September - November 2005
1. PAN Europe activities
PAN Europe Annual Network Conference “Towards better environment, health and rural economies: prospects for pesticide dependency reduction in CEECs”, 7-9 November, Krakow, Poland
The 2005 Annual Network Conference attracted 56 participants from 19 different countries. 30 non governmental, not-for-profit organisations were represented in the conference, including farmers’ associations, environmental and environmental health organisations, women’s groups and nature conservation organisations. The Network Annual General Meeting welcomed 8 new full and associated members to the network. PAN Europe network now counts 25 full and associate members.
New timetable for adoption of EU pesticide legislation
A package containing the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, the revision of the Authorisations Directive and a new Directive on use reporting will be ideally adopted by the EC in late spring 2006. The 3 proposals will have to be approved by co-decision procedure and will be discussed during the Finnish Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2006.
The Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, prepared by DG Environment, is ready and is now going through an inter-service consultation among other DGs. The proposal contains few mandatory measures and leaves aside many of the most polemical measures. There will be mandatory national plans to reduce risk and dependency but the measures will have to be chosen by each MS from among a set of proposed measures listed in the Thematic Strategy. The countries will have 2 years to present a plan, after preparing a background document and consulting stakeholders and the public. The overall quality of the national plans will be checked by the EC but the National Steering Committees (which will incorporate NGOs) will have a very important role in the preparation and implementation of the plans.
The revision of Authorizations Directive (Directive 91/414/EC) received substantial changes since the public consultation was held in May 2005. There will be a completely new Extended Impact Assessment (EIA) report in January 2006 followed by a stakeholders meeting in Brussels and a short period for comments. The previous EIA focusing on the Thematic Strategy and entitled “Assessing economic impacts of the specific measures to be part of the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides”, completely failed to assess benefits from a quantitative dependency/use reduction target and was the target of strong criticism by PAN Europe and other NGOs. PAN Europe calls for in this EIA for the quantification of external impacts of pesticide use in environment and health and a strong call for the removal from the market of the most hazardous pesticides and the substitution by less hazardous/non-chemical alternatives. The final EIA report will be finalised in February and the Commission proposal will incorporate its findings before going to inter-service consultation.
Pesticide Use Reduction in Europe (PURE) Working Group Meeting, 12-13 October, Brussels
The last PURE working group meeting was held in Brussels, 12-13 October and had 16 participants from 14 different organisations in all regions in Europe. The meeting focussed on developing an NGO strategy for the coming months, when the legislation package composed by Thematic Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, revision of Authorisations Directive and a new Directive on Use Reporting will be adopted by the Commission.
New PAN Europe Briefings
Two new briefings entitled: “Endocrine disrupting pesticides: concerns about vinclozolin and procymidone” and “Methyl bromide: phase out and alternatives” were published in October.
2. Published news and information
Approval of active ingredients in EU review
3 new actives were added to Annex 1, the list of substances authorised in EU: 1-methylcyclopropene, a post-harvest treatment on apples; indoxacarb, an insecticide; forchlorfenuron, a growth regulator on kiwi fruit.
2 existing actives were also added to Annex 1: warfarin, a rodenticide (acute toxic, developmental or reproductive toxin); tolylfluanid, a fungicide (carcinogenic).
Health and Environment Standing Committee of European Doctors Declaration (CPME 2005/100) on chemicals and health
A new declaration on the link between chemical products and the appearance of diseases, such as cancers, infertility, degenerative diseases of the central nervous system and allergies was adopted by the Standing Committee of European Doctors, a non-governmental organisation with 28 members and voicing the most representative national medical organisation from Europe. Doctors have stated that the current proliferation of a number of diseases is a consequence of environmental degradation and that chemical pollution poses a serious threat to children and to the human race. Doctors call for mandatory substitution principle in respect of all highly suspicious chemicals and precautionary principle as a guide for action taken by European health professionals. Doctors also acknowledge establishing links between environmental indicators and health indicators is one of the major problems facing the field of environmental health. The declaration, drafted with specific reference to REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) has important consequence for pesticides, as many of the pesticides in the EU market contain one or several hazard categories such as carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic, hormone disruptors or neurotoxic.
