Posts tagged: pesticides

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
17 February 2012, 4:57 AM
Strawberry pesticides, explosive ag waste, greening Guantanamo
Photo courtesy of shrff14

College students crush plastic water bottles, industry wines
As banning bottled water becomes the cause du jour amongst college students, the bottled water industry is crying over spilled water, reports NPR. Everywhere from San Francisco to national parks like the Grand Canyon, cities and community members are considering banning plastic water bottles, which contribute to landfill waste, are rarely recycled, and whose purity is suspect. And now college campuses are jumping onto the bottled-water-banning bandwagon, with more than 20 schools signing on to complete or partial bans on plastic bottles brimming with H20. That has the International Bottled Water Association, an industry trade group, upset about “misinformation" and what it deems a war on freedom of choice. It even released a video to show college kids how silly they are for spending time on environmental issues like banning bottled water. Check it out: 

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
16 February 2012, 2:33 PM
California counties ban methyl iodide as the state awaits court’s decision

This week, Monterey County, California gave a better-than-roses Valentine’s Day present to its roughly 415,000 residents. Following in the footsteps of Santa Cruz County, its neighbor to the north, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to ask Gov. Jerry Brown to review the approval of the toxic fumigant methyl iodide.

Methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, is most threatening to the men and women who work in California’s strawberry fields where the majority of the pesticide will be applied. Those farm workers risk eye irritation, nausea, central nervous system disorders, late-term miscarriages and cancer. California accounts for about 80 percent of the nation’s strawberry crop, and Monterey and Santa Cruz counties are home to a large portion of the state’s strawberry farms.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
02 December 2011, 12:40 PM
Turtle bones get brittle, fat rat dilemma
The supposedly "green" Bank of America has been lending billions to the coal industry. Photo courtesy of Alex E. Proimos.

Report finds allegedly “green” banks finance dirty coal
A recent investigation by a group of non-governmental organizations found that a number of supposedly “green” banks fall into the top 20 institutions to finance coal-mining and coal-fired energy generation, reports the UK Guardian. Taking the first three places is JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America, which together have provided at least $42 billion to the coal sector since 2005. Since coal is one of the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive energy sources out there, it’s fair to say that the new report puts the banks’ supposedly green credentials into question. No matter how many wind and solar projects they highlight in the public eye, at the end of the day lending money to an industry that’s literally burning up humanity's chances to avoid catastrophic climate change is neither a green nor smart investment choice.

PCBs stunt turtle bone growth
PCBs, those long-forgotten but deadly chemicals that were banned by the U.S. in 1979, are causing stunted growth and low bone-density in turtles, reports Discovery News. The chemicals, once used in pesticides and industrial fluids, have been linked to slower growth rates, tumors in mink jaws and deformed heads in zebrafish in previous studies. But a new study, that exposed diamondback terrapin turtle eggs to a PCB dose that's equivalent to what they would encounter in the environment, stunted the turtles growth and left their bones weak. Though the results are preliminary, the study may have implications for humans since our bones grow similarly to turtles and since we too are exposed to low amounts of lingering PCBs. Said Don Tillitt, an environmental toxicologist, “When we see effects like this, we know there are things that are maybe more insidious. It's a good reminder that we have to be on guard."

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View Matthew Gerhart's blog posts
10 October 2011, 2:25 PM
Pesticide is devastating to humans, animals
Chlorpyrifos spraying. Photo courtesy of

You've probably never heard of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos. But, according to CDC data, you probably have chlorpyrifos in your body—because you probably have been regularly exposed to it since you were developing in the womb.

Chlorpyrifos is part of a class of pesticides, the organophosphates, that are most frequently reported as the cause of acute poisonings of farm workers. It is one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that every year farmers apply more than 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos on dozens of crops, ranging from apples and broccoli to walnuts and wheat.

