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- 03/20/17--09:42: _US Congressman Call...
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- 04/12/17--09:03: _Environmentalists s...
- 04/18/17--11:37: _Court Orders EPA to...
- 04/19/17--13:16: _The Legacy of Monsa...
- 04/19/17--13:35: _EPA may consider cl...
- 05/04/17--08:08: _Koch Industries spe...
- 05/08/17--11:27: _Field Test of GMO A...
- 05/09/17--08:35: _Why Won't the EPA B...
- 05/09/17--08:51: _E.P.A. Dismisses Me...
- 05/17/17--20:52: _Trump's EPA Greenli...
- 05/17/17--21:16: _Patients: Roundup g...
- 05/24/17--16:04: _EU declared Monsant...
- 05/24/17--16:16: _ Did former US EPA ...
- 03/23/17--14:12: The EPA Needs Lots of Money to Gut Itself
- 04/19/17--13:35: EPA may consider closing Chicago office
- 05/08/17--11:27: Field Test of GMO Algae Sparks Outrage
- 05/09/17--08:35: Why Won't the EPA Ban This Extremely Toxic Pesticide?
- 05/09/17--08:51: E.P.A. Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review Board
- 05/17/17--21:16: Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped the company
- 05/24/17--16:16: Did former US EPA man influence EFSA verdict on glyphosate?
Originally published: Sustainable Pulse
U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu issued a strongly worded statement this week regarding reports that unsealed court documents raise new questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup and its chief ingredient glyphosate.
“New questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup are deeply troubling. I worked on the glyphosate issue last term and I believe consumers should immediately stop using Roundup, whose core ingredient glyphosate has been labeled a likely carcinogen and has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. We need to find out if Monsanto or the Environmental Protection Agency misled the public.”
“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”
Earlier this week Bloomberg reported that the EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto Co.’s Roundup allegedly bragged to a company executive that he deserved a medal if he could kill another agency’s investigation into the herbicide’s key chemical.
The boast was made during an April 2015 phone conversation, according to farmers and others who say they’ve been sickened by the weed killer. After leaving his job as a manager in the EPA’s pesticide division last year, Jess Rowland has become a central figure in more than 20 lawsuits in the U.S. accusing the company of failing to warn consumers and regulators of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Rowland told a Monsanto regulatory affairs manager who recounted the conversation in an email to his colleagues, according to a court filing made public Tuesday. The company was seeking Rowland’s help stopping an investigation of glyphosate by a separate office, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, that is part of the U.S. Health and Human Service Department, according to the filing. The investigation never took place!
A federal judge overseeing the glyphosate litigation in San Francisco said last month he’s inclined to order Rowland to submit to questioning by lawyers for the plaintiffs, who contend he had a “highly suspicious” relationship with Monsanto. Rowland oversaw a committee that found insufficient evidence to conclude glyphosate causes cancer and quit last year shortly after his report was leaked to the press.
Originally published: The Atlantic
There is, as yet, no 2018 budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
What exists instead is a “skinny budget” proposal, released on Thursday by the White House. It advances a drastic and aggressively curtailed agenda for the EPA, planning to cut the agency’s budget by 31 percent while laying off 3,200 employees. Popular programs—like EnergyStar and some Superfund cleanups—would be slowed down or eliminated.
But a skinny budget proposal is still just a proposal—and a funny one at that. While this proposal hints at President Trump’s governance priorities, and serves as an initial negotiating position, it mostly markets his ideological bonafides to other Republicans. It’s fiduciary fan fiction for conservatives, basically, with little chance of becoming law. Not only will a tiny EPA be politically difficult to enact, but there are also sticky legal limits on the extent to which the non-military side of the government can be defunded.
It can hint at other negotiations, though: how much Cabinet secretaries are able to wrangle for their agencies. And on that front, there was a curious anecdote in Coral Davenport and Glenn Thrush’s New York Times story about how the Trump skinny budget came together. As you
read it, remember that Obama left the EPA with a budget of $8.2 billion:
The E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, who has himself spoken out against some of the core missions of the agency he leads, went to the White House to request a smaller cut after the White House budget office first presented him its preferred spending level. He pressed for about $7 billion, according to the person. Instead, the White House slashed his budget down even further, to about $5.7 billion.
The Times is right: Scott Pruitt does seem to be “against some of the core missions of the agency.” He’s no environmentalist, either: He recently told CNBC that he doubted some of the most basic premises of climate science.
So if he hates the EPA so much, why is he fighting for more funding for it? In the past few weeks, I’ve heard some legal experts wondering if his goals for the EPA don’t gel with the White House’s, at least on some points.
When you listen to the president’s advisors, they indicate near total hostility for the EPA’s mission. Stephen Bannon, a senior advisor to Trump, has famously preached the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, told reporters on Thursday that: “We’re not spending money on [climate change] anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.”
Trump has promised the same. In a Republican primary debate last year, he said that “we are going to get rid of [the EPA] in almost every form.”
Certainly Pruitt shares many of these goals. During his confirmation process, he could not name a single rule under the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act that he supported. As attorney general of Oklahoma, he sued the agency 14 times, and he’s said that the EPA should cede much of its power back to states (even as he reportedly prepares to fight California’s special ability to restrict air pollution).
Pruitt is a savvy attorney who knows the EPA’s guiding statutes well. His statements and behavior suggest that he doesn’t want to temporarily injure the agency by defunding it. Instead, he wants to permanently hobble it by inscribing weak rules that will outlast his term as administrator and the Trump presidency.
But that will take a lot of employees and a lot of time.
“It’s really staff intensive to rescind a rule and then replace it,” says Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at the University of California Los Angeles. “To the degree that you have a vision about how the agency should operate, you need a staff and leadership.”
And Pruitt will have to rescind and replace a lot of rules. President Trump has already asked him to replace car fuel-efficiency standards and the Waters of the United States rule, which sets the legal authority of the Clean Water Act. The EPA is also expected to withdraw Obama’s Clean Power Plan soon, which limits greenhouse-gas emissions from the power sector.
Every one of these revisions or revocations will set an onerous bureaucratic process in motion that will last for years. Every time an EPA policy changes, agency employees have to draft the text of a new rule, then hire outside consultants to calculate its economic effects and public-health consequences. Other employees process the tens of thousands of public and industry comments that greet the proposal or withdrawal of any rule. Each of these comments must be read, categorized, and replied to.
Over time, for each of these changes, the employees build up an “administrative record” that supports the agency’s decision to endorse a certain rule. An administrative record is bookshelves and bookshelves of binders describing the EPA’s process, basically. And when the agency gets sued over a new rule, as it almost always does, all those binders come in handy.
“EPA gets challenged a ton [in court], but they win most of the time,” says Carlson. “And one of the reasons they win, even with conservative courts, is that they’re very careful in really examining the science and building an administrative record that demonstrates expertise, and care, and thoughtfulness.”
That record-building requires staff. It takes people to write policy, it takes people to commission studies, and it takes people to meet with industry. It takes people to coordinate all the other people. As John Cannon, who worked as general counsel to the EPA during the Clinton administration, told me: “It takes agency resources to do the revisions that the Trump administration says it wants to do.”
Without all those resources, the EPA may start to founder. Its loose, weak new rulemaking processes may run aground. And it may fail to properly address crucial issues that will become legal problems for it later. “It strikes me that you increase your legal vulnerability when you cut staff dramatically, because the way you protect yourself legally is to be really careful and thorough,” says Carlson.
Chaos may be fine for the White House’s Bannonites. And it will be good for some fossil-fuel interests, too: An understaffed and anxious EPA won’t be able to issue a new climate-change plan, pushing U.S. regulation of greenhouse gases further into the future. It will be hard for a future administration to reclaim the institutional knowledge lost in the layoffs to come.
But Pruitt won’t be able to get what he wants out of a denuded agency, either. A tiny budget will unleash internal disorder that could last for years. A smaller staff of EPA bureaucrats may struggle to process four or five major rule changes at once, like writing a replacement Waters of the United States rule while issuing a replacement Clean Power Plan (or justifying the lack of one). Other work simply can’t be avoided: Even though Trump rescinded car fuel-efficiency requirements last week, the EPA and Department of Transportation must re-issue new and final versions by 2020.
