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Pesticide Residues from Non-
Foods Building Up in
Our Bodies

>From Pesticide Action Network

Toxic Pesticides Above "Safe" Levels in Many U.S. Residents
May 11, 2004

Many U.S. residents carry toxic pesticides in their bodies above government
assessed "acceptable" levels, according to Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in
Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability a report released today by Pesticide
Action Network North America (PANNA) and partner groups in more than 20
cities. Analyzing pesticide-related data collected by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on levels of chemicals in 9,282 people
nationwide, the report reveals that government and industry have failed to
safeguard public health from pesticide exposures.

"None of us choose to have hazardous pesticides in our bodies," said Kristin
Schafer of PANNA and lead author of the report. "Yet CDC found pesticides in
100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person
in this group carried a toxic cocktail of 13 of the 23 pesticides we

Many of the pesticides found in the test subjects have been linked to
serious short- and long-term health effects including infertility, birth
defects and childhood and adult cancers. "While the government develops
safety levels for each chemical separately, this study shows that in the
real world we are exposed to multiple chemicals simultaneously," explained
Margaret Reeves, of PANNA. "The synergistic effects of multiple exposures
are unknown, but a growing body of research suggests that even at very low
levels, the combination of these chemicals can be harmful to our health."

Chemical Trespass found that children, women and Mexican Americans
shouldered the heaviest "pesticide body burden." For example, children --
the population most vulnerable to pesticides -- are exposed to the highest
levels of nerve-damaging organophosphorous (OP) pesticides. The CDC data
show that the average 6 to11 year-old sampled is exposed to the OP pesticide
chlorpyrifos at four times the level U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(U.S. EPA) considers "acceptable" for long-term exposure. Chlorpyrifos,
produced principally by Dow Chemical Corporation and found in numerous
products such as DursbanT, is designed to kill insects by disrupting the
nervous system. Although U.S. EPA restricted chlorpyrifos for most
residential uses in 2000, it continues to be used widely in agriculture and
other settings. In humans, chlorpyrifos is also a nerve poison, and has been
shown to disrupt hormones and interfere with normal development of the
nervous system in laboratory animals.

The report also found that women have significantly higher levels of three
of the six organochlorine (OC) pesticides evaluated. These pesticides are
known to cross the placenta during pregnancy with multiple harmful effects
including disruption of brain development, which can lead to learning
disabilities and other neurobehavioral problems, as well as reduced infant
birth weight. This ability of organochlorine pesticides to pass from mother
to child puts future generations at serious risk.

PAN's analysis found that Mexican Americans carry dramatically higher body
burdens of five of the 17 evaluated pesticides in urine samples, including a
breakdown product of methyl parathion, a neurotoxic, endocrine-disrupting
insecticide. Mexican Americans also had significantly higher body burdens of
the breakdown products of the insecticides lindane and DDT than those found
in other ethnic groups.

Chemical Trespass argues that pesticide manufacturers are primarily
responsible for the problem of pesticide body burden. "The pesticides we
carry in our bodies are made and aggressively promoted by agrochemical
companies," stated Skip Spitzer at PANNA. "These companies also spend
millions on political influence to block or undermine regulatory measures
designed to protect public health and the environment." The report
introduces the Pesticide Trespass Index (PTI), a new tool for quantifying
responsibility of individual pesticide manufacturers for their "pesticide
trespass." Using the PTI, the report estimates that Dow Chemical is
responsible for at least 80% of the chlorpyrifos breakdown products found in
the bodies of those in the U.S.

Chemical Trespass offers a series of recommendations. The U.S. Congress
should investigate corporate responsibility and liability for pesticide body
burdens and develop financial mechanisms to shift health and environmental
costs of pesticides to the corporations that produce them. U.S. EPA should
ban pesticides known to be hazardous and pervasive in the environment and
our bodies including immediate phase outs of all uses of chlorpyrifos and
lindane. U.S. EPA should also require that manufacturers bear the burden of
proof for demonstrating that a pesticide does not harm human health before
it can be registered. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S.
EPA should promote least-toxic pest control methods. Individuals should
pressure government officials and corporations to implement these changes
while seeking alternatives to pesticide use and buying organic products
whenever possible.

Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability is
available on the PANNA website at The report's
executive summary is also available in Spanish and French.

Source: Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate
Accountability, Kristin S. Schafer, Margaret Reeves, Skip Spitzer, Susan
Kegley, Pesticide Action Network North America, May, 2004.