Herbicides/Toxics - Updates to March 2005
Atrazine and Hexazinone incident that killed 100 old growth redgum trees at Rosedale between 2000 and 2002.
See Previous Herbicides Updates
Friends Block Background
1 The site
Friends Block (now owned by Grand Ridge Plantations (GRP) is located approximately 6km south of Rosedale. The district has a long grazing history. The site receives roughly 700mm of rain per year and is about 50m ASL. The landform is gently undulating to flat, with locally dissected drainage ways, or on flatter parts, shallow irregularly scattered depressions. The parent material is unconsolidated alluvial deposits of the late Pliocene age. The soils are a yellow duplex textured soil, with a loamy sand surface horizon over a yellow-brown mottled and generally dense clay. The block is about 450ha in size.
2 Past activities
In 2000, the Friends Block was site prepared and planted in Pinus radiata by Australian Paper Plantations. The site had in excess of 100 old Red Gum trees on site, which were deliberately protected and left intact at time of site preparation and planting. A different herbicide was used to that used normally, which was believed to have a lesser effect on native trees. No herbicide was sprayed around the native trees but this appears to have been inadequate protection. On this block we applied "Forest Mix WDH*" @ 7.2Kg/Ha. Apparently, following herbicide application a strong rain event occurred, resulting in water from the general establishment area pooling around the base of the native trees. The water was slow to get away due to the duplex nature of the soil.
March 2003: Poisoned redgums - Friends Block
3. Unacceptable outcome
Unfortunately, many of the Red Gums on the Friends Block have died since the site was established. This was brought to the attention of GRP in late 2002.
The patterns of tree death have been investigated, and there are some parts of the block that have had very few deaths, whereas other parts have been heavily affected. There doesn't appear to be any patterns of death that can be related to topography or location within the block. It would appear that the combined effect of herbicide, cultivation and fertilisation has caused the rapid death of most of these trees. It is likely that the herbicide was the main factor.
GRP has undertaken additional investigations including, analysis of the leaves of alive trees in the block for chloride, an analysis of the dam water for chloride and herbicide and an analysis of the soil for residual herbicide levels. These investigations have failed to turn up any additional information and there was no residual herbicide found in soil or water.
4. GRP response
After the purchase of the Australian Paper business, GRP worked with the Regulatory Authority, Wellington Shire, in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the loss. Approximately 10,000 trees (local redgum and lightwood) have been planted in a biolink that stretches for 3 km along the main drainage line in the block. The biolink adjoins native vegetation at each end. This involved the removal of recently planted pine, fencing of the area, planting and tree guarding. The trees are currently about 50cm tall and growing well. The block is fenced and gated and signs have been erected to discourage any firewood getters. The redgums which have died, have hollows and must be retained for hollow nesting fauna.
The Rosedale Historical Society, who have taken an interest in this issue have been kept informed of developments.
*Forest Mix WDH is made by Macspred Pty Ltd (Ballarat). Active Contituents: 210 g/kg Hexazinone and 620 g/kg Atrazine used at a rate of 7.2 kg/ha.
(Background in April 2003, Hancock Victorian Plantations approached the FSC in terms of gaining a derogation for the continued use of the herbicide Simazine in its hardwood 'plantations' in Gippsland - what follows is the FSC judgement in terms of this derogation)
FSC Board Committee Decision:
Simazine may be used in Victoria, Australia, for the residual pre-emergent control of grass and broadleaved weeds in Eucalypt plantation establishment, until September 2006, and subject to the following conditions:
1. A 'Pesticides Advisory Group' which consists of technical advisers and which has the support of key FSC stakeholders in Victoria and environmental, social and economic members of the interim Australian NI shall be established by the FSC Australia Contact Person prior to any application of simazine by FSC certificate holders.
2. The role of the Pesticides Advisory Group shall be to provide guidance on the conditions attached to this derogation, and to review the results of monitoring carried out by certification bodies of certificates applying the derogation. Certificate holders shall make all necessary information available to members of the Advisory Group to allow them to meet these objectives.
3. Until the Pesticides Advisory Group gives clarifying guidance, there shall be no application of simazine in domestic supply water catchments.
4. Simazine shall not be applied on sites with conditions in which simazine can move off-site or accumulate in water courses. Until the Pesticides Advisory Group gives clarifying guidance, there shall be no aerial application of simazine in certified operations.
5. Where simazine is used there shall be buffers around the edges of sites and along drainage lines to ensure there is no spray drift, contamination of waterways, or off-site impact on native vegetation.
6. The Pesticides Advisory Group shall provide specific guidance to be followed with respect to:
6a. pre- and post- application monitoring of water courses, buffers, native vegetation and soils in catchments where simazine is applied;
6b. determination of sites, soils and catchments where it is not appropriate to apply simazine;
6c. the use of alternative chemicals that are not on the FSC prohibited list and have a lower risk of negative on- and/or off- site environmental impacts;
6d. determining the "trigger value" for simazine and procedures to be followed when monitoring shows the trigger value has been exceeded or when simazine is detected in waterways;
6e. appropriate application methods, in particular under what, if any, circumstances aerial application is acceptable.
6f. appropriate controls under which simazine may, if at all, be applied in domestic water supply catchments.
7. The policies and procedures of certifications applicants shall be evaluated and confirmed by the certification body prior to the issue of a certificate.
Re: Simazine derogation (FSC-GUI-30-603)
On 3rd November 2003 the FSC Board Committee on Chemical Pesticides agreed to permit a derogation for the use of simazine in Victoria, subject to a number of conditions. The decision and the associated conditions are described in the FSC document FSC-GUI-30-603.
One of the conditions requires that a 'Pesticides Advisory Group' should be set up by the FSC Australia Contact Person to provide advice, prior to the application of simazine by any FSC certificate holder.
The role of the Pesticides Advisory Group will be to provide advice on the application of the derogation, and to review the results of monitoring when simazine is used under its conditions. For this purpose the Pesticides Advisory Group is designed to consist of technical advisors and to have the support of stakeholders and FSC members in Victoria.
During the review of the simazine derogation request it was clear that it would be highly useful if a Pesticides Advisory Group could be established to provide advice on any further derogation requests in Australia. This would ensure that derogation requests could be scrutinised by experts in Australia, prior to submission to FSC, and improve the quality and timeliness of the evaluation.
There would be obvious advantages if the Pesticides Advisory Group set up to provide advice on simazine use in Victoria could go on to provide further advice on subsequent chemicals issues in the context of FSC certification in Australia as a whole. For further information, please contact Mr Tim Cadman, FSC Contact Person in Australia (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Matthew Wenban-Smith (Head of Policy and Standards Unit - Forest Stewardship Council, Bonn Germany).
Herbicide Regimes - March 2003: Hancock Watch has recently been given information pertaining to the quantity of herbicides sprayed in certain Hancock plantations in the Gippsland Region. This data was provided by Gippsland Water. Information is incomplete and doesn't give an indication of the full story associated with herbicide use by the company. Nevertheless it does shed some light on this important issue.
Hancock are currently attempting to get their Victorian operations certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC requires that companies reduce their herbicide regimes and ban the use of certain chemicals. We call on Hancock to publicly release all details of herbicide applications over their entire asset base. If we are not privy to this information then that is an unacceptable outcome - especially if herbicides are aerially dropped into peoples drinking water.
The following links will provide information relating to plantations and their herbicide regimes over the past few years. Also see March 03 updates with information pertaining to a herbicide pollution incident which has killed old growth redgums in Central Gippsland.
Water supplies most likely to be impacted by Hancock and other plantation company's activities (in red):
For more detailed information on these potentially impacted water supplies, please go to connecting links:
Numerous plantations in the Hancock estate in Victoria are located on top of areas that were mined for gold in the 19th Century. Plantations were established in these areas to stabilise disturbed soil and mine tailings. Will logging of these areas and the associated soil disturbance release mercury (and other toxins) into the environment? Are existing buffer zones on these areas appropriate to stop this insidious form of pollution?
"(a) Auriferous Areas. An aftermath of the gold mining era in Ballarat, Creswick and Castlemaine was the denuded and unproductive areas of worked-out diggings. Partly to put the land to better use and partly to hide an unpleasant sight, planting of such areas commenced in 1888 at Creswick and at Ballarat and Castlemaine in 1919. Under natural conditions the auriferous soils are too poor for satisfactory tree growth but when disturbed by mining operations a big improvement is often obtained. This is largely a reflection of internal soil drainage and root penetration; under natural conditions the soils are compacted with a relatively impervious B horizon underneath a shallow A horizon, but mining operations results in several feet of "loose" soils being created. Responses like this suggest that deep cultivation to 3 or 4 feet may give a big improvement in site where low quality is due to compacted soils and not inadequate soils depth.
When most of the mined land had been planted, activities extended to the surrounding low quality native forest. Generally these did not prove to be very satisfactory, so that further extension has been confined to the more favourable localities.
(b) Dredged gravels. During the 1890's and early 1900's gold dredging extended into the Ovens Valley and its tributaries. At the peak of operations more than 40 dredges operated in the valley destroying large acres of alluvial flats and leaving a churned up mass of course gravels.
An experimental planting of 80 acres of P.radiata at Bright in 1916 on dredge trailings was very successful, so that over the next ten years several hundred acres were planted. These areas are some of the best in the Bright group of plantations.
Areas dredged more recently are not so satisfactory. With improved techniques and processing, soils have been disturbed to much greater depths and too high a proportion of the finer particles have been washed out. On such areas tree growth has not been satisfactory and many are now being converted to pasture of a kind". (Exotic Forests and Land Use by K.J. Simpfendorfer - Victoria Forests Commission Forestry Technical Papers No.19 1967)
Not all of the gold mining areas now under Hancock plantations would have used Mercury but many may have. The following excepts may shed some light on this disturbing issue which in many cases could be toxic timebombs waiting to happen.