This is what ran through my head as I thought of Pruitt going back to ask for a $7-billion budget—and promptly getting rebuffed. Trump may be fine with superficially damaging the administrative state until fiscal year 2022. But if Pruitt wants to permanently hinder it, he needs money.
Originally published: The Guardian
Environmental groups have filed a complaint against the US government over its support of a pesticide linked to brain damage in children, one week after Donald Trump’s administration rejected federally backed science and reversed an Obama-era policy.
The Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed the case against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday, seeking to force the government to follow through with the Obama administration’s recommendations to ban an insecticide widely used in agriculture.
The appeal in San Francisco federal court sets the stage for one of the first major legal battles between the new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, and environmental organizations. The case is centered on a pesticide called chlorpyrifos that researchers have concluded is correlated with lower IQ, attention deficit disorders and developmental delays.
The chemical is a type of insecticide currentlyusedon corn, strawberries, wheat, citrus, apples, broccoli and a number of other crops, as well as golf courses, turf and in greenhouses. Researchers and environmentalists have long fought for a full agricultural ban on the neurotoxic pesticide after the US government blocked the chemical for residential use in 2000 due to health concerns.
After years of litigation, the EPA released an assessment of chlorpyrifos in November, concludingthat current usage of the pesticide carries dietary and drinking water risks. The EPA further concluded that the residues on food crops exceed safety standards and that there were risks to workers who apply chlorpyrifos to crops. The agency also raised concerns about risks associated with drift to schools and homes.
As a result of this growing body of research – including long-term studies suggesting moderate exposure during pregnancy can lead to long-term brain impactson children – the Obama administration proposed banning all applications of chlorpyrifos on food.
Despite conclusions by experts in his agency, Pruittreversedthe move to ban chlorpyrifos last week, just before a federal court deadline to make a final decision on the pesticide. “We are returning to using sound science in decision-making,” he said in a statement.
The action from Pruitt, who has vowed to roll backclimate change and pollution regulations, means the EPA will not have to re-evaluate potential health risks of chlorpyrifos until 2022.
“Given the science, we thought it seemed practically impossible to not move forward with the ban,” said Paul Towers, organizing director and policy advocate with the Pesticide Action Network. “We know it can have a profound impact on children’s brain architecture and their lifelong learning.”
The new complaint, filed by lawyers with advocacy group Earthjustice, asks a panel of three federal appeals court judges to order the EPA to permanently ban chlorpyrifos based on its own science.
Dow Chemical, which manufactures the pesticide under the name Lorsban, has aggressivelylobbiedto keep the product in use and claimed thatthe science is not conclusive. A spokesperson said in an email on Wednesday morning that the company is aware of the complaint, but has “not had sufficient time to review it”.
EPA representatives declined to comment.
Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a University of California, Davis environmental health sciences professor, compared chlorpyrifos to lead, which was widely used in the US until researchers proved that low-level exposures were harming children.
“They used the term ‘silent epidemic’ with lead, and I think that’s really what we’re talking about here,” said Hertz-Picciotto, whoseresearchhas found links between autism and maternal exposure to the class of pesticides that includes chlorpyrifos. “The longer this goes on, the more accumulated evidence there is. It’s not like there is other evidence coming in that detracts from the conclusion that this is not safe and it’s not healthy.”
Research has further linked chlorpyrifos exposure to loss of working memory, delayed motor development and decreases in cognitive functioning.
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids,” Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at NRDC, said in a statement.
“It’s eating away at the development of vulnerable brains,” added Hertz-Picciotto, who said she had hoped the ban initiated under Obama would have paved the way for further restrictions of harmful pesticides. “All bets are off at this point.”
Bonnie Wirtz, a farmer in Minnesota who said she wasexposed to a chlorpyrifos driftfrom an alfalfa field when she was at her home, slammed Pruitt’s decision.
“By leaving this chemical on the market we are gambling with the lives of children and their long-term wellbeing and they have no choice in the matter,” she said in a statement. “That’s reckless and heartbreaking.”
Originally published: EcoWatch
The DC Circuit Court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to close a loophole that has allowed hazardous substances released into the environment by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to go unreported.
"We applaud the DC Circuit Court's clear decision to enforce this vital environmental safeguard to protect public safety," said Earthjusticeattorney Jonathan Smith, who helped argue the case before the court.
"In the words of the court, the risk of air emissions from CAFOs 'isn't just theoretical; people have become seriously ill and even died' from these emissions. But the public cannot protect itself from these hazardous substances if CAFOs aren't required to report their releases to the public. The loophole also prevented reporting of these toxics to local and state responders and the court held that plainly violated the law."
CAFOs are large-scale livestock facilities that confine large numbers of animals in relatively small spaces. A largeCAFO may contain upward of 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 125,000 chickens. Such facilities generate a massive amount of urine and feces, which is commonly liquefied and either stored under the facility or nearby in open-air lagoons. This waste is known to release high levels of toxic pollutants like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the environment.
The court's decision closes a loophole that exempted CAFOs from the same pollutant reporting required of other industries to ensure public safety. Prior to the promulgation of this loophole at the end of the Bush administration in 2008, federal law long required CAFOs, like all other industrial facilities, to notify government officials when toxic pollution levels exceeded public safety thresholds.
"Corporate agricultural operations have always been well-equipped to report on hazardous substances," said Abel Russ of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Now they will once again be required to do so."
This ruling is the latest turn in Earthjustice's advocacy on behalf of environmental and animal advocacy groups including Waterkeeper Alliance,Humane Society of the United States,Sierra Club,Center for Food Safety andEnvironmental Integrity Project.
"People have a right to know if CAFOs are releasing hazardous substances that can pose serious risks of illness or death into the air near their homes, schools, businesses and communities," said Kelly Foster, senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance.
"This ruling ensures that the public will be able to obtain this information in the future and will hopefully spur EPA to start responding when hazardous substances reach toxic levels."
Nearly three-quarters of the nation's ammonia air pollution come from CAFOs. Once emitted into the air, this ammonia then redeposits on land or water, adding to nitrogen pollution and water quality impairments in places like the Chesapeake Bay.
"CAFO waste pollutes our air and waterways and creates dangerous food pathogens. This decision forces these operations to be transparent about their environmental impact," said Paige Tomaselli of the Center for Food Safety.
CAFOs can be terrible air polluters. People who live near them often suffer from constant exposure to foul odors and the toxic effects of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Low levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and high levels can be fatal.
"This safeguard isn't just about protecting the environment; it's about making entire communities safe for the people who live in them," said Sierra Club staff attorney Katie Schaefer.
Unsurprisingly, CAFO pollution also severely impacts the animals raised at the CAFO.
"Animal factories force billions of animals to suffer dangerously high levels of toxic air pollution day after day for their entire lives," said Humane Society of The United States' Chief Counsel Jonathan Lovvorn. "This ruling helps shine a light on the horrors of factory farms and the hidden costs to animals, people and the environment."
Originally published: Truthout
The people of New Bedford, Massachusetts, have always been tough. When New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world, seven men would hop into a 25-foot rowboat to chase -- and harpoon up close -- furious 50-foot whales weighing 85 tons. After petroleum replaced whale oil around 1900, New Bedford workers then kept 70 textile mills humming day and night. After textiles moved away, from the 1940s onward New Bedford supplied the world with electric gear. But when those factories began to close in the 1960s, they left behind some awful secrets -- 572 chemically poisoned plots of land within the city's 24 square miles, including land where unsuspecting townspeople built two public schools. In the early 1980s, local people learned that their prized harbor -- all 18,000 acres of it, including its bounty of fish and lobsters -- had been rendered dangerously toxic by factory wastes. In 1983, New Bedford Harbor, the mouth of the Acushnet River, was declared a Superfund site, heavily contaminated with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). This small city reeled. To many, the combination of unemployment and toxic waste seemed insurmountable.
