Illinois Pesticide Review
July / August 2010
In This Issue
Atrazine and AGsense: Trying to Make Sense of a Controversial Issue
Last month, I noticed that an old friend of mine had clicked "like" on a Facebook page called Global Citizens Against Atrazine. The stated mission of the group is "to outlaw the use of the herbicide Atrazine". The group cites "cancer, watershed pollution, and gender changes in wildlife" as "just some of the devastating effects of this product." My friend is a breast cancer survivor, so I understand her strong distrust and readiness to stop anything that is cancer causing. However, at the same time, I was perplexed. The banning of atrazine would have a monumental effect on the agricultural industry. She and her doctors don't know what caused her cancer.
I'm no toxicologist and I don't claim to know the cause either. I am, however, 99% positive that she has never applied or been around atrazine ever, which I guess left me a little more puzzled. She doesn't have a farm background and our hometown area was never known to have exceedingly high levels of atrazine in the drinking water, but I digress. Again, I am no expert here. But I wondered, does she know something I don't? I don't want to get cancer. No one does. Or, were her actions simply based on fear? This Facebook page seems to have quite the following of 890 people at this writing. It's so easy to click "like" without a full understanding of the issues at hand.
So, I went on a little fact-finding mission. In my research, I stumbled across another Facebook page called "The Truth About Atrazine" and an interesting website, http://agsense.org/. The latter was created by a non-profit group called the Triazine Network. According to the website the group is "made up of farmers and farming groups who have been raising crops that have safely fed livestock and people for years, and who are concerned about issues regarding the regulation of atrazine, one of the triazine herbicides." They also claim to "rely on years of credible, scientific research to back up the facts." You can't help but like that. When it formed in 1995, their goal was to have a "science-based outcome to the Special Review of the triazine herbicides."
Today, the goal is much the same and they are active in current regulatory panels at EPA. The partial list on their website of organizations involved in the founding and operation of the Triazine Network is impressive. Included are the Illinois Farm Bureau, the National Corn Growers Association, and the American Soybean Association.
I learned that Atrazine has been on the market for over half a century. It has been studied extensively (approximately 6,000 studies) and proven again and again to be safe. However, it is currently under review yet again by the EPA. This I knew about, but never understood why until I started working on this article.
This new review according to AGsense.com came after the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs reported to Congress on February 16, 2005: "After a very careful assessment, EPA's current view is that the available studies do not adequately demonstrate such effects. A panel of independent, external experts, the SAP, supports EPA's position." Concluding that cumulative risks posed "no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infants, children or other . . . consumers," the EPA re-registered atrazine for use in 2006. However, in 2008 there was a new administration in place with a renewed commitment to science and a greater transparency on environmental issues and there was a growing movement to ban atrazine. Hence, the new review began in 2009.
To me, it appears that the scientific evidence against atrazine just doesn't add up. You can read the information on the anti-Atrazine websites as well as the AGsense website and come to your own conclusion. I encourage you to explore the science behind the claims. In particular, I like the AGsense article, "Atrazine: 'Son of Alar': The New Pesticide Scare Campaign." It discusses the history of 1989 Alar scare, which caused over $100 million in losses to apple growers. It was based on junk science with absurdly high dose levels.
In the end, EPA was under pressure to ban Alar and that's what happened. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was involved then and they are involved now with the campaign to ban atrazine. In September 2009, the NRDC released a report called "Atrazine: Poisoning the Well". Shortly after that, EPA ordered that atrazine be subject to re-registration yet again, only 3 short years after the last registration review!
The author makes comparisons of what's going on now with the war on atrazine to what happened with Alar and warns the reader about the "environmentalist barrage against man-made chemicals." It all sounds plausible to me, but you can read it and decide for yourself.
Why wouldn't a ban on atrazine open the door for more attacks on other pesticides? For another good, short read on this topic, check out "Toxic Terror: The Ongoing Environmentalists' Battle Against Atrazine" by Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H. of the American Council on Science and Health, at http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.1523/news_detail.asp.
So, writing this article was going to be fairly easy for me. My goal was to tell you about this cool website where you could get the facts about atrazine. However, last week, I noticed a shocking and disturbing article on AGsense that made me rethink things a bit. The article, "Atrazine: The Strange Case of Dr. Tyrone Hayes", describes the "aggressive, unprofessional and insulting, but also salacious and lewd" emails that Dr. Hayes sent to Syngenta (the primary maker of atrazine) employees.
