Friday, August 03, 2012

No Mosquitoes For Heritage Days or the Edmonton Folk Festival - How About Cancer?

heritage days is upon us in edmonton and cancer is in the air...but at least the mosquitoes won't be.

according to the city of edmonton mosquito control program,
Over a typical spring and summer season, our control methods achieve over 90% reduction of nuisance Aedes [ey-ee-deez - the genus to which mosquitoes belong] which develop in the breeding sites we are able to treat. Proper treatment of Aedes breeding sites with the conventional insecticide Dursban® reliably causes 100% larval mortality under all known habitat conditions.
there was a story on cfrn today, one of the local news stations here, about mosquito spraying, and not a word was mentioned about the safety of the chemicals used. the only message conveyed to the viewer was that we need to keep the buzzing little buggers away for heritage days.

and why? well let me guess, so people will spend lots of money? come on media, do your job! how safe are these chemicals?

well let's find out.

what exactly is dursban?

Dursban (also marketed as Lorsban) is the brand name for an organophosphate pesticide with the active ingredient chlorpyrifos (chlor- [Chlorine] + pyridine [A colorless volatile liquid, C5H5N, with an unpleasant odor, present in coal tar and used chiefly as a solvent] + -fos [alteration of phosphorus]) that kills by attacking the nervous system. Organophosphates were first developed by Nazi scientists as chemical warfare agents in the 1930s. Dow sells US $500 million worth of Dursban every year worldwide. It is used for killing termites, cockroaches, ants, fleas, and of course mosquitoes.

is it safe? 

Dursban is extremely dangerous:
• Dursban is a nerve toxin and suspected endocrine disruptor with the potential to alter and interfere with the hormonal systems of insects, wildlife, and people.
• Dursban causes neurological damage to children and can result in blurred vision, fatigue, muscle weakness, memory loss and depression.
• Dursban has been associated with carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and acute toxicity.
• Dursban can cause multiple chemical sensitivity, neurobehavioral problems and peripheral neuropathy.
• Exposure to Dursban during the first trimester of pregnancy has been associated with birth defects.
• Dursban accounted for 7,000 accidental pesticide exposures reported to US Poison Control Centers in 1996 (the most recent year for which data is available).
• On June 8, 2000 the U.S Environmental Protection Agency recommended a ban on virtually all uses of Dursban in residential and commercial buildings in the U.S. The ban was based on the reported chronic effects of Dursban and especially effects on the brains of growing children.

it is children who will be most at risk to the harmful effects of pesticides like dursban. after spraying this chemical on the grass at hawrelak park, who is going to be closest to the ground, playing and rolling around over this heritage day long weekend? the kids!

parents, aren't you more concerned about the dangers these chemicals pose to your children than about some annoying mosquitoes? there are non-toxic, eco-friendly sprays you can buy to keep the bugs away, such as Burt's Bees Herbal Insect Repellent or Great Outdoors Citronella Spray, which are safe and not tested on animals. why would you allow your children to be poisoned by toxic sprays?

in a story from bloomberg news dated april 30, 2012, Pesticide Exposure in Utero Linked to Brain Concerns, it was reported that a study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed,
prenatal exposure to the chemical, included in Dow Chemical Co. (DOW)’s pesticide Dursban, is linked to structural changes in the brain 5 to 10 years after exposure, said Virginia Rauh, the lead author.
Areas of the brain related to attention, language, reward systems, emotions and control may be affected by the chemical, the researchers found. The study also showed that high-exposure children didn’t have expected sex differences in their brains, which may affect their hormones and behavior as they get older, Rauh said .
Dursban and its Chlorpyrifos residues can remain in the environment for 5-10 years after use. a report by the Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment stated that,
studies have shown that the common degradation pathway for chlorpyrifos involved the formation of TCP (1,2,3-Trichloropropane, a chemical compound that is commonly used as an industrial solvent. Although it is not currently labeled as a contaminant by the United States federal government, new research shows that it could have severe health effects. Currently, only California has significant regulation on this compound). TCP has a half-life ranging from 65 days to 360 days in the soil, so it is relatively stable in various soils after formation. It was reported that TCP is more toxic than chlorpyrifos, and TCP is more polar than its parent compound chlorpyrifos, so TCP moves through the soil to ground and surface water more easily than chlorpyrifos.
but health canada says it's safe.

yea well, health canada says a lot of things. on the city of edmonton website it states,
All products used for the City's mosquito control program are approved by Health Canada and deemed safe for their intended use.
safe? so safe that mosquito control staff must wear respirators and full-body protective clothing when spraying. here are some of the safety precautions from the dursban label,
a city worker spraying harmful toxins into the environment
  • use suitable protective gloves when handling the concentrate 
  • wear suitable protective clothing
  • when using do not eat, drink or smoke
  • do not breathe spray
  • wash hands and exposed skin before meals and after work
  • keep livestock out of treated areas for at least 14 days after treatment
  • dangerous to bees. do not apply to crops in flower or to those in which bees are actively foraging. do not apply when flowering weeds are present
  • do not allow direct spray from broadcast air-assisted sprayers to fall within 18 meters of the top of the bank of a static or flowing water body. aim spray away from water
  • do not allow direct spray from horizontal boom sprayers to fall within 5 meters of the top of the bank of a static or flowing water body or within one meter of the top of a ditch which is dry at the time of application
  • do not allow direct spray from hand-held sprayers to fall within 1 meter of the top of the bank of a static or flowing body of water. aim spray away from water
here is some of the risk and safety information,
two poor saps unwittingly get ready to poison themselves & others
  • marine pollutant
  • harmful
  • dangerous for the environment
  • flammable
  • harmful by inhalation and if swallowed
  • irritating to eyes respiratory system and skin
  • harmful: may cause lung damage if swallowed
  • very toxic to aquatic organisms. may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment
  • keep away from food, drink and animal feeding stuffs
  • use appropriate containment to avoid environmental contamination
i don't know about you, but to me this doesn't sound like a very safe product. the city's website for mosquito control also boasts that,
The City of Edmonton is one of the few major cities in Canada to have a mosquito control program.
ooh, what vanguards! in fact, many other cities in canada and the united states used to have mosquito control programs, but their citizens realized that the dangers far outweighed any benefits and demanded chemical spraying be halted. in the bloomberg article mentioned above, it also stated that while the pesticide is still used in agricultural settings, it was banned for use in residential areas 12 years ago. not in edmonton however,  where a good number of people still choose to remain in ignorance and in fact believe we need to spray more dursban because, "this mosquito season is ridiculous". good grief!

