Pesticide Alarm

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Children exposed to chlorpyrifos may develop autism, according to the petitioning groups. (Photo by hepingting) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, April 6, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed its decision to protect children from developmental disabilities and autism resulting from exposure to a neurotoxic pesticide that was scheduled to be banned in March.

President Donald Trump’s new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided last week to backtrack on an Obama-era decision to ban chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide.

Chlorpyrifos was introduced in 1965 by Dow Chemical Company and is known by many trade names including: Dursban, Lorsban, Bolton Insecticide, Nufos, Cobalt, Hatchet, and Warhawk. It acts on the nervous system of insects by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase.

The problem is that chlorpyrifos also damages the nervous systems of fetuses, infants and children.

Chlorpyrifos is used around the world to control pest insects in agricultural, residential and commercial settings, although its use in residential applications is restricted in many countries, including the United States.

According to Dow, chlorpyrifos is registered for use in nearly 100 countries and is annually applied to an estimated 8.5 million crop acres.

Around the world chlorpyrifos is most heavily applied to cotton, corn, almonds and fruit trees including oranges, bananas and apples.

The pesticide also is applied to more than 30 percent of U.S. apples, asparagus, broccoli, cherries, cauliflower, grapes, onions and walnuts, among other crops.

On March 29, U.S. EPA Administrator Pruitt denied a petition to ban chlorpyrifos filed a decade ago by two nonprofit environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America.

By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making, rather than predetermined results,” said Pruitt, who called the pesticide “crucial to U.S. agriculture.

EPA has concluded that the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects “remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos,” says the Federal Register notice issued today denying the petition.

Pruitt took “final agency action,” which may not be revisited until 2022. Congress has provided that EPA must complete the chlorpyrifos registration review by October 1, 2022.

This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science,” said Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation and the world.

This frees American farmers from significant trade disruptions that could have been caused by an unnecessary, unilateral revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances in the United States,” said Kunickis.

But the two petitioning groups are going to court in an attempt to overturn Pruitt’s decision.

NRDC and PANNA, represented in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by Earthjustice, filed a motion April 5 to enforce a previous court order and require EPA to make a decision on the proposed ban within 30 days.

The groups argue that EPA cannot delay its decision on the ban until 2022 because the agency has not presented any new scientific research that reverses their 2016 findings that the pesticide is dangerous and widespread on U.S. produce.

EPA is refusing to take this chemical off the market, but it is not rescinding its own scientists’ finding that this pesticide is toxic to children,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at NRDC.

Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids. The health of our children must come before chemical corporations,” she said.

Scientific studies show that exposure to low levels of the pesticide in early life can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reductions in IQ, developmental delay, and behavioral problems, such as ADHD.

The Pesticide Action Network warns, “When mothers are exposed during pregnancy, their children have lower IQs, developmental delays and increased risk of autism.”

In 2011, EPA estimated that, in the general U.S. population, people consume 0.009 micrograms of chlorpyrifos per kilogram of their body weight per day directly from food residue.

Children are estimated to consume a greater quantity of chlorpyrifos per unit of body weight from food residue, with toddlers consuming the highest amounts.

Chlorpyrifos is not regulated under any international law or treaty.

PANNA and the NRDC state that chlorpyrifos meets the four criteria – persistence, bioaccumulation, long-range transport, and toxicity – in Annex D of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and should be restricted under this treaty.

Chlorpyrifos is used to control many different kinds of pests, including termites, mosquitoes, fire ants and roundworms.

But it has been found to be toxic to bees. Guidelines for Washington State recommend that chlorpyrifos products should not be applied to flowering plants such as fruit trees within four to six days of blossoming to prevent bees from directly contacting the residue.

Risk assessments have primarily considered acute exposure, but more recently researchers have begun to investigate the effects of chronic, low-level exposure through residue in pollen and components of bee hives.

A review of studies in the United States, several European countries, Brazil and India found chlorpyrifos in nearly 15 percent of hive pollen samples and just over 20 percent of honey samples. Because of its high toxicity and prevalence in pollen and honey, bees are considered to have higher risk from chlorpyrifos exposure in their diet than from many other pesticides.

When exposed in the laboratory to chlorpyrifos at levels roughly estimated from measurements in hives, bee larvae experienced 60 percent mortality over six days, which may partly explain why bees are dying out around the world.

