Not On MY Land!
In August 1992 my family and I moved to Pleasant Hill, Oregon. We live on land with majestic fir trees, an apple orchard, a Christmas tree farm plus a beautiful forest which we call “the Magic Forest” because in it is a 300-year-old tree considered sacred by the Native Americans who preceded us. One spring day, I looked out my window and saw a neighbor spraying blackberry bushes on the property. I ran outside and asked him what he was spraying. He replied, pointing to his truck, “I don’t know; the can is over there.” From his truck I retrieved a can of Crossbow, which contains 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), an active ingredient in Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War. The gardener was so unaware of the danger, he wore no gloves and no mask. He just sprayed.
Not only is this herbicide poisonous, it was being sprayed in the spring, while the sap rises and the plant puts out new shoots, flowers and berries. The chemical is carried to the shoots, killing the present year’s new growth. When the sap retreats to the roots, not enough of the herbicide is left to kill the plant and it accumulates. The next spring, the herbicide will rise along with the sap, continually putting berry browsers (humans, wildlife and livestock) at risk of herbicide ingestion (Greg Prull). Agent Orange is a phenoxyherbicide, a broadleaf plant killer. Between 1965 and 1971 about 12 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed in South Vietnam to exposed Communist sanctuaries hidden in heavily canopied jungles.
The most current EPA statistics available (1988) estimated that 52-67 million pounds of 2,4-D were used in herbicides annually in the United States. The fall 1991 Journal of Pesticide Reform describes the acute toxicity of 2,4-D. It is both acutely and chronically toxic. In humans it is a neurotoxin, a carcinogen and adversely affects reproduction. In laboratory animals, it causes organ damage, birth defects and fetal death, and affects growth and behavior. Don’t think you’re safe if your neighbor sprays it. 2,4-D drifts, in some cases up to fifty miles, contaminating ground and surface water and has been linked to increased frequency of disease in corn and pine trees.
Acute exposure may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, temporary blindness, weakness, a burning in the chest, and difficulty in forming thoughts. Chronic exposure may cause cancer. Despite the EPA’s classification of data on 2,4-D’s carcinogenicity as inadequate, there are many studies correlating 2,4-D with cancer, both in laboratory animals and humans. For example, according to a recent National Cancer Institute report, exposure to 2,4-D significantly increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Shelia K. Hoar reported results of this study in the September 5, Journal of the American Medical Association. Risk of cancer increased in proportion to the degree of exposure. For example, NHL incidence increased six times among farmers exposed to 2,4-D for 20 days or more a year, according to Hoar. In 1979 and 1981, Swedish researchers reported increases in two other cancers in addition to NHL, Hodgkin’s disease and soft-tissue sarcoma. 2,4-D is in itself highly toxic but in addition, it contains other toxic contaminants, the most famous of which is dioxin. There are 75 kinds of dioxins, but the most potent, 2,3,7,8 - tetrachlorodibenzo-dioxin, or TCDD or simply dioxin, is the principle infamous contaminant.
A March 18, 1983 San Francisco Chronicle article reported a study of 40,000 Vietnamese families exposed to Agent Orange who had an abnormally high incidence of birth defects linked to dioxin. The report suggested that the substance causing the abnormalities was transmitted in the husband’s sperm. For years, Vietnam veterans have complained that exposure to Agent Orange during the war increased their risk of fathering children with birth defects. American military officials say the spraying saved thousands of lives by decreasing U.S. risk to ambush.
Don’t think Agent Orange is the only source of dioxin. It has been found at Love Canal in New York and Times Beach in Missouri. A 371-page EPA report from 1980 documents strong evidence on the adverse health effects of exposure to humans. The report reviews several hundred studies, including many on workers exposed to dioxin in industrial workplaces. Immediate effects can include “burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches, itching, swelling and redness of the face; dizziness; nausea and vomiting.” Industrial exposure has been associated with “liver damage, emotional disorders,” sensitivity to light, increased risk of artery degeneration, chloracne, involuntary rapid movement of the eyeball, hormonal imbalances, deterioration of immune systems and pains in the joints.”
Further, the EPA report attributed the death of four hospitalized babies to dioxin poisoning. They died after being washed more than three times with a solution of three percent hexachlorophene containing trace amounts of dioxin as an unwanted by-product. Because dioxin is a by-product of several manufacturing processes, its presence in the environment has not been regulated. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (444 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016), “it is possibly the most potent carcinogen that has ever been studied. It is extremely carcinogenic in very low doses. It is a very persistent poison--and it accumulates in the body.”