Plantation LEGL93-41 Glen Park Plantation: Feb 01. Black liquid oozing from plantation gully which was once mined for gold. Could this be Mercury?
Hancock plantations on top of old gold mine areas include: Ballarat Region (LEGL's 93-24, 93-29, 93-34, 93-39/1, 93-40, 93-41 93-53, 93-54, 93-55) Ovens Region (LEGL's 93-130, 93-136, 93-137, 93-138, 93-139, 93-141, 93-142, 93-132).
Following article sourced from: Environment Protection Authority: Mercury in the Freshwater Environment - The Contamination of waterbodies in Victoria as a Result of Past Gold Mining Activities - David Tiller 1990.
". . . losses from gold mining activities in the past 100 or so years has contributed far more mercury to streams and lakes in Victoria than erosion would have over the same period. . . Mercury was, and in places still is, used for recovering gold from crushed ore. The gold containing ore is crushed into fine particles, mixed with water to form a slurry, and then passed over copper plates coated with mercury. Mercury forms an amalgam (mixture or combination) with the gold. The gold is seperated from the mercury by vaporizing off the mercury, which can be recondensed and re-used. Unfortunately, during the process some of the mercury is lost from the copper plates to the slurry. The processed slurry, now called tailings or slimes, was either contained in dams or discharged to water courses . . .
In the aquatic environment very little mercury will be dissolved in the water column. Mercury tends to bind to organic particles (Sherbin 1979), which then settle out of the water column and accumulate in the sediment. Most of the mercury in an aquatic system will, therefore, end up in sediments. . . Many aquatic organisms can take up and accumulate mercury, either directly from the water column or via their food. Mercury is also thought to biomagnify at higher trophic levels . . . Human poisonings by mercury are usually the result of eating contaminated fish or molluscs. . . Methyl mercury tends to accumulate in various organs of the body, particularly the brain (OECD1974). . .
The re-suspension of contaminated sediment during high flows may lead to elevated concentrations in the water column . . . In general, elevated mercury concentrations in the water column are episodic events . . . Unfortunately, there are no sediment mercury criteria available . . . The erosion of mercury-contaminated tailings continues to be a source of mercury to the aquatic environment . . . It should not be concluded that all the old tailings dams in gold mining areas are contaminated with mercury, as the mercury amalgam process was not the only method employed to remove gold . . .
Fish can accumulate large amounts of mercury, mostly methyl mercury, from the environment. . . Invertebrates can also accumulate mercury . . . While there is some uncertainty in the literature, it is generally considered that mercury is taken up by biota primarily from the water column rather than through ingestion of food. . . "
Following article sourced from: Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute. Report No 49. Mercury Concentrations in Brown Trout (salmo trutta) from Eastern Victorian Waterways. By G. Fabris December 2002.
"In Victoria there is a history of pollution of otherwise pristine streams and lakes by mercury which was commonly used to seperate gold, by amalgamation, from crushed ore during the last century . . . Coller estimated that approximatley 950 tonnes of metallic mercury was lost in streams of the Great Divide by this process . . .
p3 While it is unlikely that acute poisoning (seizures, severe neurological impairment and death) would result from exposure to low doses of methyl mercury, it can produce harmful effects in humans at concentrations one tenth of those of inorganic mercury and it has been implicated in cognitive deficits in children (Dietz et al. 2000). The risk is that recreational fishers as well as sensitive sub-populations such as pregnant women/foetus, nursing mothers and their infants and children would be at risk of developing subtle to severe neurological problems due to persistent exposure to low doses of methylmercury . . . In Australia, the FSANZ Food Standards Code (FSANZ 2002) prescribes a Maximum Level (ML) of 0.5ug g-1(wet weight) for most fish . . . p13 Ovens River (Site 4) have mean mercury concentrations ranging from 0.23 to 0.81ug g -1 . . . " (The Ovens River readings were taken from three sites between Bright and Freeburg).
Following article sourced from: State of the Environment Report 1988. Victoria's Inland Waters. Office of the Commissioner for the Environment.
p88/89 "Aquatic Impacts of Gold Mining: Historical Impacts.
The major environmental impacts of mining occurred during the intensive and widespread activity of the 19th century rushes. They include:
i) Massive logging of Victoria's box, ironbark and other forests for timber for mine props and fuel accompanied clearing of vegetation for easier access to outcrops, and the wholesale removal of washdirt for panning. This led to heavy erosion of hill slopes and river banks, and resultant changes to the physical form of rivers and streams. Only some of this cleared land - usually on the more accessible river flats - was later converted to agriculture use but much, while exposed, became heavily eroded, often being literally stripped of all vegetation. While many of the early mining areas have reverted to bush, evidence remains of these activities - including the relative paucity of regrowth. Current erosion rates in some localities are still influenced by the impact of mining activity.
ii) Most streams within areas bearing gold deposits were subjected to intensive excavation of their beds and banks, crude engineering works, and diversion of waters. In certain areas, river beds were dug over several times. Many thousands of tons of sediment were washed down-stream. Combined with the effects of sediment from erosion, significant changes in stream morphology resulted both within and down-stream from gold mining areas. In the absence of scientific evidence, it is impossible to precisely evaluate the extent to which these activities have had an impact on individual water bodies, but many of the dramatic alterations effected during the gold rush period have persisted through to the present day.
iii) Leaching of tailing dumps, the passage of waste effluent from processing to streams, and in some instances the mobilisation of natural sources of metals during the course of mining, all contributed to the loads of heavy metals and trace elements - particularly mercury, lead, zinc, copper and arsenic - which exists now in significant quantities in the sediment of streams in former gold mining areas (e.g. Goulburn River, Bendigo Creek, Rasberry Creek, Lerderderg River). These persistent contaminants are particularly concentrated downstream from processing sites.
iv) The massive changes in stream morphology and hydrology, sediment and heavy metal inputs inevitably had a significant impact on instream biota, though the extent of these impacts also cannot be assessed scientifically because of lack of data. Changes in the distribution and range of native fish in streams in previously mined regions may have been initiated by these impacts. . . "
Article sourced from Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
Atrazine, the most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. and possibly the world, causes an array of sexual abnormalities including hermaphrodism (the development of both male and female sex organs) according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The results may provide the key to a global mystery. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now in the process of evaluating the ecological impacts of atrazine, and we are encouraging the public to send in comments (see below).
For the last decade, scientists have documented a worldwide collapse in frog populations, and some believe that as many as 20 species are now extinct. Perhaps most surprising, frog populations have collapsed even in very remote, pristine areas. While the declines are well documented, the cause is a mystery; suggested culprits have included global climate change, habitat destruction, toxics, predation from introduced species and diseases. Now University of California at Berkeley researcher Tyrone Hayes may have found a key cause that would explain much of the decline.
Atrazine, is used in over 80 countries, and where it is used it is almost invariably found in streams, ponds and lakes. In the U.S., it is found in virtually all waterways. "[It] can be found in rain water, snow runoff, and ground water. There seems to be no atrazine-free environment," says author Hayes. The reason for this is simple: in addition to being widely used, it is also highly mobile and persistent in the environment. The EPA estimates that the average half-life of atrazine in aquatic environments is 167 days, and in the cold waters of Lake Michigan, it is 31 years. Atrazine flows downstream from farms where it is applied and is also picked up by winds and carried to remote areas. The EPA notes that atrazine "was detected in more than 60% of weekly rainfall samples taken in 1995 from agricultural and urban sites in Mississippi, Iowa and Minnesota."
While widespread atrazine pollution in the U.S. is well documented, U.S. pesticide manufacturers have long claimed that it is of little concern because the amounts normally found in the environment produce few obvious effects in laboratory studies. However, traditional toxicological studies use very high concentrations of atrazine and look for gross abnormalities. Hayes's low-dose study, documented subtle sexual abnormalities missed by traditional high-dose atrazine studies. The results of the study, if confirmed, may pave the way to a major rethinking of how toxicological assessments are done in the United States.
Atrazine is a known endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors cause developmental harm in extremely low doses by interfering with hormonal triggers at key points in the development of an organism. Hayes' study shows significant sexual abnormalities at just 0.1 parts per billion (ppb)--30 times lower than levels allowed by the EPA for drinking water and 120 times lower than the 12 ppb EPA guideline for the protection of aquatic life.
The ubiquity of atrazine in the environment combined with an explanation of how very low concentrations might cause harm to frog populations could provide a key piece of information to unravel the mystery surrounding the decline of frog populations worldwide.
The EPA periodically re-assesses chemicals and is currently finalizing the ecological risk assessment for atrazine. Though this document is supposed to consider all the major ecological impacts, developmental impacts on frogs like those shown by Hayes' paper are not considered in their risk assessment model. In fact, impacts on amphibians are entirely ignored in their model, which only looks at mammals, birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates and plants. The EPA's conclusions, based on this flawed assessment are that "potential effects [are] likely to be greatest where concentrations recurrently or consistently exceed 10 to 20 ppb"--100 to 200 times the concentrations where significant sexual abnormalities were observed in Hayes' study. Though Hayes' results are mentioned elsewhere in the assessment, these risk assessment models are expected to form the basis of any EPA regulatory action.
* Write the EPA and urge them to include the developmental impacts of atrazine on amphibians in their risk assessment models. The EPA's "Environmental Fate and Effects Revised Risk Assessment" for atrazine states that: "One of the most important steps in problem formulation is the selection of the endpoints upon which the ecological risk assessment is to be based." By excluding developmental impacts on frogs, this document fails to accurately assess the likely impacts of continued atrazine use.
Comments should reference the docket number (OPP-34237C) in the subject
and must be received by EPA on or before July 5, 2002. Comments can
be sent via email or mail.
Graphic: Waste products used in agriculture
Big businesses across Australia are disposing of their industrial waste as fertilisers or soil conditioners to be spread on farms, vineyards and home gardens.
The material often contains potentially toxic substances and heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, chromium and lead.