PCBs are a family of 209 industrial poisons known to harm humans at extremely low levels of exposure. PCBs cause cancer, diabetes, birth defects, liver disease and high blood pressure -- and they disrupt the nervous, hormonal and immune systems, giving rise to a broad array of other problems. A few of the 209 PCBs are thought to pose a toxic threat even more potent than dioxin.
About 60,000 of New Bedford's 95,000 residents live in "environmental justice neighborhoods as defined in Massachusetts law, based on percent of people who have low income or identify as minority or lack proficiency in English. But, like residents of decades past, they have proven themselves tough. To face down the menace of PCBs, grassroots groups sprang up, determined to force a complete cleanup of their poisoned city, 55 miles below Boston on the South Coast. The Hands Across the River Coalition (HARC) got on the case first, assisted by the Roxbury-based Toxics Action Center. They were joined by CLEAN (Citizens Leading Environmental Action Network) and the Buzzards Bay Coalition. To this day, HARC's leader, Karen Vilandry, is a relentless watchdog, calling out corruption, mismanagement and bad decisions, naming names fearlessly.
Now President Trump has once again shown local people the government can't be trusted to keep its word. Less than a month into his presidency, Trump proposed severely cutting the national budget for toxic cleanups -- doing so at the very moment when a new study has revealed that PCBs wafting off New Bedford Harbor have penetrated homes and offices in nearby towns.
Harbor PCBs Are Contaminating Local Air
PCBs rising off the 28-square-mile surface of New Bedford Harbor have been measured in neighboring towns by a team of researchers from the University of Iowa and Boston University. This is the first study to find PCBs from a body of water measurable at high concentrations in nearby air. Until now, health authorities had assumed that PCBs in lake and river sediments could only harm people who ate contaminated fish. As recently as 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told residents of New Bedford, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, North Fairhaven and Acushnet that "inhalation of air" near New Bedford Harbor was not a significant risk. Now that conclusion must be reconsidered.
The Harbor cleanup has been going on for 35 years. Since 2004, continuous dredging has removed 25,000 to 30,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments each year. All told, 1.7 million cubic yards of toxic sediment are scheduled to be dredged up and dumped somewhere. At the present rate, full cleanup will take many more decades. The EPA has earmarked funds to accelerate the Harbor cleanup, but Trump's budget cuts could wreck that plan.
Most of the world's PCBs were manufactured by Monsanto, the St. Louis chemical giant, starting in 1935. PCBs conduct heat but not electricity, and they do not readily break down -- so they made an ideal insulator for electric gear. They were also used in lubricants, paints, carbonless carbon paper, hydraulic fluid, window caulking, lamp ballasts, plastics and wire coatings, among many other products.
The first sign of toxicity from PCBs was a painful, disfiguring acne afflicting PCB workers -- inflamed pimples and blackheads oozing pus. At a meeting in 1937, F.R. Kaimer, assistant manager of General Electric's Wireworks at York, Pennsylvania, described GE's experience coating wire with PCBs:
We had in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 men afflicted with various degrees of this acne about which you all know. Eight or ten of them were very severely afflicted -- horrible specimens as far as their skin condition was concerned. We had 50 other men in very bad condition as far as the acne was concerned.
He went on:
The first reaction that several of our executives had was to throw it out -- get it out of our plant. They didn't want anything like that for treating wire. But that was easily said but not so easily done. We might just as well have thrown our business to the four winds and said, "We'll close up," because there was no substitute and there is none today in spite of all the efforts we have made through our own research laboratories to find one.
So in 1937, GE and Monsanto made a business decision to continue manufacturing PCBs they knew were highly toxic.
General Electric went on to dump many tons of waste PCBs into both the Hudson and Housatonic Rivers. Today, both rivers remain contaminated along their entire lengths -- the Housatonic from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 150 miles down to Stratford, Connecticut; and the Hudson from Fort Edward, New York, to Manhattan, 200 miles downstream. Like Monsanto, GE has aggressively evaded responsibility. In 1970, Monsanto issued a famously false statement saying, "It has been implied that polychlorinated biphenyls are 'highly toxic' chemicals. This is not true.... PCBs are not hazardous when properly handled and used."
Between 1929 and 1989, world production of PCBs totaled 3.3 billion pounds, most of which is still "out there" somewhere. In 1966, Swedish researchers were alarmed to discover PCBs accumulating in wild fish, and slowly the scientific community realized that PCBs had escaped and were spreading everywhere, harming fish, birds and mammals, including humans.
By the early 1990s in the US, women's breast milk contained about one part per million of PCBs, so a suckling infant was receiving a dose of PCBs about five times the "allowable daily intake" set for adults by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
PCBs Disrupt Hormones and the Immune System
In addition to many other biological effects, PCBs suppress the immune and hormone systems, which then may allow the development of many unrelated diseases. Studies show that mothers who have eaten PCB-contaminated fish have given birth to babies with small heads, poor memories and slow reaction times to stimuli.
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream in extremely low levels (parts per trillion), turning on and off bodily processes. Hormones control human development and behavior, starting in the womb. Industrial chemicals that mimic hormones can turn on or off biological processes unexpectedly. In fish, PCBs are known to turn males into females.
After 13 years of alarming scientific discoveries about PCBs poisoning wildlife and humans, the US finally banned PCBs in 1979. But by then, PCBs had become what the EPA now calls "the most widespread pollutant on the planet," measurable in nearly everyone, including newborn babies.
PCBs can be chemically detoxified, and the EPA itself has described these alternatives. Chemical detox offers a permanent solution to the PCB problem, but it's more expensive than burying PCBs in the ground, so the EPA has chosen to bury New Bedford's PCBs.
EPA plans to dump 300,000 cubic yards of toxic sediments into a "CAD cell" -- a "confined aquatic disposal" cell, which is nothing more than a large underwater hole dug into the bottom of the Harbor (the Acushnet River) -- to be filled with toxic sediment, then "capped" with clean sediment. The Army Corp of Engineers has announced a separate plan to widen the ship channel into New Bedford, dumping an additional 751,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment into a separate CAD cell in the Harbor bottom. Fans of CAD cells say it will "permanently" hold its toxic load. But anyone familiar with geologic history knows this may not be true. Sooner or later, weather and geologic processes can scour the river bottom, releasing the CAD cell's PCBs to the ocean downstream.
The remainder of New Bedford's toxic sediments are being shipped 800 miles by rail to Belleville, Michigan, a town of 4,000 people 29 miles southwest of Detroit. There, the PCBs are being buried in a licensed hazardous waste landfill 2,000 feet from the edge of the Huron River, which flows into Lake Erie.
Eventually, the landfill in Belleville will very likely leak its contents into the local environment, as all landfills tend to do. As the EPA said in a Federal Register notice in 1981:
There is good theoretical and empirical evidence that the hazardous constituents which are placed in land disposal facilities very likely will migrate from the facility into the broader environment. This may occur several years, even many decades, after placement of the waste in the facility, but data and scientific prediction indicate that, in most cases, even with the application of best available land disposal technology, it will occur eventually.
Defenders of toxic burial say that authorities like the EPA will monitor dumps like Belleville and the New Bedford CAD cell for the duration of the hazard. But PCBs buried in dark, airless tombs will remain toxic, so they will have to be monitored "in perpetuity." Humans have no experience doing anything "in perpetuity."
Short-Term Remedies May Not Work in the Long Term
The EPA's chosen remedy for New Bedford's PCBs may not even serve its main purpose of protecting local people from exposure to potent poisons. "They keep calling it a cleanup," said Karen Vilandry of Hands Across the River. "It's not a cleanup because the EPA, even after their 300,000 cubic yards and after their dredging, is still going to leave 50 parts per million of PCB sediments behind. Other places in the country it's one part per million. So why is it they're leaving 50 parts per million here? Oh, because it's New Bedford -- an environmental justice community, so we're a dumping ground. It's still going to affect the fish; humans are still going to be eating the fish -- where's the cleanup?"