A summer 1993 article in Mothering by Marc Smolonsky says that dioxin is so prevalent in the environment that all organisms, from humans to fish have detectable levels of it in their blood or tissues. Dioxin is emitted into the atmosphere during industrial processes such as the burning of plastics and vinyl and is created as a by-product during the manufacture of certain products such as insecticides, herbicides, and wood preservatives. Says Smolonsky, “perhaps the greatest environmental exposure to dioxin comes from the paper industry, which produces the chemical as an unwanted by-product in the chlorine bleaching of wood pulp.” Just think how may products are made from bleached wood pulp. Some include disposable diapers, tampons, paper towels, toilet paper, and hundreds of paper products.
The Chlorine Institute held a conference on December 5, 1990 and issued a report saying that a consensus had been reached: the EPA’s risk assessment for dioxin was no longer valid and a safe dose of dioxin could be found. Like the nuclear industry’s permissible levels of radiation, it seems that permissible levels of profitable poisons are being regulated by consensus, not science.
More on Dioxins
Dioxin is the name, which describes a group of about 75 organochlorine compounds with the same basic structure. TCDD (2,3,7,8,-tetrachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin) is the most studied member of the dioxin family. Its toxicity has been compared to plutonium. The EPA’s procedures for handling both of these materials are identical.
How Dioxin is Formed and Ingested
- Dioxin is a byproduct of chlorinated pesticides and herbicides. Probably the most famous dioxin-containing herbicide is known as Agent Orange, which was sprayed heavily on Vietnam during the war. Until 1971, U.S. planes sprayed 12 million gallons of Agent Orange, containing 374 pounds of dioxin. In an Associated Press article entitled “Effects of Agent Orange Still Felt Across Vietnam,” reported in the September 10, 1994 Eugene, Oregon, Register Guard, the defoliant is being blamed for a second-generation wave of cancers and birth defects. A small boy with no arms is pictured to illustrate the disaster. Vietnamese specialists are seeking support from retired U.S. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who was among the officers who ordered the spraying to defoliate the land. Zumwalt blames Agent Orange for the 1988 cancer death of his son, who served under his command, and for brain damage to his grandson. Yet Zumwalt said recently that he would spray Agent Orange again “if it was the only means of protecting his forces from jungle ambush.”
- Municipal incinerators produce dioxins when they burn garbage containing chlorinated plastics such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and many other hazardous waste materials. Dioxin compounds cling to smoke particles, are carried through the air and deposited through rain on plants. Grazing animals consume the dioxin-tainted plants. From there, humans consume dioxin when they eat meat, fish and dairy products. Once ingested, dioxin bioaccumulates in fatty tissues (Tyson).
- Dioxin is a byproduct of the chlorine bleaching of paper in pulp mills. By 1980, the link between pulp mills and dioxin was discovered by the EPA. This link was substantiated by 1983. In 1986, studies by Van Strum and Merrell confirmed the cause and effect relationship by testing water downstream from or near pulp mills.
- Chlorine is used to make paper white. Chlorine gas reacts with compounds in wood to create dioxins and many other organochlorines. More than 150 pulp mills in the U.S. dump dioxins and organochlorines into nearby rivers and lakes. The average-sized mill dumps 35-50 tons of organochlorines daily, including dioxin and as many as 1,000 chlorinated compounds. Only 300 of these have been identified. Many of these are known carcinogens and are regulated when they come from chemical industries. But there are no regulations covering dumping by the pulp and paper industry (Greenpeace, March, April 1989).
Where Dioxin is Found
Since dioxins are in the water, anyone who drinks untreated water is a dioxin consumer. Also, all bleached paper products are potentially contaminated with dioxin. These include coffee filters, disposable diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, paper cups, napkins, milk containers and so on. The A.D. Little research firm did a study for the American Paper Institute (API) on the leakage of dioxin into food or water. They reported that between 50 and 90 percent of the dioxins in paper products in contact with food oils or water is available for consumption. For example, tests sponsored by API showed that superabsorbent disposable diapers contained up to 11 parts per trillion of dioxin, paper towels up to 7 parts per trillion and paper plates up to 10 parts per trillion. At the summer 1988 International Dioxin Symposium, the Canadian Health Protection Branch of the Federal Health Department presented evidence that dioxins in paper milk cartons migrated into the milk.
