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and EPHA Environment Network (EEN) . This Round Table, supported by Members of the European Parliament Frédérique Ries, Anne Ferreira, Satu Hassi and Adamos Adamou, addressed many issues from the Budapest June 04 conference on Environment and Health and from ongoing discussions about the Commission Environment and Health Action Plan, REACH and Pesticide Policy. Pr. V.C. Howard from the University of Liverpool stressed the particular vulnerability of children to chemical pollution and on the need to apply the precautionary principle, Pr. L Hens from the Free University of Brussels pointed out the lack of data to properly assess risks, about the ranking of levels of evidence between exposure to pollutants and health effects obtained by reviewing the scientific literature and the need to target children protection in order to protect the rest of society.
Mr D. Gee from the European Environmental Agency explained how, even “small” influence of environmental pollution can be “substantial”, Dr. F Branca from the Food and Research Institute in Rome spoke about the need for a new integrated approach to environmental health issues with special concern on children and Pr. P. Nicolopoulou-Stamati of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens gave information about AREHNA and TREEE (Trans European Environmental Educational ) Health Network. Dr. Sc. Catherine Wattiez from PAN Europe explained why pesticide authorization Directives do not protect health and presented NGOs demands for the review of the Plant Protection Products Directive, for the use phase of pesticides to be handled in the future Thematic Strategy on pesticides and for the proposal of a Regulation for harmonisation of pesticides Maximum Residues Limits, Mr S Scheuer of EEB spoke about potential health benefits from REACH. The EEN video “It’s our world, our future too” was shown, voicing children concerns about pollution affecting their health.
2. Published news and information
This issue highlights some studies and news from Spain and other Mediterranean countries to tie in with holding our first PAN Europe event in the Mediterranean region.
Major pesticide exposure and bad practice needs addressing in Spain
The problem of illegal practices in Spain has spurred the Spanish agrochemical association into creating a task force to combat these. In January 2004, for example, two producers in Almeria province in Andalucia were sentenced to 18 months prison for selling unauthorised pesticides. Illegal activities reported by the new task force or denounced by companies will be reported to the relevant authorities and results of a study on illegal practices will be presented to the Ministries of Health and Environment. The industry association is also taking part in a European Crop Protection association worker safety initiative in Almeria, where there is intensive greenhouse horticulture.
Oestrogenic properties of organochlorine pesticides linked to breast cancer in Spain
This study during 1996-1998 in three hospitals serving Granada and Almeria provinces in Southern Spain, looked at women aged 35-70 undergoing surgery for newly diagnosed malignant breast carcinoma and other carcinoma cases, in order to detect the influence of 16 organochlorine pesticides on cancer. The levels of pesticides were higher in cancer case women than in controls for DDE, aldrin, lindane and endosulfan-ether but they were not statistically significant. But separate analysis of the results for leaner body weight women showed a significant relationship between breast cancer risk and the oestrogenicity due to bioaccumulated organohalogenated xenoestrogens (alpha fraction). Among this group, women with highest levels of estradiol equivalent in the alpha fraction had a 2.4 fold significantly greater risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. This is the first demonstration of a significant relationship between breast cancer risk and the oestrogenicity from organohalogens accumulated in the body. Among the leaner postmenopausal women, the risk for those with the highest alpha fraction of increased to 5.67. The study reported that aldrin and lindane may increase the risk of breast cancer and this relationship is biologically supported by the oestrogenic properties of both pesticides. In Spain and several European countries lindane is still allowed for specific agricultural purposes and for treating head and body lice.
Exposure of women to organochlorine pesticides in southern Spain
The largest area of intensive greenhouse horticulture in Europe is located in southern Spain, characterised by intensive use of pesticides, yet few studies exist of human exposure data. This study looked at levels of 15 OC pesticides in the adipose tissue and blood of 200 local women. Aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, lindane, methoxychlor, endosulfans and DDT and its metabolites were found, with detectable concentrations of p,p’-DDE found in 100% of samples. Endosulfans I and II followed DDT metabolites in frequency, with total endosulfans found in 78% of adipose samples and 96% of blood serum samples. Lindane was recorded in over 50% of adipose and serum samples. DDT was banned for agricultural use in 1977 yet it may still be used for disease vector control in neighbouring countries and is allowed in the manufacture of certain pesticides produced and used in Spain, such as dicofol. The frequency of DDT in blood samples suggests current exposure, from unknown sources. Lindane was used heavily until very recently in agriculture, while endosulfan is still widely used despite its prohibition in several European countries. The authors draw attention to the endosulfan contamination issue due to its high frequency in human tissues and reported oestrogenic activity. Endosulfan is also often found as food residues. The results reported suggest current exposure to OCs among women. The endocrine disrupting activity reported for many of these OC pesticides warrants a better understanding of exposure of infants.
