Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

May 16, 2017 by  
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If President Donald Trump is waging a war on local farmworkers in California , he’s winning. His Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened up the use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos to agriculture in March, and then this month when at least 50 laborers were exposed to the pesticide Vulcan, of which chlorpyrifos is an active ingredient, some of them vomited or fainted; one person had to go to the hospital. Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned under Barack Obama’s administration. But at the end of March , EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition that called for the ban. Then in Bakersfield, California a Sun Pacific farm sprayed Vulcan on their mandarin trees, and it drifted over to Dan Andrews Farms where workers harvesting cabbage began to feel sick. Grist said Kern County officials have not yet determined if chlorpyrifos was indeed present in the Vulcan sprayed, but both Grist and Kern Golden Empire described chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient in Vulcan. EPA documents from February 2017 also listed chlorpyrifos as the active ingredient in Vulcan. Related: Trump’s EPA chief lifts ban on pesticide that poisons children 12 workers reported symptoms of nausea or vomiting. One person fainted and another went to the hospital. Kern Golden Empire reported 12 other laborers didn’t show systems, but that over half the workers had left before medical aid could arrive. Officials described Vulcan as highly toxic, and the Kern County Fire Department and Kern Country Environmental Health and Hazmat came to do a mass contamination of the area. Kern County Public Health Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson called for anyone exposed to seek out medical attention right away. So why, exactly, was chlorpyrifos not banned? Touting a return to sound science, Pruitt apparently didn’t think there was enough evidence to ban the pesticide, even though, according to Grist, multiple studies link exposure to the harmful chemical with lowered IQ in kids and neurological defects. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy director Sheryl Kunickis welcomed Pruitt’s decision. She said it was good news for consumers, meaning they’d have access to fruits and vegetables. Guess she forgot to mention chlorpyrifos could also send people to the hospital. Via Grist and Kern Golden Empire Images via Wikimedia Commons and Austin Valley on Flickr

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Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

Glyphosate found in Cheerios, Kashi cookies and other popular food items

November 16, 2016 by  
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Once again, residues of the herbicide glyphosate have been found in commonly consumed foods . A new report produced by Food Democracy Now and the Detox Project found “extremely high levels” of glyphosate residues in popular foods, from Cheerios and Ritz Crackers to Kashi cookies. According to the report, glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto ‘s Roundup, “is the most heavily used chemical weedkiller in food and agricultural production in human history.” San Francisco laboratory Anresco tested 29 foods for glyphosate at the request of Food Democracy Now and Detox Project. In the report, the two organizations detail new evidence revealing humans could be harmed with glyphosate levels above 0.1 parts per billion (ppb). Anresco testing meanwhile found foods contained far greater amounts of the herbicide than considered safe. Cheerios contained a whopping 1,125.3 ppb, Ritz Crackers contained 270.24 ppb, and Kashi soft-baked oatmeal dark chocolate cookies contained 275.57 ppb. Other foods tested include Wheaties, Oreo cookies, Goldfish, Lay’s potato chips, Whole Foods 365 crackers, and Annie’s cookies, among several other brands (you can see a full list on pages eight and nine of the report here ). Related: Are you eating Monsanto weed killer for breakfast? According to the report, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for glyphosate allowed by the United States is much higher than levels set in other countries. For example, the European Union sets ADI at 0.3 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (mg/kg/bw/day). But ADI in the U.S. is 1.75 mg/kg/bw/day. Meanwhile, Monsanto still claims glyphosate residue levels in food are small enough that they won’t harm humans. The company garners $5 billion yearly from selling glyphosate products. The Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate is used during production of around 70 crops. The report states Food Democracy Now is “calling for a federal investigation into the likely harmful effects of glyphosate on human health and the environment and is also seeking an investigation into the relationships between the regulators and the regulated industries, which has resulted in the public being exposed to levels of glyphosate which scientific studies show can be damaging to human health.” Via The Huffington Post Images via Y’amal on Flickr and Chafer Machinery on Flickr

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Glyphosate found in Cheerios, Kashi cookies and other popular food items

