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What is Endosulfan?

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Endosulfan is a chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide and acaricide of the cyclodiene subgroup which acts as a poison to a wide variety of insects and mites on contact. Although it may also be used as a wood preservative, it is used primarily on a wide variety of food crops including tea, coffee, fruits, and vegetables, as well as on rice, cereals, maize, sorghum, or other grains.

Endosulfan, when sprayed, consists of the a and b isomers but these are metabolised to the sulfate on pasture or when ingested. The primary residue detected in livestock is therefore endosulfan sulphate.

Adding endosulfan to soil appears to reduce the rate of degradation of other organochlorine pesticides already present in the soil, either because endosulfan reduces the populations of micro-organisms, or because of reduction of the activity of micro-organisms responsible for degradation of the other organochlorines.

Endosulfan is a powerful poison linked to accidental deaths of farmers and consumers of sprayed crops in North and South America, Africa and Asia. In India, long-term exposure to the chemical has been linked to hundreds of cases of serious illnesses including cancers, birth defects and neurological and reproductive disorders. Endosulfan kills indiscriminately and non-pest species, including birds and fish, have died following exposure - mass deaths of fish poisoned by endosulfan have been reported from five continents. The chemical persists in the environment and accumulates in the food chain. It was recorded at 100 times the permitted level in cow milk and meat in India.

The EJF report summarises the health and environmental hazards posed by this chemical and calls for action from to governments, inter-governmental agencies and the agrochemical industry. Endosulfan is banned or severely restricted in over 30 countries and safe application cannot be guaranteed under conditions of use in the developing countries where the chemical is still widely used. The time has come for responsible authorities to take action against this chemical in order to safeguard human health and environmental integrity.

A big drawback with endosulfan is that the breakdown product, endosulfan sulphate, is more persistent than the parent compound, accounting for 90% of the residue in 11 weeks.

The Central Insecticides Bureau (CIB) is the Central Govt. Agency, which regulates pesticide use in India. They have periodical reviews of use of pesticides and is the agency for registering its manufacture, sale and use.

The EPA recommends not more than 74 ppb (part per billion) in lakes, streams, or rivers, and not more than 0.1 – 2 ppm (parts per million) on surfaces of agricultural products (except dried tea, <24 ppm). Consumers are advised to wash agricultural products before their consumption

( Courtesy: )

Swaminathan lauds Endosulfan ban

Says no more study required to establish health impact of the pesticide

M.S. Swaminathan has urged other States to analyse the risks and benefits of the pesticide.

KOCHI: Agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan has complimented the Kerala government for its decision to ban the use of Endosulfan across the State.

Speaking on the sidelines of the sixth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning here on Thursday, Dr. Swaminathan said there was no need for any new commission to study the health impact of the use of Endosulfan. He said other States should analyse the risks and benefits of using the pesticide. “But the bottom line of the policy should be the health of the men, women, and children,” he said. Pointing out that the Union government did not want to impose an all-India ban without consulting other States, where Endosulfan is used in large quantities, Dr. Swaminathan recommended the adoption of the ‘pracautionary principle' in this case, as it involved the health of the people. “It's always better to be on the safer side. That is my philosophy, particularly when it involves the health of the people,” he said.

Asked whether the ban on Endosulfan in Kerala alone would achieve the expected results, Dr. Swaminathan said it was feasible. “Kerala farmers are literate people. But I think there is consensus in Kerala (against the use of the pesticide),” he said.

Stating that Endosulfan was an effective pesticide, Dr. Swaminathan said he would not compromise human health. “That is why we should adopt the precautionary principle,” he said.

On Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's suggestion to introduce organic pesticides, Dr. Swaminathan said he had learnt from media reports that the Minister had suggested so. “You can use other forms like neem, which are much safer,” he said.

Praising Mr. Pawar for his decision to offer Rs.100 crore as assistance for rehabilitating the families affected, Dr. Swaminathan said the Minister had also said that it was for State governments to decide (on banning the pesticide) according to the risks and benefits of Endosulfan.

( Courtesy: The Hindu )


Facts & Myths about Endosulfan

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, a body of WHO) does not classify Endosulfan to be a carcinogen (cancer causing agent). United States Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) also supports this conclusion. Several other research publications also confirm this.
Myth: Endosulfan causes cancer

The evaluations done by WHO/FAO/JMPR in 1998 on Endosulfan have recorded that no genotoxic activity was observed in an adequate battery of tests for mutagenecity and clastogenecity by Endosulfan. WHO/ FAO/JMPR, 1998 had categorically mentioned that no evidence was found to prove estrogenic activity involving Endosulfan.
Myth: Endosulfan causes endocrine disruption

In the year 2007, US-EPA established that Endosulfan is not an anti-androgen, i.e. it does not affect sperm production, sperm count, motility, etc.
Myth: Endosulfan causes infertility

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority notes on its website, “Endosulfan has shown no potential to accumulate over time in animals. It is more water soluble than other organo-chlorines… and is less persistent in the body because it metabolises quickly. The chemical is extremely unlikely to have an effect in humans at any level of intake that is likely to occur through food residues.” However, the same document states, “The review… determined that it (Endosulfan) was no longer suitable for use in New Zealand for environmental and occupational health and safety reasons.” Interestingly, the document also adds that “many export markets dictated chemical requirements, for example, onions destined for the European Union markets could not be treated with the chemical due to their import requirements.” This note still available on the official website suggests that New Zealand and the 63 other countries banning the chemical have only reacted to EU’s political maneuvering, since they make negligible use of Endosulfan anyway.