Plastic greenhouse workers at serious risk
This study looked at profiles of exposure to organophosphate and carbamates among greenhouse workers and local residents near Granada, Spain. It found that only 25% of pesticide spray operators used some form of personal protective equipment (PPE) during mixing or loading of pesticides and only 58% used PPE when spraying inside the greenhouses. None of the non-applicator workers, indirectly exposed, used any form of PPE. The study looked at activity levels of several esterase enzymes, in addition to the usual measure of acetylcholinesterase inhibition to assess OP exposure. It suggests that new esterases such as beta-G and paraoxonase, undergo significant changes in people chronically exposed to different pesticides.
DDT recorded in Spanish rivers
A recent study by the Council for Higher Scientific Investigations (CSIC) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona highlights the existence of hazard black spots in Catalonian rivers, in which sediments often contain excessive concentrations of heavy metals and organochlorines. The levels of DDT in the river Besòs at Santa Coloma de Gramenet stand out in particular, reaching 150 nanograms per gram (an area is considered as highly contaminated when the levels are between 50 -400 ng/g) and in the Flix, where they reach levels of 1,400 ng/g. In Santa Coloma, which is as badly contaminated as the Ebro, the pesticide DDT arises from agricultural use. The solution suggested is not to dredge the river sediment, but to avoid any further contamination by intensifying the control of discharges made to the river, and improving the systems for purifying the water.
Floods double DDT contamination in Italy’s Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore has been subjected to heavy DDT pollution and some of its fish species have insecticide content higher than Italian and European limits. The source of contamination was a chemical plant producing DDT, which closed in 1996. Assessment of POP contamination after a heavy flooding in October 2000 showed that large quantities of pollutants were transported into the lake from contaminated sediments and soils. Insecticide pollution in 2001 reached levels 1.5 times higher than before DDT production stopped in 1996. Flooding had worsened the environmental situation which had been recovering slowly. DDT levels in zebra mussels ranged from 2.0-4.5 microg/g fat, twice the levels before the flood. Concentrations of dioxin-like PCBs reached dangerous levels for the aquatic community. Fish consumption is forbidden from Lake Maggiore since 1996 and this prohibition will continue, given the recent increase in DDT contamination.
More evidence shows toxic chemicals impair health of polar bears
Three new studies from Norway and Canada provide more evidence that polar bears are contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides and this contamination is linked to changes in the hormone and immune system of the bears. Higher levels of PCBs and pesticides in blood samples were related to lower levels of antibodies and to cortisol and thyroid hormone level in the bears in the Norwegian island of Svalbard. Reduced antibodies could leave the animals more prone to infection while hormonal changes could affect development, behaviour and reproduction.
Toxics put 22,000 polar bears at risk from infection, WWF-UK
Aral Sea human health catastrophe
A new study has found high levels of DNA damage that could explain the abnormally high rates of cancer in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan around this highly polluted and rapidly shrinking inland sea. The sea receives agrochemical pollution from the region’s important cotton production and other pollutants. The region suffers the highest child mortality rate in the former USSR and the world’s highest incidence of cancer of the oesophagus, suffered by up to 80% of cancer patients. New research provides further evidence for the likely cause to be intensive use of insecticides and herbicides on the cotton zone. Farmworkers studied exhibited DNA damage 5 times the rate seen in the US, while the average Aral population damage levels were 3.5 times higher than the US rate. There are concerns that increased cancer risk could affect the next two generations. Exposure to pesticide toxins is directly via inhalation of dust from Aral Sea sediments as the sea dries out and via the food chain, as toxins are taken up by animals and crops. The Uzbekistan government denies it has a major health crisis.
Non-agricultural pesticide use soars in several European countries
In contrast to sales of crop protection products, globally and in Europe, industry figures show a sharp rise in sales of forestry, amenity, timber, private company and individual public pest control operations and public health usage products in the last four years. France recorded a 31% increase in sales of non-crop pesticides between 1999 and 2003, followed by 22% in Spain, 13.5% in UK, 13.2% in Germany and 8.9% in Italy. Over 60% of the non-crop market worldwide consists of over-the-counter home and garden pesticides and other self-applied products.