Beautiful wooden lattice bathes the French School of Beijing in natural light

November 16, 2016 by  
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The campus is located on a site named after orchards that used to dominate the area. As of recently, new developments have started to sprout across this piece of land. High-end residential blocks, international schools and low-rise buildings have all introduced a new urban character. Related: Jacques Ferrier Architecture’s Cap d’Agde Hotel is enveloped in a delicate lace-like concrete skin Jacques Ferrier’s new addition, named The French school, is a continuous building of varying heights and several entrances connected by  walkways . Shared spaces occupy the ground floor, while the outdoor spaces open towards the canteen’s orchard; sports facilities are designed as separate pavilions. The classrooms are organized on the upper floors in a way that provides flexibility of use. The project’s most distinctive feature is the wooden lattice, which lets in natural light without sacrificing privacy. + Jacques Ferrier Architecture Via World Architecture News

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Beautiful wooden lattice bathes the French School of Beijing in natural light

Ontario is rolling out a basic income test for citizens living under the poverty line

November 16, 2016 by  
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Earlier this year Canadian officials in Ontario indicated plans to test a basic income project. Now they are moving forward with a 2017 start date. Ontario citizens living under the poverty line will receive a certain amount of money each month with no strings attached. Conservative strategist Hugh Segal thinks the project could help Canada determine whether a basic income will reduce pressures on healthcare spending and encourage people to work. The government tasked Segal with exploring the idea, and he released a lengthy discussion paper around the end of the summer. He noted the pilot project is meant to provide evidence on how the program might improve lives. For example, as opposed to traditional welfare programs, the money could responsibly help people working low-paying jobs and might strengthen motivation to work. Segal argued in his paper that current eligibility programs are seriously demeaning, and can only go so far in alleviating poverty. “Our present social assistance system imposes limits on economic progress, often keeping welfare recipients from entering the economic mainstream,” he wrote in his paper. Related: Canada is planning to give people free money, just for being citizens In an interview with The Guardian, Segal said basic income could “give people a floor beneath which they’re not allowed to fall.” Under the pilot project, citizens 18 to 65 under the poverty line will receive $1,320 every month, and disabled people will receive $1,820. People will receive basic income whether they are employed or not. According to Big Think, the basic income idea has bipartisan appeal because it could totally shake up the welfare system and provide people with opportunities. Segal said for Ontario to get a true sense of whether or not the project is working, the basic income experiment should run for a minimum of three years. Via Big Think and The Guardian Images via jsnsndr on Flickr and Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

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Ontario is rolling out a basic income test for citizens living under the poverty line

