December 2005 - January 2006
1. PAN Europe activities
Impact Assessment for the revision of Directive 91/414/EC
The European Commission is currently revising Directive 91/414/EC on the placement of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) in the market and commissioned a consortium of consultants to finalise the impact assessment for the proposal of a new Regulation. In December 2005, PAN Europe responded to a questionnaire prepared by the consultants. But just as the internet consultation organised by the Commission in May 2005, the points surveyed by the consultants were one-sided, covering only points interesting from the industry point of view and almost excluding a serious input from the health and environmental stakeholders.
On 25 January 2006, PAN Europe attended a stakeholders’ meeting in Brussels that was disappointing from several points of view. We believe the impact assessment failed to deliver its objectives and was not sufficiently transparent as no documents were provided before, during or after the meeting. PAN Europe demanded the completion of another impact assessment with a problem oriented focus and clear policy options, including pesticide use reduction and clear cut-off criteria for the most hazardous substances.
After being delayed several times in previous years, the Commission has now set a very ambitious timetable for the adoption of a new regulation on the placement of PPPs on the market. The final impact assessment should be finalised by the end of February 2006 and the final draft of the Regulation, incorporating the results from the impact assessment should be finalised by March. Following an inter-service consultation, the new regulation will be adopted in the second quarter of 2006, together with the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides and a new Directive on use reporting.
Action for the elimination of 8 hazardous pesticides in the EU market
PAN Europe and the EEB- European Environmental Bureau called upon Ministers and representatives in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) to reject a number of Commission proposals to include 8 hazardous substances in Annex I of Directive 91/414/EEC. The proposals were in the agenda to be presented and voted in the meeting of the SCFCAH on 26/27 January. The 8 substances (azinphos-methyl, carbendazim, dinocap, fenarimol, flusilazole, methamidophos, procymidone and vinclozolin) included some with mutagenic and hormone mimicking properties and the results from the evaluation conducted by Member States experts and scientific advisors recommended the non-inclusion of these substances in the EU market. The Commission’s move is particularly worrying since the Commission itself has previously informed the various registrants of the respective substances in several letters in August 2005, that it is “considering the possible non-inclusion of the substance”.
PAN Europe and the EEB also sent a press release to European press contacts and called upon partners to contact national Ministries and representatives in the SCFCAH. The response of PAN Europe partners was encouraging; 13 organisations in 11 different countries contacted their national representatives and Ministers and 3 organisations launched internet petitions in the Netherlands, Austria and France.
Unexpectedly, the final agenda for the meeting of the SCFCAH, distributed in the first day of the meeting, did not include the vote of the 8 substances. Many Member States expressed deep concern about the approval of these substances, even taking into consideration the proposed restrictions. The Commission proposal of inclusion would only be approved by qualified majority and maybe fearing a rejection of the proposal, the Commission decided to postpone the decision to another meeting of the SCFAAH or to another Standing Committee.
PAN Europe will continue to advocate for the exclusion of these substances from the EU market.
Action for the elimination of critical use exemptions of methyl Bromide
Despite the global consensus for the phase-out of methyl bromide achieved through the Montreal Protocol, the EU still permitted large quantities of this chemical for so-called “critical use exemptions” in 2005. As an ozone-damaging chemical, methyl bromide has a substantial negative effect on the ozone layer, and thereby has negative effects on human health and the environment. In addition, methyl bromide is a highly toxic pesticide and workers who use methyl bromide have an increased incidence of prostate cancer.
Under the Montreal Protocol and EC Regulation 2037/2000, methyl bromide was scheduled to be phased out on 31 December 2004 for all uses except quarantine and pre-shipment. However, the Commission Decision of 23 August 2005 indicates that the Commission and Member States approved exemptions amounting to 2,777 tonnes of methyl bromide for 2005.
Technically and economically feasible alternatives are available for nearly all of this tonnage. Apart from certain special situations that would amount to less than about 100 tonnes in total, there is no legal basis for continuing to grant exemptions in the EC. Critical Use exemptions for 2006 were discussed by Member States and the Commission in a meeting in December 2005. In preparation for that meeting, PAN Europe contacted Member States’ Environment Ministries and the European Commission demanding that Commission and Member States put more efforts into virtually eliminating methyl bromide uses. PAN Europe also called its partners to contact their national ministries asking for the elimination of critical use exemptions.
