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New Zealand Joins International Action to Protect Children from Pesticides. - 9th June 2014

With the world using about 50 times more pesticides today than six decades ago, their harmful impact on the environment and human health has increased alarmingly – and evidence is growing that children are especially vulnerable.

On World Environment Day, Pesticide Action Network (PAN)  Asia and the Pacific and PAN North America jointly launched a campaign to  protect children from pesticides.

Aside from those used in agriculture and food production, pesticides used in homes, schools, gardens and public places expose children to debilitating and life-long health problems including  birth defects, asthma, autism, cancers, diabetes, and other childhood and adult-onset diseases and disorders.

“Infants are infinitely more sensitive to pesticides than adults. At the early stage of their lives their immune systems, their endocrine systems and their neurological systems are all still developing, their brains are developing and they’re very sensitive to the effects of even very small doses of pesticides,” said Dr. Meriel Watts, senior scientific advisor to PAN AP and a New Zealand-based specialist on pesticides, and author of the book published last year, Poisoning our Future: Children and Pesticides -

The campaign highlights 20 pesticides that are particularly hazardous for children. All of them interfere with children’s developing hormonal system (endocrine disruptors). Some cause acute poisoning, many are implicated in cancers including childhood cancers, and some cause behavioural changes and reduced intellectual ability in children. Twelve of the 20 are known to contaminate breast milk  and 11  have been found in placental cord blood and/or children’s first faeces – meconium – meaning the children are being born pre-polluted.

“That children are being born already contaminated with pesticides that will undermine their intellectual ability and their health for the rest of their lives, is a tragedy beyond measure. This must stop. It is up to every government to make sure that children are protected from these damaging chemicals by banning them and making sure they are never again used in our countries,” Dr. Watts said.

Whilst the European Union has already banned 12 of the 20 pesticides, New Zealand continues to use 14 of them, including  7 banned by the EU. Some of these were partially reassessed by the EPA last year but their use was allowed to continue because  farmers/growers said they need them.

“Apparently the New Zealand government cares more about what growers say they need, even though safer alternatives exist, than it does about children’s health and the future of society. Just one of those pesticides, chlorpyrifos, known to reduce children’s IQ, is linked by international scientists with a silent pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity that is undermining the functioning of society.”

A summary of the effects of the 20 pesticides can be found here.

Factsheets on the 20 pesticides can be found at

The 20 pesticides are: atrazine,   carbaryl,   chlorothalonil,   chlorpyrifos,   cyhalothrin,   cypermethrin,   DDT,   deltamethrin,   diazinon,   dichlorvos,   malathion, mancozeb,   maneb,   methamidophos,   methyl parathion,   monocrotophos,   paraquat,   parathion,   permethrin,   propoxur.

Chlorpyrifos found in NZ streams - it should have been banned - 25th of July 2013.

A just published scientific study* on levels of pesticides in New Zealand streams has found that the most frequently detected pesticide is the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, found in 87% of samples taken from South Island streams.

“This is devastating news for New Zealand”, said Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand. “Pregnant women and small children should not be exposed to chlorpyrifos. At very low levels it interferes with brain development in the unborn foetus and newborn infants, resulting in altered brain structure, lowered IQ, and behavioural changes including pervasive developmental disorder, leading to potential long-term consequences for social adjustment and academic achievement. The effects reported in studies are regarded by some scientists as comparable to those of lead and tobacco smoke. Chlorpyrifos is also an endocrine disruptor interfering with androgens, oestrogen, and thyroid hormones, and is a risk for breast cancer.”

Chlorpyrifos is persistent in the environment and bioaccumulative. Residues of chlorpyrifos are widespread in the Arctic, even more common than endosulfan which New Zealand banned in 2008, and there are worldwide efforts  to get it listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for a global ban.

Residues of chlorpyrifos have been found in the air over the Southern Alps, and this latest study found it in pine needles on organic farms were it is not used, indicating both its ability to move away from were it is used and its persistence in the environment.

“The EPA have recently reassessed chlorpyrifos  and given it the green light even for aerial spraying despite its volatility. But they failed to  assess it for persistence and bioaccumulation. They failed to assess it for long range transport, and they failed to properly assess it for neurodevelopmental effects. They completely ignored a detailed submission from PAN ANZ of information on safer alternatives for every one of chlorpyrifos uses that EPA had identified, and instead decided that because growers said they need it, they can have it.  The EPA did an appalling job of its reassessment and now we have even more evidence that this chemical must go. What will it take before the EPA decides to protect the environment and peoples health rather than chemicals?”

  • Shahpoury et al. 2013. Chlorinated pesticides in stream sediments from organic, integrated and conventional, farms. Environmental Pollution 181(219-225).

Guatemala and India block listing of toxic paraquat formulation in the Rotterdam Convention Geneva - 10th of May 2013.

Industry representative deceives delegates by speaking on behalf of Guatemalan government.

Failure to list will deprive countries of their right to know and to take informed decisions about import Geneva, Switzerland (10 May 2013) – More than 120 government parties to the Rotterdam Convention support the listing of paraquat (20%) as a severely hazardous pesticide formulation in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. However, at the 6th Conference of Parties, Guatemala together with India blocked the listing of paraquat. A Convention listing would not ban paraquat but simply require exporters to notify and get permission from importing countries. Guatemala gave a long list of initial reasons for opposing the listing but finally admitted that they feared a listing would result in some countries in the region saying no to imports of paraquat from Guatemala (a major formulator of the herbicide). Delegates were even more surprised when they finally learned that the delegate speaking on behalf of the Guatemalan government at the beginning of the negotiation was actually an industry observer who did not reveal his identity to negotiators until a day later. The Secretariat later on expelled him from the conference. Nevertheless, the co-chairs of the Working Group concluded that no consensus for listing was achieved and proceeded to draft a decision document postponing the discussion to the next COP. The next day the African Group supported by others requested that the discussion on the listing of paraquat continue at this COP because the misconduct of the industry representative from Guatemala had derailed the process. However, this additional session did not change the position of India and Guatemala. Read the full Press Release here.