Dr. Hayes is a University of California at Berkeley researcher who has conducted research on atrazine and claims that it turns male frogs into not-so-male frogs. He also hosts an anti-atrazine website and is a convincing public speaker. I then had serious doubts about whether or not to tell you all about the AGsense website. Was this an act of desperation on Syngenta's part to discredit Dr. Hayes?
However, the information presented in the article appears to be credible, although it is downright unbelievable in my mind that a scientific professional would behave in this manner. Then I found the same article posted at http://junkscience.com/, whose creators strive to debunk the junk science out there. Hayes' research, with results that haven't been replicated to date, has been called junk science quite a few times by many. In addition, he reportedly refuses to share his data.
From the article on Hayes, you can click on the documentation from University of California, Berkeley, if you can stand to read the foul language expressed there by Hayes. This is what really made a believer out of me. In Exhibit F, he really seems to be taunting Syngenta employees (http://www.atrazine.com/Amphibians/Univ_of_CA-7-19-10.pdf).
To read all 102 pages of these emails, click on http://www.atrazine.com/Amphibians/Combined_Large_pdf-r-opt.pdf. Again, I am puzzled to say the least at this behavior. I can only imagine what the employees of Syngenta think. Their response, appropriately so, was to file an ethics complaint with UC Berkeley.
You can indeed find anything on the internet. A quick search just now for the word "atrazine" led me to a person who posted the "Final 2010 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report" for her state on her Facebook page.
I read through the report and atrazine was mentioned in a small paragraph at the very end. Many other causes of water quality problems were mentioned in more detail in this quite lengthy report. I do applaud her efforts in getting the word out to others. However, her very next post was on the signs and symptoms of atrazine toxicity.
Although the information was cited from reliable scientific sources, posting this toxicity information in my opinion breeds fear because it's going to be taken out of context by the general reader. Many don't think of the fact that the dose makes the poison. In addition, many won't keep in mind that these symptoms are the same symptoms that one would have with the flu or other types of poisonings.
I am tempted to write to her and tell her about AGsense.com or maybe I should send her a copy of this article.
Be careful in believing what you read out there and be sure to get the facts from a reliable source when forming your opinions. We are reminded that there is no shortage of controversial topics with accompanied fear mongering to learn about. It certainly keeps things interesting!Michelle Wiesbrook
Possible Change to Pesticide Containers and Containment Labeling Deadline
EPA is proposing to amend the pesticide container and containment regulations to provide a one-year extension of the labeling compliance date from August 16, 2010 to August 16, 2011. This change is being proposed to address concerns raised by stakeholders and as a result of further Agency consideration.
This possible change may affect you if you are a pesticide formulator. Potentially affected entities may include, but are not limited to: pesticide establishments that formulate and prepare insecticides, fungicides, herbicides or other pesticides from technical chemicals or concentrates produced by pesticide manufacturing establishments. Other types of entities not listed could also be affected.
On August 16, 2006, EPA promulgated a final rule titled "Pesticide Management and Disposal: Standards for Pesticide Containers and Containment'. The container and containment rule established regulations for the safe storage and disposal of pesticides to reduce the likelihood of unreasonable adverse effects on human health and the environment. The container and containment regulations include requirements for pesticide container design; procedures, standards, and label language to facilitate removal of pesticides from containers prior to their being used, recycled, or discarded; and requirements for containment of stationary pesticide containers and procedures for container refilling operations. The 2006 rule required that all pesticide products distributed or sold by a registrant as of August 16, 2009, bear labels that have a statement identifying the container as nonrefillable or refillable.
On nonrefillable containers, a statement that provides basic instructions for managing the container and a batch code must be on the label. Cleaning instructions for some nonrefillable containers must also be provided. For refillable containers, cleaning instructions for the container at the end of their useful lives must be on the label.
In addition, the container and containment rule modified several existing requirements including allowing for blank spaces on the labels of some refillable containers for the net contents and EPA establishment number, and adding a reference to the container and containment regulations.
The 2008 rule that extended the original labeling compliance date to August 16, 2010, also changed the phrase "sold or distributed' to "released for shipment' as associated with all of the compliance dates, and made several other changes to the label requirements and various minor editorial changes.