You can also read our article on products and countries that still use methyl bromide. You can compare, for a wide range of food commodities such as fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, milled and processed products, dried fruits and nuts, countries and/or companies that still use methyl bromide.
New PAN Europe Briefings
Two new briefings entitled “Pesticide taxes: national examples and key ingredients” and “Pesticide residues in water as ruled by EU legislation” were published in December 2005 and January 2006.
New PAN Europe/PAN Germany report “Towards Pesticide Use Reduction in Germany”
The PAN Germany report “Towards Pesticide Use Reduction in Germany” was translated from the German to English by PAN Europe for a European audience. The 79 page report discusses the issue of pesticide use reduction in Germany from different angles and provides useful arguments to counterbalance many of the misleading arguments of the industry. The report also contains useful information to public interest groups and NGOs in any (European) country, using summaries of the latest scientific research into themes such as “Pesticides and the environment”, “Pesticides and health” and insights into the global pesticide market. PAN Germany demands concerning a national pesticide use reduction plan and calls for change in crop protection are also relevant for many countries in Europe. We hope that other organisations can use the same demands and rational expressed by PAN Germany for pesticide use reduction in their countries.
New sections on PAN Europe website
PAN Europe website features 3 new sections: “About pesticides”, “About biocides” and “Articles”. In the new section on pesticides, we give information about the pesticides legislation in the EU and the substances that were banned and approved in the EU market. In the new section about biocides, we give concise information about the biocides legislation in the EU and the review process following the implementation of the Biocides Directive. In the section “Articles” we post articles of interest written by PAN Europe, PAN Europe partners or featuring in scientific publications or other publications of interest.
2. Published news and information
Household insecticides could double child leukaemia risk
Children frequently exposed to household insecticides used on plants, lawns and in head lice shampoos appear to run double the risk of developing childhood leukaemia, research suggests. A study by French doctors, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, supports concerns raised in recent years about the use of toxic insecticides around the home and garden including plant sprays, medication shampoos and mosquito repellents and a possible correlation with increased rates of acute leukaemia in children.
The latest study by Inserm, France’s national institute for medical research, was based on 280 children who had acute leukaemia, newly diagnosed and 288 children matched for sex and age but disease free. It showed that the risk of developing acute leukaemia was almost twice as likely in children whose mothers said that they had used insecticides in the home while pregnant and long after the birth. Exposure to garden insecticides and fungicides as a child was associated with a more than doubling of disease occurrence. The use of insecticidal shampoos for head lice was associated with almost twice the risk.
Describing the links as significant, the authors said that preventive action should be considered to ensure that the health risks to children were as small as possible. A group of pesticides known as carbamates, which are present in plant treatments, lice shampoos and insect sprays, are most commonly linked to cases of leukaemia.
Paraquat poisonings are still a serious problem in Europe
In the abstracts of the European Association of Poisons Centers and Clinical Toxicologists XXV International Congress published recently in "Clinical Toxicology", two abstracts from Spain and UK show that paraquat poisonings are still a serious problem in Europe. In Spain, a group of researchers from the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Medicine (Instituto Nacional de Toxicologya y Ciencias Forenses) documented 517 paraquat exposures registered in the Poison Control Centre from 1991 to 2004. Occupational exposure was responsible for 48% of all cases, accidental exposure 29%, intentional in 19% and unknown in 4% of all cases. In the UK and Ireland, most pesticide exposures do not result in serious acute problems but paraquat, ingested either accidentally or deliberately does result in deaths.
Abstracts of the European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists XXV International Congress, Clinical Toxicology (2005), No 43, pp387 – 538.
New findings on the influence of tobacco industry in the pesticide regulations
Tobacco is a heavily pesticide-dependent crop. Because pesticides involve human safety and health issues, they are regulated nationally and internationally; however, little is known about how tobacco companies respond to regulatory pressures regarding pesticides. This study analysed internal tobacco industry documents to describe industry activities aimed at influencing pesticide regulations. The authors used a case study approach based on examination of approximately 2,000 internal company documents and 3,885 pages of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The cases involved methoprene, the ethylene bisdithiocarbamates, and phosphine.
