Banned in the United States, but export is legal
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- Bypassing national bans and
restrictions, U.S. corporations continue to export huge quantities
of hazardous pesticides to Third World countries.
Originally called the "Dirty Dozen" pesticides when they were first targeted in a 1985 campaign by the California-based Pesticides Action Network International (PAN), the list of the "world's most hazardous" agro-chemicals has grown from 12 to 18.
The pesticides, which have been linked to health problems and environmental contamination, are: Aldicarb, Camphechlor, Chlordane, Heptachlor, Chlordimeform, DBCP, DDT, Aldrin, Endrin, EDB, HCH/BHC, Lindane, Paraquat, Parathion, Methyl Parathion, PCP, and 2,4,5-T.
According to U.S. Customs records, companies in the United States exported the first nine of these pesticides during the 1991- 94 period. Most of the pesticides are banned for use in the United States, but their export is legal.
Eleven million pounds of hazardous pesticides to countries where they are officially forbidden
Los Angeles-based Foundation for Advancement in Science and
Education (FASE), an independent environmental research
organization investigating the pesticides, obtained the customs
records which indicate that the United States exported at least 58
million pounds of the pesticides to more than 12 countries.
The customs records document up to 30 shipments of these hazardous pesticides totalling 11 million pounds to countries where they are officially banned.
The Republic of Korea banned Chlordane in 1979, but received imports of the pesticide in 1991 and 1992. Singapore, which banned Chlordane a decade ago, continues to import it.
Singapore and the Netherlands have banned the domestic use of Chlordane and Heptachlor, but allow them to be imported for reformulation and subsequent export.
Other countries importing "Dirty Dozen" pesticides from the United States include India, Zimbabwe, Australia, Costa Rica, Israel, Thailand, El Salvador, Brazil, Japan, and France, according to FASE.
FASE researchers say the list may be much longer, since almost 70 percent of pesticide shipment to other countries are not listed in customs records as "hazardous pesticides."
Studies have found that Chlordane is highly toxic to aquatic organisms and birds because it accumulates along the food chain.
Chlordane and Heptachlor are manufactured by the Chicago-based company, Velsicol. Though Chlordane is banned for use in the United States and 50 other countries, Velsicol continues to export it to several countries.
"We export Chlordane because they (clients) believe it is the best one for them," Christine DiGangi-Hughes, a Velsicol spokesperson, told IPS. "They are buying it also...because they have no other alternative."
She said most of Chlordane importers are tropical countries. "In tropical regions, the use of Chlordane is safe. It has no bad effect on human health," DiGangi-Hughes contends.
"This is mind boggling. How could they say this is safe?"
But a majority
of the world's environmentalists believe the use
of Chlordane and Heptachlor is extremely dangerous to human health
in any region of the world. When environmental experts from over
100 countries gathered for a two-week conference here last month,
they called for a global treaty to eliminate Heptachlor, Chlordane,
and 10 other toxic chemicals.
"This is mind boggling. How could they (Velsicol) say this is safe," says Ellen Hickey, editor of the Global Pesticides Campaigner, a monthly newsletter of PAN International.
Sandra Marquardt, an environmental researcher at Greenpeace International says, "It's a lie. It's misleading to try things that have already been banned."
Velsicol refused an IPS request for the list of countries importing Chlordane and Heptachlor. "They are our clients. Sorry, we can't disclose their names," Hughes said
"There are 15 countries that import Chlordane and Heptachlor from us, and they are all tropical countries," she added.
Most of the countries in the world's tropical regions are poor. They lack adequate resources to address environmental issues, and therefore continue to use hazardous pesticides, Marquardt of Greenpeace argues.
Another pesticide, Lindane is known to cause damage to the nervous system in people and animals. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers Lindane a "probable human carcinogen," one Tennessee-based company, Drexel Chem, continues to produce it.
In April 1990, over 100 people died after attending a wedding in Northern India where Lindane powder had been mistakenly added to the flour in the dinner.
PAN researchers say Lindane has long-lasting effects on the environment and accumulates in the food-chain.
Aldicarb, another toxic pesticide not registered in the United States, continues to be exported to many Latin American countries. Environmentalists say it was the "number one cause" of pesticide poisoning in the banana-producing region of Costa Rica in 1988.
In 1989, EPA toxicologists estimated that tens of thousands of children were exposed to aldicarb residues in banana and potatoes daily.
In many Third World countries, where Dirty Dozen pesticides have been banned or restricted, they continue to be openly bought and used.
In 1993, Dieldrin was being marketed in Kenya under a Shell label, although it is not registered for use there.
"In developing countries, government agencies and pesticides firms seldom provide sufficient information and precautions," says Lori Ann Thropp, a senior researcher at the World Resource Institute's Center for International Development and Environment.
"That's why an increasing number of people are suffering acute poisonings and chronic damage," she says.
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