Nevertheless, the American Soybean Association, an industry trade group, welcomed the EPA’s denial of the petition to remove chlorpyrifos from the market.

ASA President and Roseville, Illinois soybean farmer Ron Moore said, “The denial of the activist petition on chlorpyrifos came on the heels of statements from academia, farmers and consumers alike, all bearing out the safety of this product when used correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s label.

Dow AgroSciences, of course, supports U.S. EPA’s decision to deny the petition to revoke U.S. food tolerances and cancel the registration of chlorpyrifos.

The company said March 30 that it “remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety. This is the right decision for farmers who, in about 100 countries, rely on the effectiveness of chlorpyrifos to protect more than 50 crops. We will continue to cooperate with EPA under the established regulatory process in its scientific review of this vital crop protection solution.


Featured Images: Sign warning of pesticide spraying in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington. (Photo by jetsandzeppelins) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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New Bioglass Can Re-Grow, Replace Cartilage

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Professor Julian Jones, one of the developers of the bio-glass, in his lab at the Department of Materials at Imperial College London (Photo courtesy Imperial College London)

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, May 17, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Scientists have developed a new material that can mimic cartilage and potentially encourage it to re-grow.

Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue found in joints and between vertebrae in the spine. Compared to other types of connective tissue, it is tough to repair.

 Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Milano-Bicocca have developed a bioglass material that mimics the shock-absorbing and load bearing qualities of real cartilage.

They are now hoping to use it to develop implants for replacing damaged cartilage discs between vertebrae.

They believe it also has the potential to encourage cartilage cells to grow in knees, which has not been possible with the methods in use today.

The new material also could help the millions who suffer from arthritis. The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, involves wear-and-tear damage to cartilage — the hard, slick coating on the ends of bones.

“Bioglass has been around since the 1960s, originally developed around the time of the Vietnam War to help heal bones of veterans, which were damaged in conflict. Our research shows that a new flexible version of this material could be used as cartilage-like material,” said Professor Julian Jones, one of the developers of the bioglass from the Department of Materials at Imperial.

“Patients will readily attest to loss of mobility that is associated with degraded cartilage and the lengths they will go to try and alleviate often excruciating pain,” said Jones

“We still have a long way to go before this technology reaches patients,” he said, “but we’ve made some important steps in the right direction to move this technology towards the marketplace, which may ultimately provide relief to people around the world.”

The bioglass consists of silica and a plastic or polymer called polycaprolactone. It displays cartilage-like properties – it is flexible, strong, durable and resilient.

It can be made in a biodegradable ink form, enabling the researchers to 3D print it into structures that encourage cartilage cells in the knee to form and grow – a process that they have demonstrated in test tubes.

It also displays self-healing properties when it gets damaged, which could make it a more resilient and reliable implant, and easier to 3D print when it is in ink form.

 One formulation developed by the team could provide an alternative treatment for patients who have damaged their intervertebral discs.

When cartilage degenerates in the spine it leaves patients with debilitating pain.

Current treatment involves fusing the vertebrae together, reducing the patient’s mobility.

The scientists believe they will be able to engineer synthetic bioglass cartilage disc implants, that would have the same mechanical properties as real cartilage, but which would not need the metal and plastic devices that are currently available.

Another formulation could improve treatments for those with damaged cartilage in their knee, say the team. Surgeons can currently create scar-like tissue to repair damaged cartilage, but ultimately most patients have to have joint replacements, which reduces mobility.

The team are aiming to print tiny, biodegradable scaffolds using their bioglass ink. These bio-degradable scaffolds would provide a template that replicates the structure of real cartilage in the knee.

When implanted, the combination of the structure, stiffness and chemistry of the bioglass would encourage cartilage cells to grow through microscopic pores. The idea is that over time the scaffold would degrade safely in the body, leaving new cartilage in its place that has similar mechanical properties to the original cartilage.

The researchers have received funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to take their technology to the next stage.

They aim to conduct trials in the lab with the technology and develop a surgical method for inserting the implants. They will also work with a range of industrial partners to further develop the 3D manufacturing techniques.

Professor Justin Cobb, the Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery at Imperial’s Department of Medicine, will be co-leading on the next stage of the research.