Vilandry makes a valid point: At other PCB sites -- the Fox River in Wisconsin, the St. Lawrence in New York and the Housatonic -- the EPA's cleanup goal has been one part per million of residual PCBs, not 50 ppm.
As for CAD cells and licensed landfills, in the long run, humans will tend to forget where they buried their toxic wastes as more pressing problems demand attention. Unless PCBs are chemically destroyed, eventually most of them will very likely escape into the environment and slowly move into the ocean, either carried on air, or attached to soil particles moved by water. There, they will decimate marine mammal populations.
Marine mammals are freakishly sensitive to PCBs for two reasons. First, whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, sea otters and polar bears lack the genes needed to detoxify and eliminate PCBs. As a result, PCBs accumulate in their bodies, producing a toxic concentration that is up to 10 million times higher than the PCBs found at the bottom of the ocean food chain. Second, the reproductive system of marine mammals is a prime target for PCB toxicity. For example, a 1970 study of seals in the Baltic Sea revealed that 80 percent of females were sterile, poisoned by eating PCB-laden fish, and in Norway, polar bears have experienced unprecedented changes to their genitalia.
In the late 1980s, scientists calculated that about 20 percent of all the world's PCBs had already reached the ocean. In 1988, Canadian geneticist Joseph Cummins calculated that if another 15 percent of the world's PCBs made it into the ocean, widespread reproductive failure would spell extinction for all marine mammals. Dr. Cummins suggested in 1988 -- and again in 1998 -- that Monsanto should be required to buy back and chemically detoxify all the PCBs that are now stored (temporarily) in leaky machines and burial sites around the world. It's still a good idea.
Originally published: The Hill
The Trump administration is considering closing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) office in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The office, designated as Region 5, has responsibility for local and state matters in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Were the office closed, its responsibilities would be combined with Kansas City, Mo.-based Region 7 under the plan, the Sun-Times reported, citing a city government source familiar with the idea.
The EPA denied that any office closing is imminent.
“At this time, we are not announcing any potential closures and are instead focused on getting results and improving conditions for communities affected by Superfund sites like in East Chicago,” a spokesman told Politico.
The plan would be part of the EPA’s effort to comply with a 31 percent budget cut that President Trump has proposed. That reduction is still subject to approval from Congress, however, and leading lawmakers have voiced skepticism about cuts of that size.
The Chicago office has come under fire in recent years for a number of scandals.
It was that office that was responsible for the EPA’s dealings with the Flint, Mich., drinking water crisis. EPA officials eventually ordered the city to take immediate actions to reduce lead content, but the decision came at least six months after the dangerous contaminant was discovered.
Susan Hedman, the region’s administrator, resigned during the controversy.
The House Oversight Committee has also investigated multiple claims of sexual harassment and whistleblower retaliation at the Chicago office.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who represents Flint, said the report that the office could close is “very concerning.”
“Their work continues to be vital in helping Flint recover from the water crisis, including providing ongoing water testing for residents and technical assistance to the city's water plant,” he said in a statement.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the report “should be concerning to us all.”
“The administration’s plan would be harmful to the environment and public health in Chicago, in Illinois, and in the entire Great Lakes region, and that should outrage all of us living in our nation’s heartland,” he said.
The Chicago EPA office’s responsibilities include the Great Lake Restoration Initiative, which Trump wants to cut entirely.
Originally published: Salon
Corporate lobbyists wanted to ensure that President Trump’s nominees would make it through their Senate confirmation hearings despite public outcries. So naturally, they spent quite a bit of money to help their political wishes come true.
Koch Industries has a long history of lobbying to the oil and gas industry, and they spent $3.1 million in just the first three months of the year “on a variety of issues affecting its bottom line, including the EPA’s Clean Power Rule on carbon emissions, carbon pricing, the Clean Air Act and “nominations for various positions at the Department of Energy, accordingto disclosure forms looked at by The Intercept. The forms also show that Koch Industries directly spent money so that Scott Pruitt would be confirmed as EPA Administrator.
The massive amount of money coming from Koch Industries should come as no surprise and while its not completely clear how much of an affect their expense efforts had on the outcome of Pruitt’s confirmation, its evident that it was certainly the outcome they sought.
The Intercept reported:
Koch Industries has a long and contentious relationship with the EPA. The company’s pipelines were involved in over 300 oil spills between 1988 and 1996, leading to a$30 millionfine in 2000, at that point the largest environmental fine in U.S. history. Other Koch subsidiaries have clashed with environmental regulators. Koch’s Pine Bend oil refinery, a major revenue source for the company,spilled up to 60,000 gallons of jet fuel throughout the 1990s.
During the contentious confirmation process, Pruitt, a global warming denier and avowed critic of rules governing industrial polluters, largely dodged questions about his relationship with Koch Industries. Previous reporting revealed that as Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt joined several Koch-backed lawsuits against EPA rules and remained in close contact with groups financed by Koch’s owners, Charles and David Koch.
Concerns over the environment continue to grow and have even poured out into the streets, but still appear to be falling on deaf ears. On Friday, the day before tens of thousands of people across the countrymarched to protest the Trump administration’s neglect for the environment, the EPAremovedmost of the information pertaining to climate change from its website. In a press release the EPA stated that information was being updated to “reflect the approach of new leadership,” accordingto CNN. Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp” but has shown little initiative that he still intends to do so.
Originally published: EcoWatch
The study, along with research and development of genetically modified (GMO) algae for biofuels, is occurring ahead of adequate regulatory oversight, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's process to establish and update regulations for genetically engineered algae to protect human health and the environment.
"This study confirmed that genetically engineered microalgae grown in open ponds will escape and spread into the environment. Once this genie is out of the bottle, there is no way to put it back," said Dana Perls, senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
"Not only is it impossible to contain GE algae in open air production, but there are currently no adequate regulations which fully address its risks to our environment, from lab to final product. Without this essential oversight, there should be no environmental release or commercial uses of GE algae and other synthetic biology organisms.”
Microalgae are essential ecosystem regulators. They provide more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere and are the base of aquatic food chains. Microalgae reproduce rapidly and are capable of horizontal gene transfer, meaning that engineered traits can quickly spread, even to unrelated species. There is concern that engineered traits may not remain stable over time. All of these characteristics suggest introduced genes could spread rapidly out of control and change over time in unpredictable ways. In addition, microalgae have produced toxic algae blooms and GE microalgae may be more harmful and difficult to control.
"We are told that GE microalgae will not likely survive in the wild, but there is absolutely no basis for that assumption. In fact, many of the traits that are desirable for fuel and chemical production and industrial cultivation are precisely the traits that would lend a competitive advantage in nature," said Dr. Rachel Smolker, director of Biofuelwatch.
"Those include traits like 'improved' photosynthesis, resistance to predators and pests, hardiness and resilience that make them tolerant of industrial cultivation, or the ability to more effectively access and convert available nutrients."
Billions of taxpayer dollars have been invested in developing algae biofuels that have yet to be commercially viable. Genetically engineered microalgae research is now focused on producing chemicals for consumer products like cosmetics and food ingredients. Sapphire Energy has received vast amounts of taxpayer dollars for biofuels production, but is apparently marketing algae derived surfboards. Solazyme, now known as Terravia, was another recipient of funding to produce biofuels, which focused on products like anti-wrinkle face cream.
"The tests performed by UCSD scientists were of very limited scope and little assurance that GMO microalgae are 'safe,'" continued Smolker. "Meanwhile, we need to ask ourselves: are these products worth the money and worth the risks to our health and environment?"
Originally published: EcoWatch
On March 29, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the EPA would reverse a proposed ban on this extremely harmful pesticide and allow it to remain on the market. The move adds to the Trump administration's growing roster of decisions informed by "alternative facts." Nearly two decades' worth of scientific studies—including analyses by Pruitt's own agency—have documented the numerous risks this bug-killer poses to children and pregnant women.
What's more, exposure to chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used insecticides in the U.S., is extremely difficult to avoid. Farmers across the U.S. spray approximately five million pounds of it every year on crops like apples, oranges, broccoli and walnuts―more than one million pounds of it in agriculture-rich California alone.