State government agencies encourage the practice in the name of recycling and farmers embrace it because it delivers cheap fertiliser. Corporations also can save millions of dollars in dumping costs.
Untreated slag from BHP's Port Kembla steelworks is being spread over dairy fields and crops in the southern tablelands.
Radioactive material from aluminium refineries in Western Australia is being poured onto big cattle stations. In Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, waste from zinc smelters, power stations, cement kilns and car-part manufacturers is turned into products for farms and home gardens.
The practice is perfectly legal.
In Australia, there is no national regulation of fertilisers and any material that has fertilising qualities can be labelled and used as such, even if it contains toxins and heavy metals.
There are no requirements to register the products with state agricultural departments or to stop them being marketed as organic, which some of them are.
The few state regulations controlling toxic heavy metals in fertilisers can disappear when an industrial waste is re-labelled as a soil conditioner.
The potential threat to human health posed by the waste is a matter of dispute.
Studies show that large amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury can cause cancers, birth defects and neurological problems in humans. They also can be taken up by grazing animals and by many table crops.
State environmental protection authorities and agricultural departments believe that the levels in the recycled material are harmless.
But they rarely test the products, relying instead on data supplied by the companies producing the waste for assurance that it is not dangerous.
Dr Mark Conyers, a soil scientist with the NSW Department of Agriculture, says it is time for a public debate on an issue which is unknown to most consumers.
"One of the things that disturbs me is that they give these apparently detailed analyses on their products, but they don't give you analysis on the bogymen [heavy metals]," he said. "It is like they are not there.
"My feeling is that these things should not be dumped on agricultural land until they have been deemed to be safe."
Lee Bell, a member of the National Environmental Consultative Forum, said there appeared to be a lack of regulation.
"It is a scandal and a disgrace and I think that if the public were made aware of the implications of doing this there would be mass outrage," he said.
"They are trying to convince people that black is white, and that potentially toxic waste is actually good for your garden. I don't think that any sensible and informed people would be of that view."
Ben Cole, a spokesman for the Total Environment Centre, said any reuse of unscreened industrial waste in agriculture should cause alarm.
"Industrial waste is dangerous; it should be kept well away from agriculture and the environment," he said.
"The risk of exposure to undesirable levels of heavy metals and other pollutants is far too high.
"Many of these contaminants bioaccumulate. This means they can be
passed through the food chain and into our bodies, and flow into waterways
In NSW and Victoria it is mandatory for bags of fertiliser to carry a warning if the product exceeds certain limits of certain heavy metals.
In NSW these are: Lead, 20 milligrams per kilogram; Cadmium, one milligram per kilogram; and mercury, 0.2 milligrams per kilogram.
The warnings spell out the fact that using the fertiliser may result in crop and animal products that exceed guidelines on maximum allowable levels of these three heavy metals.
It also warns that the metals may accumulate in your soil.
But a loophole exists whereby fertilisers produced in other states do not have to carry the warning labels, even if they are being sold in NSW and Victoria.
The same loophole applies to overseas products - which accounts for about 40 per cent of all fertiliser sold in Australia.
Products made in the United States and sold in supermarkets in Australia do not have to meet guidelines set down for the same products made in Sydney.
And if you take a walk around your local supermarket you will find there are typically no warning labels on these products.
Figures released to the Herald from one large Australian fertiliser manufacturer show a number of their products have higher levels of lead, cadmium and mercury than the levels which trigger the warnings.
Some products have levels up to 25 times higher for cadmium and mercury and up to 12 times higher for lead.
In January 2000, the United States Fertiliser Institute produced a list of 12 heavy metals and one radionuclide (a radioactive element called radium 226) which it termed "metals of potential concern" found in fertilisers.
On the list were cadmium, mercury and lead. But also included were nine other heavy metals - arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, vanadium and zinc.
There are no set limits for any of these materials.
Some toxic metals can be absorbed by vegetable crops:
Arsenic: Carrots, onions, potatoes and other root vegetables
Cadmium: Lettuce, corn, wheat
Lead: Fruits and grains
Dioxin: Zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber, carrots, lettuce and peas.
SOURCE: California Public Interest Research Group Charitable Trust.
Agriculture gobbles up recycled materials, but there are few checks on the practice, Gerard Ryle reports.
The names of the companies recycling industrial waste into agriculture read like a who's who of Australian business.
Alcoa, BHP, Boral, Intercast & Forge, and Iluka Resources all dispose of by-products either directly to farmers or indirectly to fertiliser companies who use them in their production process.
Other companies, such as Ford, Backwell-IXL and TiWest, have explored ways of turning wastes into garden or agricultural products.
Much of the recycling is done in the name of the environment, and big fertiliser companies who use material say there is nothing wrong with it.
For instance, sulphuric acid used in the making of phosphate-based fertiliser is recycled sulphur dioxide captured from the pollution stacks of Pasminco's zinc and lead refineries. And ammonium sulphate, a by-product from Anaconda's nickel smelter, is used as a source of nitrogen in compound fertilisers.
But while some recycling may be desirable, there is little monitoring by state agricultural departments. Safety issues are left almost entirely to the honesty of private industry.
"In the olden days the Department of Agriculture would have done random checks on products to make sure they were what they were," said Dr Mark Conyers, a research scientist with the NSW Department of Agriculture.
"Today there are no inspectors. There is no compliance testing. There is just a labelling requirement, and if someone says 'I am not happy with the information, I am going to get a second opinion' it is up to the individual consumer to challenge the company."
The Herald has learned that there are no national laws on the level of contaminants allowed in recycled materials used in agriculture.
State fertiliser laws are restricted to just three heavy metals - lead, mercury and cadmium. Other potential hazards are ignored.
As a result some farmers can find themselves sprinkling several cups of arsenic over their lands when they follow recommendations on one recycled material for higher crop yields.
Arsenic has no nutrient value for plants and is considered injurious to human health. It can also be ingested by animals and some table vegetables. But, with a number of other toxic substances, such as uranium, chromium and nickel, it is in some recycled wastes.
"It is hard to get hard numbers out of data about what are safe levels of arsenic, or even lead, mercury and cadmium," said Dr Conyers. "You might get data on what is safe on potatoes in Tasmania but you don't get general information on what are safe levels in soil. The numbers are very rubbery.
"What we do know is that there are problems with lead, mercury and cadmium, and there are suspected problems with arsenic and chromium in some industrial waste products."
The recent explosion in using waste in agriculture appears to have coincided with two events.
The first was a general push by state environmental protection authorities to encourage recycling by raising disposal costs for hazardous materials.
The second was the abandonment, state by state, of rules that required the registration of fertilisers. These rules had been around for decades and NSW was one of the last to get rid of them.
In 1998, NSW was one of the last states to abolish the need for companies to list their products and their all-important contents.
"Companies are often looking for ways to bulk out products from cheap waste material," said Angela Thomas, technical manager for the fertiliser company, Yates, which does not use any dangerous byproducts. "I can't actually quote anything for you, but I wouldn't be surprised. There is such a drive at the moment for people to find alternatives for their waste products.
"I suppose some companies would see that it would be a good way to get rid of materials that they couldn't get rid of elsewhere," Ms Thomas said.
Even those who make their living from selling the recycled products to farmers are amazed at the lack of regulation.
Richard Clarke, who sells steel and cement-making wastes and incinerator ash from the burning of Canberra's sewage, says he is never bothered, even by the EPA.
"The Department of Agriculture used to keep an eye on us and this is the crazy thing," he said. "It has all become truth in labelling and it is a very big open market now because of the cutbacks the State Government have made." Mr Clarke, who tests all materials offered to him for safety before selling them to farmers, said he knocks some of them back, even when industries offer them free.
"There are products that are out there that are just no good," he said. "The Government says it is concerned about the environment, but then why isn't the Government controlling a little bit more what is going on the ground?"
But it appears that some recycling is being done with the active encouragement of state authorities.
For instance, at Townsville's Sun Metals Corporation, the world's third-largest zinc smelter, a waste gypsum is blended with natural gypsum, and then spread over cane fields and banana plantations. The waste product contains heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium and mercury, but the blending process brings it below Queensland's allowable levels for agriculture.
"We don't make any money on it. We are just trying to get rid of a waste product and get it reused for a better purpose than what we would do with it in terms of just putting it into a lime pond for storage and ultimately for capping and sealing," said the company's environmental officer, Eddie Boggiano.
"We have a licence from the EPA and they are aware of that; and also Burdekin Lime Company [which mixes the product] has an environmental licence whereby they can transport the gypsum, because it is considered a waste from here and it should be tracked."
Similarly the recycling of waste from Blue Circle Southern Cement at Marulan has drawn effusive praise from the CSIRO.
"Blue Circle Southern Cement sell their 'pollution' to farmers for $130,000 a year," says one CSIRO document on sustainable resources.
In fact the company is now saving about $200,000 a year more by adopting a program on recycling lime kiln dust to farmers.
What was once a waste is now a product called "hot-lime". The extra savings come in the form of lower EPA licensing fees, said the company's general manager of minerals, Allan Starr.
According to Mike McLaughlin from the CSIRO, who is in charge of a national program to monitor cadmium contamination in soils, much of the recycling simply makes sense. "A lot of the waste streams are very useful," said Dr McLaughlin. "Sulphur used to be put out into the air, but this can now be captured and used to make fertilisers.
"Rather than paying for sulphuric acid, you are taking a pollutant that would be going into the atmosphere and using it to substitute for a mineral that would have to be mined out of the ground anyway."
It is a point repeated by Craig Heidrich, a spokesman for the Ash Development Association of Australia. This is a body seeking alternative uses for Australia's estimated 12 million-tonne annual discharge of waste ash from coal-powered generating stations.
"There is a lot of fear and paranoia about using a so-called industrial waste for that type of application - it breeds the usual sort of scepticism," he said, but "from an environmental standpoint, from a nutrient standpoint ... this has no negative effects."
