EPA Steps Up
Decades late the EPA finally does its job assessing common pesticides
After reading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent analysis of three major pesticides, about the only thing positive thing you can say is that the chemicals are very good at killing things. The problem is they are killing a far more things than they should be.
The report is the first ever the EPA has concluded on the environmental impacts of three common agricultural pesticides — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — on endangered species and their associated habitats.
Chlorpyrifos is a chemical introduced by the Dow Chemical Company 50 years ago and is currently being used primarily to exterminate termites, mosquitoes and roundworms.
Diazinon, created by what was then Ciba-geigy, now Syngenta, goes back even further than Chlorpyrifos. It was originally introduced to control cockroaches, silverfish, ants and fleas in residential buildings but is no longer legally allowed there.
Malathion is a chemical often used for mosquito control but also has been used to attack such pests as the Mediterranean Fruit Fly going back to the 1980s and has been sprayed on Californians regularly. It is also widely in use for pest control on fruits, vegetables and plants for agricultural applications, as well as for tick control for pets. In lower doses it has been and continues to be used as a treatment for head lice.
Besides for the most part being good at what they are sold for, the EPA’S study also concluded the three pesticides are highly hazardous to many endangered species. It concluded that Chlorpyrifos and Malathion cause harm to 97% of the 1,782 animals and plants covered as part of the Endangered Species Act. Diazinon, still quite deadly, falls in the third place of the three but still does serious damages to 79% of the living beings on the endangered species act.
All three of these are what are known as organophos- phates. They are some of the oldest of all insecticides, and because of that both somewhat ‘grandfathered in’ under many permit applications and also widely used for decades on crops such as corn, watermelon and wheat.
Organophosphates also are found in 87% of all human umbilical-cord samples. Which means we are already poisoned to some extent, and we are also passing on the poison to our children.
The EPA Report was conducted in part as a legallymandated consequence of a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity. That case concluded that the EPA had for far too long been allowing all sorts of chemicals into the environment without sufficient tests or follow-up examinations.
Although it is hard to celebrate such bad news as the EPA was releasing with this draft of the report, Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center, did refer to the current evaluations as “a huge step forward for the EPA”, and said,
“For the first time in history, we finally have data showing just how catastrophically bad these pesticides are for endangered species — from birds and frogs to fish and plants. These dangerous pesticides have been used without proper analysis for decades, and now’s the time to take this new information and create common-sense measures to protect plants, animals and people from these chemicals.”
The people shouldn’t have to sue federal agencies to get them to do their job, nor should it take decades to force them to do so, but that is increasingly the case.
With the EPA now having concluded its first studies, even though they may come late, the agency is at least now finally getting in line with others. The World Health Organization, as just one example, last year announced that malathion and diazinon are probable carcinogens.