Health Effects of Dioxins
As with radiation, industry representatives claim that low levels of dioxin are not harmful, but this claim has been disproved by scientific research. In 1980, EPA scientists testified at congressional hearings that even the lowest measurable doses of TCDD caused cancer and birth defects in laboratory animals.
Cancer and birth defects are only two of the many side effects of dioxins. To illustrate, TCDD caused infertility, weight loss, liver damage, hair loss, edema (water retention), and immune suppression in all animals tested. It also causes skin diseases, poisons enzymes, changes endocrine balance and decreases the storage of vitamins (Marc Smolonsky). More recent findings in a 1994 EPA report link dioxin to endometriosis and diabetes (Tyson).
What happens to the unborn animal or human? To illustrate, here is a story reported in the March, April 1989 issue of Greenpeace. An Oregon couple, Larry Archer and his wife Laura lived near a reservoir that was sprayed with organochlorine herbicides during her second pregnancy. Larry was present during the birth of the child. “The baby - it was a girl,” Archer said,” She was perfect, from her toes to her eyebrows. I mean, her face was perfect too. ... But that was it. It ended at the eyebrows. That’s all there was...just this kind of a bowl, with a kind of tissue over it. She couldn’t breathe. There wasn’t any brain to tell her to breathe.”
Vietnam is a grim reminder of the fate of dioxin exposure. Dr. Le Cao Dai of Hanoi, who heads a committee to examine effects of war chemicals, estimated that 300,000 to 400,000 deformed children were born after Agent Orange spraying. A dioxin specialist, Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong of Tu Du Hospital, said that dioxin from Agent Orange lingers in body tissues and causes health problems in men and women who were exposed decades ago. To illustrate, she shows a ward where pregnant women who were breast-fed from mothers sprayed by Agent Orange are being treated for cancers of the placenta.
Dr. Le Anh Minh of the A Luoi district hospital said that 20 percent of young mothers from the heavily sprayed A Shau Valley miscarry. In a nearby ward, 50 deformed children “play listlessly in their permanent home. Grotesque skull shapes, missing limbs and cleft palate.” are among the possible side effects of Agent Orange. In yet another wing, men are being treated for cancers of the liver and lungs (September 10, 1994 Register Guard).
Animals face the same fate as humans. In beautiful British Columbia, the air is fouled by the Crofton pulp mill, which vents its wastes into the air and water. The Crofton blue heron colony is in danger of becoming extinct. For the last two years, eggs from the colony near Crofton have not hatched. Dioxins were found in the herons’ eggs during studies between 1983 and 1986. They were traced to the lumber industry.
Since the mid-1970’s, Carol Van Strum gathered incriminating information against dioxin and struggled to campaign to end the use of dioxin-contaminated herbicides in Oregon, her home state. Using the freedom of information laws, Van Strum and her husband, attorney Paul Merrell obtained EPA’s dioxin studies in 1986 and put together a report that exposed the dioxin-paper mill connection. In August 1987, Greenpeace published their report, entitled “No Margin of Safety”. The paper documents compelling evidence from the EPA’s own studies that pulp mills were spewing dioxins into the air and water.
The Van Strum-Merrell report triggered an environmental ally from the American Paper Institute (API) to send a collection of documents to Greenpeace. These documents revealed an agreement “between the EPA and the industry to suppress, modify or delay the results of the joint EPA/industry (dioxin) study or the manner in which they are publicly presented,” according to the U.S. District Judge Owen M. Pranner. The API papers show efforts to forestall regulatory action and demonstrate that the dioxin issue was treated as a public relations problem.
Although EPA is aware of the dioxin-pulp mill connection, no regulations have been introduced to eliminate dioxin contamination of air, water and paper products. Instead, in 1988, the EPA decided to do another study of all 104 pulp and paper mills that use chlorine. Says Van Strum, “It’s the classic further study in place of taking any regulatory action.” Meanwhile, the Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation sued EPA for its complacency. In an out of court settlement, EPA agreed to complete a risk assessment of the 104 mills by April 30, 1990 (Greenpeace).
Rae Tyson reported on a 2,000-page EPA report documenting the toxic effects of dioxin released on September 13, 1994. The report says that even trace amounts of dioxin cause cancer and can harm human immune and reproductive systems. Needless to say, this report caused a few comments from dioxin-polluting industries. The National Cattlemen’s Association accused the EPA of using incomplete, limited or outdated data.” A Texas A & M University professor who works for the association said “There is no reason to believe that current levels of dioxin in our bodies and in our diet pose a risk to our health.”
