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Update to the toxic pesticide acephate story of last week. Well, well, well.... Due to the big outcry after ProPublica's story exposing EPA's recent decision to relax standards and so allow much more of the toxic pesticide acephate in our food, the officials at the EPA changed their minds and now propose banning it! 

Acephate is an insect killer commonly used on celery, lettuce, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, and other fruits and vegetables, and residues stay on produce that we eat. It also contaminates drinking water. (It's used on non-organic crops, but it's not allowed to be used on organic crops.)

Propublica's story broke on April 24, 2024, and immediately afterwards there was outrage over the EPA's relaxing of the pesticide standards decision. This is because the FDA was totally ignoring years of scientific and medical research showing harms to humans, and only accepting and believing what the pesticide industry told them. It even ignored its own scientists and advisory groups.

Acephate is a pesticide known to be so harmful that it was BANNED in Europe more than 20 years ago, yet allowed in the US. A major reason: harmful effects on the developing brains of fetuses and children, and linked to autism, hyperactivity, and reduced scores on intelligence tests. In 2023, the CDC said that autism spectrum disorder rates have now increased to 1 out of every  36 births.

Now we wait and see: Will the FDA (once again) cave to industry or actually do what they are supposed to do - protect consumers? 

ProPublica is a non-profit investigative journalism site. The following are excerpts from their May 1, 2024 story on the FDA reversal. From ProPublica: EPA Proposes Ban on Pesticide Widely Used on Fruits and Vegetables

The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a proposal this week to ban a controversial pesticide that is widely used on celery, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. ...continue reading "The EPA Reverses Course and Now Proposes Banning Toxic Pesticide"

Once again the EPA is about to let us down - by not protecting us (the consumers) and giving in to big business. Against the advice of scientists and scientific advisory panels, the EPA is about to really relax standards for the toxic pesticide acephate.

This pesticide is an insecticide (kills insects) used on food crops, such as celery, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes. So when you eat non-organic produce, you will also be ingesting the pesticide. But... studies find it is linked to neurological harms (e.g., autism, reduced scores on intelligence tests, hyperactivity). It also causes harms to bees and other pollinators, fish, and other mammals.

How could this happen? The EPA is only relying on industry studies (notorious for being biased) and ignoring independent studies that find harms. The EPA is proposing allowing 10 times more on foods  than is now allowed. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) banned acephate 20 years ago!

The EPA also proposed relaxing standards for a similar pesticide - malathion. Nope, nope, nope - for all the same reasons .

Excerpts from the investigative news site ProPublica on April 24, 2024: 10 Times as Much of This Toxic Pesticide Could End Up on Your Tomatoes and Celery Under a New EPA Proposal

When you bite into a piece of celery, there’s a fair chance that it will be coated with a thin film of a toxic pesticide called acephate.

The bug killer — also used on tomatoes, cranberries, Brussels sprouts and other fruits and vegetables — belongs to a class of compounds linked to autism, hyperactivity and reduced scores on intelligence tests in children. ...continue reading "The EPA Proposes Relaxing Standards For A Toxic Pesticide"

For a while now researchers have been finding that certain environmental chemical exposures are linked to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. Frequent exposure to pesticides and heavy metal and VOC exposure in solvents (e.g., in woodworking) are linked to ALS.

A recent study found that storing chemicals such as gasoline, kerosene, gasoline-powered equipment, lawn care pesticides, paint, and woodworking chemicals in an attached home garage is also linked to a higher risk for ALS. These are toxic chemicals that are volatile - get into the air.

The researchers felt that not only did the persons with ALS have a history of exposure by working with the chemicals, the chemicals also leach into the air when stored in the home (the attached garage). Every time the door to the garage is opened, the chemicals in the garage air rush into the home.

Earlier studies found higher amounts of pesticides in people with ALS, as well as faster disease progression. Certain pesticides show up repeatedly in studies, including 2,4-D, glyphosate, carbaryl, and chlorpyrifos. Note that 2,4-D is in popular feed and weed products (and was in Agent Orange), and glyphosate is in the commonly used Roundup.

ALS is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease. There is progressive loss of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement and breathing.