Assessing potential exposure of birds to pesticide-treated seeds
Seed treatments are widely used for crop protection and present a particular risk to granivorous birds. UK risk assessment for seed treatments has tended to focus on highly granivorous species; however, under some conditions, non-granivorous birds will take seeds. Better data is needed on which species eat seeds for which pesticide treatments are used. To identify which species will take and eat a range of crop seeds in common usage in the UK, birds visiting bait stations at which untreated seed was presented were video recorded. Information was also obtained on how much seed is taken by individual birds. The seeds tested were wheat, barley, maize, oilseed rape, grass, peas and pelleted sugar beet. For many of the species observed at the bait stations, the amounts of seed consumed during single visits were sufficient to pose a potential risk (toxicity-exposure ratio
Pesticide exposure of non-occupationally exposed subjects compared to some occupational exposure: A French pilot study
Data about non-dietary exposure to different chemical classes of pesticides are scarce, especially in France. Our objective was to assess residential pesticide exposure of non-occupationally exposed adults, and to compare it with occupational exposure of subjects working indoors. Twenty unexposed persons, five gardeners, seven florists and nine veterinary workers living in Paris area were recruited. Nineteen residences, two greenhouses, three florist shops and three veterinary departments were then sampled. Thirty-eight insecticides, herbicides and fungicides were measured in indoor air with an air sampler for 24 hours and on hands by wiping them with isopropanol-wetted swabs.
Seventeen different pesticides were detected at least once in indoor air and twenty-one on the hands. An average of 4.2+/-1.7 different pesticides was detected per indoor air sample. The organochlorines lindane, alpha-endosulfan and alpha-HCH were the most frequently detected compounds, in 97%, 69% and 38% of the samples, respectively. The organophosphates dichlorvos and fenthion, the carbamate propoxur and the herbicides atrazine and alachlor were detected in more than 20% of the air samples.
Indoor air concentrations were often low, but could reach 200-300 ng/m(3) in residences for atrazine and propoxur. Propoxur levels significantly differed between the air of veterinary places and other places and dieldrin levels between residences and workplaces. There was a greater number of pesticides on hands than in air, with an average of 6.3+/-3.3 different pesticides detected per sample, the most frequently detected being malathion, lindane and trifluralin, in more than 60% of the subjects.
Maximal levels (up to 1000-3000 ng/hands) were observed either in the general population or in workers, depending on the pesticide. However, no significant difference was observed between workers and general population hand wipe pesticide levels. As expected, gardeners were exposed to pesticides sprayed in greenhouses. Florists and veterinary workers, whose pesticide exposure had not been described until now, were also indirectly exposed to pesticides used for former pest control operations. Overall, general population was exposed to more various pesticides and at levels sometimes higher than in occupational places. The most frequent pesticides in residences were not the same as in US studies but levels were similar. These preliminary results need to be confirmed in a greater number of residences from different parts of the country, in order to better assess pesticide exposure of the general population and its influencing factors.
Portugal regulator fines Abbott, Bayer, others for price fixing
Portugal's antitrust regulator said it had fined five major US and European drug companies a total of 16 mln euro for working together to artificially fix prices. The five firms – Abbott Laboratories and Johnson & Johnson of the United States, Germany's Bayer AG, Italy's Menarini Diagnosticos and Switzerland's Pharmaceutica Quimica – formed a cartel during 36 bidding processes to supply 22 hospitals in Portugal, it said. The goal of the companies was to 'prevent, restrict or falsify in a significant way competition by fixing prices', the competition authority said in a statement.
Abbott Laboratories was hit with the largest fine, 6.8 mln euros, for 34 infractions while Johnson & Johnson, which cooperated with antitrust regulator in its investigation, received the smallest fine, it added. The firm will have to pay 360,000 euro for 36 infractions. The antitrust regulator opened its investigation after a public hospital in Coimbra, Portugal's third-largest city, complained that the five firms had all proposed the same price for the same drug.
Pesticides found in a third of foods in the UK
A third of the foods in the UK contain traces of pesticides, government-backed tests reveal say for which period the data comes, I presume you mean the latest quarterly report, but most fall within legal limits. The chemicals were found in 31% of 3,854 foodstuffs analysed, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread and drink from 24 UK cities. However, in 42 of the samples - about 1% - levels were above legal limits.
