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Toxic Stew

One of the saddest aspects of pesticide research is reading literature about the experiments performed on lab animals. Millions of animals are slaughtered every month so the toxicity of chemical compounds can be tested; and not just mice or rabbits, but ducks, dogs, cats, hamsters, blackbirds, trout, sunfish, etc. Just about all life forms are subjected, in one way or another to some toxic stress. The outcomes of experiments designed from this point of view are bound to be misleading; the subjective element is always lifelessly ignored. Nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons, thought control research and other neurotic scientific preoccupations are all symptoms of this mindless ignorance. 

It's this detachment from the reality of the life process that allows the general use of pesticides throughout Sonoma County. There is not a place folks can live in this county without coming into daily, chronic contact with a multitude of pesticides, including the easy as one-two-three solutions migrating from your yard or a neighbor's garden. The agricultural and chemical establishment would have us believe that we have nothing to fear from this chronic exposure. But we are a part of an experiment, whether we like it or not! 

Everyone should decide for themselves whether there is cause for concern, not just for our own physical well being, but for our collective psyche as well. Is it not mass neurosis to allow the suffering that results from trying to prove that toxic solutions are harmless? Remember, all these tests are designed to prove that a single compound, by itself, is moderately safe, and never to prove its danger when combined with other products. Obvious danger is often only noted and can be mitigated by economic and political realities that have nothing to do with the actual potential for the “danger” a chemical poses. All efforts at regulation are tenaciously fought by chemical companies and the agriculture industry. Which of us is willing to be the 4 of 100 or 30 of 100,000, or even that one-in-a-million who suffer the consequences of pesticide exposure, victims of risk assessment and cost benefit analysis? 

The following information is taken directly from the Pesticide Information Project created by Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis. The information is their information, in their own words. I have only edited (cut) for clarity. If anything, this is a conservative picture of the wonderful world of chemistry. As you read, perhaps you'll consider the subjective life of lab animals. Do you think they get headaches, panic attacks, stomach aches, the blues? 


SIMAZINE (During the years 1992, 1993, and 1994 220,000 pounds of herbicide have been poured on Sonoma County soils. Simazine accounted for 67,000 lbs. of that total and is representative of herbicides in general use. 

Simazine is a general use pesticide. Products containing Simazine must bear the signal word “Caution.” It is a selective triazine herbicide, used to control broad-leaved weeds and annual grasses in field, berry, fruit, vegetable and ornamental crops, on turf grass, and in orchards and vineyards. 

Simazine is highly toxic if inhaled, moderately toxic if ingested, and slightly toxic via dermal exposure. No cases of poisoning in humans have been reported from ingestion of Simazine. Rats given an oral dose exhibited drowsiness and irregular breathing. A single oral dose of 4,200 mg/kg produced anorexia, weight loss and some deaths in rats within 4 to 10 days. Rashes and dermatitis from occupational exposure to Simazine have occurred. Simazine is slightly irritating to the skin and moderately irritating to the eyes of rabbits. Patch tests on humans have shown that Simazine is not a skin irritant,fatiguing agent or sensitizer. In rabbits, 80 mg of Simazine produced irritation in the eye. No systemic toxicity was observed in a 21 day dermal study with rabbits exposed to doses of up to 1 gm/kg. 

The triazine herbicides disturb energy metabolism. Toxicity symptoms include difficulty in walking, tremor, convulsions, paralysis, cyanosis, slowed respiration, miosis (pin point pupils), gut pain, diarrhea and impaired adrenal function.... For unknown reasons, sheep and cattle are especially susceptible to poisoning by Simazine... Symptoms exhibited by poisoned sheep include lower food intake,higher water intake, tremors, and weakness, especially in the hindquarters. Two-year chronic oral feeding studies in which rats were given daily dosages at various rates in the diet, resulted in no gross or microscopic signs of toxicity due to ingestion. 

When rats were given repeated doses... some liver cells degenerated during the first 3 days, but the condition did not progress. Instead, the liver adapted and the compound was metabolized... consuming high levels well above the LHA level over a long period of time has caused tremors, damage to the testes, kidneys, liver and thyroid, disturbances in sperm production, and gene mutations in laboratory animals... 

Rats and guinea pigs fed 100 mg/kg daily for 6 months had decreased weight gain, increased white blood cell counts,decreased blood cholinesterase activity and deterioration and inflammation of the stomach. In a 28-day study, oral doses of 2,500 mg/kg/day to rats resulted in stomach ulcers, damage to the small intestine, and death ...No adverse effects on reproductive capacity or development were observed in a three generation study of rats fed 5 mg/kg/day Simazine. Chronic inhalation of a cumulative dose of 17 mg/m for 2 hr/day for 8 days in pregnant rats resulted in toxic effects on the fetuses and developmental abnormalities. Decreased weights and increased skeletal abnormalities were noted in the fetuses of pregnant rabbits fed 200 mg/kg/day. 


DIMETHOATE: (During the years 1992,1993,1994 76,000 lbs. of insecticide was sprayed on Sonoma County crops. Dimethoate accounted for 22,000 lbs. and is representative of insecticides in general. There's a planned phase out for 1997 but Dimethoate is still being used in Sonoma County) 

Products containing Dimethoate must bear the signal word “Warning.” Dimethoate is an insecticide used to kill mites and insects systemically and on contact. It is used against a wide range of insects, including aphids, plant hoppers and whiteflies on ornamental plants, alfalfa, apples, corn, cotton, grapefruit,grapes, lemons, melons, oranges, pears, pecans, safflower,sorghum, soybeans, tangerines, tobacco, tomatoes, watermelons,wheat and other vegetables. 