From Science Daily: Chemicals stored in home garages linked to ALS risk

Over the last decade, researchers at University of Michigan continue to find that exposure to environmental toxins -- from pesticides used in agriculture to volatile organic compounds in the manufacturing industry -- is linked to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. ...continue reading "Pesticides and Other Chemicals Stored in Home Garages Linked to ALS Risk"

People don't realize the incredibly large amounts of pesticides applied to crops and soil in the US each year. Hundreds of millions of pounds! Which is the reason pesticides are found in our air, rain, water, soil, our foods, and in our bodies.

One of the pesticides that scientists are getting increasingly concerned with is the weed-killer glyphosate. It is the most used herbicide (weed-killer) in the world! It is found in Roundup, in non-organic crops, and even in genetically modified crops that are glyphosate resistant. Especially used on corn and soybeans, but also in a variety of crops (e.g., wheat, oats, cranberries, grapes, apples, beans).

The following story lays out the great amounts used in some states, especially in the midwest and southern states. Overall, an average of almost 130 pounds of glyphosate were sprayed per square mile in US counties each year.

But some counties had incredibly high amounts, such as Nueces County, Texas which has the highest use of glyphosate: more than 1,100 pounds sprayed per square mile. Iowa and Illinois (corn and soybean crops) accounted for 15% of national usage. The least was in northeastern (e.g., Massachusetts) and southwestern states (e.g., Nevada).

Evidence for health harms are increasing each year, such as an increased risk of cancer (e.g., non-Hodgkin lymphoma), premature births, endocrine disruption, and even disruptions of the gut microbiome (it kills beneficial microbes in the gut). The percentage of people with glyphosate detected in their urine, and the amount (concentration) has been rising over time. It can now be detected in almost all of us.

By the way, the EPA has raised "allowable limits" of glyphosate in foods over the years - when the pesticide industry asked for it. The US limits are much higher than those allowed in Europe - twice the levels! (Once again, in the US the EPA favors industry, not the people it's supposed to be protecting.)

This article is from October 2022, but it highlights  the incredibly high amounts of glyphosate applied in the US (see the good interactive map). Excerpts from NBC News: A potentially cancer-causing chemical is sprayed on much of America’s farmland. Here is where it is used the most.

Every day, farms across the country use a potentially cancer-causing chemical that is in the world’s most common weedkillers. And data shows that it’s most used in the Midwest and parts of the South. ...continue reading "Enormous Amounts of One Pesticide Used In the US"

It turns out that another nasty pesticide is found in almost all of us, which we get from the foods we eat. This is the pesticide chlormequat, which is known to have harmful health effects. The use of chlormequat is on the rise in North America and Europe, where it is applied to non-organic grain crops as a plant growth regulator.

A recent study found that the percentage of persons with detectable chlormequat in their urine, as well as the levels (concentrations) of chlormequat, have been increasing yearly since 2017 (start of the study), but with a significant increase in 2023. It was found in the urine of 90% of the people tested in 2023.

This is concerning because studies find that it can reduce fertility and harm the developing fetus - even at doses lower than what regulatory agencies view as "allowable daily intake levels". Unfortunately, the CDC does not do biomonitoring of chlormequat in humans - thus it is an under the radar pesticide (found in humans, but no one is officially monitoring it).

Currently it is only allowed on ornamental plants in the US, but in 2023 the EPA proposed allowing the use of chlormequat on barley, oats, triticale, and wheat grown in the US. It is already allowed on imported grain crops from Canada and Europe. One study found it in Quaker oats and oat products, and Cheerios.

In 2020 the US EPA also raised "allowable levels" of chlormequat in food (from 10 ppm to 30 ppm), which is reflected in the study results - 90% of people tested in 2023 had detectable levels of the pesticide in their urine, and in greater amounts (concentrations) than in prior years. Once again the EPA is "looking out for us" - NOT!

Bottom line: Eat as many organic foods as possible, including oats, barley, and wheat. This pesticide is not allowed to be used on organic crops. Changing to an organic diet quickly lowers chlormequat levels in the body.

From Phys.org: New study finds little-known toxic crop chemical in four out of five people tested

A new Environmental Working Group study has found chlormequat, a little-known pesticide, in four out of five people tested. Because the chemical is linked to reproductive and developmental problems in animal studies, the findings suggest the potential for similar harm to humans. ...continue reading "Another Harmful Pesticide In Our Foods"

People worry about breast cancer and whether exposure to chemicals "in the environment" can lead to breast cancer. According to many studies the answer is: YES, absolutely - and this is why they are called carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer). What are the chemicals?