New market figures and projections for EU
The top six national agrochemical markets in the EU are France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and Poland. France accounts for 28% of agrochemical sales in the enlarged EU and French growers spend almost twice as much as other country growers on fungicides. Spain has annual insecticide sales of 198 million ?, the largest national market for insecticides. These account for 31% of Spanish agrochemical sales.
The ten new Member States have a combined market of 750 million ?, representing 11% of EU sales. Poland forms the largest market of the ten, with sales worth 309 million ?. The report predicts that organic crop acreage of the new EU 10 will not exceed 5% of total acreage by 2013.
Austrian sales increased in 2003
Figures from the Austrian chemical industry association FCIO show a 13% increase in volume in 2003, from 2,694 tonnes of active ingredient in 2002 to 3,048 t. The rise was mainly due to increased demand for pesticides in early 2003, following destocking in 2002. Increased purchases were seen only in fungicides, with farmers adopted cheaper, higher volume fungicide treatments.
Herbicide sales slump in Norway
Norway’s Food Safety Authority reported a 16% decline in tonnage of active ingredient in 2003, compared with 2002, to a figure of 688.5t. In fact, only herbicide usage dropped, by almost 29%, while tonnage of insecticides, fungicides and other pesticides used increased. This decline in herbicides was probably due to unusually high use of the herbicide glyphosate in 2002. The report notes that large fluctuations in annual sales are often observed in Norway, partly as a reaction to changing pesticide tax systems.
Future of pesticide market in Cyprus looks poor
Following Accession to the EU, the Cyprus Crop Protection Association sees bleak prospects for agrochemical sales. Under the EU incentive scheme for non-use of herbicides, which provides a subsidy of 160-170 per ha, Cypriot farmers have already cut herbicide use by 10%. The agrochemical industry is also struggling to combat illegal pesticide sales, following media reports of poisonings of cats and dogs. The CCPA has launched a public awareness campaign on the dangers of illegal use.
Monsanto aims to launch GM turf for vineyards in Spain
Aurora Gold, a low-growing turf for vineyards has been developed by Monsanto and Turfseed companies. The grass is resistant to low application rates of Roundup Plus (glyphosate) and only needs to be sprayed twice a year, to cut down on the main expense in grapevine cultivation. Aurora Gold has already been launched in the US, was introduced to Italy in 2002 and is now under the second year of trials in Spain. Monsanto says the grass will help combat soil erosion, reduce labour, improve vine quality and reduce management time and costs.
Belgian Green MEP writes book on pesticides and European law
Paul Lannoye, former Member of the European Parliament, has co-authored a useful illustrated book in French entitled The Pesticide Menace: Does Europe Protect Us? It includes summaries on pesticides and health hazards, current and forthcoming legislation and full versions of Parliament questions and resolutions in relation to the precautionary principle, pesticide evaluation and the proposed Thematic Strategy. There are also sections on the dangers of GMOs and on what consumers can do to protect their health and environment.
UK usage statistics now searchable on line
The Central Science Laboratory has now puts its pesticide usage surveys data from 1990 onwards on a searchable website. The data is collected by the Pesticide Usage Survey Teams at the Central Science Laboratory and the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency. The options allow you to access the data in a number of different formats, including area treated, amount applied or amount applied per hectare for pesticide group or individual active ingredient, for different crops, in table or graph format. For example, for lettuce and other leafy salads, the percentage treated with fungicides of the total area cultivated has increased steadily from 40% in 1990 to almost 90% by 2003. During 1999-2002, over 30% of lettuce acreage was treated three times with fungicides.
New book reviews pesticide epidemiological studies on children
Written by two physicians, this book in French reviews the literature on congenital abnormalities and childhood cancers linked to pesticides. It describes exposure routes, the different disorders of the reproductive organs, childhood cancers, persistence of pesticide residues in the home and concentrations found in children’s bodies, as well as programmes for prevention.
