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Jennifer Sass’s Blog

Prominent scientists support NRDC petition to ban Endosulfan

Jennifer Sass

Posted May 15, 2008 in Health and the Environment

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Today the very prominent Dr. Ronald Herberman, one of the worlds most prominent cancer researchers and Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute joined with NRDC and over fifty-five prominent international scientists, medical doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to support a ban on endosulfan in an open letter to the Administrator of the EPA.

Dr. Devra Davis, Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and author of When Smoke Ran Like Water and the recently released new book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, is also supporting a ban on endosulfan.

Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a pediatrician and Director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City is another of the many scientists supporting a ban on endosulfan.

These and many more public health experts all agree that it is time to say no, loud and clear, to this dangerous pesticide.

Endosulfan is a persistent, bioaccumulative, highly toxic pesticide. On that description alone it should be banned. In fact, the European Union and 20 other countries have already banned endosulfan. But, here in the U.S. about 1.4 million pounds of the chemical are used each year, primarily on cotton, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and potatoes according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

NRDC petitioned the EPA back in February to ban this 1950's hazardous pesticide. 

In a parallel effort, a large coalition of public interest groups sent a letter today to EPA with the same message.

These efforts were joined by Arctic tribal governments and Indigenous groups that sent their own letter highlighting the specific risks to Arctic human and wildlife populations from the atmospheric transport of endosulfan to Arctic regions distant from use areas. Residues of endosulfan have been detected in multiple human tissues including blood, fetal placenta, breast milk, and breast fat tissue of Arctic populations.

And, back in February the Pesticide Action Network North America submitted a letter to EPA signed by over 13,000 citizens supporting a ban.

On Thursday of this week, NRDC scientists and lawyers will join with Indigenous groups, environmental health experts, and worker protection advocates in a meeting with EPA officials to voice our strong and unwaivering opposition to endosulfan. 

Endosulfan is toxic to the nervous system and hormone systems. Health effects associated with endosulfan over-exposure include nausea, dizziness, convulsions in high doses, and death in extreme cases. Data from animal studies indicates it may damage the liver, kidneys, and testes. Severe affects, including birth defects and deaths, have been reported among workers and community residents in areas of India where endosulfan is routinely used.

Endosulfan's chemical cousins, the cyclodiene-like pesticides, have been either cancelled (toxaphene, mirex, kepone, dieldrin, aldrin, chlordane) or severely restricted (heptachlor) due to their hazardous nature. Yet, here in the U.S. endosulfan has been registered for use since the mid-1950s.

A editorial published this week by Jerold Schnoor, the editor of Environmental Science & Technology, called EPA "an Agency in crisis" that has abdicated its role as a protector of human health and the environment. Endosulfan could be added to the list of failures provided in the editorial.

EPA political appointees need to take a step back and let the science lead the way to health-protective regulations. Endosulfan is old-school chemistry and its time is up. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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