The EPA will solicit your comments for yet another year before issuing a final dioxin report.
On Everybody’s Land
On May 12, 1993, my husband and I were awakened early in the morning to the sounds of low-flying planes. There were early morning joggers on the country road. There were children waiting for their school buses. My husband looked up and saw a helicopter spraying Christmas tree farms surrounding our property on three sides. The mist looked like a gray cloud as it descended on the land below it. The children stood waiting, in innocence. The joggers kept running. The spray covered the earth, not just the Christmas tree farm but also the surrounding property and trickled into the groundwater below.
Concerned, I called the owner of the farms who had ordered the spray. A friendly voice answered and I asked, “I am just curious about what the plane was spraying on the Christmas tree farms.”
“Oh!” she said. “We are spraying an insecticide and a fungicide.
“Would you mind identifying them?
“The insecticide is called Thiodan and the fungicide is called Bravo. Do you have any problem with that?”
I called the Northwest Coalition For Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) in Eugene, Oregon to find out the toxicity levels of these chemicals. Both are toxic orally, dermally and by inhalation:
Thiodan (endosulfan): The EPA Registration Standard lists endosulfan in the organochlorine insecticide category. It has high acute toxicity to mammals via oral, dermal and inhalation routes. The major symptoms of acute intoxication include tremors, and convulsions, and death, indicating that the central nervous system is a possible target site.
Bravo (chlorothalonil): NCAP sent me an article from the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP). It said that chlorothalonil is in the benzonitrile class of broad-spectrum fungicides. It is widely used on field crops, such as peanuts, vegetables and fruit, including citrus, and on lawns. It is a systemic chemical, which means it is taken up by plants and thus cannot be washed off. Also, it is not degraded by ultraviolet light. Residues have a half-life of 1-2 months, meaning that half of the material applied breaks down in that time. Chlorothalonil and its breakdown product (4.-hydroxy-2,5,6-trichloroisophthalonitrile) are mobile in soils so that both can potentially enter ground and surface water. Chlorothalonil and its breakdown product are toxic at low levels to fish and aquatic invertebrates. It is moderately toxic to birds. Grazing of livestock on treated areas is prohibited. There is concern that chlorothalonil may be an oncogen, causing kidney tumors in mice.
In 1982, a 30-year old Naval Flight Officer, Lieutenant George Prior, died following exposure to this fungicide on the Army-Navy Country Club golf course in Arlington, VA. Lieutenant Prior died in great pain of toxic epidermal necrolysis, a violent allergic reaction usually linked to toxic chemicals and synthetic drugs (sometimes termed Stevens Johnson Syndrome). His wife, Liza Prior, described his death in the fall 1985 issue of The Amicus Journal. His symptoms began with flu-like discomfort, including headache, fever and nausea. Within two days, a sunburn-like rash covered his body and his was admitted to the hospital with a 105-degree fever. In the next 24-hours, the rash turned to baseball-sized blisters that hung, filled with fluid, then burst, leaving raw skin exposed. Later, kidney failure caused severe edema and pneumonia. Lieutenant Prior could not talk because of a throat respirator. He could not write because his arms were too swollen. He could not see, because his eyes were blistered. Although cut off from his surroundings, he was still very much aware, alert and in great pain. Finally, after fourteen days, he went in to a coma and died on September 16, 1982. He was buried with full military honors.
Nothing is Sacred
I accompanied my children’s seventh grade class on their annual trip, this year to the high desert at Tulame in Bend, Oregon. Great, I thought! A weekend in the beautiful, untouched, preserved wilderness! My fantasy was short-lived. As we entered the campsite, I observed a camp official spraying something as he walked along certain areas. Concerned, I approached him and asked him what he was spraying.
“Roundup,” he said. “Why?” I queried. “So the crabgrass won’t grow where I don’t want it to,” he replied.
“My son has asthma because of pesticides and herbicides. Are you spraying the campgrounds?”
As he sprayed around a water fountain near our campground, he replied, “I’m not spraying where people are.”
“You mean people don’t drink the water here?”
He replied, “They’re not drinking it right now. Anyway, it only kills the grass!”
“Grass only? No worms, or bugs?”
Turning to me in disgust, he said, “Do you have a permit for this park?”
The following information comes from a summer 1991 Journal of Pesticide Reform article by Caroline Cox. The active ingredient in Roundup and similar broad spectrum herbicides including Rhodeo is glyphosate, or N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine. In 1988, EPA estimated that between 10 and 15 million pounds of glyphosate were used in the United States to control weeds in many agricultural, lawn and garden, aquatic and forestry situations.
