The European Union will soon ban a suspected carcinogenic fungicide which remains in use in Canada today. Ottawa remains silent.

by Larry Powell
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 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.

A project based at Simon Fraser University, BC,  CAREX, reports that 581 tonnes of 
chlorothalonil were sold in that province alone in 2010 - 1,121 tonnes in Ontario in 2008. No figures are given for usage in other provinces. CAREX (short for CARcinogen Exposure) is made up of experts dedicated to informing Canadians about dangers they face from cancerous substances.

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 dramatically 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."

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 Syngenta. 

At this writing, it has now been well over three weeks since I emailed the PMRA for a response. I have not heard back.



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