The Pesticide Residues Committee said their findings were reassuring. But campaigners said they would like to see more precautionary measures to reduce levels of contamination. Thirty-nine of the 42 samples containing levels above the legal limit were either fruit or vegetables. The others included a sample of infant food and two samples of oats. Five of the pesticides detected originated from within the UK and 37 were from outside the UK.
Barbara Dinham, director of the Pesticide Action Network, said: "The fact that only about 1% of the samples had levels above legal limits is to be welcomed… However, we would like to see more precautionary measures and a downward trend… "Some pesticides have an accumulative effect and can be damaging to health."
Organic Diets Lower Children's Dietary Exposure to Common Agriculture Pesticides
A study led by an Emory University researcher concludes that an organic diet given to children provides a "dramatic and immediate protective effect" against exposures to two pesticides that are commonly used in U.S. agricultural production. The results were published on a recent online version of the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).
Over a fifteen-day period, Dr. Chensheng "Alex" Lu and his colleagues from Emory University, the University of Washington, and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention specifically measured the exposure of two organophosphate pesticides (OP) - malathion and chlorpyrifos - in 23 elementary students in the Seattle area by testing their urine. The participants, ages 3-11-years-old, were first monitored for three days on their conventional diets before the researchers substituted most of the children's conventional diets with organic food items for five consecutive days. The children were then re-introduced to their normal foods and monitored for an additional seven days. Former research has linked organophosphate pesticides to causes of neurological effects in animals and humans.
“Immediately after substituting organic food items for the children's normal diets, the concentration of the organophosphate pesticides found in their bodies decreased substantially to non-detectable levels until the conventional diets were re-introduced," says Dr. Lu, an assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University. During the days when children consumed organic diets, most of their urine samples contained zero concentration for the malathion metabolite. However, once the children returned to their conventional diets, the average malathion metabolite concentration increased to 1.6 parts per billion with a concentration range from 5 to 263 parts per billion. A similar trend was observed for chlorpyrifos: average chlorpyrifos metabolite concentration increased from one part per billion during the organic diet days to six parts per billion when children consumed conventional food.
“Recent regulatory changes aiming to minimize children's exposures to pesticides have either banned or restricted the use of many organophosphorus pesticides in the residential environment. However, fewer restrictions have been imposed in agriculture," Dr. Lu says. According to the annual survey by U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program, organophosphate pesticide residues are still routinely detected in food items that are commonly consumed by young children.
Survey: Chemical Industry's Product Responsibility Still in Short Supply
Imperial Chemical Industries and the two German chemical groups BASF and Degussa have the edge over their competitors in the chemical industry when it comes to acting responsibly toward society and the environment, according to a recent industry survey. The rating agency oekom research took a close look at 23 companies from nine countries and, against almost 200 criteria, assessed how they cope with social challenges and environmental risks.
On average, the companies achieve higher ratings on social issues than on environmental issues. The analysts are critical above all of the generally poor efforts to record and evaluate substance risks or to develop environmentally sustainable replacement substances. oekom research acknowledges, on the other hand, that the entire industry has made significant progress in areas which have been focal points of public concern for many years, for example in occupational safety or in plant and transport safety.
"As a rule, companies provide little or no information about the substances examined and assessed by them," says Oliver Ruedel, analyst at oekom research and author of the industry report. The lack of transparency is just one indication of the fact that the industry is still far from managing chemicals in a way that meets health requirements and is environmentally sustainable. The mainly critical stance of the industry toward the EU programme for the registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals (REACH) is further evidence of the industry's limited willingness to show greater commitment toward product responsibility.
Ruedel summarizes the results of the industry analysis: "From such a complex and risk-laden industry as the chemical industry I expected greater transparency overall in the treatment of information and data. This was an opportunity for the companies not only to enhance their credibility but also to increase confidence in their products. Of the 23 companies looked at, we can recommend only seven for investment to our customers."
The status of pesticide pollution in surface waters (rivers and lakes) of Greece. Part I. Review on occurrence and levels
This review evaluates and summarizes the results of long-term research projects, monitoring programs and published papers concerning the pollution of surface waters (rivers and lakes) of Greece by pesticides. Pesticide classes mostly detected involve herbicides used extensively in maize, cotton and rice production, organophosphate insecticides as well as the banned organochlorines insecticides due to their persistence in the aquatic environment. The compounds most frequently detected were atrazine, simazine, alachlor, metolachlor and trifluralin of the herbicides, diazinon, parathion methyl of the insecticides and lindane, endosulfan and aldrin of the organochlorine pesticides. Rivers were found to be more polluted than lakes. The detected concentrations of most pesticides follow a seasonal variation, with maximum values occurring during the late spring and summer period followed by a decrease during winter. Nationwide, in many cases the reported concentrations ranged in low parts per billion (ppb) levels. However, elevated concentrations were recorded in areas of high pesticide use and intense agricultural practices. Generally, similar trends and levels of pesticides were found in Greek rivers compared to pesticide contamination in other European rivers. Monitoring of the Greek water resources for pesticide residues must continue, especially in agricultural regions, because the nationwide patterns of pesticide use are constantly changing. Moreover, emphasis should be placed on degradation products not sufficiently studied so far.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Integrated Pest Management in a school
Parents of students from the primary-secondary school “Proa”, in Catalunya, learnt that fumigation with cypermethrin in an open space was carried out in the school in order to eradicate a “wood pest” (no more information was provided). The theme was debated in the parent’s assembly at the school, with the school Board and with the school committee for health and safety. The school took the decision to cancel further fumigations and start applying Integrated Pest Management in the school grounds. The pest was later identified as Nacerdes melanaura, which has a larval phase as potentially dangerous, when it feeds on humid wood and might cause the deterioration of buildings. Similar IPM projects have been carried out in USA and European countries for some years, making use of reduction strategies. Many of them were a reaction to evidence of serious accidents that have affected the health of children and teenagers, as well as teachers and school staff.
In Proa school, parents who are working in the areas of prevention and/or environment, started to apply the principles of IPM. The first step was to revise the plan of disinfestation (the school had subcontracted to a pest control company) and gather the committee of health and safety from the school to start a safe approach to managing this pest. The use of all chemical products was suspended and a meeting on biocides was held in the Centre for Safety at Work, a public organisation from Catalunya, and organised by professionals in that area. Some preventive measures started to be taken: a net to prevent nesting of pigeons, ultra-sounds to prevent access by cats. Another step was to use the health and safety audits to detect what factors encourage the development of the pest. Finally, an instrumental step was to inform about the problem and the IPM solutions. An article was published in the school magazine with references of web sites where one could find more information.
Dozens of toxic pesticides released in a pesticide formulating factory blaze in southern France
A fire started on June 27th 2005 at 3am in the SBM pesticide formulating factory in Béziers, southern France. The factory, which stored around 1,800 tons of various pesticides and was classified a high risk “SEVESO II” industrial site, was entirely destroyed by the fire in a few hours. An ill smelling cloud rose high in the sky and was pushed by a slight wind coming from the sea towards distant cities like Narbonne and Carcassonne where a filthy, sulphur-like smell was perceived. According to the local authorities, the surrounding populations had no reason to fear any health threat whatsoever. But in Béziers, about 150 people had to go to hospital in the hours following the fire, suffering of irritated and sore eyes and throat or dizziness. Two weeks after the fire, the population learned that toxic chemicals as carbon disulfur, cyanhydric acid or bromic acid were analysed in the fumes. It was not before 15th July that an incomplete list of the substances stored in the SBM site was communicated to the public. However, the local official representative (the “Prefet”), kept on with his reassuring communication and promised that a risk evaluation would be released by… mid October!