Carcinogenicity studies are incomplete but even if glyphosate were not carcinogenic, it is contaminated with a derivative of the N-nitroso chemical family, three quarters of which are carcinogens. Another disturbing fact is that most glyphosate formulations are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which has been classified as an animal carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Glyphosate is very water-soluble and its half-life varies because its degradation depends on the numbers and types of microorganisms present in the soil where it is used. For example, it was detected in stream sediments 574 days after application in a British Columbia study and 152 days after application in Ohio farming soils. Glyphosate kills plants by inhibiting an enzyme in the pathway of synthesis of three essential amino acids, tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine. Glyphosate also affects enzyme systems in animals. For example, in rats, it decreases the level of a group of detoxification enzymes in the cytochrome P-450 class as well as others.
Because of its toxicity to animals, researchers observed a decrease in the abundance of birds and small mammals in treated areas versus non-treated areas. It is also toxic to fish. Aerial application of Roundup to a British Columbia stream caused mortality of Coho salmon fingerlings. In addition, defoliation caused by Roundup increased water temperatures for the following two summers, which affects fish populations, especially juvenile salmon.
How could anyone think that a poison such as Roundup has no affect on non-target organisms?
The government is just now realizing that some children may be ingesting unsafe amounts of pesticides. A Monday, June 28 Eugene, Oregon Register Guard article reported the release of a $1.1 million report by the National Academy of Sciences on the health effects of pesticides in infants and children. The study concludes that too little is known about how pesticides affect the young and that some children may be ingesting unsafe amounts of pesticides.
Says David Kessler, FDA commissioner, “There’s no reason for alarm, no reason for panic.” (Don’t you feel safe, folks?!)
This spring as I was driving home I passed the familiar high school less than a mile from our home. As I passed, I saw two men walking around one of the many school buildings. One carried a dolly holding a spray can. The other sprayed everything near the building as they walked its perimeter. Do I have a problem with this? You bet!
DDT and Breast Cancer
The July 1993 Townsend Letter for Doctors reported a study comparing DDT levels in women with breast cancer with those who were cancer-free. The study reported that women with the highest exposure to DDT had four times the breast cancer risk of women with the least exposure. This study is one of the first to link the insecticide with breast cancer, although DDT has been known for decades to cause cancer in animals. Principal author of the study, Mary S. Wolff, a chemist at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, reported these findings in the April 21, 1993 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. DDT was phased out in 1972 in the U.S. but is still widely used in other countries including Mexico. So we’re all exposed to DDT from eating imported produce. DDT is stored in the body for decades and is passed to children through mother’s milk.
Skeptics may think the presence of DDT in breast tissue with cancer is just a coincidence. However, DDT, other pesticides and numerous chemicals are now being classed as xenoestrogens - substances with estrogenic activity that are not produced by the body. They mimic the body’s natural estrogen even though they may bear little structural resemblance to the hormone. The August 1993 Environmental Health Perspectives presents research by Devra Lee Davis, a toxicologist with the Department of Health and Human Services, and researchers at five medical centers on this topic. These studies provide compelling evidence of many nearly ubiquitous chemical pollutants such as DDT with estrogenic properties. This means widespread animal and human exposure to estrogenic substances - without the cyclic interruption provided by nature.
EPA Plans to Loosen Pesticide Standards
In view of the above, it is quite alarming that Carol M. Browner, the new EPA administrator, appears to be making modification of the 1958 Delaney Amendment one of her first items of business. This amendment states that...”no additive shall be deemed to be safe if it is found to induce cancer when ingested by man or animal...” According to February 2 and 7, 1993 New York Times articles by Keith Schneider, Browner thinks that toxic residues should be allowed as long as the health risk is negligible. The fact is, toxic residues are here, they are increasing and they are cumulative. I wonder what Browner thinks is a “negligible cancer risk?”
To paraphrase Rachael Carson in her landmark book, Silent Spring, pesticide and herbicide residues can be found in any living plant and animal tissues. They are found in the humble earthworm, in the fish of remote mountain lakes, in the eggs of birds and the tissues of humans, including the fetus and in mother’s milk.