but let me give you just one illustration of why health canada can't be trusted to be an unbiased party when it comes to the health of canadians versus the well being of powerful corporations, like the oil and gas industry for example. according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information there are more than 1,400 known pollutants emitted by oil sands operations. yet,
...the Royal Society of Canada panel’s conclusion of no serious current health problems caused by oil sands operations, is [because of] the inadequacy of some current health standards, says Dr. Kevin Timoney, an ecologist and principal investigator with Alberta-based Treeline Ecological Research. For instance, he says Health Canada’s guideline for mercury in fish is much higher than that of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and there are no guidelines for important pollutants such as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in sediment that can get into fish and drinking water. In addition, he says that “standards and guidelines are only useful if they are followed and enforced. Enforcement is the exception rather than the rule.”
do your own investigative research into the safety of something before taking the government's word on it. you may just discover that your elected officials are not being entirely forthright with you.

and further, what are the effects when dangerous chemicals like chlorpyrifos are combined with other harmful substances, for example vehicle exhaust or cigarette smoke? one study entitled Cancer Incidence Among Pesticide Applicators Exposed to Chlorpyrifos and published in the oxford journal of medicine found that,
In all cases, the rate ratios [for lung cancer] associated with combined exposure were higher than the rate ratios for each individual agent. 
seems like an important factor to consider.
should edmonton continue to spray this harmful chemical?

no! but in a city located in a province with the biggest environmental disaster on the planet, the tar sands, spewing toxins into the air and athabasca river system every day; or in a city that refuses to implement a no idling bylaw for vehicles because according to the mayor it may "annoy people"; or in a city that has a perpetual pall of smog around refinery row choking those who live nearby with the stench of oil and gas; or in a city where huge gas guzzling pickup trucks seem to be the transportation of choice...
i hardly think they will stop spraying a harmful chemical that can keep mosquitoes at bay for a while.

don't we have a right to know exactly what is being sprayed into the air we breathe, when and where and in what quantities? show us the independent peer reviewed studies that have been done illustrating that these chemicals are not harmful to people or the environment. and i'm not talking about those done by monsanto or dow chemicals who clearly have a vested interest in keeping these products in use.

the makers of these dangerous pesticides rely on our continued ignorance and apathy to keep their products on the market and to keep individuals and municipalities using them. their concern is not for the safety of people or the health of the ecosystem. their concern is for one thing and one thing only, to make a profit for themselves and their shareholders.

sure dursban kills mosquitoes, but once the truth is revealed through hard facts and scientific evidence about the detrimental effects to the environment and people's health, it's time to put an end to it and say, "no more."

in addition, when it comes to pesticide and herbicide usage, we discount natural selection at our peril. there will always be a few stragglers left behind at one point or another who have an immunity and pass those genes along to the next generation. soon we find that harsher and harsher chemicals are required to kill these critters. and so it goes. it's the same with antibiotics and bacteria...but that's a story for another time.

when we learned the truth about the harmful effects of DDT, we stopped using it. when we learned the danger CFCs posed to the integrity of earth's ozone layer, we took steps to phase them out. we have got to stop poisoning our planet with noxious chemicals that are killing wildlife and killing us in the name of convenience or protecting ourselves. because what we are doing is not protecting ourselves at all, we are destroying ourselves and many other living creatures besides.

the public needs to be kept informed and safe. yes, it's important that an individual take responsibility for his own welfare and that of his family, but one's own health and safety is often only as good as the information he is presented with. we need a media that is willing to speak truth to power, and hold political representatives and companies accountable for actions that negatively impact the well-being of people, wildlife and natural ecosystems.

is that too much to ask, cfrn?

i hope all the people who go to the folk festival this year in gallagher park like the taste of dursban, because the ground will be covered in it as the city sprays the area. everyone can sing along as the carcinogenic chemical will be blowin' in the wind and breathed into their lungs...and into the wombs of all the expectant mothers, welcoming the next generation into our toxic-filled world.

that's a fine how-do-you-do.

in her book The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health - and a Vision for Change, author and environmental activist annie leonard writes,
In a study of umbilical cords, the Environmental Working Group found they contained an average of 287 agricultural and industrial chemicals each. And, in a shocking violation of the sanctity of human life, breast milk, which is at the top of the food chain, now has alarmingly high levels of toxic contamination.
ladies (and gentlemen) do you really want to add dursban to that list of deleterious substances poisoning you and your child?

contact the city of edmonton and let them know that you and your friends, family and neighbors no longer want to be put at risk by these noxious chemicals contaminating our air, water and soil.

Chrystal Coleman, Corporate Communication
Telephone: 780-868-7176
or dial 311

or email
fax: 780-496-4978

there are far safer methods to keep annoying summertime mosquitoes away than spraying harmful neurotoxins into our surroundings that last for years to come.

if we poison our environment, we poison ourselves.

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