Dimethoate is one of a class of insecticides referred to as organophosphates. These chemicals act by interfering with the activities of cholinesterase, an enzyme that is essential for the proper working of the nervous systems of both humans and insects... Dimethoate is moderately toxic by ingestion, inhalation and dermal absorption. As with all organophosphates, Dimethoate is readily absorbed through the skin. Skin which has come in contact with this material should be washed immediately with soap and water and all contaminated clothing should be removed. 

Organophosphates are easily absorbed through the lungs. Persons with respiratory ailments, recent exposure to cholinesterase inhibitors, impaired cholinesterase production, or with liver malfunction may be at increased risk from exposure to Dimethoate. High environmental temperatures or exposure of Dimethoate to visible or UV light may enhance its toxicity. Dimethoate is not irritating to the eyes of lab animals. Severe eye irritation has occurred in workers manufacturing Dimethoate. 

The organophosphate insecticides are cholinesterase inhibitors. They are highly toxic by all routes of exposure. When inhaled, the first effects are usually respiratory and may include bloody or runny nose, coughing, chest discomfort,difficult or short breath, and wheezing due to constriction or excess fluid in the bronchial tubes. Skin contact with organophosphates may cause localized sweating and involuntary muscle contractions...some organophosphates may cause delayed symptoms beginning 1 to 4 weeks after an acute exposure which may or may not have produced immediate symptoms...Improvement may occur over months or years, but some residual impairment will remain. 


METHYL BROMIDE (During the years 1992, 1993, 1994 , 1,253,000 lbs. of fumigants were injected into Sonoma County soils. Methyl Bromide accounted for 1,226,000 lbs. of this total and is about the only fumigant , “over time,” that hasn't already been banned for use in California.) 

The EPA has proposed restrictions on methyl bromide, as well as a schedule of phase out by the year 2000. Methyl bromide is considered an ozone depleting chemical and thus falls under the Clean Air Act... Methyl bromide is most often used as a gas fumigant against insects, termites, rodents, weeds, nematodes, and soil-borne diseases...About 70% of methyl bromide produced in the United States goes into pesticidal formulations. 

Methyl bromide is a Restricted Use Pesticide because of its high acute toxicity to applicators. Restricted Use Pesticides may be purchased and used only by certified applicators.... Methyl bromide, labeled with a DANGER signal word, is an extremely toxic vapor. In humans, methyl bromide is readily absorbed through the lungs. Most problems occur as a result of inhalation. About 1,000 human poisoning incidents caused by methyl bromide exposure have been documented, with effects ranging from skin and eye irritation to death. Most fatalities and injuries occurred when methyl bromide was used as a fumigant. 

Methyl bromide is a dangerous cumulative poison. First symptoms often are due to damage to the nervous system, and may be delayed from 48 hours to as long as several months after exposure. This delay, combined with methyl bromide's lack of odor, means that the victim may not realize that exposure is occurring until much time has passed. 

Symptoms of poisoning vary widely. Soon after inhalation of large doses, symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, chest and abdominal pain, and a dry throat. Three to 12 hours after vapor inhalation, symptoms include slurred speech, blurred vision, temporary blindness, mental confusion, and sweating. More severe symptoms may include lung swelling; congestion; hemorrhaging of the brain, heart, and spleen; severe kidney damage; and numbness. Death may occur within 1-30 hours, usually from respiratory failure. 

Although skin absorption is not an important route for methyl bromide intoxication, the skin is affected by contact with this chemical. ... If absorbed through the skin, nausea and vomiting may result...Common animal responses to high doses often include lung irritation, fluid accumulation in the lungs, paralysis, and kidney, liver, and nervous system damage...Chronic exposures to methyl bromide can cause dizziness, vision and hearing disturbances, depression, confusion, hallucinations, euphoria, personality changes, and irritability. 

No reproductive problems involving methyl bromide have been observed in test animals, though few experiments have been performed...The overall scientific evidence indicates that methyl bromide is a mutagen, but that its potential to cause genetic mutations is relatively low... Methyl bromide is considered to be a potent cell growth stimulant and is thus a potential promoter of cancerous growth... methyl bromide induced tumors in the stomachs of rats... The chemical was given through the stomach in an oil solution for 90 days. In 13 of 20 rats given high doses, malignant growths developed quickly and in high numbers near the site of application. Some tumor growth was observed in rats given much lower doses. No effects were seen in rats exposed to very low doses of methyl bromide for 90 days... Due to a very limited amount of information on the cancer causing effects on humans the EPA has determined that the compound is not classifiable... 

Chronic low level exposure causes depression of the central nervous system, injury to the kidneys, and may cause respiratory problems, and irritate the skin and eyes. Methyl bromide and its constituents appear to concentrate in the central nervous system. This chemical can affect muscle control and behavior. Other targets of the fumigant are the heart, nasal cavities, adrenal gland, and the testicles. 

The primary breakdown product is the bromide ion, which is detectable in the blood and tissues and is excreted in the urine. ...methyl bromide's half-life in blood is about 12 days. As a result, the toxic effects of methyl bromide can be delayed or prolonged. Additionally, once in a cell, this chemical inactivates many enzyme systems, so prolonged small doses can cause severe toxicity. 

Methyl bromide is moderately toxic to aquatic organisms. Acute toxicity for some freshwater fish may occur at concentrations of 11 ppm and around 12 ppm for saltwater fish. However, when applied properly, methyl bromide is not expected to enter surface waters via run-off or erosion, and thus poses little risk to aquatic species.

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