Part of a family of nerve agents developed during World War II, chlorpyrifos, unsurprisingly, has incredible potential for harm. Research shows that exposure to this pesticide can increase the risk for behavioral issues and serious neurological damage in children, including ADHD, developmental delays and lower IQs. Scientists and doctors consider these neurological effects to be "permanent, irreversible and lifelong." Studies have also shown that children exposed to chlorpyrifos and other closely related pesticides face greater risk of developing asthma-like symptoms and diminished lung function.
A November 2016 assessment by the Obama EPA emphasized the health threats and, for the first time, highlighted the extent to which children and pregnant women are vulnerable to them. The agency found unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos residue lurking on some of our favorite fruits, vegetables and nuts—even after they were washed, peeled or cracked. And food isn't the only way people are exposed. Many farmworkers and families who live in agricultural communities also encounter the pesticide in the air they breathe and the water they drink.
The dangers of chlorpyrifos were evident long before last year's analysis—so evident that, as a result of pressure from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the EPA decided to ban the chemical for household use in 2000 (in pest-control products). But scientists and health experts remained concerned about its other uses. That's why, in 2007, NRDC and Pesticide Action Network petitioned the EPA to finish the job by also banning agricultural applications.
"After we achieved better protections for kids in the home, we were still concerned that chlorpyrifos sprayed on crops was poisoning agricultural communities, farmworkers and their families and contaminating fruits and vegetables," NRDC staff scientist Veena Singla said. According to an April 2014 report by the California Department of Public Health, farms spray toxic pesticides within a quarter mile of more than 430 schools in California's Central Valley. And the EPA's 2016 assessment found that air contamination in California's agricultural areas puts pregnant women at risk—levels of chlorpyrifos measured in the air in one town were found to be 44 times higher than what's deemed acceptable. These impacts disproportionately endanger communities of color. Latino children are almost two times more likely than white children to attend schools near fields with the heaviest pesticide use. Latinos also make up the majority of residents living in homes adjacent to sprayed fields.
Finally, in response to the indisputable facts presented by scientists and health advocates highlighting the risk to children from chlorpyrifos, the Obama EPA proposed a total ban in October 2015 and affirmed the need for the ban last November. Unfortunately, faced with a court-mandated deadline for a decision by March 31, Pruitt chose to deny his agency's own scientific conclusions, giving a boost to Dow Chemical (the maker of chlorpyrifos) and the pesticide industry at the expense of kids across the country.
"This is yet another example of EPA Administrator Pruitt's willingness to go against the scientific conclusions of the agency's own staff and sacrifice children's health for industry profits," said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist in NRDC's health and environment program. "It's very similar to what we've already seen out of Pruitt's office on climate and water protections. His claims of the need for more study are unfounded."
And it turns out that what Pruitt did—reverse a proposed ban without providing new scientific evidence that chlorpyrifos can be safely used in agriculture—is unlawful. So NRDC, Pesticide Action Network and Earthjustice are taking the EPA administrator to court. "They actually didn't make a decision as the court directed them to do repeatedly; they just kicked the can down the road another five years," Rotkin-Ellman explained. "EPA proposed the ban because chlorpyrifos is putting kids at risk, the administrator has offered no science to show that this dangerous pesticide is safe, and so EPA must implement the ban."
As we wait for federal action, parents of small children or those with kids on the way, can protect their families by purchasing organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Chlorpyrifos and related toxic pesticides are prohibited on organic produce.
Fortunately, the EPA is not the only option. NRDC, as part of the Californians for Pesticide Reform coalition, is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to step in, follow the science, and implement a ban on chlorpyrifos use within the state to protect both Californians and those who eat California produce. The American people shouldn't have to stand for "alternative science" that puts our health at stake.
Originally published: The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.
A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.
The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific review board to include more representation from the corporate world.
President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A., pushing for deep cuts in its budget — including a 40 percent reduction for its main scientific branch — and instructing him to roll back major Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. In recent weeks, the agency has removed some scientific data on climate change from its websites, and Mr. Pruitt has publicly questioned the established science of human-caused climate change.
In his first outings as E.P.A. administrator, Mr. Pruitt has made a point of visiting coal mines and pledging that his agency will seek to restore that industry, even though many members of both of the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards have historically recommended stringent constraints on coal pollution to combat climate change.
Mr. Freire said the agency wanted “to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible.”
“We want to expand the pool of applicants” for the scientific board, he said, “to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren’t typically represented and issues that aren’t typically represented.”
Some who opposed the dismissals denounced them as part of a broader push by the E.P.A. to downgrade science and elevate business interests.
“This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda,” said Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the E.P.A. strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development — you have to see all these things as interconnected.”
The scientists dismissed from the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors received emails from an agency official informing them that their three-year terms had expired and would not be renewed. That was contrary, the scientists said, to what they had been told by officials at the agency in January, just before Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
“Most of us on the council are academic people,” said Ponisseril Somasundaran, a chemist at Columbia University who focuses on managing hazardous waste. “I think they want to bring in business and industry people.”
Courtney Flint, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University who has served on the board since 2014, said she was surprised by the dismissal.
“I believe this is political,” said Dr. Flint, whose research focuses on how communities respond to major disruptions in the environment, such as exposure to toxic pollution, forest fires and climate change. “It’s unexpected. It’s a red flag.”
Another of the dismissed scientists made his grievances public. “Today, I was Trumped,” Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University, wrote on Twitter. “I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.”
The board is charged with reviewing and evaluating the research conducted by the agency’s scientists. Those studies are used by government regulators to draft rules and restrictions on everything from hazardous waste dumped in water to the emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change.
Members of the board say they have reviewed the E.P.A.’s scientific research on the public health impact of leaking underground fuel tanks, the toxicity of the chemicals used to clean up oil spills, and the effects of the spread of bark beetles caused by a warming climate.
A larger, corresponding panel, the 47-member Science Advisory Board, advises the agency on what areas it should conduct research in and evaluates the scientific integrity of some of its regulations.
Both boards, which until now have been composed almost entirely of academic research scientists, have long been targets of political attacks. Congressional Republicans and industry groups have sought to either change their composition or weaken their influence on the environmental regulatory process.
Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, wrote the House-passed bill intended to restock the Science Advisory Board with more members from the business world.
“In recent years, S.A.B. experts have become nothing more than rubber stamps who approve all of the E.P.A.’s regulations,” Mr. Smith said at a House hearing in February. “The E.P.A. routinely stacks this board with friendly scientists who receive millions of dollars in grants from the federal government. The conflict of interest here is clear.”
As a witness, Mr. Smith brought in Kimberly White, senior director of chemical products and technology at the American Chemistry Council, which lobbies for chemical corporations and, like other industry groups, has pushed for more representation on the E.P.A.’s science boards.
“We have also seen situations where peer reviewers have suggested discounting a study solely based on the funding source, without any considerations being given to the quality of the study,” Ms. White said. “Also, E.P.A. staff often comment throughout peer review meetings, essentially participating as peers, while industry experts are typically excluded from the dialogue.”
Several members of the Scientific Advisory Board contacted by The New York Times said that they had not received dismissal notices, but that they were aware their board was a political target.
“I see the dismissal of the scientists from the Board of Scientific Counselors as a test balloon,” said Joseph Arvai, an environmental scientist at the University of Michigan who is on the Scientific Advisory Board. “This is clearly very political, and we should be very concerned if it goes further.”
Originally published: Mother Jones
On May 5, more than 50 farmworkers outside of Bakersfield, California, were exposed to a highly toxic pesticide that apparently drifted from a nearby field—at a high enough level that "twelve people reported symptoms of vomiting [and] nausea and one person fainted," reports the television news station Kern Golden Empire. "An additional twelve workers did not show signs of any symptoms," the station reported. "However more than half of the farm workers left before medical aide arrived."
"Anybody that was exposed, that was here today, we encourage them to seek medical attention immediately," Kern County Public Health warned.
Public health authorities took the poisoning quite seriously. "Anybody that was exposed, that was here today, we encourage them to seek medical attention immediately. Don't wait. Particularly if you're suffering from any symptoms. Whether it's nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately," Michelle Corson, public relations officer at Kern County Public Health, said in an announcement to the TV station.
