Canada, October 5, 2004 (ENS): The U.S. representatives
to a tri-national taskforce meeting last week in Montreal
announced plans to allow continued use of the pesticide
lindane in the United States.
By contrast, Canada plans to eliminate agricultural
uses by the end of 2004 and Mexico has declared as a
goal a full phase out of agricultural, veterinary and
pharmaceutical uses of the pesticide.
Representatives from the three countries met in Montreal,
Canada through September 28 to 30 to draft a North American
Regional Action Plan for lindane through the Commission
for Environmental Cooperation of North America established
under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Public health, indigenous and environmental groups
say the Bush administration policy disregards their
objections to lindane, a neurotoxic chemical that is
banned in 17 countries.
“The U.S. position allowing continued use of
lindane is downright shameful,” said Pam Miller,
the official nongovernmental organization representative
on the task force and executive director of Alaska Community
Action on Toxics, who was in the meeting last week.
“The U.S. should take a lead role in getting rid
of this old and dangerous chemical, not lag behind the
rest of the world.”
Lindane is a neurotoxin that causes seizures, damages
the nervous system, and weakens the immune system. Exposure
may cause cancer and disrupt animal hormone systems.
Because lindane is persistent and travels globally
via air and water, its continued use in agriculture
poses an exposure risk to people far from the source.
Lindane is now one of the most abundant pesticides
in Arctic air and water, and northern indigenous peoples
are exposed through their traditional diets. Lindane
residues have been reported in a variety of common foods
in the United States.
Fifty-eight public health, indigenous and environmental
organizations have sent a joint letter to U.S. agency
officials and task force members urging the elimination
of lindane. More than 400 U.S. health care professionals
sent a similar letter.
Environmental NGOs have submitted a request to Bayer
CropScience asking for a voluntary withdrawal of lindane
products from the North American market. Bayer recently
acquired Gustafson LLC, the primary distributor in the
U.S. of lindane seed treatment products.
Internationally, lindane is included the Prior Informed
Consent list of the Rotterdam Convention.
“This old, bioaccumulative pesticide damages
human nervous and immune systems and is linked to cancer,”
said Kristin Schafer, program coordinator for Pesticide
Action Network North America. “The U.S. must reconsider
its position and eliminate both pharmaceutical and agricultural
uses of lindane to protect public health.”
Pharmaceutical use of lindane also contaminates drinking
water sources. The Los Angeles County Sanitation District
estimates that one dose of a lindane treatment for head
lice can pollute six million gallons of water to levels
exceeding drinking water standards. This threat to clean
drinking water, and the enormous costs of clean up,
prompted California to ban lindane shampoos and lotions
“As a pediatrician in California where pharmaceutical
lindane use has already been banned, I know that more
effective and less toxic treatments exist for headlice,"
said Mark Miller, MD, director of the University of
California at San Francisco Pediatric Environmental
Health Specialty Unit, an academic representative to
the task force who attended the meeting.
"Children are particularly vulnerable to this
chemical that presents a danger to the young nervous
system," said Miller.
The 2002 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Re-registration
Eligibility Decision allows lindane to be used as seed
treatment for six grain crops - corn, wheat, barley,
oats, rye, and sorghum. These seed treatments account
for 99 percent of lindane use in the United States.
The North American Regional Action Plan for lindane
is scheduled to be open for public comment in January