The study show how the tobacco industry successfully altered the outcome in two cases by hiring ex-agency scientists to write reports favourable to industry positions regarding pesticide regulations for national (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and international (World Health Organization) regulatory bodies. The authors also show how the industry worked to forestall tobacco pesticide regulation by attempting to self-regulate in Europe, and how Philip Morris encouraged a pesticide manufacturer to apply for higher tolerance levels in Malaysia and Europe while keeping tobacco industry interest a secret from government regulators. This study suggests that the tobacco industry is able to exert considerable influence over the pesticide regulatory process and that increased scrutiny of this process and protection of the public interest in pesticide regulation may be warranted.
Parks worker resigns after his theft of 250 ml of paraquat lead to one death
A parks worker has resigned pending a dismissal hearing after he stole paraquat that was responsible for the death of Sheffield resident Mark Langton in the United Kingdom. Sheffield City Council gardener Gary Knight stole 250ml of paraquat from council stores, transferring it to an opaque drinks bottle for use on a friends’ patio. But it passed between four people before it was placed in the fridge of Carol Langton. Her son, 35 year-old father of six Mark Langton mistook the paraquat for a soft drink. The liquid is thought only to have touched his lips but was enough to cause abdominal pain. He died three weeks later in intensive care of respiratory failure stemming from paraquat poisoning.
Head of parks, woodlands and countryside Martin Page said: “The systems which the council had in place at the time of the incident were considered by the Health & Safety Executive to be adequate and within the legal requirements for the safe storage of this particular substance. It is the case that this herbicide was stolen from that safe storage by an ex-employee”. The council has now changed pesticides operations. Only staff in supervisory positions have access to pesticide stores and are keeping more detailed records of usage.
Court action taken against Knight saw him fined £250 on two occasions. The council is urging other authorities to review their pesticide storage and usage procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
A Case for Revisiting the Safety of Pesticides: A Closer Look at Neurodevelopment
The quality and quantity of the data about the risk posed to humans by individual pesticides vary considerably. Unlike obvious birth defects, most developmental effects cannot be seen at birth or even later in life. Instead, brain and nervous system disturbances are expressed in terms of how an individual behaves and functions, which can vary considerably from birth through adulthood. In a new article by Theo Colborn (co-author, together with Rachel Carson, of the book “Silent Spring), the author challenges the protective value of current pesticide risk assessment strategies in light of the vast numbers of pesticides on the market and the vast number of possible target tissues and end points that often differ depending upon timing of exposure. Using the insecticide chlorpyrifos as a model, the author reinforces the need for a new approach to determine the safety of all pesticide classes. Because of the uncertainty that will continue to exist about the safety of pesticides, it is apparent that a new regulatory approach to protect human health is needed.
Chlorpyrifos was recently approved into Annex I and it is therefore authorised for agricultural uses in the European Union. It will be evaluated under the biocides Directive for non-agriculture uses in 2008.
Botanical insecticides, deterrents, and repellents in modern agriculture and an increasingly regulated world
Botanical insecticides have long been promoted as attractive alternatives to synthetic chemical insecticides for pest management because botanicals reputedly pose little threat to the environment or to human health. The body of scientific literature documenting bioactivity of plant derivatives to arthropod pests continues to expand, yet only a handful of botanicals are currently used in agriculture in the industrialized world, and there are few prospects for commercial development of new botanical products.
Pyrethrum and neem are well established commercially, pesticides based on plant essential oils have recently entered the marketplace, and the use of rotenone appears to be waning. A number of plant substances have been considered for use as insect antifeedants or repellents, but apart from some natural mosquito repellents, little commercial success has ensued for plant substances that modify arthropod behaviour.
Several factors appear to limit the success of botanicals, most notably regulatory barriers and the availability of competing products (newer synthetics, fermentation products, microbials) that are cost-effective and relatively safe compared with their predecessors. In the context of agricultural pest management, botanical insecticides are best suited for use in organic food production in industrialized countries but can play a much greater role in the production and post-harvest protection of food in developing countries.