The French NGO MDRGF decided that the people from Beziers and the surroundings had the right to know to what extent their environment and their health had been affected. With the support of an independent laboratory (Analytika, which analysed the oil of the Erika tanker in 1999) we had samples of soil and leaves from the surroundings of the factory analysed. By mid September, the results were available: procymidone, iprodione and 15 other dangerous chemicals were found in the soil sample! A large press campaign was organised, with the regional newspapers making their headlines on the news: “Toxic pollutants found close to the SBM factory”. Under the pressure of the media, the mayor released the results of the analysis the town of Beziers had secretly ordered. It concluded that the exposure of the population to the various chemicals was too low to present any risk for the local population. The MDRGF had to communicate again and stress that, according to these official results, dioxins were found everywhere around the site, along with 59 various pesticides! We revealed that, among these pesticides, 19 were potentially carcinogenic, 23 were neurotoxics, 12 were potential endocrine disruptors, 4 were potentially toxic for development or reproduction and one was a suspected mutagen! Moreover, we found that 24 of these pesticides were not authorised for use in France! The fight is now raging between the NGOs and the officials as everybody is waiting for the official exposure and risk evaluation by the official INERIS institute, due to be published October 19th.
Report on bystander exposure by the UK Royal Commission on Environment
Pesticide Action Network UK recently welcomed an important new report by the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) report ‘Crop spraying and the health of residents and bystanders’.
The Royal Commission’s key finding is that, ‘Based on the conclusions from our visits and our understanding of the biological mechanisms with which pesticides interact, it is plausible that there could be a link between residents and bystander pesticide exposure and chronic ill health. We find that we are not able to rule out this possibility. We recommend that a more precautionary approach is taken with passive exposure to pesticides.’
PAN UK believes this report will prove influential. PAN UK welcomes the endorsement, in this report, of the longstanding recommendation that the surveillance of ill-health effects from pesticides should pass from the UK Health & Safety Executive to the new Health Protection Agency. PAN UK will be campaigning hard to ensure that the costs to human health of pesticides fall on the agrochemical industry, under the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
The Royal Commission is recommending that we should have the right to know which pesticides we are being exposed to: neighbours and residents should be given prior notification of which pesticides are to be used, and signs should be placed on site at potential access points. Walkers and everyone who uses the countryside, and health researchers, should be able to find out which toxins have been applied to the land and are contaminating our bodies. PAN UK anticipates that this new access to knowledge will be fiercely resisted by all those who have an interest in keeping it secret.
The role of government scientists in defending poor science has been exposed. Of the UK government’s Pesticides Safety Directorate’s risk assessment for bystander exposure, the report says ‘We have been disappointed to find that the current approach has not been rigorously evaluated under field conditions and has largely been assessed in relation to experiments done on a limited scale over twenty years ago and reassessed on the basis of other data often collected for different purposes in Germany and the US.’ It is scandalous that the ACP defended bad science and dismissed campaigners’ perceptions.
PAN UK urges the government to act on the Royal Commission’s recommendations and to:
• introduce a new surveillance scheme for pesticide-related disease, to be run by the Health Protection Agency, the cost of which (estimated at £5-10 million per year) should be covered by a levy on pesticides sales; the HPA and related organisations in Scotland and Wales should collect population data on pesticides and other chemicals suspected to cause chronic disease, and a long-overdue national database for biomonitoring should be introduced;
• give residents, walkers, and everyone who lives in or visits the countryside the right to know what pesticides they are being exposed to by introducing mandatory notification both in advance and with signs on site;
• Public health must be prioritised above pest control, and the Department of Health should be given a more powerful remit in relation to pesticide-related disease.
The EEB- European Environmental Bureau recently published the handbook “EU Environmental Policy Handbook- A Critical Analysis of EU Environmental Legislation”. The book contains one chapter about chemicals and pesticide regulations and is a useful resource for all non-governmental organisations working in the environment field. It provides a short outline of EU environmental policy history, analyses and presents some 60 pieces of EU environmental and nature protection legislation, establishing links between the different pieces of legislation.
The book can be ordered at International Books (i-books [at] antenna.nl). For more info about the book or access to the PDF version contact EEB (eeb [at] eeb.org).
PAN UK published “Pesticides in schools and how to avoid them”, an essential read for head teachers, governors, school management, local authorities and government. PAN UK also published an updated version of the poster entitled ”Pesticides in your food”, illustrating how much of our food is contaminated with pesticides. The book and poster can be ordered at PAN UK and PDF versions will be available soon at the website (http://www.pan-uk.org).
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente.
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.