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Widespread Glyphosate Contamination in USA

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Most comprehensive study reveals glyphosate and AMPA in the environment over 9 years and across 38 states

Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji     10/08/14  Institute of Science in Society

The most comprehensive research to date on environmental glyphosate levels exposes the widespread contamination of soil and water in the US, as well as its water treatment system. Looking at a wide range of geographical locations, researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) analysed 3 732 water and sediment samples and 1 081 quality assurance samples collected between 2001 and 2010 from 38 states in the US and the District of Colombia. They found glyphosate in 39.4 % of samples (1 470 out of 3 732) and its metabolite AMPA (α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) in 55 % of samples [1]. Water samples included streams, groundwater, ditches and drains, large rivers, soil water, lakes, ponds and wetlands, precipitation, soil and sediment, and waste water treatment plants.

Results expected

These results are to be expected when the use of glyphosate has steadily increased in the US (and similarly in Canada) over the years, particularly since the introduction of genetically-modified crops tolerant to the herbicide. The rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds also means that farmers need to spray more chemicals than before in order to protect their crops (see [2] Monsanto Defeated by Roundup Resistant Weeds, SiS 53). Glyphosate accounted for 32-36% of all pesticide (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) use in the US in 2007 according to EPA data [3]. It is the top pesticide in agriculture and the second for home and garden and commercial settings. Agricultural use has gone up from 3 180 tonnes (of active ingredient) in 1987 to 82 800 tonnes in 2007. Non-agricultural use of the herbicide has also risen steadily in the US, from 2 270 tonnes in 1993 to 9 300 tonnes in 2007 (Figure 1). The common use of glyphosate in urban areas is also exacerbated by the impervious surfaces of cities, resulting in substantial pesticide inputs to urban drainage systems. Until recently data had been lacking on glyphosate occurrence in the environment, though studies published over the last couple of years are raising concerns. Detecting glyphosate in surface waters, rain and even groundwater, contradicts the producers’ claim that its chemical propensity to bind to sediment will prevent it from leaching into groundwater supplies (see [4] GM Crops and Water – A Recipe for Disaster, SiS 58).

Figure 1              Use of Glyphosate and Planted Hectares of Corn and Soybeans From 1987-2008

Data collection had previously been limited not only by glyphosate’s high solubility and polarity which make its detection more difficult, especially at environmentally relevant levels, but also due to the official line taken by authorities that glyphosate is safe. This makes assessment of its presence in our environment less of a priority, and hence left unstudied and unregulated. The safety claim has also encouraged farmers to overuse glyphosate, mostly sprayed on crops “post-emergence” or after crops and weeds have emerged from the soil and often applied repeatedly throughout the season, especially with the rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds. In addition, they are liberally used on non-GM crops as a dessicant (drying agent) to facilitate harvesting (see [5] How Roundup® Poisoned my Nature Reserve, SiS 64).

To address the lack of knowledge in this area, researchers at the USGS began developing their own methods in the 2000s, using solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography/mass spectroscopy, which is able to detect both glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA at levels as low as 0.02 μg/l (0.02 part per billion, ppb) for both compounds.

The results are shown in Table 1. Glyphosate and AMPA were most frequently detected in soil, followed by drains and ditches, rain and large rivers. For soil and sediment, and soil water a total of 45 soil and sediment samples were collected from seven sites in Mississippi and Indiana, with both glyphosate and AMPA being detected at least once in samples from all seven sites. Both were detected in 90 % of sediment samples with concentrations frequently above 10 μg/kg, with an average of 9.6 μg/kg. In 116 soil samples glyphosate and AMPA were detected in 34.5 % and 66.5 % respectively. Large rivers showed average levels of 0.03 μg/kg in 53.1 % of samples tested. Least frequent but detectable levels were found in groundwater samples, with 5.8 % and 14 % of samples testing positive for glyphosate and AMPA respectively.

Glyphosate is claimed by biotech proponents not to leach into groundwater supplies, but this work and a previous study performed in Catalonia, Spain have both detected its presence in groundwater supplies [4], a major source of drinking water.