Jim Devine, a spokesman for Macquarie Generation, which recycles coal ash waste from the Bayswater Power Station into a tree plantation, said the material would otherwise have to be buried at great cost.
"We see it as an opportunity to capitalise on what has traditionally been regarded as a liability, that's for sure," said Mr Devine. "Every tonne we can divert from the [disposal] dam defers construction of the next dam. It is an expensive business maintaining it where it is at present."
But Lee Bell, a member of the National Environmental Consultative Forum, said some recycling was little more than legalised dumping and is not being properly monitored.
"The miraculous development of some industrial wastes into so-called fertiliser doesn't seem to have any regulatory control at all," Mr Bell said.
"It seems that if you can give waste some name that relates to improved farm yields, then it is fine to put it on the market. The regulators don't seem to be able to cope with that."
The following information sourced from:
Concentrations of pesticides in streams draining 20 plantations of Eucalyptus nitens in Tasmania were examined in relation to buffer strip width. Atrazine concentrations on the day of spray in streams draining 15 plantations were significantly negatively correlated with riparian buffer strip width but not buffer quality. Concentrations following the first rain event and one month after spraying were highly positively correlated with day of spray concentrations and were only weakly correlated with other site characteristics. Streams with 30 m buffer strips had median atrazine concentrations less than 20ug/L at all times and these buffer widths are recommended for minimising short term ecological impact on streams.
In streams draining five plantations that were aerially sprayed with pyrethoroids alpha - or cypermethrin, pyrethoroid concentration and short term changes in drift (downstream movement) of stream invertebrates were highly negatively correlated with buffer strip width but with no other variable. Drift of stream invertebrates is recommended as a biomonitor for the contamination of streams with pyrethoroids on the day of spray, sensitive down to 0.1ug/L. Buffer strips of at least 50 m are recommended to minimise mortality of stream invertebrates from pyrethroid spraying.
Strips of riparian vegetation, commonly called buffer strips, are frequently used in forest management as a primary conservation measure to protect streams (Clinninck 1985). These buffer strips of natural vegetation are often expected to serve a number of roles - the reduction of sediment and associated nutrient losses and the reduction of pollutant loads into surface waters; the maintenance of natural channel stability, stream habitat and of allocthonous energy inputs; the conservation of terrestrial fauna and floral communities; the provision of wildlife corridors; and the maintenance of aesthetic values (see Clinnick 1985). Despite these expectations and the frequent and established use of prescribed buffer strip widths in forest management in Australia (Cameron and Henderson 1979), Campbell and Doeg (1989), in a recent review of the impact of forestry on streams stated that: "although buffer zones along streams have been widely advocated to protect streams ... there have been no Australian studies to determine the effectiveness of, or appropriate widths for, buffer strips in forestry operations...".
The effectiveness of buffer strips in reducing contamination of surface waters is related to strip width, the nature of the strip vegetation and the strip's relationship with catchment topography. Asmussen el al. (1977) described a reduction in herbicide loads in surface waters passing through vegetated channels which was dependent on the efficacy of the strip to trap contaminated particulates. Other authors have observed the dependence of sediment and nutrient reductions in surface waters on buffer slope and vegetation type (Trimble and Sartz 1957, Wilson 1967, Barfield et al, 1979) and modelled them under a range of runoff conditions (Hayes and Hairston 1983, Hayes and Dillaha 1992). Such descriptions are, however, related to relatively uniform grassed systems in agricultural watersheds and not to be near-natural forest riparian systems more common in forestry. Borg et al. (1988) described the effect of removal of buffer strips on Western Australian streams on stream channel profiles and water quality in the only Australian study in this field.
Few studies describe the contamination of surface waters from forestry pesticide spraying operations in Australia. McKimm and Hopmans (1978) reported stream contamination of up to 10ug/L with 2,4,5-T in an aerially sprayed Victorian pine plantation in which streams had natural buffer strips ranging from 20 to 40 m in width. They reported, however, that no significant contamination occurred on the day of spray, indicating that the strips had protected the streams from aerial drift contamination. McAlpine and Weil (1990) reported minimal contamination of streams from aerial drift when granulated formulations of atrazine and hexazinone were applied to Western Australian plantations, but noted significant contamination to the characteristics of the riparian vegetation. Leitch and Flinn (1983) and Leitch and Fagg (1985), in relation to aerial spraying of Pinus radiata plantations for woody weed control, reported low concentrations of the herbicides hexazinone and clopyralid in stream water which were stongly dependent on rainfall. They attributed the low concentrations to interception of aerial drift by 30 to 40 m wide buffer strips combined with a low proportion of catchment area sprayed and accurate spraying techniques.
Application of chemicals for pest control is an intrinsic component of Tasmanian eucalypt plantation management. Atrazine, a triazine herbicide is used extensively at high application rates (4-12 kg/ha) during winter in the early stages of plantation establishment. It is also used widely in plantation establishment in south-eastern and western Australia. Davies et al. (1993) report the widespread and persistent contamination of Tasmanian streams draining sprayed Eucalyptus nitens (shining gum) plantations, with concentrations of atrazine ranging over six orders of magnitude up to 53mg/L on the day of spray. Contamination persisted for up to 16 months and was dependent on runoff. Atrazine is regarded as having significant effects on stream fauna and flora at concentrations above 20ug/L (Dewey 1986). The recommended WHO drinking water guidelines for this compound are 2ug/L (WHO 1992), while the ECE's current drinking water quality criterion for atrazine is 0.1 ug/L (Buser 1990).
Alphamethrin, a pyrethroid insecticide, is used to control outbreaks of gum beetles (Chrysomphtharta sp.) in young E. nitens plantations in early and mid-summer, and is aerially sprayed at low application rates (10-30g/ha). Davies and Cook (1993) studied streams draining a Tasmanian plantation following aerial application of the closely related pyrethroid, cypermethrin (alphamethrin is a partially resolved racemic mixture of cypermethrin isomers). They reported large increases in stream invertebrate drift (downstream movement), and toxic symptoms in fish, in streams with buffer strips less than 10m. Concentrations of cyper- and alphamethrin in the 0.1-1 ug/L range are lethal to aquatic macroinvertebrates (Stephenson 1982). This concentration range is frequently at the limit of analytical techniques due to the high adsorption characteristics of these compunds, making them difficult to sample efficiently in surface waters.
The environmental effects of aerial spraying of pesticides are partially mediated in Tasmanian forestry operations by the use of a range of buffer strip widths dependent on stream size (Forestry Commission 1992), combined with prescriptions on recommended spraying practices (Forestry Commission 1988). This paper describes relationships between the concentrations of atrazine in plantation streams and the characteristics of the spray site, including buffer strip width and quality. Observations were made on the day of spray, the day following the first major rainfall event after spraying and one month after spraying. The relationships are also described for alphamethrin and cypermethrin on the day of spray, using both the response of drifting invertebrates as an indicator of contamination and the reported concentrations, which are regarded as less reliable. The efficacy of riparian buffer strips to protect streams from pesticide contamination is discussed in the light of these relationships and in the light of current water quality criteria.
Study sites and sampling procedures
Stream water at 29 sites from 18 streams draining 15 Eucalyptus nitens plantations (owned by either the Forestry Commission or Australian Pulp and Paper Mills) was sampled during 1989-91 for the determination of atrazine concentrations (Davies et al. 1993). The location of plantations are indicated in Figure 1. All plantations were sprayed with atrazine in combination with a surfacant and occassionally with glyphosate (as Roundup), as part of normal forestry operations. Thirteen plantations (sampled at 25 sites) were sprayed by helicopter under relatively uniform conditions with a spraying height around 10-15m, similar droplet sizes and uniform windspeeds generally <5km/hr (Forestry Commission 1988). One plantation (3 sites) was sprayed by fixed-wing aircraft and I by tractor mounted boom (1 site). Application rates ranged between 4 and 6kg of active ingredient per hectare.
The water sampling and analysis procedure is as described in Davies et al. (1993). Single 250 mL water samples were taken from all sites, in solvent-rinsed glass bottles immediately downstream of the sprayed area (plantation streams) and in several streams to which plantation streams were tributaries (receiving streams). Samples were taken within 1-2 h of spraying on the day of spray for atrazine analysis by gas chromatography. Samples were also taken on the day immediately following the first major (>5mm) rainfall event after spraying (first rain) and one month after spraying between major rain events.
Stream water from 7 sites in 7 streams draining 4 E. nitens plantations was sampled following operational spraying of alphamethrin in early summer (November - December) and 2 sites draining 1 plantation sprayed with cypermethrin were also sampled (Davies and Cook 1993). All sites were immediately downstream of the sprayed plantation. All plantations were drift sprayed from a Hiller 12E helicopter using a micronair AU5000 system with 100-150 um droplet size. Spary volumes ranged from 5-10 L/ha and application rates of 20 to 30 g active ingredient per hectare. Single water samples (240 mL) were collected in glass solvent-rinsed (AR Acetone) Volumetric flasks within 1 - 2 h of spraying. Previous experience had shown that sample transfer and/or extraction with reverse-phase columns led to very poor recoveries, apparently due to rapid adsorption on plastic and glass at concentrations less than 1ug/L (Cook and Davies unpub. data). The sample was shaken manually with 10 mL hexane (HPLC grade) for 5 minutes and 5 mL of hexane was removed and stored at -10 degrees C in glass vials with teflon-lined caps. The samples were evaporated in a stream of air to 10uL and analysed by gas chromatography on an SGE 12QC5/BP10 ultrabore column or equivalent with an NPD detector. The detection limit was 0.01ug/L.
One drift net was set at each site two days prior to spraying. The net was cleared between 7 and 9 am and between 6 and 9 pm every day in order to collect one day sample and one night sample immediately prior to and after spraying. Drift was preserved in 70% ethanol prior to sub sampling, according to the method described by Marchant (1989), sorting and identification. Drift abundance data were corrected to 12 hourly rates. Differences between drift rates were calculated for the day before and the day after spraying and for the night before and the night after spraying for all taxa and for total drift.
