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Pesticide Exposures - UK and International Policy Failings Georgina Downs Conference - Science, Medicine and the Law 1st February.

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Presentation on theme: "Pesticide Exposures - UK and International Policy Failings Georgina Downs Conference - Science, Medicine and the Law 1st February."— Presentation transcript:

1 Pesticide Exposures - UK and International Policy Failings Georgina Downs Conference - Science, Medicine and the Law 1st February 2005

2 Pesticides - Background Pesticides deliberately designed to be toxic - inherently hazardous to human health Safety Data Sheet warnings: Toxic by inhalation/do not breathe spray/may be fatal if inhaled/risk of serious damage to eyes etc. Over 50 years of scientific/medical evidence of dangers of pesticides/risks inherent in use/acute and chronic long-term effects that can result following exposure, including from Governments very own documentation ie. Safe use of Poisonous Chemicals on the Farm MAFF Avoid inhaling particles of any pesticide

3 Identifying Key Issues Current system fails to protect people in the countryside from exposure to pesticides Inadequacy of bystander exposure/risk assessments Mismatch and inconsistencies between the legislative requirement to protect workers and no protection for members of the public Inadequacy of current monitoring system and the role of the Pesticides Incident Appraisal Panel (PIAP)

4 Inadequacy of exposure/risk assessments Bystander model not appropriate for residents Bystander Predictive Model Assumes:- Occasional Short-term exposure Immediate spraydrift One pesticide only Can walk away Resident/neighbour Real-life exposure Reality:- Repeated/frequent Long-term exposure Pesticides in the air Mixtures Live in sprayed area


6 Not considered in current assessments Long term exposure to pesticides in the air (excluding spraydrift) Transportation - pesticides can travel for miles Exposure via:- volatilisation after application/ precipitation/harvesting dust/pollen/pesticides transported from outdoor to indoor air/environment etc. Vulnerable groups - babies, children, pregnant women, elderly, people already ill (interactions with medication) Mixtures - 4, 5 way mixes/other sources of exposure (ie. food residues, water, non-agricultural) all chemicals Exposure for dogs/cats and other domesticated animals -inhalation/ingestion from walking in sprayed fields etc.

7 Mismatch/inconsistencies between legislative requirement to protect workers and no protection for residents and bystanders Worker Legally allowed to know info. on chemicals/risks/effects Required to wear PPE to protect against droplets/particles/ vapours/dusts etc. Residents/bystanders Currently not entitled to know info. on chemicals/risks/effects No protection and yet breathing same droplets/particles/ vapours/dusts etc.

8 Inadequacy of current monitoring system and the role of PIAP HSE/PIAP only really set up to deal with incidents of acute exposure - no monitoring/ collection of data on chronic effects Full extent of ill-health related to pesticides not known - underreporting/misdiagnosis due to many factors including:- No knowledge of exposure/chemicals/that symptoms may be linked/no reporting/no investigation/lack of training for doctors Previous reports heavily criticized regulations/monitoring for pesticides (ie. BMA 1990/Select Committee on Agriculture 1987)

9 Ill-health reported by people living near sprayed fields Acute Sore throats/burning eyes, nose, skin/blisters/ headaches/dizziness/ nausea/flu-type illnesses May be correlation with safety data sheet warning Commonly dismissed by authorities as not related to pesticides - why? Chronic Clusters of cancers, leukaemia, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma/neurological effects/asthma/allergies Difficult to prove causation (years after exposure/mixtures/no chemical info. or even knowledge of exposure)

10 Ill-health reported by people living near sprayed fields (continued) Case example: cluster of 7 cancers in a row of approx. 10 houses that back onto sprayed fields - a 52 year old man was diagnosed with prostate cancer which had spread to his bones - he died within 2 years of diagnosis - years later the man who had bought the house was also diagnosed with prostate cancer and again by the time it was diagnosed it had already spread to his bones - therefore same house, different times Govs. Advisory Committee on Carcinogenicity recently acknowledged poss. link between prostate cancer + pesticides Govs Advisory Committee on Pesticides also recently accepted evidence of an association with Parkinsons Disease Pattern/clusters of illness reported in rural areas is a serious cause for concern and should be urgently addressed in relation to the potential association with pesticide exposure

11 Summary of other Key Points Responsibility/accountability and liability issues - buck- passing of the problem from one Government agency/authority to another with everyone just blaming everyone else 2003 DEFRA Consultation on crop-spraying - did not address the fundamental points of the case that had been presented regarding the bystander issue - turned into a self- fulfilling prophecy, as set up saying science not in question/determined by saying no new science presented Where is the evidence to support DEFRAs assertions that pesticides safe/no risk to people from crop- spraying/clusters of acute and chronic ill-health reported is not related? Royal Commission study on risks to people from crop- spraying - publish report in June