Accomplishing the label amendments is a multi-step process. Registrants must identify the changes appropriate for their particular products and apply to EPA for an amended registration. EPA must review the proposed changes and determine whether they are consistent with the regulations, and advise the registrant of the Agency's findings.
If the EPA approves the changes, the registrant must then seek approval of the various state pesticide regulatory agencies. Upon approval of the state agencies, the registrant must have the new labels printed and applied to its products.
In March 2010, EPA was contacted by stakeholders with concerns about being able to have all labels changed by the label compliance date of August 16, 2010. Some registrants have asserted that they will not have sufficient time to change all labels for pesticides that are released for shipment after August 16, 2010, despite efforts by registrants, EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs and state agencies.
One constraint is that more antimicrobial product labels than expected require alternate rinsing instructions, rather than the standard text in the regulations. Therefore, these amendments cannot be made by notification and require more time-consuming reviews by EPA.
EPA's position on the appropriate container-related statements for certain pesticides has changed over time as a result of experience with product-by-product label reviews. This has resulted in reconsideration of some decisions and has caused some confusion in the regulated community. The length of time for states to review and approve labels is understood to be increasing due to the furlough days for staff in some states and staffing reductions due to budget shortfalls.
EPA has concluded that there is insufficient time to change all labels by August 16, 2010. Since registrants can decide which registered products they wish to market at any given time, the Agency does not have a precise count of the total number of label changes that ultimately will be submitted to EPA for review. However, based upon a review of recent Agency actions and discussions with registrants, EPA estimates that the majority of label changes already have been submitted and approved.
On the other hand, EPA estimates that there are at least 1,000 labels and potentially several thousand remaining pesticide product labels that EPA still needs to review. Even if all of those applications were submitted immediately, there would not be enough time for the label changes to be approved by EPA and the states, printed, and applied to all products that will be released for shipment after August 16, 2010.
Because EPA actions contributed to the large number of outstanding label changes, EPA is proposing to extend the compliance date by one year. EPA believes that one additional year will provide enough time for the EPA and the states to review the label changes and for registrants to incorporate the changes into their labels, provided that all applications are submitted soon.
This is based on an evaluation of the resources and the time it would take for the EPA to undertake a concerted effort to complete the review of these remaining labels and for discussions with State regulatory agencies who estimated a range of three to six months for them to review and approve the label revisions.
The EPA believes that a longer extension is unjustified, because the rule was published four years ago, so registrants have had a reasonable amount of time to prepare and submit their label modification requests, and because the EPA has already extended the deadline by one year.
Because this proposed one-year extension could not become final and effective before the current compliance date of August 16, 2010, the EPA has issued in the Federal Register a final rule providing for a four-month extension compliance date.
The EPA believes that four months will be sufficient to allow this proposed rule to become final and effective, and will avoid the temporary removal of a significant number of pesticides from the market while the rulemaking process for this one-year extension is completed.Source: Federal Register, June 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 114) accessed at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-14401.htm, and modified slightly by James E. Schuster, Extension Specialist, PSEP – Plant Pathology
Catch my Drift?
Pictured: Kaity Vancil, senior, Bushnell-Prairie City FFA Chapter, Section XI, District 3. 2009-2010 FFA Chapter reporter and 2010-2011 FFA Chapter president. Kaity is pictured with Steve Sargeant, ag teacher and FFA advisor at Bushnell-Prairie City High School.
The following FFA speech was written by Kaity Vancil of the Bushnell-Prairie City FFA Chapter. Web links were added for this article. Kaity won first place in her section in February. At the state contest in Champaign, she took first place for her record books for Diversified Horticulture and then rushed home to get ready for PROM in only 20 minutes! Congratulations to Kaity and thank you for your interest in pesticide safety education. – Michelle Wiesbrook
One hot, windy summer day you see an unmarked pickup truck roll into your neighbors' driveway. Joe jumps out of the truck, wearing shorts and flip flops and gives a hearty wave to you with a pump up sprayer in hand and a big smile on his face. He is the local handyman seen around town mowing, trimming, and helping out the neighbors. His young son, more than happy to help, hands his dad a Gatorade bottle filled with a dark liquid. Bare handed Joe pours the liquid into the hand held sprayer. He then proceeds to attack the dandelions overtaking your neighbor's yard, with a cloud of spray. The smell starts to drift over to your porch so you go inside and let Joe finish the job of killing the neighbor's weeds.