In a July 1993 Townsend Letter for Doctors, Ruth Sackman, President of the Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy states, “Since the passage of the Delaney Clause some 35 years ago, cancer has increased to epidemic proportions: from an incidence of 1 in 5 persons, to 1 in 4, and now, 1 in 3. The next step would be 1 in 2. Shall we wait until 1 in 1 person gets cancer to realize that reducing environmental carcinogens is imperative?”
Concludes Sackman, “Sadly, it looks as though the new EPA leadership may actually believe that the benefits of continued dependence on toxic chemicals in food production somehow outweigh the risks.”
The Pesticide-Cancer Connection
Even in the face of mounting evidence linking pesticides to cancer, U.S. pesticide use is on the rise. In 1993, the U.S. used an estimated 2.23 billion pounds, up from 2.15 billion pounds in 1990, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) June 1994 report, “Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage: 1992 and 1993 Market Estimates.” In 1993, pesticides were used on more than 900,000 farms and in 69 million households in the U.S. at a total cost of $8.5 billion (McCarthy, J. Pesticide Reform). For example, endosulfan chemically related to DDT and with comparable estrogenic properties, is used on many common foods such as grapes, lettuce and tomatoes. In 1991, farmers used two million pounds of endosulfan on 45 different fruit and vegetable crops (reported in the October 24, 1993 The New York Times). More pesticides were registered during 1993 than in any year since 1975 (Safe Food News, Fall 1994).
There is so much evidence linking breast cancer and other illnesses to pesticides and chemicals mimicking estrogen, that I wonder why Clinton and others are proposing more costly studies to show this correlation. No one knows if there is a safe threshold for estrogen mimics. I don’t have my hopes up and I think it would be more prudent to eliminate the mimics than wait another 50 years to study “threshhold doses.”
Here are a few examples from the growing mound of information that xenoestrogens interfere with the endocrine systems of fish, birds, wildlife and humans.
- Mary S. Wolff, a chemist at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York has studied the parallel rise in breast cancer with the increased use of DDT. She says that although the EPA banned the use of DDT in the U.S. in 1972, it is used in many other countries including Mexico. Before 1972, DDT was common in meat and dairy products. Because it is stored in the fat cells of the body for decades, most Americans still carry residues. DDT and its chemical relatives continue to cause health problems. Wolff et al., has shown a correlation between blood levels of DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, and breast cancer. Women with the highest amount of DDE were four times more likely to get breast cancer than women with smaller amounts (The Associated Press, Townsend Newsletter for Doctors; Wolff, M.S.).
- Ana Soto, an associate professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine, reported that endosulfan, an organochlorine insecticide currently used in the U.S., has estrogenic properties comparable to those of DDT. Soto conducted tests with human breast cancer cells and found that estrogenic pesticides accelerated the reproduction of breast cells (McCarthy, 1993). Endosulfan was found to be the seventh most commonly detected pesticide residue in food samples taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 1986 and 1991. Endosulfan was also detected in groundwater in California, Maine, and Virginia.
- Devra Lee Davis, a toxicologist with the Department of Health and Human Services and researchers at five U.S. medical centers found compelling evidence that many ubiquitous pollutants have estrogenic properties. This research was published in Environmental Health Perspectives in August 1993 (Raloff).
On Wednesday, November 12, 1992, Greenpeace released a study linking the increase in breast cancer worldwide to certain synthetic chemicals. Among their findings were the following:
- The increase in breast cancer parallels the increased use of synthetic chemicals.
- Industrialized nations with more severe pollution have higher breast cancer rates than non-industrialized nations.
- Women who live near chemical waste sites are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than women living where no sites exist.
- The correlation of animal fat intake with cancer may be only an indicator that chemicals persist in animal fat.
Here are some disturbing stories printed in a March 21, 1994 Newsweek Magazine article entitled, “The Estrogen Complex.”
- Male alligators from Florida’s Lake Apopka were found to have penises only one quarter the normal size. Their testosterone level was so low they were probably sterile. Why? Is it only a coincidence that thousands of gallons of a DDT-containing pesticide were dumped into Lake Apopka in 1980? “I think we have a problem here,” said Louis Guillette, a University of Florida researcher to a Congressional panel. “Every man in this room is half the man his grandfather was.”
- Since 1983, sperm counts of men in the United States and 20 other countries have decreased by an average of 50%, according to Danish endocrinologist Niels Skakkebaek in 1991.
- In Michigan, PCB’s accidentally (I hope) got into the cattle feed in 1973 and from there into the beef. Women who ate the contaminated meat, developed high levels of PCB’s in their breast milk. Their sons had testicular malformations and undersized penises. As a corollary, 118 boys in Taiwan who were born to women exposed to a PCB spill in 1979 had reproductive defects like those of the Michigan boys.