Endosulfan has been banned predominantly in 27 countries of the EU and several Middle Eastern as well as West African nations. Many of these nations either have insignificant stakes in agriculture or have made little use of this pesticide for their farming activities. For Example in New Zealand, where Endosulfan is used only on sport turfs, its discontinuation and replacement had an insignificant socio-economic impact on the farming population.

In 2009, Australia had to answer similar questions as India when its media reacted to the Endosulfan ban in New Zealand. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) controls use of Endosulfan in Australia. It asserted, “Under the current level of restrictions, there is no evidence that it (Endosulfan) is presenting any human health or environmental problems in Australia when used according to the strict conditions that apply to its use.” In another context, the APVMA stated, “While there is significant dialogue between various international regulators including agreed processes and practices, there are many country-specific factors that might lead different national jurisdictions to make varying regulatory decisions… On this basis, a decision by one country should not necessarily be seen as an imperative for others.” Yet, in October 2010, following the raging Endosulfan debate, APVMA cancelled registrations of products containing the pesticide in Australia. There are several issues pertaining to why many countries like Australia and Brazil banned the product despite being vocal advocates of its use and experience.

Since 2006, USA has freely used Endosulfan for veterinary purposes to stop parasite problems in cattle that are bred for both meat and milk. In 2010, US-EPA decided to phase-out the use of Endosulfan in agriculture. The phase out was a result of voluntary withdrawal by the manufacturer and sole registrants of Endosulfan in US. The central reason to have lead to this development was a political/legal mandate to conduct costly product testing for 64 chemicals, one of which is Endosulfan. Since the user market for Endosulfan is smaller in US than countries like India, China and Argentina, huge investments in research were unviable, especially in the presence of mounting pressure and uncertainty from international conventions. This led the Endosulfan manufacturer in the US to avoid high-cost studies and opt for the voluntary withdrawal.

Myth: Endosulfan is banned in US, EU and many other countries

In response to claims connecting Endosulfan with human disorders in Kerala and Dakshina Kannada, six committees and expert groups including representatives from health, environment and agriculture departments were set up by the Govt of Kerala, Govt of India and the Govt of Karnataka to investigate into the reported linkage of Endosulfan with the various incidences of adverse health effects. Each committee has concluded that none of the alleged victims were proven to be affected by Endosulfan. The findings of these committees have been methodically dismissed and barely presented in the media.

Many NGOs have produced reports linking Endosulfan to adverse health problems including cancer, infertility, birth defects and neurotic disorder. These reports were based on the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) report which is proved to have been flawed. Despite this, international conventions and regulatory authorities worldwide have referenced this report while reviewing Endosulfan in both, the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. Recently, the National Human Rights Commission has also demanded a nationwide ban on Endosulfan based on this faulty report. Media, polity and other vested interests are also pressuring the government into discontinuing the studies on Endosulfan as they are already aware of what the results would be.

NIOH Errors: The NIOH report of 2002 titled ‘Report of the investigations of unusual illnesses allegedly produced by Endosulfan exposure in Padre village, of Kasargode district (N. Kerala),’ had fundamental inconsistencies as was observed by scientists and experts.

Chemical residue analyses are performed on a sophisticated analytical instrument known as Gas Chromatography (GC) fitted with an Electron Capture Detector (ECD). Each GC-ECD has a lower limit for the minimum amount of a chemical that it can detect. This is expressed as Instrument Detection Limit (IDL). For the study under question, the NIOH had used GC-ECD (HP Model 6890) with the minimum IDL of 1 part per billion (1 ppb) for Endosulfan. In other words, the instrument used by the NIOH could not detect Endosulfan residues lower than 1 ppb. Yet, the NIOH report carries residue findings as low as 0.4 ppb and 0.5 ppb. Simply put, the residue levels reported by the NIOH fall below the minimum detection limit of the instrument used. These findings are scientifically indemonstrable, and are false and incorrect claims.

Since, the raw data recorded by the NIOH for generating Endosulfan residue data in water, soil and blood samples were fundamentally flawed, its subsequent analysis is even more peculiar. For instance, the table no. 4 in the report shows the total Endosulfan (ppb) in six samples as 0.030 ± 0.18. Annexure -8 shows β Endosulfan residues as 0.0005± 0.001. It may be observed here is that the standard deviation goes beyond the mean (average) by up to 500 per cent.

Modern GC-ECDs are fitted with computers that process the data gathered from the detectors into chromatograms and finally produce an easy-to-view report. Normal practices of a residue-testing laboratory require that copies of chromatograms of analysed samples are retained and stored in the laboratory/computer for future reference in case of any dispute. Therefore, letters were sent to NIOH under Right to Information Act (RTI Act) seeking copies of chromatograms relevant to this study. NIOH did not respond to requests for parting with raw data until the intervention of the Chief Information Commissioner. The case was heard at the Information Commission and it took three hearings and two orders by the Chief Information Commissioner for NIOH’s appellate authority to finally handover the 1,700 pages of raw data. The varying and inconsistent excuses given by the NIOH while refusing required information under the RTI Act were revealing signs of a cover-up. On examining the data, experts learned that the analysis conducted by NIOH had sure laboratory failings. The conclusions drawn did not corroborate with the raw data and the complete analysis is now being believed to be forged.
Myth: NIOH study is the final report on Endosulfan

( Courtesy: )

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