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Toxic insecticide carbofuran banned in US


19th June, 2009

Despite lobbying from the pesticide industry, the US Environmental Protection Agency has said it will continue with a ban on the toxic insecticide carbofuran.

The chemical, sold under the trade name Furadan by FMC Corporation, has had substantial documented effects on wild bird populations since its introduction in 1967.

In one staggering case in Linden, California, in 1990, the carcases of 30 mourning doves, 100 American robins, 200 European starlings, red-winged blackbirds and grackles, and 700-800 goldfinches, sparrows and house finches were recovered from a field following an application of liquid carbofuran.

The American Bird Conservancy, one of the NGOs that has pushed for the ban, welcomed the decision as ‘a huge victory for wildlife and the environment’. FMC Corporation plans to appeal the ruling.

The decision came as the UN followed through with a ban on the pesticide lindane as a persistent organic pollutant, under an international treaty known as the Stockholm Convention, although it drew back from levying a complete ban on DDT, the chemical highlighted by Rachel Carson in 1962 in her famous book, Silent

Elsewhere, however, new studies have shown that regulators are still underestimating the risk posed by pesticides.

Research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in March showed that when official EU computer models are applied to the herbicide metribuzin (known as Sencorex in the UK), the results vastly underestimate the concentrations of the chemical remaining in soils, where it can continue to degrade for five to six years.
More worryingly, a new analysis conducted by Professor Richard Sharpe of the Queen’s Medical Research Institute in Edinburgh for the UK-based CHEMTrust indicates that exposure to common environmental pollutants ‘probably accounts for a proportion’ of male genital and reproductive abnormalities, such as undescended testes and low sperm counts.

Sharpe says that the most urgent issue still to be resolved is whether phthalate plasticsoftening chemicals – the most common environmental pollutants – can cause male reproductive problems in humans, as they can in rats.

One week after the release of the CHEMTrust report, a US study that evaluated more than 1,300 mothers and fathers concluded that children whose parents use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides around the home are twice as likely to develop brain cancer than those whose homes are free of the substances. Read the study’s abstract.


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