The present study also found an increase in concentrations over time, showing higher levels from 2006-2010 compared to earlier years (2001-2005), consistent with rises in both agricultural, home and commercial use of the herbicide. Temporal patterns however, were not recorded and these likely change with agricultural seasons.

The study highlights the ubiquitous contamination of the environment with glyphosate herbicides at ever increasing levels. This herbicide is highly toxic to humans, farm animals, and wildlife, and at levels as low as 0.1 ppb; there is indeed a strong case for halting its use altogether (see [6] Ban GMOs Now, Special ISIS report).

Table 1    Concentrations of both glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA in US environment

Hydrologic Setting Number of Samples Percentage and (number) with Glyphosate Detections Median Glyphosate in μg/l or μg/kg Maximum Glyphosate in μg/l or μg/kg Percentage and (number) with AMPA Detections Median AMPA in μg/l or μg/kg Maximum AMPA in μg/l or μg/kg
All sites 3 732 39.4 (1,470) <0.02 476 55.0 (2,052) 0.04 397
Streams 1 508 52.5 (791) 0.03 73 71.6 (1,079) 0.20 28
Groundwater 1 171 5.8 (68) <0.02 2.03 14.3 (168) <0.02 4.88
Ditches and drains 374 70.9 (265) 0.20 427 80.7 (302) 0.43 397
Large rivers 318 53.1 (169) 0.03 3.08 89.3 (284) 0.22 4.43
Soil water 116 34.5 (40) <0.02 1.00 65.5 (76) 0.06 1.91
Lakes, ponds, and wetlands 104 33.7 (35) <0.02 301 29.8 (31) <0.02 41
Precipitation 85 70.6 (60) 0.11 2.50 71.8 (61) 0.04 0.48
Soil and sediment 45 91.1 (41) 9.6 476 93.3 (42) 18.0 341
WWTP outfall 11 9.09 (1) <0.02 0.30 81.8 (9) 0.45 2.54

References

  1. Battaglin WA, Meyer MT, Kuivila KM, and Dietze JE. Glyphosate and Its Degradation Product AMPA Occur Frequently and Widely in U.S. Soils, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Precipitation. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 2014, 50, 275-290. DOI: 10.1111/jawr.12159
  2. Sirinathsinghji E. Monsanto Defeated By Roundup Resistant Weeds. Science in Society 53, 40-41, 2011.
  3. 2006-2007 Pesticide Market Estimates, 3.4 Amount of Pesticides Used in the United States: Conventional.  US Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/pestsales/07pestsales/usage2007_2.htm
  4. Sirinathsinghji E. GM Crops and Water – A Recipe for Disaster. Science in Society 58, 8-10, 2013.
  5. Mason, R. How Roundup Poisoned My Nature Reserve, SiS 64, to appear
  6. Ho MW and Sirinathsinghji E. Ban GMOs Now, ISIS, London, June 2013,http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Ban_GMOs_Now.php

28 years have passed since the EPA’s last chemical risk review

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Tens of thousands of chemicals have not been reviewed by the EPA, and people are starting to ask questions

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hit a major milestone that some people, including leaders at the agency itself, think shouldn’t be celebrated.

On Wednesday, the agency released a final risk assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used by artists, car mechanics, dry cleaners and others. The EPA’s in-depth report, released after a two-year analysis, shows that long-term exposure to TCE can cause cancer and other health issues, and recommends that workers take serious precautions if they must use TCE.

But in its press release, the EPA acknowledged there was something wrong — not with the risk assessment itself — but with its timeline: It was the first final risk assessment for a chemical issued by the EPA since 1986.

