Thursday, 4 April 2019

Experts sound alarm bells over another important farm chemical

The European Union will soon ban a fungicide - suspected of being carcinogenic - which remains in use in Canada today. Ottawa remains silent.
by Larry Powell
A ground sprayer in Manitoba. Farmers in this province apply fungicides "more frequently" than their counterparts in any other province. (StatsCan) A PinP photo.

This time, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), a branch of the European Union, has declared that chlorothalonil "may cause cancer in humans." Several of the agency's findings were based on tests with lab rats. But it obviously believes their metabolisms are sufficiently similar to ours, to place chlorothalonil in "carcinogenicity category 1B - may cause cancer in humans." 

Chlorothalonil is the active ingredient in 

several agricultural fungicides (see left) used to treat mildew, blight and mold in many crops.    
According to the newspaper, The Guardian, it is the most widely-used pesticide in all of the UK and the the most popular fungicide in the U.S. It's been used, worldwide, since the '60s. 
Chlorothalonil use in the
US in 2011. Is the genie 

out of the bottle
A research project at the University of British Columbia, CAREX, reports that 581 tonnes of chlorothalonil were sold in BC alone in 2010 - 1,121 tonnes in Ontario in 2008. No figures are given for usage in other provinces.

But the group also sounds alarms similar to those now raised in Europe. "Chlorothalonil is associated with cancer of the kidney and stomach." 

While Statistics Canada does not give a breakdown of active ingredients, the federal agency says almost one in four (23%) of all crop farms in this country applied fungicides of one kind or another in 2011. And it adds, farmers in Manitoba used fungicides "more frequently than those in any other province."

Here's what the European study finds: 

·      Chlorothalonil binds to red blood cells, delaying its removal from the body. 
·      It is very toxic if inhaled and can cause serious damage to the eyes and skin. 
·      It mainly attacks the kidneys and forstomach, producing both benign and malignant tumours. 
·      The treated lab animals were slow to mature sexually and gave birth to underweight young.
·      It produces acute risks to amphibians and long-lasting damage to fish.                                          
.      It could pose a hazard to groundwater, especially when it exceeds allowable standards.
·      But there was too little information to determine whether it harms wild mammals, aquatic species other than fish, or bees. (Earlier research, however, has linked it to diminishing numbers of bumblebees, as well.)
The study was peer-reviewed by experts in the field.

The Agency's conclusion was strikingly similar to one by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. That's when the WHO ruled that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world's most popular weedkiller, Roundup, "probably causes cancer in humans." 

Canadian regulators take a starkly different approach.

Less than a year ago, Canada's Pesticide Management Regulatory
Agency, PMRA - a division of Health Canada, released results 
of its "re-evaluation" of chlorothalonil. The agency did impose 
some restrictions, including its use on cut flowers grown in 
greenhouses. But its main finding was: "Most current 
standards for protection of human health or the environment. 
It’s continued registration is acceptable." 

In Canada, the fungicide is sold under brand names such as 
"Daconil" and "Bravo."
An ad for Bravo by Syngenta.

It's offered as a treatment for a host of diseases in crops, including 
corn and soybeans. It's made and sold by such chemical giants as 

In the US, a series of high-profile court cases have now awarded 
billions to individuals found to have been harmed by the herbicide, 
Roundup. At the same time,  the controversial fungicide referred to 
here, and its possible similar impacts on human health, still seems to 
fly beneath the radar of just about everyone here in Canada.

Apr. 29th, 2019. Still waiting for the PMRA to respond to my e-mail,
Media Qs:

  • Larry Powell
    Mar. 31 at 9:16 p.m.

    Dear PMRA,

    I'm a journalist in Manitoba. I am attaching the draft

    of an article I am writing for my blog and perhaps

    some weekly newspapers here in Manitoba.

    My questions are;

  • Will you be reviewing the status of the fungicide chlorothalonil, now that the European Union is banning it?
    • How do you explain the differences between the findings of the EFSA and your own re-evaluation?
    • Would you kindly review my attached script and correct any factual errors you may encounter?
    • Please feel free to include any additional comments you feel may be relevant, which I can include in my final draft. 
    Many thanks for your attention.

    Have a green day!
    Please visit Planet in Peril -  "where science gets respect."
    Skype - larry.powell9
    “The climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks.”The late Wallace Broecker.

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