- Studies link estrogenic pollutants not only to breast cancer but to endometriosis. Seventy years ago there were only 21 reported cases in the world. Today there are five million cases in the U.S. alone. A new German study reported that women with endometriosis were more likely than others to have high levels of PCB’s in their blood.
- According to Dr. Ray Peat, hypothyroidism is also associated with endometriosis. Because many chemicals have been found to suppress the thyroid gland, including dioxin and other organochlorines, his observation may not be far-fetched.
- In New York’s Long Island there are high rates of breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute will begin a study assessing these women’s exposure to estrogenic chemicals once used on the potato fields and still in the aquifers where suburbs now have grown.
- In the Great Lakes, where PCB and DDT concentrations are very high in the fish, the tern and gulls who eat them are becoming “biochemical hermaphrodites.” The males have reproductive parts of both sexes.
- Florida panthers, eating high on a food chain contaminated with estrogenic chemicals have reproductive problems. These include infertile females, sterile males, low sperm counts and high estrogen levels. One male panther was found to have estrogen levels higher than most females, says toxicologist Charles Facemire of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Pesticide-Magnetic Field Connection
Magnetic fields (electromagnetic radiation), even those of extra low or very low frequency (Elf’s, VLF’s) emanate from all electronic devices including TV’s, computer display terminals, clocks, radios, and all battery-operated devices, including toothbrushes and toys. These magnetic fields can boost the concentration of carcinogenic estrogens circulating in the blood (Raloff). Estrogen stimulates cell proliferation. An enzyme called ODC (ornithine decarboxylase) is essential for growth in all cells. ODC participates in the synthesis of DNA protein. Carcinogens increase ODC activity, although not all substances that increase ODC activity are cancer promoters. Nevertheless, in clinical studies of cancer cells, high levels of ODC are a reliable index of malignancy. In 1985, Ross Adey, Craig Byus and their colleagues discovered that low-level pulsed, microwave radiation similar to radar surveillance systems increased ODC activity up to 50% in cultured human and animal cancer cells. Humans living in the Cape Cod area surrounding a radar surveillance system called PAVE PAWS developed cancer at 17 times the normal rate following its installation. Adey and Byus also found that when ELF-modulated radiation was combined with a carcinogenic chemical, the joint effect on ODC activity was double that of either alone.
The Pesticide-Spray Connection
Guess what folks? There are many places that are sprayed with pesticides that you probably don’t know about. Let me illustrate. Many restaurants, buses, and airplanes are routinely sprayed with pesticides. Did you know that?
Airplane spraying: Some countries require the spraying of pesticides in occupied passenger cabins while in flight or prior to allowing passengers to deplane in those countries. According to the New York Times, 25 countries require onboard spraying of arriving flights from the U.S. These include: American Samoa, Argentina, Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, India, Kenya, Jamaica, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Seychelles, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Tobago and Yemen. Austria, New Zealand and Panama may require spraying but will leave it up to the airline whether to spray the plane while empty or when the passengers are on board. In addition to this spraying, the U.S. itself sprays returning military aircraft and its passengers. Unoccupied cabins of U.S.-based airliners are routinely fogged with pesticides prior to flights, and cargo holds are painted with pesticides. Thus, airline workers, passengers and their luggage are exposed to pesticide residues, just like insects and animals. Once poisoned, it is difficult to receive compensation for pesticide-induced illnesses. Former flight attendant Diana Fairechild has been on medical leave of absence from United Airlines for seven years since developing multiple chemical sensitivities from being repeatedly exposed to airline sprays during flights to Australia and New Zealand. Ms. Fairechild has seizures, internal bleeding, rashes, fevers and other symptoms. A decision on her litigation has been delayed for many years. Julia Kendall of San Rafael, California, continues to pursue legal recourse against American Airlines for leukemia that she believes was caused by pesticide exposure on a flight to a Caribbean island in 1992 (Riley).