Earthjustice has filed a series of lawsuits over chlorpyrifos, and one of the cases forced the EPA to update its analysis of the impacts of chlorpyrifos. The EPA released that analysis this summer, and we submitted comments on Thursday.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
30 September 2011, 12:17 AM
Clean air haters, Yellowstone meltdown, killer cantaloupe
Photo courtesy of sk8geek

Monsanto’s new broccoli designed to fight company’s own environmental pollution
Perhaps dismayed by the public’s outcry to genetically engineered (GE) crops and their environmental effects, last October America’s favorite biotech company, Monsanto, released a non-GE product that combines two different types of broccoli to create a sort of super broccoli that’s chock-full of nutrients, reports Grist. The problem, of course, is that broccoli is already considered a super food. According to the USDA, one medium stalk provides 200 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, 16 percent of recommended dietary fiber, and 10 percent of recommended vitamin A in the form of betacarotene. Broccoli also contains folate, potassium and several other minerals, providing 6 percent of daily calcium and 4 percent of daily iron needs. Heck, it can even prevent cancer. Talk about fixing something that ain't broken.

In addition to silly redundancy, Monsanto’s desire to provide a vegetable that helps “maintain your body’s defenses against the damage of environmental pollutants and free radicals,” is just plain ironic, as Grist cleverly points out, considering that the company’s cash cow—herbicides—have been shown to cause some of the very illnesses that eating broccoli can prevent. If selling a product that causes illness and then turning around and selling another product to prevent that illness seems, well, wrong, then it won’t be much of a surprise to find out the rest of Monsanto’s seedy past.

Climate change threatens Yellowstone National Park
Within the next century, Yellowstone National Park may be as hot as the LA suburbs thanks to climate change, reports Reuters. A recent study by Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and Greater Yellowstone Coalition found that warming in Yellowstone, one of the world’s last largely intact ecosystems, is likely to increase wildfires, kill large swaths of trees and damage areas vital to grizzly bears and other threatened species. And, as a vacation hotspot for tourists, failing to reverse the warming trend could put a dent in the region $700 million annual tourism economy. Despite the dismal predictions, the good news is that there’s still time to make choices that will influence how climate change effects Yellowstone, like preserving wildlife corridors and increasing resilience to damaged habitats. Earthjustice is working hard on both of these fronts in the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million-acre expanse of land that encompasses some of the largest blocks of wilderness in the contiguous United States, including Yellowstone. See for yourself what we’re protecting

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
23 September 2011, 9:59 AM
Pesticide tee-off, climate change revival, organic strawberry fake out
Mmmmmm, bacon. Photo courtesy of robotsari

Chinese food regulations go down the gutter
Some restaurants in China are taking Mom’s sage advice to reuse the bacon grease to a new, hazardous level, reports Time magazine. Recently, Chinese authorities announced a crackdown on so-called “gutter oil,” the resale of used cooking oil that’s been snagged from sewers or complacent restaurant owners. In addition to the “ew” factor, eating food cooked in gutter oil can cause some serious health problems like an increased risk of liver cancer, caused by fungus-tainted oil. According to the police, a six-month investigation in China turned up 100 tons of gutter oil being processed for resale, and broke up six illicit oil recyclers, including a biodiesel company that was secretly processing oil to be sold back to food markets, not biodiesel stations.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
09 September 2011, 4:33 AM
Dalai Lama displeasure, nature’s sunscreen, lice treatment overkill
Bankers on Wall Street may be driving up gas prices. Photo courtesy of epicharmus

Wall Street speculation increases gas prices
Subscribers to the “drill, baby, drill” mantra may want to set their sights on bankers rather than environmentalists as the culprits driving up gas prices, reports Mother Jones. According to confidential regulatory data first leaked to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Wall Street speculators that hold investments in millions of barrels of oil helped artificially raise the price of gas to $4 per gallon in 2008. To put a stop to that practice, Sanders recently introduced legislation that would “set firm speculation rules for crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heating oil” designed to “diminish, eliminate or prevent excessive speculation,” reports Mother Jones. Of course, if passed the legislation will do nothing to stem the tide of all of the external costs of gas consumption—like increased asthma attacks and carbon pollution—but at the very least it will put a bee in the bankers’ bonnet of dubious business practices.