Apercu sur l’epidemiologie des pesticides. Dr Jacques Sténuit and Dr Marie-Louise Van Hammée. 2004 Book content and Chapter 2 on Immunotoxicity of Pesticides and PCBs and Chap. 4 Pesticides and Children can be downloaded from the Belgian NGO pesticide coalition website
3. News from PAN Europe partners
French network for pesticide use reduction launched
The first meeting of this new network, coordinated by PAN Europe partner MDRGF, took place on 30 October 2004. 70 organisations and umbrella organizations have joined the network, representing more than 250 organisations throughout France, bringing together environmental NGOs, farmers unions and consumers organisations. It aims at increasing the pressure on the authorities in favour of pesticides use reduction. This coordination is a major breakthrough in France- a significant coordinated answer from civil society to the important pesticide problem in this country. The network will serve as a powerful echo for PAN Europe’s PURE campaign in Europe’s biggest national user of pesticides and which still has no national reduction plan. The Network will set up a website, newsletter and information database, as well as coordinating lobby actions.
Agro-Eko Forum unites Slovakian NGOs
The Centre for Environmental Public Advocacy‘s project “Towards food quality and sustainable agriculture” aims to raise political pressure for sustainable agriculture and food quality and to bring together NGOs working in agriculture and environmental issues. The Agro-Eko Forum, unifying 15 Slovakian NGOs, was set up in Spring 2004 to coordinate work on biodiversity, organic farming, animal welfare, GMOs, pesticides, etc. and work with schools, general public, consumers - through farmers, food processors – to politicians and agriculture ministry representatives. The Forum has now succeeded in becoming a full member of the national Monitoring Committee for the Rural Development Plan and is creating a new action plan for organic farming in Slovakia.
WECF visits obsolete pesticide time-bomb in Ukraine
On 27 October, 7 weeks after an FAO warning concerning pesticide-waste time- bombs, Women in Europe for a Common Future team and its Mama-86 partners were confronted with a part of the estimated 19, 500 tons of ageing chemicals during a project visit in the Ukraine. In Nizhin oblast an obsolete pesticide stockpile exists 3 km from our project village Bobryk. The storage building was partly demolished as bricks and roof tiles had been removed by "new-house-builders". Old, broken bags with hazardous chemicals were affected by rain and humidity, labels or inscription have become unreadable. The building was filled with a penetrating and irritating smell. On the other side of the building are corroded reservoirs. In rural areas such as Nizhin, communities often don't have sufficient funds to provide basic needs like drinking water or adequate health care. No financial resources are available to treat polluted groundwater. The economic situation is getting worse and unemployment is very high and growing. These rural communities need support on where to get assistance and financial support to locate, identify and remove obsolete stockpiles safely. WECF is campaigning for international financial support and assistance for clean-up operations, to prevent further damage to public health and environment.
2005 HCH & Pesticides Forum on POPs & Obsoletes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
The International HCH and Pesticides Association (IHPA) announces the 8th International HCH and Pesticides Forum for Central European and EECCA (Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asia) countries, to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria from 26-28 May 2005. The theme is environmentally sound management (ESM) practices on cleaning up obsolete stockpiles of pesticides for Central European and EECCA countries. The forum will discuss national and regional strategies, actions plans and financial resources for elimination of POPs and obsolete pesticides, including exchange of technologies and experiences for inventory, risk assessment, environmentally sound management, storage and destruction of obsolete pesticides and contaminated soils, and includes a field visit. Information and registration details can be found at http://www.hchforum.com/index.php
Consumer guide on why to choose organic cotton
PAN UK’s organic cotton project Moral Fibre has published an easy-to-read, illustrated booklet aimed at consumers and the general public on the hazards of pesticides used in conventional cotton production and why choosing to buy organic cotton benefits farmers as well as consumers. It includes links to several companies now selling organic and fairly traded cotton clothing and cotton items in the UK. Some of these companies also sell to other European locations via their websites. The consumer guide will be posted on the Moral Fibre website or can be ordered by post. Company information is now available.
New poster on pesticide contamination in your food
PAN UK has produced a graphic new poster illustrating how much of our food is contaminated with pesticides. A PDF version can be viewed on-line at http://www.pan-uk.org/poster.htm along with references and sources for the information. Hard copies are available in A3 and A2 size copies- see the PAN UK home page for details of how to order. www.pan-uk.org
The PAN Europe Newsletter is compiled by Stephanie Williamson, PAN-E Coordinator, Eurolink Centre, 49 Effra Road, London SW2 1BZ, UK Tel +44 (0)20 7274 8995, Fax +44 (0)20 7274 9084.
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members and individuals.