12 Pesticide Exposures for People in Agricultural Areas - International Ill-health reports - not only from the UK, but from all over the world - international problem/not just confined to UK/EU Regulations may differ slightly from country to country, but most follow the same/similar approach for the bystander model (ie. short-term exposure at time of application only) Regulatory authorities on an international scale have clearly overlooked a very significant exposure scenario in relation to people who actually live in agricultural areas and yet pesticides are not supposed to be approved for use until risk assessments have been undertaken to provide evidence that there will not be a health risk

13 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - France Mr. and Mrs. Obry live in Southern Brittany in the middle of fields that are regularly sprayed with mixtures of pesticides and other chemicals They have suffered, amongst other things, breathing problems, oedema, vertigo, loss of balance, muscle weakness, memory/concentration problems, persistent headaches/coughs, ezcema and joint pains They know of other residents in agricultural areas who are also affected

14 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - France Jean Claude Cauquil - beekeeper - set up association for anyone affected by agricultural pesticides - reports coming in of ill-health from all over France from both farmers and rural residents Illnesses and symptoms reported include, neurotoxic problems/leukaemia/various cancers/ Parkinsons/MS/male sterility/liver, lung and digestive problems Jean Claude has suffered oedemas/dry mouth/nausea/liver and neuromuscular problems following exposure to pesticides - wife and daughter also suffer the same effects French Government have repeatedly stated that no one else in Europe reporting problems - clearly not factually correct

15 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - Spain A gentleman who lives near San Pablo de Buciete on the outskirts of the Guadiaro valley, Spain - a major orange growing region - he would regularly suffer breathlessness, giddiness and general nausea following spraying of an orange grove approx. 1 kilometre away from his property 2 yrs ago the same farmer bought the land surrounding his property - in the field opposite alone planted 6,000 orange saplings - no warning is given, we just know to take cover and close the window when the whooshing starts. Both he and his wife suffered symptoms - his wife suffered headaches/abnormal tiredness/memory loss - local health centre said bronchitis/asthma - only after rushed to hospital with severe breathing problems was lung cancer diagnosed

16 Acute ill-health effects confirmed in agricultural workers - Netherlands A study published in 1997 entitled Acute work-related poisoning by pesticides in the Netherlands; a one year follow-up study - Meulenbelt J, de Vries I - The National Poisons Control Centre, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands Direct relation between exposure and acute effects in 37 of the 54 cases - symptoms included skin and/or eye lesions (23 cases) and systemic health effects (14 cases) In 79% of cases, splashing of pesticides or exposure to pesticides during agricultural spraying led to the effect(s)

17 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - Japan Following the article in the Observer on 13/4/03 I was contacted by a Dr. Kazuo Watanabe from the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Japan - he assists people suffering pesticide/chemical related ill-health - subsequently a petition was made to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) in Japan in order to limit pesticide application in residential areas MAFF issued a notice on 16/9/03 that stated Pesticides harm animals and human beings by scattering to the air. Recently a lot of people are complaining about their health damages caused by scattered pesticides..used at farms, around schools, nursery schools, hospitals, parks, roadside trees and residential areas.

18 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - Japan Dr. Watanabe recently sent me an anonymous example of a patient with pesticide and chemical related ill-health Some of the symptoms the patient describes following exposure to pesticides are intense giddiness, heavy headache, nausea, amnesia, a consciousness obstacle, as well as dyspnea, abnormalities of recognition and rigourousness of body.

19 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - California, US In one area in California, rural residents have reported that incidents of headaches, nausea, flu-like symptoms, asthma attacks and other effects have occurred every time pesticides have been applied on nearby fields (over a 16 year period) Clusters of chronic illnesses, including various cancers with increased cases of cancer deaths, miscarriages and deaths due to birth defects, amongst other things, have been reported in agricultural areas all over California - one person reported that almost their entire street was affected

20 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - California, US President of an organisation in California the Canaries Foundation that represents people who have been pesticide/chemically damaged, pointed out that people who have reported ill-health effects, …have been told over the years they should move, leave during applications, that they are too sensitive, that its all in their head and that there is no money for testing etc. Same as UK situation and in response to claims of individual all in the mind perceptions, the majority of people who contact me did not know anything about being exposed to pesticides until after they became ill - therefore this is definitely not that people are simply perceiving effects following awareness of exposure

21 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - North Carolina, US In North Carolina the Director of Protect All Childrens Environment in response to the launch of the UK DEFRA Consultation last year stated …to pretend that buffer zones are going to protect anyone, especially children or the chemically intolerant/disabled is absolute fiction. A representative from the pesticide regulatory authority in North Carolina recently confirmed that they do receive a number of reports of adverse health effects from both aerial and ground spraying - However, he went on to say that it is often very difficult to prove that it is related to any breach of regulations/law for them to enforce - same as UK

22 Conflicts of Interest - International In July 2003 Michael Meacher and Lord Whitty both raised concerns regarding the structure of UK Government advisory committees - A US Gov. report released in 2001 illustrated that this is also an international problem The General Accounting Office report found serious deficiencies in EPAs procedures for preventing conflicts of interest/ensuring a proper balance of views among members of science advisory panels - Henry A. Waxman, (ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee) who had requested the study stated The American people expect decisions that affect environmental and public health regulations to be based on unbiased science…But this GAO study reveals polluting industries are in a position to influence panel findings.