According to the news report, the poisoning was caused by a chemical called chlorpyrifos. A spokeswoman for the Kern County Department of Public Health said the department assumes chlorpyrifos was the active ingredient in the pesticide in question, but the matter is still under investigation by the Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards. A spokesman for that office said test results pinpointing the chemical are pending but would not be done for at least a week. Dow AgroSciences, one of the main makers of the chemical, did not respond to phone calls and emails.
Many public health experts, scientists, and environmentalists have for years been pushing for a ban on chlorpyrifos, and last year it was looking like the Environmental Protection Agency intended to instate one. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, exposure to the chemical through inhalation can cause initial symptoms like "tearing of the eyes, runny nose, increased saliva and sweat production, nausea, dizziness and headache," followed by possible "muscle twitching, weakness or tremors, lack of coordination, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and pupil constriction with blurred or darkened vision." Chlorpyrifos is an endocrine disrupter, and major studies (here, here, and here) have found strong evidence to suggest that even at very low doses, the chemical triggers effects among children ranging from lower IQ to higher rates of autism. More here.
But in March, the EPA abruptly changed its stance on chlorpyrifos, greenlighting it instead of banning it. The decision, among the first major ones made by Scott Pruitt in his tenure as EPA chief, caused outrage in public health circles. Dow AgroSciences applauded the decision. "Dow AgroSciences remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety," the company declared in a press release.
The parent company, Dow Chemical, has cultivated a cozy relationship with the Trump administration. The company delivered $1 million to the president's inaugural committee, the Center for Public Integrity notes. Dow Chemical Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris attended a postelection Trump rally. Trump named Liveris chair of the American Manufacturing Council, vowing the chemical exec would "find ways to bring industry back to America."
Originally published: CNN
Christine Sheppard fantasizes about her life before cancer. Before she had to take painkillers "all the time." Before she had to seriously worry about when she might die.
"I found out something was wrong because my right leg swelled up enormously," Sheppard said. "They did an ultrasound and found I was completely full of these lymph nodes. It was stage IV large-cell lymphoma."
Grueling chemotherapy treatments have started robbing her of mobility. "It's a strange nerve thing," she said. "I don't always know where my feet are. I have to look down to see where they are."
And the symptoms "will be progressively worse. There's no cure. Eventually, I will probably end up fairly immobilized."
For 12 years, Sheppard had no idea what might have caused her non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- until a group of cancer researchers reported (PDF) that glyphosate, the key ingredient in the popular weed killer Roundup, is "probably carcinogenic to humans" (PDF).
That's the same herbicide Sheppard said she sprayed on her coffee farm in Hawaii for five years.
"I was incensed," said Sheppard, 67. "We had no idea."
Sheppard is one of more than 800 cancer patients suing Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, claiming the company failed to warn consumers about the risk of cancer associated with Roundup products.
Monsanto says there's no proof that glyphosate is carcinogenic. In fact, it citesa report by the Environmental Protection Agency'sCancer Assessment Review Committee that saidglyphosate is "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans" (PDF).
But the former chairman of that committee offered to stop an independent review on whether glyphosate could cause cancer, according to a plaintffs' motion to compel his deposition. And that has left Sheppard even more incensed.
Health agency: Glyphosate is 'probably carcinogenic'
The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer caused a stir in March 2015 when it said glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans" (PDF), meaning it can lead to cancer.
"For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma," the report states.
"The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals."
That report spurred hundreds of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients to sue Monsanto.
Timothy Litzenburg's law firm represents more than 500 of them. He said most of the patients didn't know about a possible link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma until the report came out.
"It would not surprise me in the least if there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases by the end of the year," Litzenburg said. "This is the most-used herbicide in the world ... from the largest farm operations to backyard gardens. It's ubiquitous."
But many other companies also sell products containing glyphosate. Why aren't they targeted in these lawsuits?
"This is an oversimplistic answer, but Monsanto invented/discovered it, they held the patent for many years, they are the EPA registrant for glyphosate, and they continue to dominate the market," the attorney said.
"Furthermore, we are not alleging that our clients got cancer from glyphosate alone. We are suing because our clients got cancer from Roundup. ... Roundup contains animal fats and other ingredients that increase the carcinogenicity of the glyphosate."
Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord flatly denied those accusations.
"Glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup-brand formulated products with surfactants, all have a long history of safe use and do not pose any unreasonable risk to human health when used according to label directions," Lord said.
"The safety of each labeled use of a pesticide formulation must be evaluated and approved by regulatory authorities before it is authorized for sale."
Sheppard said she knows skeptics will say she can't prove that her cancer came from using Roundup. But she said the hundreds of plaintiffs with similar stories -- combined with the report -- show "such strong circumstantial evidence that the total adds up."
"In fact, since IARC classified glyphosate, regulatory authorities in the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have publicly reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer," Lord said.
For example, the European Chemicals Agency said last month that glyphosate is "not classified as a carcinogen."
Monsanto stressed that the International Agency for Research on Cancer report does not establish a link between glyphosate and an increase in cancer.
Scott Partridge, Monsanto's vice president of global strategy, said plaintiffs' attorneys "are attempting to tie the IARC classification to individual cases of cancer, and they have been running advertisements to recruit plaintiffs. These lawsuits have no merit."
But recently unsealed court documents appear to show Monsanto mounting its effort to discredit the IARC report before it was even released.
Company executive suggests 'ghostwrite'
A month before the IARC report came out in 2015, Monsanto executive William F. Heydens sent an internal email to company toxicologist Donna Farmer with the subject line "RE: IARC planning," according to court documents.In that email, he suggested ghostwriting parts of an "overall plausibility paper" to save money.
"If we went full-bore (with experts), we could be pushing $250K or maybe even more," Heydens wrote.
He said a "less expensive/more palatable approach" might be to involve experts only for some of the less contentious parts of the report. Then, Monsanto would "ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections."
"[W]e would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing," the email said. Afterward, scientists outside Monsanto "would just edit & sign their names so to speak."
"Recall that is how we handled Williams Kroes & Munro, 2000," Heydens wrote, referring to a previous report on glyphosate.
Monsanto executive William Heydens sent an email with the subject "RE: IARC Planning" one month before the IARC's glyphosate report came out. In it, he suggested ghostwriting parts of a plausibility paper.
After the emails were unsealed in March, Monsanto said in a statement that the 2000 report was not ghostwritten and that Heydens' email was taken out of context.
"Recently, in the context of personal injury litigation filed against Monsanto, plaintiffs' attorneys have cherry picked a single email -- out of more than 10 million pages of documents produced -- to allege that Monsanto scientists ghostwrote 'Safety Evaluation and Risk Assessment of the Herbicide Roundup and Its Active Ingredient, Glyphosate, for Humans,' " the company said.
"These allegations are false. Monsanto scientists did not ghostwrite the paper."
The company added that the report, published in 2000 in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, went through that journal's "rigorous peer review process before it was published."
But what about the 2015 glyphosate paper -- the one that Heydens suggest his company "ghost-write," according to the recently unsealed emails? Did Monsanto actually "ghost-write" parts of that report?
"No," Monsanto spokeswoman Camille Scott told CNN. "The paper and its conclusions are the work of the glyphosate expert panel. The paper also underwent (a) rigorous peer review process before it was published."
Scott said Monsanto retained a scientific consultant to convene the panel to review the international agency's assessment that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The experts were asked to examine the agency's data and assess the scope of the research included or excluded, Scott said. They concluded that "the data do not support IARC's conclusion that glyphosate is a 'probable human carcinogen.'"
Email: EPA official offered to 'kill' study on glyphosate
A month after the report said glyphosate could cause cancer, Heydens sent an email to Monsanto's US agency lead -- the liaison to agencies such as the EPA -- about the possibility of "doing more work to help us deal with the IARC fallout."
Dan Jenkins, Monsanto's US agency lead at the time, replied and suggested talking to Jess Rowland, then chairman of the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee.