Parkinson's disease in biphenyl exposed workers
A team of Swedish researchers discovered potential links between exposure to the fungicide biphenyl and Parkinson’s disease. The article, published in the magazine “Parkinson & related disorders”, reports a cluster of five cases of Parkinson's disease among 255 paper mill workers exposed to the fungicide. The cause of Parkinson’s is still unknown, but epidemiological studies and animal model studies have indicated an elevated risk of developing the disease after exposure to pesticides.
Pesticides are of particular interest when researching the links between Parkinson’s and environmental causes because of the observed association between the disease and farming or rural living. For the pesticide paraquat, a dose-dependent relationship between lifetime cumulative exposure and increased risk for Parkinson’s disease has been reported. Cases have also been reported after exposure to the pesticide diquat, dithiocarbamate pesticides and organophosphates.
Biphenyl was withdrawn from Annex I in January 2004 due to the non-presentation of the dossier for registration by the manufacturer. The Maximum Residue Limits for the substance have been lowered, but it is still used as a biocide, as a general heat transfer fluid and as an intermediate in the production of a variety of compounds such as plastic.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
PAN UK updates the “List of Lists”
Pesticide Action Network UK has updated and fully revised its popular “List of Lists” briefing. This unique publication provides a single reference point for information on pesticides associated with particularly harmful health or environmental impacts. It includes the pesticides covered by international conventions and identifies the pesticides now banned in Europe. It lists pesticides identified as endocrine disruptors, cancer suspects, those that are extremely or highly acutely toxic, and other risk categories.
Since the List of Lists was published in 2002, the European Union has added over 60 pesticides to their list of possible endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can lead to birth defects, sexual abnormalities and reproductive failure. In spite of this, the four official sources quoted (UK and German Environment Agencies, the European Union, and the OSPAR Convention) agree only on four of more than 80 pesticides: atrazine, DDT, lindane and tributyltin. Regulatory agencies have identified an additional 20 pesticides that may cause cancer.
The World Health Organisation indicates that 13 of the most acutely toxic pesticides have become obsolete since 2002. There are now 52 pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in Europe, in addition to over 320 that have come off the market for economic or other reasons.
This new version includes all the EU ‘risk phrases’ used to indicate concerns on pesticide product labels, and the main websites to follow up for official or robust pesticide information. The ‘List’ is compiled primarily from official sources, but it includes two from public interest organisations. The PAN Dirty Dozen and the World Wide Fund for Nature endocrine disrupting chemicals lists have both been influential in establishing an early warning on pesticide hazards, and have drawn attention to hazards ahead of regulatory processes. It is an essential reference guide for those concerned with pesticides or chemicals in the environment and their impacts on health.
New report “Paraquat: unacceptable health risks for users”
A new extensive review of the impacts of paraquat, largely from peer-reviewed studies, and published by the Berne Convention, PAN UK and PAN Asia Pacific, concludes that the pesticide causes daily suffering to millions of workers. Problems resulting from paraquat exposure are found around the world: from the United States to Japan and from Costa Rica to Malaysia. The injuries suffered are debilitating and sometimes fatal. Associated chronic health problems are now being identified. In developing countries in particular, paraquat is widely used under high risk conditions. Problems of poverty are exacerbated by exposure to hazardous chemicals, as users have no means to protect themselves. Personal protective equipment is not available; it is costly and impossible to wear in hot working conditions. Loss of wages or income from illnesses caused by occupational exposure to pesticides is rarely compensated. While education, training and information are urgently needed to avoid poisonings, the basic problem is the use of high-risk chemicals like paraquat under poor and inappropriate conditions. The report concludes that alternatives are available and their implementation must become a priority, along with a phase out of paraquat.
The key recommendations include the immediate prohibited of paraquat in developing countries. This is vital in view of the number of fatal poisonings that have occurred with undiluted and diluted paraquat and the inadequate work safety standards due to lacking resources and tropical climates. As poisonings with paraquat at the workplace also occur in the North, paraquat clearly presents a serious hazard to humans and the environment wherever it is used. It should be phased out in all countries to prevent unacceptable harm.
As long as it continues to be marketed, paraquat’s trade should be regulated at the international level within the PIC procedure. A number of countries have already decided to ban paraquat or severely restrict its availability, and many companies have prohibited its use in crops they grow or purchase, showing that, showing that there are less hazardous alternatives to paraquat.
The World Health Organization should also reassess the hazard classification of paraquat.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente.
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.