The following variables were determined at each sampling site.
Pearson correlations between pesticide concentrations and site parameters were examoned after In(x+1) transformation due to the skewed nature of the concentration data (Helsel and Hirsch 1992). Multiple linear regression models were estimated for pesticide concentration data with site parameters as independent variables, with all data ln (x+1) transformed due to the frequent heteroscedastic nature of the relationships ...
Day of spray
Atrazine concentrations on the day of spray for all sites were significantly negatively correlated with buffer strip width, plantation catchment area, stream catchment area and length of stream within the catchment and positively correlated with catchment area ration. They were not correlated with application rate and had only a marginal correlation with buffer strip quality. This latter correlation was not significant when sites with no riparian vegetation (buffer quality = 0) were excluded from the analysis.
A plot of concentration gainst buffer strip width indicated significant variation in concentration at all strip widths, with a loosley linear trend. Median atrazine concentrations for streams with -<10m, 20 and 30 m buffer strip widths were 700, 58.1 and 5.4ug/L, respectively (n=7, 7 and 9, respectively), on the day of spray.
When data for streams which directly drained plantations (plantation streams, n=11) were analysed, atrazine concentrations were more highly negatively correlated wity buffer strip width than for all streams combined and moderately correlated with total catchment area and catchment area ratio (Table 1).
Multiple linear regression of plantation stream atrazine concentrations on the day of spray against site variables indicated that buffer strip width was the principle variable describing the variance in atrazine concentration data and that the inclusion of other variables in a model was not warranted (Table 2). Thus, plantation stream atrazine concentration on the day of spray was primarily dicated by buffer strip width.
Table 1. Pearson correlations (r) of atrazine concentrations found
in Tasmanian streams draining Eucalyptus nitens plantations on the day
of the spray against site variables. Correlations are shown for all
sites combined, for streams directly draining plantations and for streams
bordering plantations or receiving drainage from plantation streams.
All data are In(x+1) transformed.
*=p<0.05: **=p<0.01: ***=p<0.001
When data for streams which bordered plantations and/or received drainage from plantation streams (receiving streams, n=15) were analysed, there were significant negative correlations with stream length, plantation area and catchment area but not with buffer strip width (Table 1). Atrazine concentrations in receiving streams on the day of spray were not significantly correlated with those found in plantation streams which drained into them (r=0.561. p=0.14. n=8).
First rain and one month after spraying
Significant correlations were found between atrazine concentrations following the first rain event and buffer strip width, stream management area and catchment area ratio (Table 3). Marginal correlations were found with plantation catchment area and soil erosion class. Significant correlations were found between atrazine concentrations one month after spraying and all variables except soil erosion class and plantation slope (Table 3). A marginal correlation was found with soil erosion class.
Median concentrations at the first rain event after spraying for streams with -<10, 20 and 30 m buffers were 48.0, 36.4 and 3.6 ug/L (n=5, 7, 8) respectively. One month after spraying, the median concentrations were 25.0, 5.6 and 1.5 ug/L (n=5, 7, 9), at these buffer widths, respectively. Thus, only 30m buffer strip widths were associated with median atrazine concentrations between 20 ug/L at all times following spraying.
Highly significant positive correlations were also found between concentrations on the day of spray and concentrations at the same sites after the first rain event and the first month after spraying. Concentrations on the day of spray predicted 63.4 and 63.0% of the variance on the concentrations after the first rain event and the first month, respectively. Multiple linear regression against all independent variables showed that no other site variable improved this relationship (Table 2). Site variables alone were only able to predict 31.2 and 41.2% (stream catchment area) of the variance in atrazine concentration data on these two occasions, respectively. Thus, atrazine concentrations for up to one month after the day of spray were principally dictated by the extent of contamination on the day of spray itself and were only marginally affected by site characteristics.
Table 2. Regression equations describing atrazine concentrations
on the day of spray, 1st rain event after spraying and one month after
spraying (y in ug/L, all In(x+1) transformed) against site variables,
derived by multiple linear regression. CAR = catchment area ratio, PCA
= plantation catchment area.
Peak (day of spray) pyrethroid concentrations were obtained on six
occasions, ranging from <0.01 to 0.50 ug/L. These concentrations were
significantly negatively correlated with buffer strip width (Table 4),
but not with any other site variable. A multiple linear regression model
of peak pyrethoid concentrations contained only buffer strip width as
a variable, explaining 71.6% of the variance in the data...
Buffer strips are used along streams for a variety of reasons, particularly for the protection of water quality against the adverse effects of soil movement. The use, inadvertent or intentional, of buffer strips to protect stream water from contamination by pesticides on the day of spray is a direct result of the practical inability of both ground-based and aerial spraying operations to contain the drift of spray droplets after release. The lateral spread of a spray cloud in open terrain is determined by three principle factors: wind strength, droplet size and height of release (NSW 1986, McNeil, Forestry Commission Tasmania, pers. comm.). Spraying in the present study was principally by helicopter under relatively uniform conditions with low windspeeds and good operational control (see Forestry Commission 1988). Only one of the plantations studied was sprayed from a light plane and this, combined with a complete lack of buffer strips and a high application rate (10kg/ha), resulted in the highest day of spray concentration of atrazine found in the study (58 mg/L). Overall, therefore, the principal variables which could significantly influence the extent of contamination of plantation stream water on the day of spray in this study were the width and quality (density) of buffer strip vegetation between the primary spray cloud and the stream bank.
Significant negative correlations between buffer strip width and atrazine concentrations on the day of spray were found for all streams, and particularly for those streams directly draining the plantations. No relationship was found with buffer strip quality, suggesting that width rather than vegetation density was the dominant factor. Some contamination was found at all buffer strip widths on the day of spray, and the concentrations were highly variable. This variability is likely to be dictated by the unpredictability of aerial drift contact with stream water surfaces and mixing, combined with the use of data from single 'spot' samples collected within a one hour window. It is well recognised that stream contaminant concentrations resulting from single incidents are highly variable on the scale of hours to days (Bruton 1982). It appears, however, that the sampling regime used in this study has been adequate to detect a relationship with buffer strip widths over a broad range of concentrations and conditions.
Atrazine concentrations following the first rain event and one month after spraying were strongly related to those found on the day of spray but not to other site factors. This suggests that contamination of the stream itself or of the immediate riparian area during spraying dictates stream concentrations over the ensuring month and during rain events. The extent of this contamination is apparently dictated by buffer strip width. Thus, the soil erosion class or plantation slope had no significant influence on the stream concentrations after the day of spray.
Contamination of streams draining plantations apparently cannot be completely avoided if triazine herbicides are used. (Davies et al. 1993). From the present study, it would appear that contamination can be minimised by the use of appropriate buffer strips. The maximum buffer strip width examined in this study was 30 m. Median concentrations for all 30 m buffered streams were below 20 ug/L on all occasions following spraying, a concentration below which short term ecological effects are unlikely (Dewey 1986). This was not the case for buffers of 20m or narrower. These results suggest that buffers must be at least 30 m in width in order to minimise the short term ecological impact of atrazine contamination on streams draining sprayed areas. The proposed WHO guideline for atrazine in drinking water, 2 ug/L,was only achieved after one month at sites sprayed with a 30 m buffer.
The results from this study can only be considered as tentative. Ideally, a more intense and stratified sampling program could be used to evaluate the true time pattern of stream concentrations and the mass loss of atrazine from the catchments (Bruton 1982). The present study lacked full representation of buffer strip qualities for each buffer strip width and a detailed investigation of the effects of vegetation density at a range of widths is warranted if either aerial spraying or ground based intensive spraying is maintained as a feature of forestry management.
Davies and Cook (1993) described the impact of a single spraying of cypermethrin on Sales Rivulet. They suggested that mayflies and stoneflies (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera) were the most sensitive taxa, showing the greatest response in both the drift and benthos. The present study further supports their observations with drift values being highest for these groups at pyrethroid concentrations >0.1 ug/L and having the highest correlation with concentration. It appears that contamination of streams with low concentrations of pyrethroids from spray drift results in significant responses in invertebrate drift which are generally related to the mortality of mayflies and stoneflies (Davies and Cook 1993). In Australia pyrethroid insecticides are widely used in forestry, agriculture and in the cotton industry (Barrett et al. 1991). No Australian studies of their effects have been published to date. In general, they have a short half-life and readily bind to sediments, a behaviour related to their high octanol-water partition coefficients (Vershueren 1983). Thus, effects on stream biota are likely to be restricted to short-term impacts related to practices on the day of spray and not to long-term contamination from runoff. It should be noted, however, that unlike the single application of atrazine per rotation, alphamethrin is frequently applied annually and occasionally more frequently, depending on chrysomelid densities. Repeated short term intensive decreases in invertebrate abundance and/or diversity may have a significant long-term impact on stream ecology.
Given the relative difficulty of obtaining reliable analytical results for trace pyrethroids in the normal field situation, it appears that both ... and ... for invertebrate drift can be used as sensitive short term bioindicators of pyrethroid contamination of streams down to 0.1ug/L. ... values for total fauna and for mayflies and stoneflies in this study were all highly negatively correlated with buffer strip width. A number of authors have reported short term responses in stream invertebrate drift to insecticide contamination on the scale of hours to days (Muirhead-Thompson 1987), including a number of pyrethroids (Kingsbury and Kreutsweiser 1979, Everts et al. 1983), Stephenson (1982) reported 24 h LC50 values for cypermethrin in the range 0.1-0.6 ug/L for a number of invertebrate taxa, including the mayfly Cloeon..
The pyrethoid sprayed plantations examined in this study were drained by streams with buffer strips ranging from 5 to 50 m. All streams drained the sprayed plantations directly. Responses in ... values were observed at all buffer strip widths, with the smallest responses being observed at 50m. It therefore appears that contaimination by pyrethroids is related to buffer strip width and that a strip of at least 50 m is required to minimise that contamination.