"He'll give us straight talk," Jenkins wrote in an April 27, 2015, email.
Dan Jenkins replied to William Heydens' email about how to deal with "IARC fallout."
But the next day, Jenkins said Rowland called him "out of the blue."
"Jess [Rowland] called to ask for a contact name at ATSDR," Jenkins wrote, referring to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
At the time, the registry -- part of the US Department of Health and Human Services -- was working on its own investigation intoglyphosate (PDF).
"(Rowland) told me no coordination is going on and he wanted to establish some saying 'If I can kill this I should get a medal,' " Jenkins wrote, as shown in the plaintiffs' motion to compel the deposition of Rowland.
"However, don't get your hopes up, I doubt EPA and Jess can kill this; but its good to know they are going to actually make the effort now to coordinate due to our pressing and their shared concern that ATSDR is consistent in its conclusions w EPA."
According to a Monsanto email, a Monsanto employee said EPA official Jess Rowland said he "should get a medal" if he could kill a different government agency's investigation into glyphosate. Rowland, who is now retired from the EPA, has not returned requests for comment.
The report on glyphosate by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was never killed. In fact, researchers are still working on it, registry spokesman Larry Furphy said Friday.
"ATSDR is in the process of developing a Toxicological Profile for glyphosate," Furphy wrote in an email to CNN.
"For glyphosate, much of the scientific literature is continuing to emerge, and the agency wants to ensure that we have all the evidence from recent and pending literature reviews."
Furphy said the agency expects to release a draft of the report by the end of the year.
In a separate Monsanto email, dated September 3, 2015, Jenkins told colleagues that Rowland was planning to retire in about five to six months "and could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense."
Rowland has since retired from the EPA and has not responded to requests for comment.
When asked about the litigation, an EPA representative said it is "a dispute between private litigants, and EPA is not a party to the case. Beyond that, the Agency does not comment on active litigation."
Litzenburg said the court documents "seem to show an inappropriately close relationship" between Monsanto and the former EPA official.
But Monsanto spokeswoman Lord said the company has never paid, given gifts to or done anything else to curry favor with anyone from the EPA.
"As part of a highly regulated industry, Monsanto routinely responds to EPA requests for data and information about our products," she said. "Monsanto fully respects the EPA's role in regulating pesticides, and we work to provide accurate information and answer questions to ensure that the agency can make decisions based on thorough and complete science."
Conflicting research on glyphosate
The National Pesticide Information Center acknowledges conflicting reports about the risk of cancer with glyphosate.
"Studies on cancer rates in people have provided conflicting results on whether the use of glyphosate containing products is associated with cancer. Some studies have associated glyphosate use with non-Hodgkin lymphoma."
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a common cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. About 72,000 people are expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 20,000 people will die from it in 2017.
'They took away our dreams, our savings'
While the lawsuits work their way through court -- the next phase of discovery is expected in October -- Sheppard said she's trying to manage her illness the best she can. That means avoiding planes and any crowded place.
"My immune system doesn't allow me to travel much," she said. "If I get sick, I get sick for a long, long time.”
She and her husband had to sell their coffee farm in Hawaii and move to California for cancer treatment. Sheppard said she has depleted her 401(k) to pay for medical bills.
"They didn't take away my life, thank goodness, but they took away our dreams, our savings," she said.
Sheppard said she now wants two things: Monsanto to stop selling Roundup, and an apology from the company.
She said she doesn't think she'll get the latter.
"I think Monsanto is going to fight this to the bitter end."
Editor's note: This article has been updated to add a response from Scott Partridge, Monsanto's vice president of global strategy.
Originally published: The Guardian
The European Food Safety Authority dismissed a study linking a Monsantoweedkiller to cancer after counsel from a US Environmental Protection Agency officer allegedly linked to the company.
Jess Rowlands, the former head of the EPA’s cancer assessment review committee (CARC), who figures in more than 20 lawsuits and had previously told Monsanto he would try to block a US government inquiry into the issue, according to court documents.
The core ingredient of Monsanto’s RoundUp brand is a chemical called glyphosate, for which the European commission last weekproposed a new 10-year license.
Doubts about its regulatory passagehave been stirred by unsealed documents in an ongoing US lawsuit against Monsanto by sufferers of non-hodgkins lymphoma, who claim they contracted the illness from exposure to RoundUp.
“If I can kill this, I should get a medal,” Rowlandsallegedly tolda Monsanto official, Dan Jenkins, in an email about a US government inquiry into glyphosate in April 2015.
Ina separate internal emailof that time, Jenkins, a regulatory affairs manager, said that Rowlands was about to retire and “could be useful as we move forward with [the] ongoing glyphosate defense”.
Documents seen by the Guardian show that Rowlands took part in a teleconference with Efsa as an observer in September 2015.
Six weeks later, Efsa adopted an argument Rowlands had used to reject a key 2001 study which found a causal link between exposure to glyphosate and increased tumour incidence in mice.
Rowlands’ intervention was revealed in a letter sent by the head of Efsa’s pesticides unit, Jose Tarazona, to Peter Clausing, an industry toxicologist turned green campaigner.
In the missive, Tarazona said that “the observer from the US-EPA [Rowlands] informed participants during the teleconference about potential flaws in the Kumar (2001) study related to viral infections.”
Efsa’s subsequentreport said that the Kumar study “was reconsidered during the second experts’ teleconference as not acceptable due to viral infections”.
Greenpeace said that news of an Efsa-Rowlands connection made a public inquiry vital. “Any meddling by Monsanto in regulatory safety assessments would be wholly unacceptable,” said spokeswoman Franziska Achterberg. “We urgently need a thorough investigation into the Efsa assessment before glyphosate can be considered for re-approval inEurope.”
Socialist MEPs last weeksaid that they too would call for an inquiryunless outstanding questions about the relicensing were cleared up.
A reply to Tarazona’s letter from Clausing, seen by the Guardian, also says: “In the light of Jess Rowland’s role in the assessment of carcinogenicity of glyphosate in the US as reflected by the internal Monsanto documents, I have serious concerns that he might have influenced the decision by providing wrong information which has not been scrutinised by Efsa and its experts.”
A Monsanto spokesman said: “Plucking a single email out of context doesn’t change the fact that the US EPA and regulators around the world, as well as a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) that analysed pesticide residues, have concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.”
Efsa though remains bullish about the probity of its assessment of the most heavily used weedkillerin human history.
Tarazona declined to comment on Rowlands’ contribution to the Efsa study but said that Kumar’s paper had been compromised by the use of Swiss albino mice.
“The issue of ‘high background incidence’ is something common to all studies that use that strain of mouse,” he said. “There was [also] the fact that the effect was observed only at a very high dose level.”
Other toxicologists, such as Prof Ivan Rusyn, who contributed to a WHO assessment of glyphosate, contend that where sample sizes are limited, “the most informative animal studies are those conducted with sufficiently high doses”.
Clausing said that there was “almost no difference” between malignant lymphomas in Kumar’s control group, compared to others.
Originally published: GM Watch
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been accused of excluding from its glyphosate assessment a key study only because of a negative comment by a former US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) official.
The former US EPA official, Jess Rowland, is under investigation in a US court case brought by cancer sufferers, who believe that exposure to Roundup triggered their disease. Based on internal Monsanto documents disclosed in the lawsuit, Rowland is accused of colluding with Monsanto to defend glyphosate’s health record.
The accusation against EFSA was made by the toxicologist Dr Peter Clausing, representing Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Germany, at a scientific conference on glyphosate’s health risks, held in the EU Parliament on 10 May. The conference was hosted by the Czech Socialist MEP Pavel Poc.
Dr Clausing said that he had met the head of EFSA's pesticides unit, Jose Tarazona, the previous week. They had discussed a key study (Kumar 2001) showing that glyphosate caused malignant lymphoma in mice. Dr Clausing said that Dr Tarazona was not able able to give any other concrete reasons why the study was excluded from EFSA’s assessment than that a US EPA observer had said the US EPA had not accepted it due to viral infections in the animals.
