Toxic pesticides that are banned or otherwise forbidden in the U.S. were shipped from U.S. ports at a rate of more than 14 tons per day in 1995 and 1996 - a total of more than 21 million pounds - according to a new report by the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE). The report, which is based on U.S. Customs shipping records, documented that more than 1.2 billion pounds of pesticide products were exported in 1995 and 1996.
At present, U.S. policy allows the export of banned pesticides, as well as "never registered" pesticides -pesticides that have never been evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). FASE found that approximately 9.4 million pounds of "never-registered" pesticides were exported in 1995 and 1996 - a 40% increase since the period from 1992 through 1994. The U.S. also exported more than 28 million pounds of pesticides designated as "extremely hazardous" by the World Health Organization, representing a 500% increase since 1992.
Many of the pesticides shipped from U.S. ports are destined for developing countries. "Workers in developing countries often have no idea of the concerns that exist in other countries about the pesticides they are using," said Barbara Dinham, International Projects Officer at the UK-based Pesticides Trust. "Pesticides are applied by farmers who have no protective equipment, nor access to medical facilities."
FASE pointed out there are indications that trade agreements are creating pressure for developing countries to increase their use of outdated, inexpensive and hazardous products. "Because of the liberalization of trade, the influx of hazardous pesticides is a very big problem," stated Dr. Grace Ohayo-Mitoko, Executive Director of Health and Environment Watch, an NGO in Nairobi, Kenya. "Because of trans-shipments, we are not able to know exactly where these chemicals are coming from. Some of the products that come from the U.S. come in through Belgium or other countries."
The U.S. government does not maintain complete records of pesticide shipments, and there are many data gaps. For example, between 1992 and 1996, more than two billion pounds of pesticides left U.S. ports with their specific chemical names omitted from publicly accessible shipping records. "In many cases, the description is simply pesticide' or weedkilling compound;' in others, trade names or abbreviations are used which cannot be found in publicly-accessible pesticide dictionaries, reference books or on-line databases," according to Carl Smith, Senior Editor of the report. "It isn't possible to determine how many of these unnamed products are safe under conditions of use in the developing world."
The report recommends changing U.S. policy to eliminate double standards of safety. It calls for prohibiting the export of banned pesticides from the U.S. and requiring that full data on all pesticide shipments be made available through a publicly accessible records system. FASE points out that these changes would be consistent with existing U.S. environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969, which was created to "prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man."
The entire report, "Exporting Risk: Pesticide Exports from U.S. Ports 1995-1996," is available online: www.fasenet.org . Source: "Exporting Risk: Pesticide Exports from U.S. Ports 1995-1996," FASE. Call Carl Smith, Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, 4801 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 215, Los Angeles, CA 90010; phone (213) 937-9911; fax (213) 937-7440; e-mail email@example.com ; web site: www.fasenet.org. If you would like to subscribe to PANUPS (Pesticide Action Network Updates Service, call (415) 541-9140, Fax (415) 541-9253, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to the July/August Issue Index page