Factors affecting spray drift contamination of stream water include
weather conditions, droplet sizes, height of application, density and
quality of plantation and riparian vegetation and buffer strip width.
In this study, contamination of streams immediately following aerial
spraying with atrazine and pyrethroid pesticides was found to be directly
related to the widths of "no-spray" buffer strips. In the case of atrazine,
the magnitude of contamination after the first major rain event and
one month after spraying was directly related to the magnitude on the
day of spray. A marked biological response was observed in the downstream
drift of freshwater invertebrates to contamination by the pyrethroids
alphamethrin and cypermethrin. Recommended minimum buffer strip widths
for minimising contamination in wet sclerophyll forests are 30 m for
atrazine and 50 m for pyrethroids, in conjunction with prescriptive
guidelines for aerial spraying operations (eg Forestry Commission 1988).
A spill of Simazine herbicide occurred for about a kilometre along Red Hill Road, finishing near Middle Road. A company crew had been using the material the previous day and had mixed more than they were able to use. When they went to use it they found that the clay particles has settled and had set solidly. They could not clear it so they took the tank back to their workshops to get cleared. It appears that a valve had been left open which had become unblocked on the way down from Balook Road and had leaked.
The leak which was estimated to be about 100 litres and left a white line on the bitumen road surface.
The leak was not reported either to Australian Paper Plantations Pty Ltd or the EPA until several days after the event.
From the EPA Complaint Report:
"Investigated and found bright pink dye on the edge of the road, the slope leading to a waterhole and a pink tinge in the water. Obtained a sample of the waterhole and at the outlet from it."
On 27/5/98 APP was notified and were advised to pump the water out (to be used as make-up water) and to remove the contaminated soil.
Explanation from spray contractors " *** explained that his son ***
had used the suction hose on the new spray unit to pump water into the
spray tank after having put the chemicals and dye into the tank (21
litres simazine, 6 litres roundup, 200 ml pulse and 230 ml dye). When
he had filled the 600 litre tank he stopped the pump and as he took
the hose out of the water he saw the pink liquid running out of the
end of the hose into the water. He quickly threw the hose onto the roadway
and then onto the vehicle. He saw that the water had been coloured with
the dye/chemical mix and that there were stains on the bank and the
road edge. He did not notify anyone because he thought the spill was
too insignificant but he did spread some sawdust on the spill on the
road. It appears that the non-return valve in the hose inlet did not
work when the pump was turned off. They have now installed another non-return
valve in the inlet hose. "
PRESS RELEASE - 22 JUNE - New Study Links Monsanto's Roundup to Cancer
A recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson of Sweden , has revealed clear links between one of the world's biggest selling herbicide, glyphosate, to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer .
In the study published in the 15 March 1999 Journal of American Cancer Society, the researchers also maintain that exposure to glyphosate 'yielded increased risks for NHL.' They stress that with the rapidly increasing use of glyphosate since the time the study was carried out, 'glyphosate deserves further epidemiologic studies.'
Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is the world's most widely used herbicide. It is estimated that for 1998, over a 112,000 tonnes of glyphosate was used world-wide. It indiscriminately kills off a wide variety of weeds after application and is primarily used to control annual and perennial plants.
71% of genetically engineered crops planted in 1998 are designed to be resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate, marketed by Monsanto as Roundup. Companies developing herbicide resistant crops are also increasing their production capacity for the herbicides such as glyphosate, and also requesting permits for higher residues of these chemicals in genetically engineered food. For example, Monsanto have already received permits for a threefold increase in herbicide residues on genetically engineered soybeans in Europe and the U.S., up from 6 parts per million (PPM) to 20 PPM.
According to Sadhbh O' Neill of Genetic Concern, 'this study reinforces concerns by environmentalists and health professionals that far from reducing herbicide use, glyphosate resistant crops may result in increased residues to which we as consumers will be exposed in our food.'
'Increased residues of glyphosate and its metabolites are already on sale via genetically engineered soya, common in processed foods. However no studies of the effects of GE soya sprayed with Roundup on health have been carried out either on animals or humans to date,' she continued.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics from 1997 show that expanded plantings of Roundup Ready soybeans (i.e. soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to the herbicide) resulted in a 72% increase in the use of glyphosate. According to the Pesticides Action Network, scientists estimate that plants genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant will actually triple the amount of herbicides used. Farmers, knowing that their crop can tolerate or resist being killed off by the herbicides, will tend to use them more liberally.
O' Neill concluded: 'The EPA when authorising Monsanto's field trials for Roundup-ready sugar beet did not consider the issue of glyphosate. They considered this to be the remit of the Pesticides Control Service of the Department of Agriculture. Thus nobody has included the effects of increasing the use of glyphosate in the risk/benefit analysis carried out. It is yet another example of how regulatory authorities supposedly protecting public health have failed to implement the 'precautionary principle' with respect to GMOs.'
 Lennart Hardell, M.D., PhD. Department of Oncology, Orebro Medical Centre, Orebro, Sweden and Miikael Eriksson, M.D., PhD, Department of Oncology, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden, 'A Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides', Cancer, March 15, 1999/ Volume 85/ Number 6.
The findings are based on a population-based case-control study conducted in Sweden between 1987 - 1990. The necessary data was ascertained by a series of comprehensive questionnaires and follow-up telephone interviews. Dr. Hardell and Dr. Eriksson found that 'exposure to herbicides and fungicides resulted in significantly increased risks for NHL'.
 Lymphoma is a form of cancer that afflicts the lymphatic system. It can occur at virtually any part of the body but the initial symptoms are usually seen as swellings around the lymph nodes at the base of the neck. There are basically two main kinds of lymphoma, i.e. Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The incidence of NHL has increased rapidly in most Western countries over the last few decades. According to the American Cancer Society, there has been an alarming 80% increase in incidences of NHL since the early 1970's.
Ingestion of RoundUp has been shown to cause "irritation of the oral mucous membrane and gastrointestinal tract…pulmonary dysfunction, oliguria, metabolic acidosis, hypotension, leukocytosis and fever." Monsanto's own toxicologist, Rebecca Tominack, participated in this study.(Tominack RL, Yang GY, Tsai WJ, Chung HM, Deng JF, 1991. Taiwan National Poison Center survey of glyphosate-surfactant herbicide ingestions. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1991; 29 (1): 91-109) Many people report experiencing severe digestive problems related to irritation of their gastrointestinal tract after overexposure to RoundUp, limiting the foods their bodies will tolerate to a very few bland foods.This is believed to be related to the fact that in a 1983 study by Heitanen, Linnainmaa and Vainio, RoundUp's main ingredient, glyphosate, was shown to decrease the hepatic level level of cytochrom P-450, monooxygenase activities, and the intestinal activity of aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase.The inhibition of erythrocyte glutathione conjugate transport by polyethoxylated surfactants has also been reported in a 1993 letter to FEBS from studies done by P. G. Board, part of the Molecular Genetics Group, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra. Glutathione is a tripeptide which the body produces from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant produced in the liver, where it detoxifies harmful compounds so that they can be excreted through the bile. The glutathione released from the liver directly into the bloodstream helps to maintain the integrity of red blood cells and protect white blood cells. Glutathione is also found in the lungs. In the intestinal tract, it is needed for carbohydrate metabolism, and also appears to exert anti-aging effects, aiding in the breakdown of oxidized fats that may contribute to atherosclerosis. Glutathione's role in carbohydrate metabolism is compromised by the effect of RoundUp's surfactant, POEA, on erythrocyte glutathion conjugate transport. RoundUp causes damage to the liver that inhibits the liver's ability to process toxic substances. Research subject animals injected with glyphosate evidenced a depressed function of the liver.
"Glyphosate decreased the hepatic function of cytochrome P-450 and monoxygnease activities and the intestinal activity of aryl hydrocarbon hydrolase." (Heitanen et al, 1983). The P-450 enzyme system is one of the main body systems for detoxifying harmful chemicals. When it becomes impaired by those same chemicals it is supposed to be detoxifying, the effects of a given chemical on the body increase dramatically.(Heitanen, et al., 1983. Effects of phenoxyherbicides and glyphosate on the hepatic and intestinal biotransformation activities in the rat. Acta Pharmacol Toxicol (Copenh) 1983 Aug; 53(2):103-12.) Testing of patients suffering RoundUp overexposure has indicated damage to their P-450 enzyme system.Roundup produces significant increases in sister-chromatid exchanges (SCE), albeit in higher concentrations over those used for other pesticides. This suggests that it should be evaluated in other genetic tests measuring mutations and chromosome aberrations, although few studies of this nature have yet been done.A 1980 study by Vigfusson and Vyse noted sister-chromatid exchanges in human lymphocytes in vitro. This lymphocyte disturbance correlates with the swelling experienced by persons poisoned by RoundUp.
(Vigfusson, N.V. and Vyse, E.R. (1980), "The effect of the pesticides, Dexon, Captan,and Roundup, on sister-chromatid exchanges in human lymphocytes in vitro". MUTATION RESEARCH, v.79 p.53-57.) William Meggs, M.D., Ph.D., School of Medicine, East Carolina University: In patients who have been chemically injured, Meggs has noted significant lymphatic hyperplasia, lymphatic tissue that is swollen and engorged. He has also found significant cobblestoning in upper airway passages. This represents chronic inflammation caused by lymphocytes migrating out of the blood stream and seeping into the tissues. Meggs has also noted thickening of the structure called the basement membrane, the structure on which the lining of cells that lines the interior of the nose sits. Meggs' study also found a defect in the tight junctions (the joining of cells together) and a proliferation of nerve fibers.
