Friday, April 22, 2011

Kerala to mark April 25 as anti-endosulphan day

'The long standing request of a financial assistance and a rehabilitation package for the victims of endosulphan is yet to be granted by the centre. We are now told a new study team from Delhi is to arrive in the affected areas. In the past one decade several studies have been conducted. This is not acceptable and deplorable that yet another team is coming,' said Achuthanandan.

Thiruvananthapuram, April 20 - Ahead of an international convention in Switzerland, Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Wednesday said the state will observe anti-endosulphan day on April 25.

The announcement comes a day after the main opposition Congress urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that India supports the global ban on endosulphan at the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants to be held in Geneva April 25-29.

'An all-party delegation led by Health Minister P.K. Sreemathi would request Manmohan Singh to see that endosulphan is banned in the country,' said Achuthanandan.

The use of endosulfan at the estates of state-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala - in Kasargode district began in the early 1970s and continued till 2001.

About 500 deaths since 1995 have been officially acknowledged to be related to the spraying of endosulfan in about 11 villages. Unofficial estimates put the deaths since the late 1970s at around 4,000.

'The long standing request of a financial assistance and a rehabilitation package for the victims of endosulphan is yet to be granted by the centre. We are now told a new study team from Delhi is to arrive in the affected areas. In the past one decade several studies have been conducted. This is not acceptable and deplorable that yet another team is coming,' said Achuthanandan.

At least 81 countries have banned the chemical. Kerala and Karnataka have also banned endosulfan.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cancer risk doubled: Men's reproductive health jeopardized by pesticides

Cancer risk doubled: Men's reproductive health jeopardized by pesticides

From meager sperm counts to troubling prostate cancer risk, pesticides threaten men below the belt, which implies that regulations meant to keep pesticide use safe aren't working. 
Pesticides are a real buzz-kill when it comes to men's below-the-belt health. Mounting research shows certain bug, fungus, and weed killers wreak havoc on guys' hormonal systems, with some chemicals escalating male cancer risk while others sink sperm counts. A new study out of University of Southern California finds certain chemicals used to grow our food even increase the risk of prostate cancer.

""This is fairly compelling evidence that a number of chemicals widely used in the agricultural industry are strongly associated with prostate cancer occurrence,"" explains Myles Cockburn, PhD, assistant professor of research USC's department of preventive medicine.

""This tends to imply that our efforts to limit the dissemination of pesticide residuals into 'the environment' are ineffective."" That is, he says, while most of these chemicals are regulated to prevent groundwater contamination and airborne spread, this study implies that people are nevertheless being exposed, and at levels sufficient to cause harm.

The details: Cockburn's study found that different pesticides pose risks to men's health, and you don't have to live on a farm to be exposed. ""The most likely answer is that there is a complex interplay between genes and environment—for example, perhaps only those men with a specific genotype will develop prostate cancer when exposed to the pesticides we studied,"" explains Cockburn. ""If organic production became the norm, we'd also get rid of the exposures measured in this study—ambient pesticide occurrence,"" says Cockburn.

Methyl bromide, a fumigant being phased out due to its destruction of the ozone layer, can damage DNA. (Perhaps not much of an improvement, the replacement fumigant that will be pumped into the majority of strawberry fields in the country is the highly toxic methyl iodide.)

Looking at 173 men living in California's Central Valley, an area prone to pesticide use in agricultural fields, researchers mapped pesticide exposure through pesticide drift maps and found that men who were exposed to methyl bromide had a 62 percent higher risk of having prostate cancer.

Other organic chlorine pesticides actually fuel a gene that boosts the production of prostate cancer cells. In this study, men exposed to this class of bug-killing pesticides saw a twofold higher risk of developing prostate cancer when compared to men who were not exposed.

Captan, a fungicide used on about half of the apple orchards in the United States and most Florida strawberries, was associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer only at high doses.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Highly toxic chemicals found polluting West African coast

Africa coastline blighted by banned chemicals

by ClickGreen staff. Published Wed 06 Apr 2011 16:05, Last updated: 2011-04-06

An international team of scientists has found very high levels of carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) along the coasts of West Africa.