“The American public shouldn’t have to wait 28 years between … chemical risk assessments,” wrote Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator of chemical safety….. read full article here

Glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup, linked to epidemic diseases

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Stop Monsanto's Roundup Credo Action     In case you weren’t sure yet if the massive use of the herbicide glyphosate – the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup – was cause for concern, here’s the sobering takeaway from an MIT senior researcher who just conducted a review of the stuff:

“I’m certain at this point that glyphosate is the most important factor in an alarming number of epidemic diseases.”1

The introduction of Roundup in 1973 has corresponded with a rise in conditions including celiac disease (gluten intolerance), autism, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s and others.2

And its use – along with the rates of many of these diseases – has gone stratospheric over the last 15 years, with the approval of Monsanto’s GMO “Roundup Ready” crops specifically engineered to tolerate massive exposure to glyphosate. Roundup is now used all over the world on staple crops like wheat and soy, and has become the most widely used herbicide in the US.

Despite these trends, the EPA and FDA still consider glyphosate to be relatively safe and harmless – based largely on unpublished, industry-produced studies. That position is looking increasingly dangerous, and possibly wrong.

Tell the EPA and FDA: Immediately suspend the use of Monsanto’s Roundup until it can be proven safe. Click here to  sign the petition.

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Sri Lanka Partially Bans Glyphosate for Deadly Kidney Disease Epidemic

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04/09/14  The Institute of Science in Society      roundup kills

Glyphosate’s metal-chelating activity causes bioaccumulation of toxic metals in the body, resulting in an estimated 400 000 cases in Sri Lanka and 20 000 deaths     Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji

Sri Lanka is set to partially ban glyphosate-based herbicide use following a new peer-reviewed study linking it to a fatal chronic kidney disease epidemic badly affecting the country [1]. Kidney problems have been further documented in other global regions, prompting an earlier complete ban by El Salvador late last year [2]. A complete ban was initially proposed, but due to plantation sector representatives claiming a shortage of agricultural workers that would not sufficiently manage weeds without glyphosate, the government has now limited the ban to disease endemic areas [3]. Even Brazil, one of the largest growers of glyphosate-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops has now filed a law suit by Federal Prosecutors to ban glyphosate along with 8 other dangerous pesticides [4]. It is becoming increasingly difficult for government regulators and glyphosate producers to justify the use of this herbicide when other nations are banning the chemical outright in order to protect their citizens.

Glyphosate can impact human health in a number of ways, one of which is through its potent metal chelating abilities. Indeed, glyphosate was originally patented by Stauffer Chemical Co. in 1964 (U.S. Patent No. 3,160,632) [5] for this very function. Chelating mineral ions can lead to nutritional depletion in plants and animals, which has already been shown to cause health problems in both. In the case of this kidney disease epidemic, its chelation of metals such as arsenic in the water supplies is now though to lead to their bioaccumulation in the body, resulting in kidney failure and even death, as proposed in a new study [6] by Channa Jayasumana (Rajarata University, Sri Lanka), Sarath Gunatilake (California State University, USA) and Priyantha Senanayake (Hela Suwaya Organization, Sri Lanka) published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Glyphosate has also been linked to many other health problems including cancers (see [7] Glyphosate and Cancer, SiS 62), infertility (see [8] Glyphosate/Roundup & Human Male Infertility, SiS 62), along with neurotoxicity, reproductive problems, birth defects, and other problems (see [9] Ban GMOs Now, special ISIS report). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by laudyms

April 9, 2014 at 8:41 am

The Icebergs Cometh: Retaking the USA Titanic Before the 2012 Elections

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By Victoria Collier and Ronnie Cummins  
August 8, 2011

“…[W]e no longer control our own democratic system. Puppet candidates have rigged themselves into office and manipulated our government to hand corporations the keys to the kingdom. We the People are now the rabble outside the gates, reduced to begging the rulers within to please be just a little less ruthless…

“Our elections have been bought or stolen for decades, but the People are only now waking up…But whether elections – or politicians – are literally stolen, or simply bought (including Barack Obama), the outcome is the same.

“The democratic system itself is rigged against us – and this rigging is not just another Progressive issue, like ending the Wars on Terror and Drugs, or securing universal healthcare, or getting the 100,000 toxic chemicals out of our bodies, or preventing Monsanto from taking over our food and seed supply…

“We must first outlaw the use of riggable computerized voting machines and institute a public paper ballot count with appropriate procedure and oversight. We must demand full media access for candidates. And we must threaten a full-blown Egypt-style revolution if Citizen’s United is not immediately overturned.”

