The vast majority of endangered animals and plants - 97% - are likely harmed by three commonly used organophosphate pesticides, according to a new analysis by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
That report is based on an assessment which, by the way, took the EPA over four decades to get around to, says Civil Eats senior reporter Elizabeth Grossman. Grossman explains that the Endangered Species Act requires EPA to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries any time it registers a pesticide in order to determine the pesticide's impact on a threatened species.
So far, this new endangered species assessment of chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon is the first of its kind, and Grossman says EPA only did it because it had to - after it was sued by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Now that the agency's findings on these pesticides have been released, no one should be surprised. Chlorpyrifos (often sold as Dursban) was banned for indoor use in 1999, and even though it was previously used inside schools, CE reports that the substance is now prohibited near schools, hospitals, homes and shopping centers. That’s because it's known to damage children's neurological development and adversely affect behavior.
Malathion and diazinon are also incredibly toxic. The chemicals — like the better-known glysophate used in Monsanto's RoundUp product — were recently classified by the World Health Organization as probable human carcinogens. Diazinon, discontinued for use on golf courses decades ago because it was killing birds, was finally taken out of retail use.
However all three of these poisons "are still widely used" on food crops, Grossman reports, and EPA says the "reach of their impact is extensive." Birds, fish and frogs are all threatened by exposure to the chemicals. Imperiled animals like lynx, black footed ferrets, Mexican grey wolves and other predators can also be poisoned when these chemicals enter the food chain.
Getting these poisons off the shelves and out of the environment could make a huge difference for imperiled wildlife. California condors were rescued from the brink of extinction when DDT was taken off the market.
You can protect imperiled wildlife. Sign this petition to call for a moratorium on all uses of these pesticides until and unless it can be proven they don't threaten imperiled wildlife.
To EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy:
I am writing to you concerned that EPA has ignored the effects of malthion, diazinon and chlorpyrifos on wildlife and plants and to ask for a moratorium on the sale of these chemicals until and unless it can be proven they don't threaten imperiled wildlife.
Those who understand how chlorpyrifos and other pesticides work know that they kill bugs by disrupting the proper function of their nervous systems - which work similarly in humans and other animals. Even though we know these cholinesterase inhibitors, when used on bugs, don’t normally kill humans (at least not quickly) because the amount used to kill bugs is usually less than what it takes to kill a human, it is also known that humans are adversely affected nevertheless, and high enough or multiple exposures can kill them also.
Furthermore, thanks to the work of University of Washington’s Clement Furlong, we learned decades ago that some humans - approximately 15% of the population - don’t have the liver enzymes needed to proper detoxify pesticides like chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and malathion. Later, in 2004, Furlong conducted research that showed children under 2 years old were particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of chlorpyrifos, and it was Furlong’s work that helped get Dursban out of schools and daycare facilities.
Because so much has been known about the adverse effects of these pesticides for so long, it seems incredibly negligent that the EPA would not have made the connection of harm to animals and plants and taken action long ago to protect especially our endangered species - not to mention susceptible children and adults who consume foods containing residues of these pesticides.
Therefore, I am calling on the EPA to place an immediate moratorium on all use of these organophosphate pesticides - known neurotoxins and probable human carcinogens - at least until these chemicals can be proven not to adversely affect our endangered species.
Thanks for your time.