Children and Pesticides
Where children and pesticides are concerned, it is important to use care. Very young children and babies in their mothers' wombs, especially are much more sensitive to the adverse effects of toxic chemicals. Organophosphate (OP) insecticides are hazardous to children because the developing brains of children are more susceptible to these neurotoxicants than are adult brains. Also young children have lower levels of the enzymes that detoxify synthetic chemicals including OPs than do adults.
Prenatal exposures to OP insecticides have been associated with lower IQ scores, poor attention skills and hyperactive behavior in very young children. (Bouchard, M., et al, "Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children," EHP, online 21 April 2011)
A recent report has linked IQ measurements that are lower by 7 points in children exposed as fetuses to the OP insecticides: chlorpyrifos, malathion or diazinon. (Bouchard, M., et al, "Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children," EHP, online 21 April 2011)
Chlorpyrifos an OP that was once widely used by homeowners in the U.S. was banned for residential use early in the 2000s by the USEPA. Since then the USEPA has also banned 2 other OPs for residential use, Malathion and Diazinon.
Parents need to be aware that these 3 chemicals can still be applied on fruits and vegetables, on roadsides and on golf courses (except for diazinon in the case of golf courses). Only food that is certified as organic can be considered free of these toxic chemical insecticides. Parents and others concerned about this issue need to contact RCC for suggested actions to help give better protection to children from neurotoxic pesticides.
Bees and Insecticides
Bee populations have been decreasing worldwide. In the United States, bees have been declining since the 1940s. A new type of problem, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) associated with dramatic reductions in honeybee numbers was noted by beekeepers during the mid 2000s.
According to a report published on March 10, 2011, by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) the mysterious syndrome of honey bee colony collapse disorder (CCD), which had mostly affected the USA and Europe, was becoming a global phenomenon seen in China, Japan, and Egypt.
CCD continues to occur in our own country and in other locations across the world, where pesticides are used. This disorder has been associated with insecticides applied to areas used by bees. Certain insecticides from the chemical class neonicotinoid have been closely associated with this problem. Other factors linked to CCD are disease-causing pathogens and poor nutrition, (per Jeffrey Pettis of the Beltsville Bee Laboratory).
Studies have found that insecticides from the class neonicotinoid ("neonics") can be very harmful to bees, and can lead to abnormal bee behavior. The neonicotinoid class includes imidacloprid one of the most widely used chemical insecticides in the world. Italy, Germany, France and Slovenia have banned or temporarily suspended the agricultural use of certain neonicotinoid insecticides due to pressure from beekeepers. Since those actions, reports from some agricultural regions within these countries have indicated that once applications of "neonics" were suspended the bee populations increased.
Based on these reports, the U.S. needs to adopt a policy of suspending use of certain neonicotinoids, especially for major agricultural crops, to forestall future major bee losses. Monitoring of bee populations should continue while this takes place.
In a recent statement delivered to the British House of Parliament, an American scientist, Jeffrey Pettis, of the Beltsville Bee Lab, described the reaction of honeybees to pollen polluted with pesticides as a sealing off, with a waxy substance, of the contaminated pollen, once it is in the hive. "Pettis said the bees' efforts are proving futile as sealed off cells indicate probable colony loss. However, pesticides are not the only factor contributing to bee colony losses, he noted." ("Bees able to detect pesticides in pollen," in Pesticide & Chemical Policy, April 15, 2011).
People can make the USEPA aware of their concerns about the need for action to protect bees from pesticides. Contact RCC for more information on this and other ways to protect wildlife.
In early 2011 researchers reported that "four previously abundant species of bumblebee, a type of solitary bee, are close to disappearing in the U.S.... as well as in Europe and Asia." Bumblebees are important agricultural pollinators especially for our cranberries, blueberries and tomatoes. They are also one of the most important pollinators of native plants. (Cameron, S.A., et al, "Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees," PNAS, 1-11-11, v 108, #2). Lack of habitat is one reason given for the decline of these bees. Rachel Carson wrote: "To destroy the homes and food of wildlife is perhaps worse in the long run than direct killing." (Silent Spring)
Gardeners and others can help bumblebees and other solitary bees by providing special plants for them. Of course chemical insecticides especially the neonicotinoids should never be used when bees are invited to visit a garden or a landscape. How can gardeners create a safe habitat for wildlife?
RCC's 2011 piece, "Plant It and They Will Come" (contact RCC for a copy) gives suggestions on how to provide habitat for bees and other wildlife.
When shopping for flowering plants, gardeners who avoid chemical pesticides in their own property may, without realizing it, purchase seeds and plants that have been treated with neonicotinoid insecticides. These toxic chemical insecticides also can be systemic which means they can travel to all parts of a plant contaminating the pollen and nectar collected by bees. The systemic neonicotinic insecticide, imidacloprid can be hazardous to the bees that seek nectar and pollen from the treated plants. Contact RCC for details about imidacloprid toxicity.
A concerned consumer could approach the seller of ornamental plants with questions about what pesticides if any were used on seeds or in the pre-marketing treatment of plants. If insecticides had been used, gardeners should then investigate the toxicities of those chemicals for bees, through contacting RCC. Even better, gardeners can request that growers use non-chemical, organic methods, rather than synthetic pesticides when treating commercially-grown ornamental plants. Gardeners need to let commercial growers know that they prefer organically-grown ornamental plants for their home gardens to help protect populations of bees and other beneficial insects.
When purchasing insecticide-treated plants is unavoidable, gardeners can still provide chemical-free, healthy environments for the plants in their home landscapes.
Valuable Ecosystem Services Provided Free
Nature contributes to our most basic needs, clean water, clean air, and healthy food. These ecosystem services are often degraded by human actions. (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment). We need to make certain that the plants and animals working to generate these essential services are not eliminated or poisoned by actions that we take. Contact RCC for more information about ecosystem services.May 4, 2011