23 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada Sharon Labchuk, a pesticides campaigner on PEI has said that sickness relating to pesticides spraying is one of the top environmental issues on the island She says We do have high incidences of many diseases here - asthma is highest in Canada, spina bifida is more than twice the national average, cancer is higher than the national average and people in the field say learning disabilities are sky high too.

24 Ill-health reported by people in agricultural areas - Saskatchewan, Canada Paule Hjertaas - a pesticides campaigner in Saskatchewan, Canada - many people have contacted her reporting both pesticide exposures and acute and chronic long-term illnesses and diseases in rural communities - informally collecting cases/incidents for several years Eg. an organic farmer noticed 3 cases of babies born with brain cancer in his area a year after widespread aerial spraying - the provincial epidemiologist discounted these cases, because they were not the same type of cancer and said that the population of the area was too small to draw any conclusions from Fundamental point in relation to the issue of pesticide related ill- health, as how can illnesses be prevented if doctors do not address the potential causes? - Ontario pesticides literature review took a markedly different approach, as primary concern was to prevent illness rather than treat people once already ill

25 Legal issues/difficulties - International Niel Halford - barrister and solicitor who takes on a number of cases of spraying incidents per year on a pro bono basis in Saskatchewan, Canada In a typical spraying case (that has resulted in contamination of neighboring property/land) Mr. Halford says The sprayer…assures us that he took great care, that he has special training. And he says the spray was harmless in any event……In my experience there are no sprayers who acknowledge that they have caused any problems with their spraying. I have not come across even one in more than 20 years of practicing law in rural Saskatchewan.

26 Violation of Human Rights The WHO EU Charter on Environment and Health states that:- Every individual is entitled to an environment conducive to the highest attainable level of health and well-being and that the health of every individual, especially those in vulnerable and high risk groups must be protected. Current system violates fundamental Human Rights - natural peaceful enjoyment of property etc. - Government failed to stop infringements of these rights by not acting to stop exposure of people Regulatory action (by UK Gov. depts./the EU Commission/EU Member State governments) to ban products on a precautionary basis simply because hazardous has been upheld as lawful by the English Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) BSE case (Case C-180/96 UK/NI V Comm. [1996] ECR ) the Comm. decision upheld by ECHR - Where there is uncertainty as to the existence of risks to human health, the institutions may take protective measures without having to wait until the reality and seriousness of those risks becomes fully apparent.

27 Summary of UK pesticide policy failings In the light of the European Convention of Human Rights Act 1998, failure to stop infringements of Human Rights by not acting to stop exposure of people Failure to adopt an adequate system for provision of information to the public in breach of their convention rights, particularly their article 8 rights Failure to use an adequate measure of exposure (ie. inadequacy of bystander risk assessment in relation to the exposure scenario of residents and neighbours) Failure reasonably to examine the synergistic effects of multiple exposures to different pesticides Failure to record or examine adequately cases of chronic exposure/illness Failure to act on information/evidence regarding exposure/risks to people in countryside from crop-spraying

28 Conclusion Origins of traditional farming methods did not rely on chemical inputs - use of pesticides has resulted in devastating consequences for health/animals/wildlife/water/soil/food and the wider environment - massive economic/financial implications for all parties (except pesticide industry) -impossible to quantify A long-term approach is needed, rather than inadequate measures aimed at addressing problems only in the short-term - this problem is not going to be solved by simply a little first aid or by papering over the cracks, as the whole core foundations and structure on which the current regulatory system operates is inherently flawed Royal Commission on Environmental Pollutions 2003 chemicals report stated -We believe that only a substantial paradigm shift will begin to rectify this situation and we believe that such a shift needs to be made now.

29 What should be done? Protection of public health has to be the overriding priority and take absolute precedence over any financial, economic or other considerations Members of the public deserve to be protected from avoidable/unnecessary exposures/risks to their health Substantive evidence already exists to demonstrate a serious public health problem - significance of these consequences requires adoption of a preventative approach Only responsible course of action for EU and UK Gov. to take is an immediate ban on crop-spraying near homes, schools, workplaces/any other places of human habitation and direct access for the public to all the necessary chemical information - only overall solution is widespread adoption of sustainable non-chemical/natural methods to protect public health/wider environment now and for future generations

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