Is Zika the real cause of microcephaly in Brazil? New study raises questions

October 6, 2016 by  
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The massive microcephaly outbreak that rocked Brazil last year has confounded researchers who are trying to understand the cause. Although most scientists think there is a connection between the Zika virus and the huge spike in microcephaly cases in Brazil, a new study of Zika-infected mothers in Colombia casts doubt on this theory, because out of 12,000 confirmed cases of zika-infected pregnant women, none had babies born with microcephaly. Many take for granted that the Zika virus is the cause of the spate of microcephaly in Brazil, especially since in April the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a causal relationship between them. But in June, the New England Complex Systems Institute (NESCI) released a report examining the rate of microcephaly cases in Brazil per Zika-infected mothers, against microcephaly in Colombia in Zika-infected mothers and found the rates to be vastly different. If Zika infection in the first trimester of prenatal development was the sole cause of microcephaly in infants, scientists would expect the rates of microcephaly to be much higher in other areas where the Zika virus has hit hard, such as Colombia . This new study indicates such is not the case. There is also a huge difference between rates of microcephaly in certain areas of Brazil versus others , with the microcephaly “epicenter” being the city of Recife, Pernambuco in the Northeast. Other areas of Brazil have seen a lot of Zika infections and not nearly the same rates of microcephaly, which indicates that there might be some other cause of microcephaly, or perhaps even multiple causes in addition to Zika virus . Earlier this year, a group of Argentine doctors suggested the pesticide pyriproxyfen might actually be causing the microcephaly epidemic. Inhabitat spoke with three experts about the possible links between pyriproxyfen and microcephaly or the Zika virus and microcephaly, in an effort to better understand emerging theories. In February, an Argentinian organization called Red Universitaria de Ambiente y Salud published a report from Medicos de Pueblos Fumigados, or Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Town , that raised concern over pyriproxyfen put in drinking water by the State. Pyriproxyfen affects developmental processes in mosquitoes , and some wonder if the chemical is somehow triggering a similar reaction in humans. Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time So what do we know about pyriproxyfen? First off, it’s manufactured by Japanese company Sumitomo Chemical , a company that is not owned by Monsanto but has collaborated with them in the past . Second, the World Health Organization (WHO) approved its use, and the government began to add pyriproxyfen to drinking water in Brazilian favelas at the end of 2014. So the timing checks out, according to Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam, founder of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), which has written their own reports on the Zika virus, microcephaly, and pyriproxyfen. The villages where pyriproxyfen was added weren’t monitored, Bar-Yam said, nor were pregnancies in those villages. He said, “All they did was test its effect on mosquitoes.” The doctors said in their report that pyriproxyfen has been used in areas where people infected with the Zika virus live, and that other Zika virus epidemics in the past weren’t linked to birth defects. Pyriproxyfen has not been linked decisively to microcephaly, but there may be reason for further research. The bulk of testing on pyriproxyfen has been carried out by Sumitomo, according to Bar-Yam. He said while there was evidence the pesticide affected the brain mass of rat fetuses, the testers could say those results weren’t important because they didn’t meet certain criteria. Specifically, as doses increase, the effects must worsen. In Sumitomo tests, a dose of pyriproxyfen in the middle of the study showed more problems in rats than at later points in the study where the rats were given more of the pesticide. “There are a lot of reasons why that might have been true, such as dosage variability or DNA variability. It’s hard to tell whether those tests are actually good tests,” Bar-Yam told Inhabitat. “Imagine if you have something that might have an effect in 1 percent of babies, or in 1 in 100 babies, if you test it only on 100 rats, you might not see the effect. In the studies they tested pyriproxyfen only on several dozen rats. It’s very hard to tell if the studies transfer from rats to people; the study is a very limited probe of what’s going on.” A study done by four Oregon State University researchers published in September in the journal Environmental Pollution found pyriproxyfen led to “adverse morphological effects” in zebrafish. The researchers concluded “developmental toxicity of pyriproxyfen may not be limited to insects.” Bar-Yam pointed out WHO’s approval doesn’t necessarily mean the pesticide is safe. “One could argue that WHO followed the standard protocol for approval of an insecticide, but that doesn’t mean the protocol is safe. There are other instances where it failed,” he said. “For example, methoprene was approved as insecticide , but now has been shown to cause development disorders in mammals. Pyriproxyfen and methoprene are in the same family of chemical. The fact that we have a member of the same family of chemicals known to cause the same problems in development doesn’t prove pyriproxyfen does but again surely raises the question of do we know enough.” There are claims that pyriproxyfen has not been used in Recife, described in a NECSI report as a microcephaly epicenter. According to their report, however, those making the claims don’t distinguish between “the metropolitan area of Recife, where it is widely used, and the municipality, where it is not.” According to Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Honein of the CDC, pyriproxyfen has been “used for decades” without being linked to microcephaly. “Studies have found evidence of Zika virus in the brains of newborns with microcephaly. This strongly supports a causal link between Zika and microcephaly,” Honein told Inhabitat. She is the lead for the Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force for the Zika Response, and is a