Coral could be key to sunscreen pill
In just a few years, sun worshippers tired of slathering sunscreen all over their pasty bodies before heading to the beach may be able instead to pop a pill that comes straight from the ocean, reports Mother Nature Network. Scientists have long known that coral reefs, which need sun for photosynthesis, make their own sunscreen to protect themselves against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Better yet, the fish that feed on the coral also get the sunscreen benefits. Recently, researchers at King’s College London cracked the code on the amazing genetic and biochemical processes behind this sunscreen compound and eventually hope to create a synthetic version of this compound for humans. Says project leader Dr. Paul Long, “We are very close to being able to reproduce this compound in the lab, and if all goes well we would expect to test it within the next two years.” Surf’s up! 

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
25 August 2011, 10:23 AM
Internal documents reveal toxic secrets behind approval of methyl iodide

Applying a cancer-causing poison on California’s farm fields sounds like some dastardly plot hatched by a Batman super-villain. Unfortunately, reality is often scarier than fiction.

In December 2010, the state approved the known carcinogen methyl iodide for use on the farm fields. Yes, you read that right—a chemical that actually causes cancer was approved to be applied on the fields that grow the Golden State’s prized crops.

Earthjustice promptly filed a lawsuit in January challenging the state’s approval of the toxic pesticide. Because of that lawsuit, Earthjustice recently obtained internal documents detailing dire warnings about methyl iodide from scientists at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Unfortunately, those warnings fell on deaf ears and then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved methyl iodide for use.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 August 2011, 7:15 AM
Genetically modified dilemma, school energy savings
Monsanto's herbicide harms crops genetically modified to resist it. Image courtesy

Monsanto's herbicide harms plants it's meant to protect
Monsanto’s popular herbicide Roundup may be harming more than just weeds, reports Reuters. A recent study by US Department of Agriculture microbiologist Bob Kremer found that repeated and widespread use of Roundup, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, on crops genetically engineered to withstand the pesticide is harming both the soil and the plants, and potentially reducing crop yields. Unfortunately, Kremer isn’t the only researcher to find problems with glyphosate. Over the years, other researchers have linked glyphosate use to “cancer, miscarriages and other health problems in people and livestock.”
Despite these concerns, the government has continued to green-light so-called Roundup Ready crops like genetically engineered sugar beets, adding to the already long list of staple food items that now dominate American supermarkets. According to the Center for Food Safety, more than half of all processed food in U.S. grocery stores—items like cereals, corn dogs and cookies—contain genetically engineered ingredients. Says Earthjustice’s Paul Achitoff, who is currently litigating against the government’s approval of GE sugar beets and alfalfa:

"The main problem for the public at large is increased chemicals in the environment. But you also have consumers’ as well as farmers’ choices being adversely affected. Nobody really wants Monsanto controlling their diet, but that is in fact what’s happening."

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
29 July 2011, 1:48 PM
"This technology is a one-trick pony."
George Kimbrell, staff attorney at Center for Food Safety, is serving as co-counsel in Earthjustice’s genetically engineered sugar beet and alfalfa work.

Intro: This is the final part in a series of Q & A's on genetically engineered food, which harm the environment by increasing pesticide use, creating pesticide resistant superweeds and contaminating conventional and organic crops. Earthjustice is challenging the USDA’s decision to allow genetically engineered sugar beets and alfalfa onto the market. To learn more, check out our GMO web feature.

EJ: Are GE foods safe?  

GK: In regards to health, this is a novel technology that is an ongoing experiment on the human population. You’re taking a gene from a species that could never cross in nature and you’re crossing it with a very foreign species. For example, you’re taking a gene from say, a flounder, and you’re inserting it into a tomato to make it more cold resistant. A flounder and a tomato are never going to get together in the natural world. It’s very different than conventional breeding where you’re breeding two types of corn to try to improve the different traits in your corn crop. And because we don’t require labeling of GE foods, we really can’t identify any potential toxicity or health concerns that might arise. Basically we have a lot more unknowns than knowns with regards to the potential human health impacts of GE food.

There are also environmental impacts. Eighty-five percent of these crops are pesticide-promoting crops. The companies that make them, chemical companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont and Dow, sell more of their flagship products, pesticides, by making these crops. These crops don’t help us feed the world, they don’t help us fight climate change, and they don’t help us better the environment. They just increase pesticides. That’s what they do. This technology is a one-trick pony.

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