“The Icebergs Cometh: Retaking the USA Titanic Before the 2012 Elections,”
by Victoria Collier and Ronnie Cummins, August 8, 2011

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Does an Old EPA Fracking Study Provide Proof of Contamination?

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by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica   Aug 5, 2011      Thewashingtoncurrent.com  

This post has been updated with the industry’s response.

For years the drilling industry has steadfastly insisted that there has never been a proven case in which fracking has led to contamination of drinking water.

Now Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization engaged in the debate over the safety of fracking, has unearthed a 24-year-old case study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that unequivocally says such contamination has occurred. The New York Times reported on EWG’s year-long research effort and the EPA’s paper Wednesday.

The 1987 EPA report, which describes a dark, mysterious gel found in a water well in Jackson County, W.Va., states that gels were also used to hydraulically fracture a nearby natural gas well and that “the residual fracturing fluid migrated into (the resident’s) water well.”

The circumstances of this particular well are not unique. There are several other cases across the country where evidence suggests similar contamination has occurred and many more where the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing have contaminated water supplies on the surface. ProPublica has written about many of them in the course of a three-year investigation into the safety of drilling for natural gas.

But the language found in the EPA report made public Wednesday is the strongest articulation yet by federal officials that there is a direct causal connection between man-made fissures thousands of feet underground and contaminants found in well water gone bad. The explanation, presented in the EPA’s own words , stands in stark contrast to recent statements made by EPA officials that they could not document a proven case of contamination and a 2004 EPA report that concluded that fracturing was safe.

“This is our leading regulatory agency coming to the conclusion that hydraulic fracturing can and did contaminate underground sources of drinking water, which contradicts what industry has been saying for years,” said Dusty Horwitt, EWG’s senior counsel and the lead researcher on the report.

A spokesperson for the EPA would not directly address the apparent contradiction but said in an email that the agency is now reviewing the 1987 report and that “the agency has identified several circumstances where contamination of wells is alleged to have occurred and is reviewing those cases in depth.”

The contamination debate has intensified as tens of thousands more wells are being drilled in newly discovered shale gas deposits across the country. The EPA and some scientists have long warned that when rock is hydraulically fractured, there is an increased risk of contaminants traveling through underground cracks until they reach drinking water. Many geologists have countered, however, that migration over thousands of feet is virtually impossible.

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France Becomes First Nation To Ban Fracking

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by Gina-Marie Cheeseman  July 6, 2011           Care2 

France became the first nation to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking in drilling for natural gas and oil on June 30 when French senators voted to ban the practice. Oil and gas companies operating in France with fracking permits will have them revoked according to the legislation passed by a 176 to 151 vote. The bill passed the National Assembly on June 21.

“We are at the end of a legislative marathon that stirred emotion from lawmakers and the public,” French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said late yesterday before the vote. Hydraulic fracturing will be illegal and parliament would have to vote for a new law to allow research using the technique, she said.

France’s fracking ban comes at the same time that the New Jersey State Senate voted to ban the practice, which contaminates drinking water.  For a bit of more good news, North Carolina’s Governor Bev Perdue vetoed a state senate bill that would have allowed fracking in the state.

Jane Preyer, North Carolina’s director of the Environmental Defense Fund praised the veto in North Carolina. “The veto sends a clear signal to legislators that rolling back regulations that protect the state’s environment is not a viable business plan for economic recovery or the well being of North Carolina’s families,” she said.  “The veto sends the strong message that North Carolina puts out the welcome map to industries that both create good jobs and respect our natural resources. Hats off to Governor Perdue for the veto.”

Unfortunately, it looks like New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is poised to lift the ban on fracking, the International Business Times (IBT) reports. The state issued new guidelines for fracking that will prohibit fracking in state parks and in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds.

New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, an opponent of fracking, said, “If hydrofracking is not safe in the New York City watershed it’s not safe in any watershed,” Lifton said. “There’s a tacit admission on the part of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that it is not safe and yet it is being allowed.”

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