The next morning you wake up and walk out to get the morning paper and find your beautiful annuals that line your sidewalk, your heirloom roses by your mail box, and even your prized tomato plants, are all wilted and distorted. You are devastated that all your hard work on your landscape is dying and ruined. Who is to blame?
This scenario happens far too often because of improper use of chemicals by unlicensed applicators. Without proper licensing and training, the application of pesticides can be disastrous. For example, the biggest problem is chemical drift! Spray drift is when tiny spray droplets or chemical vapors are carried off target by the wind to other locations. The Illinois Department of Ag suggests that you should not spray chemicals when the wind speed is in excess of 15 mph because of a greater chance of drift.
Many unlicensed sprayers would not know of this recommendation and continue spraying, harming surrounding plants, animals, or people. Along with drift, there are also many other hazardous outcomes of improperly applied pesticides.
For example spraying too close to waterways and bodies of water can kill fish and other aquatic animals. Poor application and disposal could lead to poisoning our public water supplies. Even bees are at risk from the misapplication of pesticides. Finally, individuals could also harm themselves by not following the label or wearing the necessary personal protective equipment (P.P.E).
For instance in my scenario with Joe and his spraying, he was not wearing proper attire especially by wearing shorts and flip flops and wearing no chemical resistant gloves. The more the skin is covered and protected, the better. He also should not have had chemicals in any container other than the original container-let alone a Gatorade bottle! And as always he should keep chemicals away from all children, even his own son.
The first step to solve this problem is to educate the public that it is illegal for unlicensed individuals to apply pesticides for hire. This also includes weed and feed products! Hiring an unlicensed applicator could put the homeowner at financial risk, should anything go wrong. Much like hiring an uninsured company to roof your house, any injuries that occur on the job could be shared by the contractor and the homeowner.
To assure you have a certified applicator, informed homeowners could ask a series of questions to see if the lawn care company is qualified, trained, and insured. Acquiring these answers can help guarantee that there will be a competent individual applying pesticides to their yards. The homeowner can also go online to the Illinois Department of Ag's site at http://www.agr.state.il.us/Environment/Pesticide/aplicatorsearch.php and find a list of pesticide applicators that are properly licensed, registered, and insured.
Before the company applies pesticides, the homeowner could also ask to see the label and labeling information of any chemicals planned to be used on their property. Having the company and the homeowner discuss and understand how the treatment will be applied can help the homeowner feel confident in their decision.
Informing schools and colleges about pesticide licensing programs can help future lawn care and agricultural production employees earn licenses so they will not spray illegally without a license. It is easier to train and administer the test in college along with current agricultural curriculum to produce pre-licensed and ready to work applicators. If schools incorporated better and more detailed programs, pesticide applicators could learn proper instructions and be better educated to reduce the possible ill effects associated with improper pesticide use.
Employers are more apt to hire students that come pre-licensed and ready to work. In my case, I recently passed the certification test to become a licensed operator and hope that it will allow me to become more valuable to my employer at work. For a list of times and places where testing can be completed, one can contact the web site of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
In order for an individual to become properly licensed, one has to pass a one hundred question test provided by the Illinois Department of Ag with a seventy percent or higher score. Once you are licensed you have to be registered with the Department of Ag and must renew your license every year. In addition, one must retake the general standards test every three years.
Most importantly, this newly licensed spray operator must work and be insured under a licensed applicator. Each business must have at least one applicator who is responsible for one or more operators. That applicator must successfully pass an additional 50-question category exam such as Turfgrass or Field Crops, depending upon where their applications will occur.
In addition, the University of Illinois Pesticide Safety Education Program offers training clinics across the state for those wishing to learn how to apply pesticides safely. These clinics and their associated study materials also help prepare individuals for the license exams. For more information, check out: www.pesticidesafety.uiuc.edu.
Lastly, better labeling of the products can also prevent improper spraying practices. At the current time the most recent mandatory phrase added on every single label is, "Keep out of reach of children."
In my opinion, another phrase that should be mandatory would state the following: "All pesticides applied for hire should be applied by licensed and insured applicators." This will help ensure that the products will be clearly labeled on who could and should handle and apply the product. Most people may be unaware of the certifications and requirements to spray, and now the label could help inform them of the law.
In conclusion the problem of improper spraying by unlicensed applicators presents hazards to not only themselves, but the environment and the public as well. If the public were better informed on what to look for when selecting a lawn care service, and if schools offered licensing programs that produce readymade applicators it would help ensure the safety of our public and protect our environment.