Bus Spraying - A Case History
I have a client who was a bus driver and did not know that his bus was routinely sprayed with pesticides. He gradually developed environmental illness with its multiple chemical sensitivities and allergies. He has been unable to work for the last 15 years. Because pesticides and other chemicals suppress (and sometimes destroy) thyroid function, he has many symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as chronic fatigue, dry skin, rashes, hair loss, arthritis, digestive problems, heart palpitations, nervousness, low blood sugar, and hypoadrenia. He has liver/gallbladder symptoms, prostate problems, pains everywhere, including chest, abdomen, rectum, muscles, and back. In addition, he has many food intolerances, including meat, dairy and wheat. I gave him enzymes for sugar intolerance (Pan), an antihistamine for rashes that includes amylase (DERM) and a lymphatic drainage remedy (Kdy). I also gave him an antioxidant formula containing bioflavanoids, and other antioxidants plus catalase (Nsl), which is used to help detoxify chemical poisons and certain allergies.
Some restaurants are sprayed once a month with pesticides! I found this out inadvertently by talking to a friend who observed the restaurant kitchen where he worked being doused indiscriminately with pesticides.
Grocery Store Spraying
A housewife shopping at her local Safeway store in Leavenworth, Washington caught the produce manager spraying Black Flag House and Garden Insect Killer on the onions and soft fruit. Outraged Washington residents filed a class-action suit against the parent corporation of Safeway, which includes as plaintiffs, patrons who purchased contaminated fruit and vegetables from the Leavenworth store between 1983 and 1993. Safeway employees testified that they were instructed to spray the produce. Meanwhile, anonymous employees from Safeway and Albertson’s told a newspaper reporter that “anybody who’s ever worked in that industry knows that’s just a common practice.” Safeway denied all the allegations in the suit, except what the employee said - that he was only spraying the wine bottles.
Are Pesticides, Herbicides Really Necessary?
Alternatives are available for all major uses of chlorine. There are chlorine-free substitutes for bleaching in the paper industry, for PVC construction, packaging, and cars. Many companies have discovered that substitutes for chlorinated solvents and organochlorine pesticides work AND save money! (Greenpeace). Kenny Ausubel presented these facts at the Seeds of Change Conference, in San Francisco, October 21-23, 1994: The agribusiness industry is the second largest environmental polluter on earth (behind the radiation industry). Yearly, 2.1 billion pounds of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are dumped into the soils and waters of the United States. This amounts to 57 pounds per person. $17 billion in profits are generated yearly. Despite this, crop production declined by 69% between 1950 and 1979.
Agricultural runoff is the single greatest source of untreated water pollution in the U.S. There are pesticides and nitrates in the groundwater of most states. Thirty-eight states have 70 different agricultural chemicals in them. Only one percent of pesticides reach their target. The rest goes into our bodies, into animals, the earth, and the water. Only 0.4% of the water on earth is currently potable. Of this, the agribusiness industry uses 1/3 to 2/5. Over 447 kinds of pests have developed resistance to pesticides. Crop losses to bugs have doubled in the last 30 years from 7% to 13%, despite all of these pesticides.
So, why do we use pesticides? According to Bill Mollison also at the Seeds of Change Conference 1994, “some countries are waking up, unknown to the U.S.” He told this story as an example. In Indonesia, pesticides and herbicides are no longer used. Why? It’s a result of an experiment. Three groups of rice farmers were given equal plots of land. The first group was typical high pesticide/herbicide users. The second group used IPM (integrated pesticide management) - supposedly better than the first group. The third group was traditional farmers and used no pesticides or herbicides at all. Guess which group won? The traditional farmers produced 47% more rice using no chemicals at all, at no increased cost, and no import bill! That’s why only organic farming is used in Indonesia. It’s more productive and much less expensive. When will the U.S. wake up?
Support your local organic farmers. If we don’t buy commercial (chemical) foods, no one will make them.
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Lita Lee, Ph.D.
to email Lita.
D’Argo, Joan and Joe Thornton, “Breast Cancer: The Chlorine Connection,” July, Aug., Sept.
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McCarthy, Samantha,” Environmental Hormones: Inadvertent Birth Control? J. of Pesticide Reform, Vol. 14, No. 3, Fall 1994.
NCAP (Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides), POB 1393, Eugene, OR 97440. Phone: (541) 344-5044
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Sackman, Ruth, President, Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy, Ltd. (FACT), POB 1242, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10113. Phone: 212-741-2790.
Seeds of Change Conference, October 21-13, 1994, San Francisco, CA. Audiotapes produced by Sounds True Recordings, 735 Walnut St., Boulder, CO 80302. Phone (303) 449-6229.
Seiber, Susan, National Cancer Institute, “Study Links DDT to Risk of Cancer,” The Associated Press, in The Register Guard, Eugene, OR, April 21, 1993.
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