co-author on the preliminary report on the Zika virus in Colombia published by The New England Journal of Medicine . “Exposure to pyriproxyfen would not explain these study results showing the presence of Zika virus in the brains of infants born with microcephaly.” Why wouldn’t the Zika virus be the clear cause of microcephaly, if it has been found in babies’ brains? According to Bar-Yam, “The rate at which microcephaly cases are linked to Zika is quite low. The problem is the additional pieces of information that would let us conclude Zika is causing microcephaly are not adding up.” In Brazil, there are over 1,500 confirmed cases of microcephaly potentially related to the Zika virus. Researchers eagerly awaited data from Colombia , where Zika virus infections have been better reported than in Brazil, according to Bar-Yam. The CDC and Instituto Nacional de Salud in Colombia supported a study based on the data. The Colombia study didn’t yield easy answers, however. Up to April 2, 2016, 65,726 cases of Zika Virus Disease were reported, and 2,485, or 4 percent, were confirmed. 11,944 pregnant women in Colombia were reported with the Zika virus, with 1,484, or 12 percent, confirmed. The researchers looked at a group of 1,850 pregnant women, and over 90 percent of the women who were reported infected with the Zika virus in their third trimester had delivered their babies. Microcephaly had not been identified in any of those babies. Between January 1, 2016, and April 28, 2016, 50 infants with possible microcephaly cases were reported to the “national surveillance system.” Over half of those cases – 26 – were still under investigation when the report was written. 20 cases were linked to other causes, not the Zika virus. Four of the cases were linked potentially to the Zika virus through “laboratory evidence,” but none of the mothers had symptoms of Zika Virus Disease during pregnancy. In this abstract of the article in the conclusion, the researchers wrote , “Preliminary surveillance data in Colombia suggest that maternal infection with the Zika virus during the third trimester of pregnancy is not linked to structural abnormalities in the fetus.” Bar-Yam said the fact that we can’t make the Colombia data work with the Brazil data, where there are so many more cases of microcephaly potentially linked to the Zika virus but where the data may not be as reliable or complete, makes it “hard to draw a definitive conclusion.” Dr. Leslie Lobel, a leading virologist who has studied the Zika virus where it originally emerged in Uganda, gave the numbers some perspective by comparing the microcephaly outbreak with that of the German measles epidemic. “From all evidence, it appears the Zika virus is related to the side effects. It happens a small percentage of the time, maybe 20 to 25 percent. In perspective, with the German measles epidemic, there were malformations 100 percent of time,” Lobel told Inhabitat. He pointed out that while there appears to be a “preponderance of evidence that seems to indicate a relationship between Zika infections and microcephaly,” there are other factors involved. Dengue fever is also circulating in Brazil, and Lobel said those with Zika have often been infected with dengue either before or at the same time as with Zika, which could “dampen the immune response [to Zika] or accelerate it.” Microcephaly can be caused by other elements as well. “CDC is investigating other factors such as another infection occurring at the same time as Zika virus infection, nutrition, or the presence of symptoms that might affect the risk for birth defects,” said Honein. “Other known causes of microcephaly can include rubella, cytomegalovirus, or toxoplasmosis infections during pregnancy; severe malnutrition; interruption of blood supply to the developing brain; or exposure to harmful substances such as alcohol and certain drugs and toxic chemicals.” All three experts Inhabitat spoke with said the Zika virus is likely connected to microcephaly. But the Zika virus may not be the only factor. “It’s a little bit surprising that we would be in situation where at the same time two new things are both causing microcephaly. It’s not what you’d expect, but is it possible? Yes,” said Bar-Yam. “The point we’re making is not that we know pyriproxyfen is causing microcephaly, but that there’s a reason to look for another cause based on the available data, and there’s a reason to suspect pyriproxyfen might have a role because of its biological mechanism.” Lobel said we need more testing on chemicals. “In small quantities you often don’t see problems but in big quantities the problems come out,” he said. He also called for more research on viruses . “Nixon shifted funds away from virus research to cancer research. Now with global warming and globalization, we see the emergence of diseases once confined to one part of world,” said Lobel. “We’ve slept on this for many, many years. Viruses never sleep but we sleep.” Another step would be the development of a vaccine , but that’s easier said than done. “The problem with developing a vaccine is that the government wants it yesterday but we know so little about what reaction of the immune system to the virus causes the side effects,” said Lobel. “We need more research into the immune response to the virus.” Furthermore, he said we should consider ecosystems more in our research of viruses and ways to combat them. “There are potential side effects of chemicals or technology, such as what happens when you remove insects from the environment? I tend to believe you shouldn’t be doing that; there is a delicate balance in an ecosystem,” he said. “Right now the developing world is out of balance with the ecosystem with the sudden entry of something new in semi-sterile environment where viruses go wild. Right now there is no balance between the viruses and the environment. We need a deeper understanding of ecosystems.” “I think eventually the truth will come out,” said Bar-Yam. “One might argue there’s a reason for some people to be concerned. If microcephaly is caused by a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, no one’s at fault. If it turns out pyriproxyfen is involved in microcephaly, people will be held accountable for it.” Images via Wikimedia Commons , Free Stock Photos , Wikimedia ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), garycycles8 on Flickr , Latin American Science , Pexels , and dany13 on Flickr .