According to a report in EU Food Policy, EFSA and PAN agree that the US EPA observer was Jess Rowland, who made the remark about infections during a teleconference about glyphosate organised by EFSA in 2015.
However, EFSA told EU Food Policy that “it and member states had already picked up on weaknesses with the study and that the majority of member states had agreed there was a high background of malignant lymphomas in the mice used for the study.”
The EU Food Policy article goes on to quote Dr Tarazona as saying that Rowland informed EFSA "about potential flaws in the Kumar study (2001) related to viral infections that could influence survival as well as tumour incidence".
Dr Tarazona told EU Food Policy that EFSA didn’t just take Rowland’s word for it: "After the teleconference, EFSA experts checked the Kumar (2001) study themselves and found additional indications that confirmed deficiencies in the health status of animals, which supported the plausibility of a viral infection."
Dr Tarazona told EU Food Policy that Dr Clausing's remarks "give rise to concerns about the integrity of EFSA's glyphosate assessment", but that this is "not borne out by the facts".
No evidence for alleged “viral infections”
So what were these “additional indications that confirmed deficiencies in the health status of animals, which supported the plausibility of a viral infection”?
EFSA has had plenty of chances to describe them.
First, in its “Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance glyphosate”, published in 2015, EFSA declared the Kumar study as “not acceptable due to viral infections that could influence survival as well as tumour incidence – especially lymphomas”.
And second, in a peer-reviewed paper of the same year explaining why EFSA had come to a different conclusion on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity from the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency IARC (which classed it as a probable carcinogen), Dr Tarazona and his co-authors from EFSA and Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) say that the Kumar study “was excluded due to a likely viral infection in the experimental population”.
But in neither document does EFSA give any supporting evidence for viral infections.
And in neither document does EFSA describe any “additional indications that confirmed deficiencies in the health status of animals, which supported the plausibility of a viral infection”, such as Tarazona claimed were present in the Kumar study.
In fact there is an irrefutable (by the EU authorities, at least) source that states that there is no evidence whatsoever that the animals in this experiment suffered from a viral infection or that their health was deficient as a result of such an infection. That source is none other than the CLH (harmonised classification and labelling) report on glyphosate, based on industry data and submitted by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The CLH report states: “During a teleconference (TC 117) on carcinogenicity of glyphosate hold [sic.] by EFSA… it was mentioned by an US EPA observer that the Kumar (2001, ASB2012-11491) study had been excluded from US EPA evaluation due to the occurrence of viral infection that could influence survival as well as tumour incidences, especially those of lymphomas. However, in the study report itself, there was no evidence of health deterioration due to suspected viral infection and, thus, the actual basis of EPA’s decision is not known” (p. 72).
Nevertheless, ECHA continued to use the narrative of a virus infection in spite of its admission that there was no evidence for such an infection. In its Opinion, ECHA cautions against “a possible role of oncogenic viruses” – which it apparently deemed as sufficient reason to exclude this important study from the overall assessment.
Unsurprisingly, having disposed of Kumar using an apparently evidence-free argument, ECHA followed EFSA in concluding that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
Dr Tarazona’s identification of the “US EPA observer” as Jess Rowland raises questions about the influence on the EFSA glyphosate assessment exercised by this man – who allegedly boasted to a Monsanto executive that he deserved a medal if he could kill another agency’s investigation into the chemical’s health risks.
“Viral infection” claim first shows up in Monsanto-supported paper
It seems that Rowland himself did not come up with the narrative of the “viral infection”. It first appeared in a Monsanto- and Glyphosate Task Force-supported review, which concluded that glyphosate was non-carcinogenic. The review was co-authored by Monsanto employee David Saltmiras and published in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, which has industry ties. However, even this review introduces the idea of a viral infection in tentative language, referring to a “possible viral infection” that “may have confounded interpretation of results”.
EFSA goes much further than this Monsanto-linked paper in its unqualified claim that the Kumar study was “not acceptable due to viral infections”.
Malignant lymphoma-prone mice?
But what about the other supposed weakness in the Kumar study, the “high background of malignant lymphomas in the mice used for the study” that EFSA mentioned to EU Food Policy?
That argument doesn’t stand up either, according to Dr Clausing. He told GMWatch that while a good number of control mice did get malignant lymphomas, the glyphosate-treated mice had a statistically significant increase in malignant lymphomas, in a clearly dose-dependent fashion. Moreover, this statistically significant increase in malignant lymphoma was well above the range of historical control data (the “background” incidence referred to by EFSA) – supporting the observation of a glyphosate-induced carcinogenicity.
Dr Clausing said that these were valid historical control data as measured by OECD standards. This was important because there are a number of examples where EFSA used invalid historical control data to dismiss significant findings of carcinogenicity.
GMWatch believes that for EFSA to claim that these increases were due to chance and not to glyphosate is to turn its back on the scientific method.
The study that had to be killed
Dr Clausing believes that the Kumar study, together with two other studies showing the same effect, presents difficult-to-refute evidence of glyphosate’s carcinogenicity. Its particular significance within EFSA’s assessment is that the reasons used by EFSA to dismiss other studies showing glyphosate is carcinogenic do not apply to the Kumar study and a second study by Wood et al. (2009). In both studies the increase in malignant lymphoma in glyphosate-treated animals was both dose-dependent and significant, at doses that could not be dismissed as only a “high-dose phenomenon”.
In reality the Kumar study is far from being an outlier. Before EFSA produced its assessment, the German authority BfR, under pressure from the IARC verdict, had demonstrated statistically significant increases in cancer in seven rodent carcinogenicity studies with glyphosate. But EFSA denied these results, using what Dr Clausing considers spurious arguments, and insisted that there was only one mouse study – Kumar – with statistical significance.
According to the European legislation, evidence for carcinogenicity in at least two separate studies is “sufficient evidence” to label a compound as carcinogenic (category 1B). That would mean an automatic ban. Thus in Dr Clausing’s view, the Kumar study “presented an obstacle” to EFSA’s apparent intention to declare glyphosate as non-carcinogenic: “That’s why the exclusion of this particular study from further consideration was so important.”
Dr Clausing is not the only authority to believe that the Kumar study was particularly problematic for those who wish to argue that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic. The BfR remarked in its assessment of glyphosate that this unpublished industry study “was apparently not available to IARC” – “otherwise, it would have been certainly used as the first place argument for carcinogenicity of glyphosate” (p. 9).
Flawed study included by EFSA
Dr Clausing argued in his presentation to the EU Parliament that the Kumar 2001 study should have been included by EFSA in its assessment and that a study by Atkinson (1993), which found no carcinogenic effect of glyphosate, should have been excluded. The latter study was invalid, he explained, because only animals with signs of malignant lymphoma that were visible to the naked eye were examined more closely – a recipe for missing numerous cases. This flawed study was used as additional “proof” that glyphosate did not cause malignant lymphoma.
If EFSA had included Kumar and excluded Atkinson, it would not have concluded that glyphosate was not carcinogenic, Dr Clausing told the meeting.
Did Rowlands mislead EFSA on glyphosate?
In light of Jess Rowland’s role in the assessment of carcinogenicity of glyphosate in the US as reflected by the internal Monsanto documents, there are serious concerns that he might have influenced the decision by providing wrong information. Yet EFSA is not an innocent victim in this case. It apparently failed to properly scrutinize Rowland's claim.
To summarize, the only publicly available explanation for EFSA’s dismissal of the Kumar study due to a viral infection is Rowland’s claim – yet there is no factual evidence whatsoever to back up the claim. Dr Clausing said he has examined the publicly available documents as well as the raw data of the Kumar study, which was made available to him by EFSA. He said, “Scrutinizing all these documents did not provide any other evidence than the Rowland intervention. As a result, I have doubts about the integrity of EFSA’s assessment of glyphosate. Those doubts have been sown by EFSA itself.”
1. EU Food Policy. EFSA refutes claims it was improperly influenced on glyphosate. 15 May 2017. Subscription only (eufoodpolicy.com); no direct link.
Report: Claire Robinson
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