A recent study found that 921 chemicals are likely "breast carcinogens" and thus increase the risk of breast cancer. Many of these are commonly used in everyday products, including personal care products. The authors also pointed out that this list of chemicals is incomplete because information is not publicly available on many additional chemicals . (Unfortunately, the EPA is not asking for more information and testing to be done on many chemicals.)

The authors of the study point out  that breast cancer is "both the most commonly diagnosed cancer type and leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide". So knowing which chemicals could potentially cause breast cancer is important. Some examples: phthalates, parabens, many pesticides, endocrine disruptors.

Bottom line: Read ingredient lists in order to avoid many problematic chemicals. For example; if you see parabens or phthalates listed (e.g., in lotion) - avoid those products. Avoid fragrances, stain repellents, antimicrobials. Eat as many organic foods as possible (to avoid pesticide residues in non-organic foods). [See more tips on avoiding toxic chemicals.]

Also, avoid using pesticides as much as possible, and instead use least toxic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or organic methods, both inside the home and outside.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: More than 900 common chemicals linked to breast cancer risk: Study

More than 900 chemicals commonly found in consumer products and the environment have been linked to breast cancer risk in a new study. ...continue reading "Hundreds Of Common Chemicals Are Linked to Breast Cancer Risk"

For years research has linked some pesticides and toxic chemicals with the development of Parkinson's disease. Recent research from the military base Camp Lejeune strongly suggests that one possible cause of PD is the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE). The drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with high levels of TCE and perchloroethylene (PCE) for 35 years at 280 times safety standards.

In the past century, TCE (and the similar chemical PCE) has had numerous industrial, consumer, military, and medical applications. For example, it is used in dry cleaning clothes, removing paint, as a degreaser, carpet cleaner, and engine cleaner. It even was used to produce  decaffeinated coffee in the past! It's still used today - much less in the US, but increasing in China.

The problem is that TCE is environmentally persistent, and contaminates soil, air, and water. Vapors from underground water and soil contamination seep out into homes, schools, and workplaces. It is known to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) and associated with numerous cancers and other health harms, including birth defects.

The neurologist Ray Dorsey (at Univ. of Rochester), who was part of a team looking at TCE and Parkinson's disease (see post), was recently interviewed about the research linking TCE and PD. One finding: there has been a major increase in Parkinson's disease in the past decades, making it the "world's fastest-growing brain disease".

What you can do: Dr. Ray Dorsey (and fellow researchers) feel that PD is preventable. (their book). He recommends that everyone, but especially all persons with Parkinson's disease, try to avoid pesticides as much as possible. For example, use a carbon filter for drinking water, eat organic foods, don't put pesticides on the lawn, etc.

Excerpts from Dr. Subramanian (Professor at UCLA) interview with Dr. Ray Dorsey, from the medical site Medscape: Is Most Parkinson's Disease Man-Made and Therefore Preventable?

Subramanian: I wanted to first highlight some of the work that has come out and gotten a large amount of media attention around Camp Lejeune and specifically trichloroethylene (TCE) as a cause of Parkinson's, and one of the environmental toxins that we talk about as something that is in pretty much everywhere. This paper came out, and you wrote a commentary in JAMA Neurology as well. Perhaps we can summarize the paper and its findings. ...continue reading "The Case For Some Toxic Chemicals Causing Parkinson’s Disease"

Once again a study looked at pesticide exposure in humans and found health problems. This time a study by Univ. Of California researchers looked at exposures to the commonly used pesticides 2,4-D and glyphosate, and found that they are associated with neurobehavioral effects in teenagers.

Neurobehavioral effects means there are effects on the relationship between the brain and nervous system and behavior. The study found that 2,4-D had significant effects on brain function - with lower performance on tests measuring attention and inhibition control, language, memory/learning, and visual-spatial processing, while glyphosate had effects on social perception.

Studies finding harmful health effects from both of these pesticides (e.g., cancer, neurological effects, endocrine disrupting effects) are increasing each year.

By the way, almost all of us have the herbicide glyphosate (found in Roundup) in our bodies. Most of us also have 2,4-D residues in our bodies because of its common use as a weed-killer, especially in Feed and Weed products (used on lawns) and in crops.