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NatureZap uses light, instead of pesticides, to rid your garden of weeds

August 12, 2016 by  
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As concern mounts over the amount of pesticides we use, one company is pursuing a promising alternative to harmful herbicides . Global Neighbor has developed NatureZap , a device said to kill weeds with heat and light . Now the U.S. Air Force is testing out the device. NatureZap is an innovative wand-like device that shoots out a beam of heat and blue light to kill weeds. According to Global Neighbor president Jon Jackson, the device gets “about a 70 to 80 percent die-back without regrowth.” The device won’t hurt wildlife or people, and runs on batteries. Global Neighbor says the device will run for a little over a half hour before it needs to be recharged, and that weeds zapped with NatureZap die as soon as three days later. Related: Two new lawsuits claim Monsanto herbicide caused cancer As part of the Sikes Act , the military must reduce pesticide use. 412th Civil Engineering Group scientist Danny Reinke, who works at Edwards Air Force Base in California, worked on NatureZap with Global Neighbor. Reinke said NatureZap could assist the military as they work to meet Sikes Act requirements. Central State University scientist Cadance Lowell has also run independent tests on NatureZap. She presented research at the annual meeting of the Weed Science Society of America back in February, and said NatureZap works as well as glyphosate (used infamously by Monsanto) on ragweed. Plants with deeper roots like dandelions may be more difficult to exterminate with NatureZap, but Lowell said if the device is used a few times it can ultimately kill off those plants as well. Center for Biological Diversity scientist Nathan Donley told TakePart, “It if truly works, I think it will be very successful, because change cannot come quickly enough in the world of pest management. Most weed-killing chemicals in use today have been around for more than 50 years. Innovation is nonexistent in this realm.” Global Neighbor has received close to $900,000 via the U.S. government’s program Small Business Innovation Research . A few different versions of the product are available on Amazon; the NatureZap DE Cordless currently goes for $199. + Global Neighbor Via TakePart Images via screenshot and Global Neighbor

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NatureZap uses light, instead of pesticides, to rid your garden of weeds

Disturbing new map shows 2748 locations where NYC has recently sprayed cancer-causing pesticide

February 23, 2016 by  
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Bad news, New Yorkers — if you like to take long walks or pay visits to your local park, you’ve probably been exposed to glyphosate, the cancer-linked main ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. In response to concerned citizen groups, the New York City government released a report last year detailing pesticide use by its agencies. And now, if you’d like to see whether you’re at risk, Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Center have created a disturbing new map that charts every park and public area known to be treated with the toxic compound. You can view it here. Read the rest of Disturbing new map shows 2748 locations where NYC has recently sprayed cancer-causing pesticide

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Disturbing new map shows 2748 locations where NYC has recently sprayed cancer-causing pesticide

A Battle is Brewing in California Over State Pesticide Plan

November 18, 2014 by  
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A battle is brewing between California’s organic farmers and the state government over a pest management program organic producers say puts too much reliance on pesticide usage. According to Yahoo , organic food is currently enjoying double-digit growth in sales every year, and producers say the state’s new pest management program puts in place pesticide-focused regulations that will last for decades to come. Read the rest of A Battle is Brewing in California Over State Pesticide Plan Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: argriculture , California , farming , growers , industry , Organic , pesticide , pests , Produce , spraying

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New Study Suggests Pesticide-Tainted Pollen is Killing Bees By The Millions

July 26, 2013 by  
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Although it’s obvious that something is killing bees in mass quantities, for years scientists have struggled to finger a culprit. A continued mass die-off of honey bees would be disastrous for our food system, so investigations into possible causes have become more urgent. A new study published just days ago claims that a toxic cocktail of pesticides and fungicides has contaminated the pollen that bees collect and bring back to the hive. Bees affected by chemical combination demonstrated a dramatically diminished ability to fight off parasitic invasion, which eventually proves fatal. Read the rest of New Study Suggests Pesticide-Tainted Pollen is Killing Bees By The Millions Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: agriculture , bee die-offs , beehives , bees , food system , fungicides , hives , pesticides , poison , pollen , pollination , pollinators        

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New Study Suggests Pesticide-Tainted Pollen is Killing Bees By The Millions

EU Bans Fipronil, Another Pesticide Harmful to Bees

July 17, 2013 by  
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After banning neonicotinoid-containing pesticides earlier this year, the European Union Commission has added Fipronil to the list of banned chemicals. The majority vote was cast yesterday in an effort to help protect honey bee populations across Europe. The chemical came into question after the European Food Safety Authority conducted a study last May, which found that Fipronil-treated seeds posed as a risk to honey bees. Read the rest of EU Bans Fipronil, Another Pesticide Harmful to Bees Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: banned pesticides EU , bee populations , colony collapse disorder , eco design , Fipronil , green design , sustainable design        

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