Breast cancer pesticide to be reassessed this year

Combined mMedia Release: Safe Food Campaign, Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa, The Soil & Health Association of NZ

The reassessment of a pesticide linked with cancer is great news, according to the Safe Food Campaign, Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa and Soil and Health Association. The three groups all commend today’s announcement by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to give priority to the reassessment of endosulfan this year.

ERMA today released a report listing 20 pesticides it will reassess and the four it will reassess to begin with. The other three pesticides are two organophosphates (azinphos methyl and methyl-parathion), and the wood preservative pentachlorophenol (PCP).

The three groups are pleased about the reassessment of endosulfan, which is banned in at least 20 countries, but are very concerned by the delayed reassessment of some very high risk pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and 2,4-D.

“Usage of endosulfan remains high in New Zealand, in spite of research linking it to adverse health and environmental effects,” commented Dr Meriel Watts of the Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa. “Apart from breast cancer, this highly toxic insecticide has been linked to hormonal disruption, mimicking oestrogen and producing infertility, as well as foetal, gene, neurological, behavioural and immune system damage at very low doses. We have one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world and we must do everything we can to reduce exposure to chemicals that increase the risk of breast cancer,” she added. “This pesticide has caused many deaths overseas and we want it completely banned here.”

“We also urgently want to get chlorpyrifos and all other organophosphates banned,” stated Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign. “Research published last year shows that 3-year-old children exposed to chlorpyrifos suffer nerve and mental damage as well as increased attention deficit disorder. A lot of very recent research reveals disturbing damage to the prenatal brain. Several overseas authorities, including the USA, EU, Canada and Australia, impose stringent restrictions on this insecticide and other organophosphates,” she commented. “We cannot accept the ongoing risk to our children of brain damage from this insecticide.”

“An urgent priority for reassessment is 2,4-D, the other half of Agent Orange, which is still aerially sprayed and used a lot in New Zealand,” said Steffan Browning, Soil and Health Association spokesperson. “It causes a lot of spraydrift complaints and needs to be banned. It has caused severe economic losses and serious health effects to a number of farmers and their families, resulting in some of them giving up farming. Research has linked this herbicide to prenatal brain damage, breast and other cancers, and to have an effect on hormones, with continuing dioxin contamination of 2,4-D causing even further effects.”

“Soil & Health urges increased Government resourcing to speed up reassessments from the ERMA Chief Executive initiated priority list reported today, as well as an urgently needed review of all pesticides available at retail outlets,” said Mr Browning.

“While we are pleased ERMA is going to reassess the announced four pesticides this coming year, at this rate of reassessment, it will take at least another five years for just the 20 worst pesticides to be looked at,” concluded Ms White. “In the meantime pesticides with known adverse effects on health and the environment continue to be used. We look forward to working with ERMA to speed up reassessments by looking at groups of substances together, such as organophosphates and pesticides which are aerially sprayed.”

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