We get pesticides into our bodies through the foods we eat and drink, air we breathe, and skin contact. Pesticide exposure to glyphosate and 2,4-D is actually increasing due to the increased use in genetically modified (e.g., Roundup Ready) crops and "preharvest" use in conventional crops.

Bottom line: Try to lower your exposure to pesticides. Eat organic foods as much as possible. (Glyphosate and 2,4-D are not allowed in organic food production.) Avoid using pesticides on your lawn. Use least toxic Integrated Pest Management for control of pests indoors and outdoors. Leave your shoes at the door.

From Medical Xpress: Research suggests commonly-used herbicide is harmful to adolescent brain function

Herbicides are the most used class of pesticides worldwide, with uses in agriculture, homes and industry. Exposures to two of the most popular herbicides were associated with worse brain function among adolescents, according to a study led by researchers at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at University of California San Diego. ...continue reading "Commonly Used Pesticides and the Adolescent Brain"

Human male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Male reproductive health is a big deal, whether it's erectile dysfunction or sperm count and quality. A huge problem is that sperm count in men has been dropping rapidly over the past few decades, and studies find that this 50% drop is occurring globally. Two recent studies found that pesticides are playing a role in these problems.

The first study found that pesticides commonly used in our homes, gardens and lawns, as well as in our foods, are contributing to the huge sperm decline. The researchers reviewed studies looking at levels of 2 types of pesticides in men. They found that men with higher levels of organophosphates insecticides or carbamates (N-methyl carbamates) had lower sperm counts (sperm concentration).

The second study found that exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate pesticides was associated with the development of erectile dysfunction (ED). The higher the exposure levels (as measured in the person's urine), the greater the risk of ED. Erectile dysfunction is the difficulty of getting or keeping an erection.

Bottom line: Lower your pesticide exposures (and thus the amount of pesticides in your body) by not using pesticides routinely in your garden, lawn, or home. Instead, use least-toxic Integrated Pest Management in the home and garden, and avoid use of pesticides on lawns (view "weeds" and clover as wildflowers and a bee habitat). Also, eat as much organic food as possible.

1) From CNN: Common pesticides in food reducing sperm count worldwide, study says

 Pesticides used in our homes, gardens and lawns and sprayed on foods we eat are contributing to a dramatic decline in sperm count among men worldwide, according to a new analysis of studies over the last 50 years.

“Over the course of 50 years, sperm concentration has fallen about 50% around the world,” said senior study author Melissa Perry, dean of the College of Public Health at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. ...continue reading "Pesticides and Male Reproductive Health"

Buyer beware when it comes to lawn care services. Lately I've been seeing a number of lawn care companies saying they offer "organic-based" or "organic  weed-free lawn care" or "natural lawn care". Nope, nope, nope.

These companies do NOT provide organic lawn care. Instead it's the same old routine of using toxic pesticides disguised with organic, environmentally friendly buzzwords. And yes, these pesticides are harmful to adults, children, pets, wildlife, birds, bees, butterflies, and the environment.

How do you you know that they are not providing organic lawn care?

1) One big tip off is "weed free" lawns. Nope. A real organic lawn has diversity of plants - for example, clover.  Only toxic pesticides can give you the sterile carpet look. Yes, an organic lawn can be lush, beautiful, and green, but it's different than a sterile carpet with only 1 species of grass (a monoculture).

2) Another warning sign is that they routinely apply "preemergent herbicides" (weed-killers). Nope, nope, nope. For example, one popular herbicide used by such companies is 2,4,-D. This was one of the 2 pesticides used in Agent Orange, and yes - it sticks around. Yikes!

3) They use the word "organic-based". They generally use this only when discussing fertilizers. Hah! Talk is cheap. I haven't yet seen evidence of real organic fertilizers being used.

4) They will routinely schedule "insect control" - of course, by using toxic pesticides. If they were real organic, they wouldn't do that - it wouldn't be needed and/or desired.

By the way, pyrethroids are synthetic toxic pesticides - they are NOT from chrysanthemums and have different effects, such as being toxic to bees and butterflies, and with harmful effects on humans, especially children. They are not used in real organic lawn care. ...continue reading "Buyer Beware When It Comes to “Organic-Based” Lawn Care Services"