"Chemicals bind to receptors on nerve fibers and produce something called neurogenic inflammation. These chemicals bind to these receptors and cause the release of potent substances that produce inflammation in tissue. When chemicals bind to nerve fibers, they can produce inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, produces other changes in the tissue, and it brings in these lymphocytes. We believe that inflammation causes these barrier cells to open up and sometimes even come off the basement membrane. Below the basement membrane is the nerve fibers, so we have a process whereby a chemical exposure will damage the lining of the nose. What happens is people have a large chemical exposure, they breathe in noxious chemicals, and this damages the epithelium. This huge exposure is able to penetrate this barrier we have between the chemicals we breathe in and these nerve cells beneath the lining layer that react to chemicals by producing inflammation. The inflammation, in turn, produces substances that cause further damage to the lining cell, and actually produce the substances which cause the tight junctions between these cells to open up. In some cases the cells actually come off and just leave these bare nerves exposed. Once you have the bare nerves exposed, low levels of chemicals that we all experience every day are enough to produce inflammation which in turn keeps the epithelium damaged.
"RoundUp was found to cause significant DNA damage to erythrocytes (red blood cells) in a study done in 1997 by Clements, Ralph and Petras. RoundUp's surfactant, POEA, is known to cause haemolysis.(Clements C, Ralph S, Pertas M, 1997. Genotoxicity of select herbicides in Rana catesbeiana tadpoles using the alkaline single-cell gel DNA electrophoresis (comet) assay. Environ Mol Mutagen 1997; 29(3):277-288.)(Sawada Y, Nagai Y, Ueyama M, Yamamoto I, 1988. Probable toxicity of surface-active agent in commercial herbicide containing glyphosate. Lancet. 1988 Feb 6;1(8580):299.) In haemolysis, hemoglobin leaks from the red blood cells, leaving them unable to transport sufficient supplies of oxygen to the body's tissues. The chest pains, difficulty breathing, and impaired cognitive skills reported by persons who have sustained RoundUp poisoning also point to impairment of the blood's oxygen transport system, hemoglobin, as being responsible for these symptoms. This impairment of the erythrocytes' ability to deliver adequate oxygen to both brain and body results in impaired tissue perfusion and hypoxia."The brain is particularly vulnerable to hypoxia, and exposure to toxins that interfere with the intake, transport and utilization of oxygen provoke rapid and major neuronal damage. Compounds crossing the blood-brain barrier may induce both general and extremely localized neurotoxic effects."(Kyvik KR, Morn BE, 1995. Environmental poisons and the nervous system. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 1995. June 10; 115(15):1834-8.) According to both the EPA and the World Health Organization in 1993 and 1994, glyphosate appears to mimic adrenaline. This would explain the sleeping problems encountered by many persons exposed to RoundUp, as for them, cortisol appears to no longer be properly regulated by their bodies' adrenal glands.(US EPA, 1993. EPA Reregistration Eligibility Document, Glyphosate, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, Washington, D.C., September 1993.)(IPCS, 1994. Environmental health criteria 159: Glyphosate. International Programme of Chemical Safety, World Health Organization, Geneva.)
Research on RoundUp's Toxicity
Ingestion of RoundUp has been shown to cause "irritation of the oral mucous membrane and gastrointestinal tract…pulmonary dysfunction, oliguria, metabolic acidosis, hypotension, leukocytosis and fever."
Monsanto's own toxicologist, Rebecca Tominack, participated in this study.
(Tominack RL, Yang GY, Tsai WJ, Chung HM, Deng JF, 1991. Taiwan National Poison Center survey of glyphosate-surfactant herbicide ingestions. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1991; 29 (1): 91-109)
Many people report experiencing severe digestive problems related to irritation of their gastrointestinal tract after overexposure to RoundUp, limiting the foods their bodies will tolerate to a very few bland foods.
This is believed to be related to the fact that in a 1983 study by Heitanen, Linnainmaa and Vainio, RoundUp's main ingredient, glyphosate, was shown to decrease the hepatic level level of cytochrom P-450, monooxygenase activities, and the intestinal activity of aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase.
The inhibition of erythrocyte glutathione conjugate transport by polyethoxylated surfactants has also been reported in a 1993 letter to FEBS from studies done by P. G. Board, part of the Molecular Genetics Group, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra.
Glutathione is a tripeptide which the body produces from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant produced in the liver, where it detoxifies harmful compounds so that they can be excreted through the bile. The glutathione released from the liver directly into the bloodstream helps to maintain the integrity of red blood cells and protect white blood cells. Glutathione is also found in the lungs. In the intestinal tract, it is needed for carbohydrate metabolism, and also appears to exert anti-aging effects, aiding in the breakdown of oxidized fats that may contribute to atherosclerosis. Glutathione's role in carbohydrate metabolism is compromised by the effect of RoundUp's surfactant, POEA, on erythrocyte glutathion conjugate transport.
RoundUp causes damage to the liver that inhibits the liver's ability to process toxic substances.
Research subject animals injected with glyphosate evidenced a depressed function of the liver. "Glyphosate decreased the hepatic function of cytochrome P-450 and monoxygnease activities and the intestinal activity of aryl hydrocarbon hydrolase." (Heitanen et al, 1983). The P-450 enzyme system is one of the main body systems for detoxifying harmful chemicals. When it becomes impaired by those same chemicals it is supposed to be detoxifying, the effects of a given chemical on the body increase dramatically.
(Heitanen, et al., 1983. Effects of phenoxyherbicides and glyphosate on the hepatic and intestinal biotransformation activities in the rat. Acta Pharmacol Toxicol (Copenh) 1983 Aug; 53(2):103-12.)
Testing of patients suffering RoundUp overexposure has indicated damage to their P-450 enzyme system.
Roundup produces significant increases in sister-chromatid exchanges (SCE), albeit in higher concentrations over those used for other pesticides. This suggests that it should be evaluated in other genetic tests measuring mutations and chromosome aberrations, although few studies of this nature have yet been done.
A 1980 study by Vigfusson and Vyse noted sister-chromatid exchanges in human lymphocytes in vitro. This lymphocyte disturbance correlates with the swelling experienced by persons poisoned by RoundUp.
(Vigfusson, N.V. and Vyse, E.R. (1980), "The effect of the pesticides, Dexon, Captan, and Roundup, on sister-chromatid exchanges in human lymphocytes in vitro". MUTATION RESEARCH, v.79 p.53-57.)
William Meggs, M.D., Ph.D., School of Medicine, East Carolina University:
In patients who have been chemically injured, Meggs has noted significant lymphatic hyperplasia, lymphatic tissue that is swollen and engorged. He has also found significant cobblestoning in upper airway passages. This represents chronic inflammation caused by lymphocytes migrating out of the blood stream and seeping into the tissues. Meggs has also noted thickening of the structure called the basement membrane, the structure on which the lining of cells that lines the interior of the nose sits. Meggs' study also found a defect in the tight junctions (the joining of cells together) and a proliferation of nerve fibers.
"Chemicals bind to receptors on nerve fibers and produce something called neurogenic inflammation. These chemicals bind to these receptors and cause the release of potent substances that produce inflammation in tissue.
When chemicals bind to nerve fibers, they can produce inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, produces other changes in the tissue, and it brings in these lymphocytes. We believe that inflammation causes these barrier cells to open up and sometimes even come off the basement membrane. Below the basement membrane is the nerve fibers, so we have a process whereby a chemical exposure will damage the lining of the nose.
What happens is people have a large chemical exposure, they breathe in noxious chemicals, and this damages the epithelium. This huge exposure is able to penetrate this barrier we have between the chemicals we breathe in and these nerve cells beneath the lining layer that react to chemicals by producing inflammation. The inflammation, in turn, produces substances that cause further damage to the lining cell, and actually produce the substances which cause the tight junctions between these cells to open up. In some cases the cells actually come off and just leave these bare nerves exposed. Once you have the bare nerves exposed, low levels of chemicals that we all experience every day are enough to produce inflammation which in turn keeps the epithelium damaged."
RoundUp was found to cause significant DNA damage to erythrocytes (red blood cells) in a study done in 1997 by Clements, Ralph and Petras. RoundUp's surfactant, POEA, is known to cause haemolysis.
(Clements C, Ralph S, Pertas M, 1997. Genotoxicity of select herbicides in Rana catesbeiana tadpoles using the alkaline single-cell gel DNA electrophoresis (comet) assay. Environ Mol Mutagen 1997; 29(3):277-288.)
(Sawada Y, Nagai Y, Ueyama M, Yamamoto I, 1988. Probable toxicity of surface-active agent in commercial herbicide containing glyphosate. Lancet. 1988 Feb 6;1(8580):299.)
In haemolysis, hemoglobin leaks from the red blood cells, leaving them unable to transport sufficient supplies of oxygen to the body's tissues.
The chest pains, difficulty breathing, and impaired cognitive skills reported by persons who have sustained RoundUp poisoning also point to impairment of the blood's oxygen transport system, hemoglobin, as being responsible for these symptoms. This impairment of the erythrocytes' ability to deliver adequate oxygen to both brain and body results in impaired tissue perfusion and hypoxia.
"The brain is particularly vulnerable to hypoxia, and exposure to toxins that interfere with the intake, transport and utilization of oxygen provoke rapid and major neuronal damage. Compounds crossing the blood-brain barrier may induce both general and extremely localized neurotoxic effects."
(Kyvik KR, Morn BE, 1995. Environmental poisons and the nervous system. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 1995. June 10; 115(15):1834-8.)
According to both the EPA and the World Health Organization in 1993 and 1994, glyphosate appears to mimic adrenaline. This would explain the sleeping problems encountered by many persons exposed to RoundUp, as for them, cortisol appears to no longer be properly regulated by their bodies' adrenal glands.
(US EPA, 1993. EPA Reregistration Eligibility Document, Glyphosate, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, Washington, D.C., September 1993.)
(IPCS, 1994. Environmental health criteria 159: Glyphosate. International Programme of Chemical Safety, World Health Organization, Geneva.)
RoundUp and Cholinesterase Inhibition
Monsanto states that glyphosate is not a cholinesterase inhibitor. The MSDS on RoundUp also says that glyphosate is not a cholinesterase inhibitor. Yet, glyphosate is a an organophosphorus, and the "toxic effects of organophosphorus (OP) compounds are predicated on their irreversible inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AchE) and other serine hydrolases."