Professor Cobb explained, “This novel formulation and method of manufacture will allow Julian and his team to develop the next generation of biomaterials. Today, the best performing artificial joints are more than a thousand times stiffer than normal cartilage. While they work very well, the promise of a novel class of bearing material that is close to nature and can be 3D printed is really exciting.”

“Using Julian’s technology platform we may be able to restore flexibility and comfort to stiff joints and spines without using stiff metal and all its associated problems,” said Cobb.

Professor Laura Cipolla, from the Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences at the University of Milano-Bicocca, explained some of the more technical aspects of the research. “Based on our background on the chemical modification of bio- and nanostructured materials, proteins, and carbohydrates,” she said, “we designed a new chemical approach in order to force the organic component polycaprolactone to stay together in a stable way with the inorganic component silica.”

The technology still has a number of regulatory hurdles to overcome before it reaches clinical applications for both applications. The team predicts it will take 10 years to for both technologies to reach the market. They have patented the technology with Imperial Innovations – the College’s technology commercialization partner.


 Featured Image: Doctors repair a man’s foot. (Photo by Michael McCollough)

EU Warns of Toxic Toys, Clothes

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Workers assemble children’s wear in a textile factory in Huzhou, China. Greenpeace tested the garments for hazardous residues of nonylphenol ethoxylates, phthalates, antimony and other toxics and found plenty of chemical risks. (Photo by Greenpeace International)

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By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 28, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Buyers beware! The European Commission has published new figures showing that last year more than 2,000 dangerous products triggered EU-wide alerts. Coping with the threats involves stemming the rising tide of products bought online from outside the European Union.

In 2015, there were 2,072 alerts and 2,745 follow-up actions registered in the Rapid Alert system. Since 2003, the system ensures that information about dangerous non-food products withdrawn from the market and/or recalled anywhere in Europe is quickly circulated between Member States and the European Commission.

Last year, the most frequently notified risk – 25 percent of the total of all notifications – was chemical risk, in toys, clothing and jewelry.

Last year, toys (27 percent) and clothing, textiles and fashion items (17 percent) were the two main product categories for which corrective measures had to be taken. These were also the most notified products in 2014, but that year the risk of injuries, rather than chemical risk, was the most frequently notified.

The most frequent chemical risks notified in 2015 related to products such as fashion jewelry, contaminated with harmful heavy metals like nickel and lead, and toys containing phthalates – a family of industrial chemicals used to soften PVC plastic. Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes.

With 62 percent of the notified dangerous products coming from China, this country remains the number one country of origin in the alert system. It is the EU’s largest source of imports.

The Commission, EU Member States and businesses are working together to ensure that these unsafe consumer goods are removed from the European market.

Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, says she plans to go to China in June to advance cooperation with the Chinese authorities on product safety.

“Two challenges lie ahead of us: online sales bringing products directly to consumer’s houses through mail, and the strong presence of Chinese products signaled through the Rapid Alert system,” said the commissioner.

“The Rapid Alert system has helped coordinate quick reactions between consumer protection authorities to remove dangerous products across Europe,” she said.

This way, appropriate follow-up action, such as a ban on sales, withdrawal, recall or import rejection by Customs authorities, can be taken anywhere in the EU.

Thirty-one countries – the 28 EU Member States together with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, currently participate in the system.

When one Member State posts an alert on the system, other countries can spot the product on their market and react to this initial alert.

Over 65 percent of Europeans buy products online and the number of online shoppers has grown by 27 percent between 2006 and 2015. A new challenge is now to address the online channel, which also brings products from outside the EU through mail into consumers’ households that may not have been subjected to safety verification.

The Commission is working on further improving the Rapid Alert system to include online purchases.

Collaboration with the Chinese authorities continues to be a priority for the EU and, more specifically, takes place within the Rapid Alert System China mechanism.

Each notification concerning a product of Chinese origin is sent to the Chinese administration, so that they address the issue with the manufacturer or exporter directly if these economic operators are traceable.

To date, China has followed up on as many as 11,540 notifications and has been able to take corrective measures in 3,748 cases. In many cases, tracing the source of the product remains difficult.


Featured image: Soft plastic toys are softened with phthlates, exposure to which can cause serious health problems. (Photo by bergerbot)