SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 12, 2004 (ENS):
Many U.S. residents carry unsafe levels of pesticides
in their bodies, according to study released Tuesday
by the Pesticide Action Network. Children, women, and
Mexican Americans carry disproportionate levels of the
dangerous chemicals, many of which have been linked
to serious short term and long term health effects including
infertility, birth defects, and childhood and adult
The San Francisco based organization analyzed data
collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) for its "Second National Report
on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals."
The CDC study, released in January 2003, reported the
levels of 116 environmental chemicals - including 34
pesticides - in 9,282 people nationwide.
"None of us choose to have hazardous pesticides
in our bodies," said Kristin Schafer, Pesticide
Action Network (PAN) program coordinator and lead author
of the report. "Yet CDC found pesticides in 100
percent of the people who had both blood and urine tested."
PAN's report, called "Chemical Trespass: Pesticides
in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability," found
the average person in the study carried 13 of the 23
pesticides analyzed by the organization.
This finding supports the concern that Americans are
increasingly carrying what PAN describes as a "toxic
cocktail of pesticides."
"While the government develops safety levels for
each chemical separately, this study shows that in the
real world we are exposed to multiple chemicals simultaneously,"
said Dr. Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist at PAN,
which is a global network of grassroots organizations
that advocates alternatives to pesticide use.
"The synergistic effects of multiple exposures
are unknown, but a growing body of research suggests
that even at very low levels, the combination of these
chemicals can be harmful to our health," Reeves
More than 800 pesticides are licensed for use in the
United States and an estimated one billion pounds of
pesticide active ingredients are applied nationwide
Of concern to public health officials is their limited
knowledge about human exposure and health effects, in
particular among children, for the chemicals used in
In addition, the CDC said in its report last year that
the measurement of a pesticide or other environmental
chemical in a person's blood or urine does not indicate
a threat to human health.
Even the ability to test for these chemicals is limited.
The CDC says it can currently measure only 50 pesticides
or their metabolites in blood and urine samples.
But the potential for many pesticides to cause harm
is widely known, PAN contends, and its report paints
a worrying picture for children in particular.
For example, the CDC data analyzed by PAN found the
average six year old child sampled is exposed to the
organophosphorous pesticide chlorpyrifos at four times
the level the federal government considers "acceptable"
for long term exposure, according to the study.
Chlorpyrifos is an insecticide that has been on the
market for more than three decades - it kills insects
by disrupting their nervous systems.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricted
chlorpyrifos for most residential uses in 2000, but
the insecticide continues to be used widely in agriculture
and other settings.
It has been shown to disrupt hormones and interfere
with normal development of the nervous system in laboratory
A spokesman for Dow Chemical, the largest manufacturer
of chlorpyrifos, says the report overplays the concern
about the presences of this chemical - and other pesticides
- in blood or urine.
"When people are exposed, the product breaks down
rapidly and is eliminated from the body in a matter
of days," said Dow spokesman Garry Hamlin in a
"Chlorpyrifos has been the subject of more than
3,600 studies and reports evaluating it in terms of
human health and the environment," he said. "No
pesticide has been more thoroughly studied."
PAN's report also found that women have significantly
higher levels of three of the six organochlorine pesticides
This class of pesticides is known to have multiple
harmful effects when they cross the placenta during
pregnancy, including reduced infant birth weight and
disruption of brain development, which can lead to learning
disabilities and other neurobehavioral problems.
Mexican Americans carry "dramatically higher"
body burdens of chemicals linked to five of the 17 evaluated
pesticides in urine samples, according to PAN's analysis.
These pesticides include the insecticides methyl parathion,
lindane and DDT.
PAN's report contends that pesticide manufacturers
and the federal government are to blame for the problem
of pesticide body burden.
Manufacturers have aggressively promoted their products
and have spent "millions on political influence
to block or undermine regulatory measures designed to
protect public health and the environment," said
Skip Spitzer, corporate accountability program coordinator
The report calls on the U.S. Congress to investigate
the health concerns of the pesticide body burden and
the corporate responsibility of pesticide manufacturers
for this contamination.
It urges that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) ban use of pesticides known to be hazardous and
pervasive and immediately phase out all uses of chlorpyrifos
In addition, the report calls on the EPA to require
that manufacturers bear the burden of proof for demonstrating
that a pesticide does not harm human health before it
can be registered.
PAN program director Monica Moore said, "The fact
that our children carry dangerous pesticides in their
bodies represents a dramatic failure in the way our
government protects us from toxic pesticides."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights