Don’t believe claims that pesticides are safe!

December 16th, 2002

To the Editor:

After reading Vroom’s editorial, “Another View of Pesticide Use,” it is plain to see why it is against federal law for stakeholders (manufacturers, applicators) to make claims of pesticide safety to the public at large. Vroom ignores a huge body of literature detailing how decades of organophosphate use have affected people of all ages,including the farming community.

Despite industry knowledge of the physiological damage that such poisons can inflict, it was only after the gradual accumulation and publication of independent scientific evidence of harm that many of these products were reassessed as to their toxicity or finally withdrawn from the marketplace. I discuss the organophosphates only because the pyrethroids, now popular with the banning of Dursban, are poorly understood as to their mechanisms of toxicity and are currently under scrutiny by independent researchers. Of course, they are freely dispensed in the meantime.

Toxicological studies leave no doubt as to the immediate and deferred effects of acetylcholinesterase suppression, which occurs upon exposure to organophosphates. Additional data detail processes of sensitization,peripheral neuropathies, cognitive deficits, organ damage, a high incidence of autoimmune illnesses within the international farming community and pesticide applicators, increased cancer rates, and so on.

The pest-control industry cannot combat these findings with scientific data required for registration. Products are neither required to be “safe” nor closely examined for the majority of effects that sublethal dosages can engender in our chronically exposed population. Tests estimate the effects of products’ active ingredients upon healthy adult males, while the majority of the population is made up of more vulnerable physiologies–women, children, the elderly, and the infirm. Tests do not detail the effects after active ingredients have been combined with carrier solvents, synergists, or other pesticides.

More than 17,000 complaints about Dursban had accumulated within the EPA archives prior to its ban. We have learned that 15% of the population and all infants are deficient in an enzyme necessary to the detoxification of Dursban in the body. The industry relies upon the lack of physician training as well as public ignorance concerning the identification of pesticide-related illnesses to continue its underregulated use of these toxins developed for outdoor use in agriculture.

Regulations impose limits upon how much pesticide can be applied indoors during any one application. There are no regulations that mandate indoor air testing for dangerous levels of airborne residues over multiple applications or from use of combinations of chemicals. Current laws permit landlords and business owners to keep secret the facts of toxic chemical use in their buildings. This makes tracing many suspicious ailments impossible when the patient is unaware of his or her exposure.

Please make your readers aware of their responsibility to examine their choices in chemical use with regard to those in the vicinity for whom exposure is an “unacceptable risk.” I wish great recognition and profits to the responsible researchers and companies who eventually make a “killing” through the marketing of truly safe products. We have the knowledge to do this, just not the economic incentives.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Chem/Engineering News, Published

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