(Viragh C, Kovach IM, Pannell L, 1999. Small Molecular Products of Dealkylation in Soman-Inhibited Electric Eel Acetylcholinesterase. American Chemical Society, June 11, 1999.)
Merely saying glyohosate is not a cholinesterase inhibitor, however, does not define whether RoundUp itself in full formulation is a cholinesterase inhibitor, and there are no published studies that purport to answer this question.
In 1988, Yusuke Sawada, et al. did a study in which they concluded that the surfactant in RoundUp (POEA) is more toxic than RoundUp's main ingredient, glyphosate. A study by Servizi et al in 1987 found that POEA is two to three times more toxic than glyphosate, and that the synergy of the two ingredients may even be more acutely toxic than the two ingredients combined.
The answer to whether RoundUp in full formulation is a cholinesterase inhibitor can only be determined by looking at anecdotal evidence. Many doctors, however, based on Monsanto's advertising that glyphosate is not a cholinesterase inhibitor, refuse to test RoundUp poisoning victims for cholinesterase inhibition, so even anecdotal evidence is not readily available.
(Sawada Y, Nagai Y, Ueyama M, Yamamoto I, 1988. Probable toxicity of surface-active agent in commercial herbicide containing glyphosate. Lancet. 1988 Feb 6;1(8580):299.)
(Servizi JA, Gordon RW, Martens DW, 1987. Acute toxicity of Garlon 4 and Roundup herbicides to salmon, Daphnia, and trout. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1987 Jul;39(1):15-22. )
An October 27, 1999 article by PANUPS (Pesticide Action Network Updates Service) offers the information that according to a European Community report on glyphosate (not released at that time), glyphosate poses a significant risk to certain beneficial insects.
(PANUPS, 1999. Glyphosate May Harm Beneficial Organisms, October 27, 1999)
In a 1993 article on organophosphate poisoning, British researcher, T. C. Marrs, indicated that "certain OPs are exploited for their anticholinesterase effects, including defoliants such as 'DEF', herbicides such as glyphosate." The article goes on to say that the cholinergic syndrome is "caused by acetylcholinesterase inhibition."
(Marrs, TC, 1993. Organophosphate poisoning. Pharmacol Ther 1993; 58(1): 51-66.)
An area that has yet to be explored is the impact of the degradation process for glyphosate on the serine cycle. The serine cycle plays a strong part in cholinesterase inhibition in humans. From available research, it is easy to conclude that, while glyphosate itself might not technically be anticholinergic, the degradants of glyphosate might very well be cholinesterase inhibitors.
Glyphosate's degradation pathway shows that, depending one which soil organisms are present, glyphosate degrades into sarcosine, formaldehyde, AMPA, and Methylamine.
Formaldehyde is not only carcinogenic, but impairs the serine cycle, an important part of the human metabolic process. According to a document on the ESTHER database, "cholinesterases are readily phosphorylated at the active site serine by a variety of organophosphorus agents (OP) and carbamates."
(www.ensam.inra.fr/cholinesterase/chem/chemInhibition2.html. The ESTHER "Chemical Mechanism of Acetylcholinesterase Inhibition" introduction.)
(Goldberg I, Mateles RI , 1975. Growth of Pseudomonas C on C1 compounds: enzyme activities in extracts of Pseudomonas C cells grown on methanol, formaldehyde, and formate as sole carbon sources. J Bacteriol 1975 Apr;122(1):47-53)
There is reported evidence of a patient who, after exposures to RoundUp, showed a depressed pseudocholinesterase. SmithKline Beecham's Normal Values reference range is 3200 - 6600. On 6/4/96, after three major exposures to RoundUp, this patient's pseudocholinesterase was 2887. On 7/8/96, after an additional major exposure to RoundUp, this patient's pseudocholinesterase was 2700. The last reading during the period of this patient's exposures to RoundUp was 2733 on 8/7/96. Only with the assistance of successful drug therapy (large doses of dextromethorophan) was this reading reversed to 3586 on 10/22/96.
PANUPS: Monsanto Agrees to Change Ads and EPA Fines Northrup King. January 10, 1997.
Monsanto Agrees to Change Ads and EPA Fines Northrup King Monsanto Co. agreed to change its advertising for glyphosate-based products, including Roundup, in response to complaints by the New York Attorney General's office that the ads were misleading. Based on their investigation, the Attorney General's office felt that the advertising inaccurately portrayed Monsanto's glyphosate-containing products as safe and as not causing any harmful effects to people or the environment. According to the state, the ads also implied that the risks of products such as Roundup are the same as those of the active ingredient, glyphosate, and do not take into account the possible risks associated with the product's inert ingredients.
As part of the agreement, Monsanto will discontinue the use of terms such as "biodegradable" and "environmentally friendly" in all advertising of glyphosate-containing products in New York state and will pay $50,000 toward the state's costs of pursuing the case. The Attorney General has been challenging the ads since 1991.
Monsanto maintains that it did not violate any federal, state or local law and that its claims were "true and not misleading in any way." The company states that they entered into the agreement for settlement purposes only in order to avoid costly litigation.
According to a 1993 report published by the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, glyphosate was the third most commonly-reported cause of pesticide illness among agricultural workers. Another study from the School of Public Health found that glyphosate was the most commonly reported cause of pesticide illness among landscape maintenance workers. (Both studies were based on data collected between 1984 and 1990.)
In the first nine months of 1996, Monsanto's worldwide agrochemical sales increased by 21% to US$2.48 billion, due largely to increased sales of Roundup.
EPA Fines Northrup King
Also in November 1996, Northrup King Co. agreed to pay a US$165,200 fine to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for importing, producing, selling and distributing an unregistered pesticide P genetically engineered corn containing Bacillus thurgiensis (Bt). This was EPA's first legal action involving a genetically engineered plant pesticide.
According to EPA, the company's activities violated the U.S. Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and included failing to file with EPA the required paperwork for importing the Bt corn, and producing the pesticide at eight unregistered facilities during 1994-95.
Northrup King, a Sandoz Seeds subsidiary based in Minnesota, maintains that they had been working with the EPA to obtain registration for their Bt corn and expected approval last spring. However, in order to have as much seed as possible to sell to U.S. growers, the company shipped seed to Chile for winter production and brought the increased volumes back to the U.S. for packaging and sale. A company spokesperson stated that the federal process took longer than expected, and therefore Northrup King was in "technical violation" by letting its production get ahead of registration. The originally proposed fine of US$208,500 was reduced by 20% because of what EPA officials called the company's "cooperation and good faith efforts to come into compliance."
Northrup King's Bt corn, developed in collaboration with Monsanto using its Yieldgard technology, was registered on August 5, 1996, and the company has been selling seed to U.S. farmers since then for next season's plantings. According to reports, the company expected to sell out by the end of the 1996, and is projecting 500,000 to one million acres planted with the company's seed by next spring.
Sources: Agrow: World Crop Protection News, November 15, November 29 & December 13, 1996; EPA News Release, Region 5, November 4, 1996; Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 7, 1996; The Gene Exchange, December 1996; Preventing Pesticide-related Illness in California Agriculture, William Pease, et al., 1993; Pesticides in the Home and Community: Health risks and policy alternatives, J.C. Robinson et al., 1994.
Contact: PANNA (see below).
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Roundup Inhibits Steroidogenesis by Disrupting Steroidogenic Acute Regulatory (StAR) Protein Expression Lance P. Walsh,1 Chad McCormick,1 Clyde Martin,2 and Douglas M. Stocco1
1Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University
Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas, USA
Abstract Recent reports demonstrate that many currently used pesticides
have the capacity to disrupt reproductive function in animals. Although
this reproductive dysfunction is typically characterized by alterations
in serum steroid hormone levels, disruptions in spermatogenesis, and
loss of fertility, the mechanisms involved in pesticide-induced infertility
remain unclear. Because testicular Leydig cells play a crucial role
in male reproductive function by producing testosterone, we used the
mouse MA-10 Leydig tumor cell line to study the molecular events involved
in pesticide-induced alterations in steroid hormone biosynthesis. We
previously showed that the organochlorine insecticide lindane and the
organophosphate insecticide Dimethoate directly inhibit steroidogenesis
in Leydig cells by disrupting expression of the steroidogenic acute
regulatory (StAR) protein. StAR protein mediates the rate-limiting and
acutely regulated step in steroidogenesis, the transfer of cholesterol
from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane where the cytochrome
P450 side chain cleavage (P450scc) enzyme initiates the synthesis of
all steroid hormones. In the present study, we screened eight currently
used pesticide formulations for their ability to inhibit steroidogenesis,
concentrating on their effects on StAR expression in MA-10 cells. In
addition, we determined the effects of these compounds on the levels
and activities of the P450scc enzyme (which converts cholesterol to
pregnenolone) and the 3ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3ß-HSD) enzyme
(which converts pregnenolone to progesterone). Of the pesticides screened,
only the pesticide Roundup inhibited dibutyryl [(Bu)2]cAMP-stimulated
progesterone production in MA-10 cells without causing cellular toxicity.
Roundup inhibited steroidogenesis by disrupting StAR protein expression,
further demonstrating the susceptibility of StAR to environmental pollutants.
Key words: chemical mixtures, cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage, environmental
endocrine disruptor, 3ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, Leydig cells,
Roundup, steroid hormones, steroidogenesis, steroidogenic acute regulatory
protein. Environ Health Perspect 108:769-776 (2000).
Address correspondence to D.M. Stocco, Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX 79409 USA. Telephone: (806) 743-2505. Fax: (806) 743-2990. E-mail: email@example.com We thank D. Alberts for technical assistance.
This work was supported by NIH grant HD17481 to D. Stucco. L. Walsh was supported by NIH grant T32-HD07271 and a scholarship from the Lubbock Achievement Awards for College Scientists Chapter.