Production of these extremely toxic compounds has been banned in Europe and the United States for years. These harmful substances could come from the illegal dumping of waste or from an enormous ship breaking yard in Mauritania.

"We were not expecting to find such high levels of PCBs, highly toxic compounds that are considered as priority compounds by European legislation, in a region such as the western coast of Africa", Ailette Prieto, a researcher at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU-Spain) and co-author of the study.

PCBs, which some studies have shown to be carcinogenic compounds, were used years ago as dielectric fluids in transformers, condensers and coolants for various devices. However, their production was banned in the United States in 1979 due to their toxicity and persistence in the environment, and they were banned from 2001 onwards in countries such as Spain that signed up to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Compounds.

Now, the team led by researcher Rosalinda Gioia at Lancaster University, has shown that high concentrations of PCBs (between 10 and 360 picograms/m3) are found in some countries in West Africa, such as the Gambia and Ivory Coast, and all along this coast.

For this study, the scientists have carried out several years of research campaigns throughout the region over recent years, taking air samples from the German ship RV Polastern. They also gathered samples from land-based stations (Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Ghana), and used particle dispersion models to seek the possible sources of the contamination.

Gioia explains that the high levels of PCBs could come from more than one potential source – "the illegal dumping of waste containing these compounds – they can be released through volatilisation and uncontrolled burning – as well as the storage and scrapping of old ships". The study points particularly to the large ships' graveyard in the bay of Nuadibú (Mauritania), which is one of the largest in the world.

"Another possible source could be the burning of organic material from forest fires in the region, but we have ruled this out because such cases also release other contaminants (PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and we hardly detected any of these,” Prieto added.

The data for the study were collected in 2007 during the ship RV Polastern's scientific expedition from Germany to South Africa. The samples were collected using "sponges" that substances in the air stick to.

Subsequently, these samples were frozen and examined in European laboratories, including the Department of Analytical Chemistry at the UPV in Bilbao. The team repeated the expedition in November 2010, and the latest samples are currently being analysed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Survey identifies 4,000 victims of Endosulfan

Survey identifies 4,000 victims of Endosulfan
Roy Mathew

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Evidence is mounting on the ill-effects of Endosulfan sprayed on cashew plantations in Kasaragod district, even as the Union government continues to be ambivalent on the issue.

A survey done by the Health Department has identified nearly 4,000 victims after screening 16,000. The household survey and the screening done in 11 affected panchayats during December and January identified 3,937 victims, besides 336 in nearby panchayats. The numbers are likely to go up at least by 500 as the Health Department continues to receive complaints about non-inclusion on the list. The survey and accompanying studies officially confirmed the extent of damage done by the pesticide, which the Centre denies.

Mohammed Asheel, Assistant Nodal Officer of the Sneha Santvanam project, which is overseeing the remediation programme for the victims, says new cases will continue to be reported as the effects of Endosulfan will persist for another 20 years. The department has constituted an expert team to screen fresh cases.

Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar had maintained in Parliament that some States had opposed a national-level ban on Endosulfan. However, Right to Information activists have found out that no State government had so far written to the Centre opposing a ban. Only a few farmers and the ‘Endosulfan lobby' had argued against the ban. The Banerji Committee and R.B. Singh Committee, appointed by the Union government, had advised the government against use of Endosulfan near waterbodies.

Endosulfan is a broad-spectrum organochloride insecticide, which is very toxic to organisms and the environment. Studies in India and abroad had detected its residues in nearly 5,000 most widely consumed foods, including fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. High levels of residues were detected in all samples of cauliflower and brinjal taken in Ranchi (Jharkhand) in 2005. It has been found in grapes, guava, rice and mangoes in India (research studies by Shahi et al, Kumari et al, Singh et al, Jayashree and Vasudevan).

While acute toxicity from the chemical can cause death and several other problems, chronic exposure of smaller quantities of pesticide over a long period hits the immune, endocrine, reproductive and nervous systems, causing a wide range of problems. The health survey showed that 526 victims of Endosulfan in Kasaragod district were bedridden.