Also if pesticide labels emphasized the legality involved when applying pesticides for hire, we would have fewer unlicensed, unprepared, and unsafe applicators in our agricultural and horticultural industries today. Remember, do not be like Joe the sprayer, catch my drift?
New Drift Webinars and New Hand Sprayer Calibration Steps Worksheet
Some of you more experienced (I didn't say older and never even thought it) pesticide users may remember Bob Wolf when he worked as part of the then called Pesticide Applicator Training team at the University of Illinois. (Bob, if you are reading this, I'm not calling you old either!)
Bob is now an Extension Specialist in Application Technology at Kansas State University. In early June he conducted two 50-minute webinars on 'Dealing with Drift' for the CropLife Magazine Media Group. These webinars are now archived on the Croplife Media Group web page: http://www.croplife.com/webinars/. There is a short, easy registration that is required before viewing.
In addition, Bob recently completed a new fact sheet/publication called "Hand Sprayer Calibration Steps Worksheet". The publication is perfect for anyone that uses hand-held or backpack sprayers. This document also includes information on how to convert a simple hand sprayer spray wand to a wand with a flat-fan pattern nozzle type including the use of a drift-reducing flat-fan nozzle type. Bob says this idea presented itself last fall while he was conducting a hand sprayer calibration workshop under very windy conditions. There is also a section on adding a Spray Management Valve to the spray wand for better control of pressure and flow during spraying. Spray Management Valves can be purchased from Gempler's and other sources. Check out this fact sheet at: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/library/ageng2/mf2915.pdf.
Michelle Wiesbrook (Source: emails from Bob Wolf).
Bee Careful, Those Critters Might be More Important than You Realize
Lately there has been a lot of buzz about honey bees. Honey bees, Apis mellifera, are not native to the Americas. They were imported hundreds of years ago to provide sweet honey for colonists who made the move from Europe.
Recently, honey bees have come under a great deal of stress due to a relatively new malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD). First reported in 2006, CCD is characterized by a sudden disappearance of most of the worker bees in a hive, leaving only the queen and a few attendants. Some commercial bee keepers sustained losses up to 90 percent of their hives.
Honey bees are one of the important pollinators that we depend on for many of our favorite foods. Honey bees work cheap. They will work virtually non-stop just for a bit of nectar and pollen.
In fact, they literally work themselves to death. There are no holidays or time off, just the fact that after as little as four weeks, their wings become so battered that they literally fall out of the sky and perish from the punishing schedule they keep. It has been estimated that honey bees fly 55,000 miles in order to make just one pound of honey.
Honey bees have been considered so important that they have been designated as the state insect in 18 states. Every time we bite into an apple, almond, cherry, squash, or virtually any other fruit, a honey bee has been involved with its pollination. Other crops benefit as well; clover and alfalfa are among bee favorites. It has been estimated that honey bees have an impact on agriculture that exceeds $200 billion annually.
While honey bees are an important cog in our agricultural machine, they are actually very delicate creatures.
Their immune system is under-powered when compared to other insect species. As such, they are extremely susceptible to the pesticides we routinely apply. Some of the more egregious pesticides include the neonicotinoid class such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin. These chemicals act on the insect's central nervous system to cause paralysis and eventually death. Honey bees are susceptible to their actions.
How can you lessen the impact of these and other compounds on the honey bee population? When possible, don't apply pesticides to plants that are in bloom, especially those that the bees are actively visiting. If feasible, use other methods rather than pesticides to control pests. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a common sense practice that can help. If you must apply a pesticide, always read the label and choose those chemicals that are less toxic to honey bees. The label will also provide information about how to apply so that you are not directly affecting the bee population.
Another way to help is to provide suitable resources for the bees to flourish. Lawns are akin to a desert as far as the bees are concerned. We crop our grass short and clean; nothing is left to flower. A good compromise might be to plant some clover in the yard and mow the grass at the highest mower setting. Or, you might stagger the mowing of the grass to allow parts of the yard/pasture to flower.
Learn how to keep bees. I have found beekeeping to be a rewarding endeavor. You won't get rich doing it, but you will gain a great appreciation for how important this small, but fierce, creature really is.
Doug Jones, Integrated Pest Management, Mt. Vernon Extension Center, 618-242-9310.