Selection of international news - 4

20.2.2014 - PRAHA/WORLD


Pesticides may be more dangerous than testing reveals, study finds  

A team of French scientists has concluded that studies focused solely on the active ingredients of commercially sold pesticides substantially underestimate their potential hazards. The study suggests that inert ingredients in pesticides can magnify the effects of active ingredients, sometimes as much as 1,000-fold. Eight commercial products out of nine tested were hundreds of times more toxic than their active ingredient alone.

The scientists from the University of Caen exposed three human cell lines to the active ingredients of three herbicides, three insecticides and three fungicides. Then they exposed the cell lines to the commercial formulations, which contained "inerts," and compared the results.
The new finding, if confirmed, has significant implications for pesticide safety because if inert ingredients commonly amplify pesticide effects, then safety standards may not be protective of human health.

Roundup, a commercial herbicide sold by Monsanto that uses the active ingredient glyphosate, was by far the most toxic of the herbicides and insecticides tested, according to the study, which was published in the journal BioMed Research International. Used to kill weeds on lawns, gardens and crops including soybeans and corn, glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. 

You can read the full article in English here.

More evidence that BPA is harmful

BPA is one of the most common chemicals produced worldwide. Among many other products, it is used in many plastic food and beverage containers and in the linings of metal food cans. It also is used in paper used for some receipts. What's troubling is that it is an "endocrine disruptor," meaning it can interfere with human hormonal systems. It has been associated with many health problems, including infertility, weight gain, behavioral changes, early-onset puberty, cardiovascular effects, and diabetes.

One recent study found a link between early exposure to BPA and later prostate cancer. The study was considered especially important because it used not animal cells, but stem cells from human prostate tissue, obtained from organ donors. "We found that early life exposure to BPA . . . changed the memory of the prostate cells, so that when they saw estrogen later, they were more sensitive," said Gail S. Prins, a University of Illinois at Chicago physiologist who led the study. Evidence of BPA's harms "just keeps accumulating," Prins said, showing "rather strongly that previous concerns are, in fact, real, and they're applicable to humans."


You can read the full article in English here.


New Working Paper: Corporate Influence in the Post-2015 Process

As the 2015 deadline for the MDGs fast approaches, UN member states have started negotiations to define a new global development framework for the time after. Corporate interest groups and large transnational corporations such as Unilever, Vale, AngloGold and many others have been actively involved in this process, including the Secretary General’s High-Level Panel and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. In addition, the Global Compact has provided a privileged channel for corporate influence in the post-2015 agenda. A working paper by Brot für die Welt, Global Policy Forum and Misereor provides an overview of the main corporate actors in the post-2015 process and how they shape the discourse on development.

The private sector certainly has a role to play in the future of sustainable development. But the messages and visions of transnational corporations and business associations are worrying. Rather than binding multilateral agreements, they advocate for public-private partnerships and voluntary initiatives that largely leave both governments and private actors off the hook. They focus on growth, free markets and and new technologies (to be provided by the private sector) as a silver bullet solution to eradicate poverty, decrease inequality and preserve the environment, without reflecting on how the current growth paradigm has led us to the situation we face today.

The working paper advocates for more transparency around the participation of corporations in UN processes, including their financial support to UN initiatives, and for more reflection on the risks of a corporate, private interests-driven development agenda.

You can read the full article in English here.

WHO lists lead among 10 most dangerous chemicals

WHO has identified lead as one of 10 chemicals of major public health concern, needing action by member states to protect the health of workers, children and women of reproductive age. It is developing guidelines on the prevention and management of lead poisoning. Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the earth’s crust. Its widespread use has resulted in extensive environmental contamination, human exposure and significant public health problems in many parts of the world. Important sources of environmental contamination include; mining, smelting, manufacturing and recycling activities and, in some countries, the continued use of leaded paint and leaded gasoline. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations. People can become exposed to lead through occupational and environmental sources.

You can read the full article in English here.

Hazardous chemicals in branded textile products on sale in 25 countries/regions during 2013

Previous investigation by Greenpeace have shown that a wide range of textile products, manufactured and sold in many countries around the world, can contain residues of hazardous substances, including hormone-disrupting alkylphenols and their ethoxylates, reprotoxic phthalates and, in some cases, azo dye precursors of carcinogenic amines. This study extends this work to include a set of 82 additional clothing and footwear products purchased in May-June 2013, which included articles sold by 12 different major clothing brands and purchased in 25 countries/regions around the world. The range included examples manufactured in at least 12 different countries, although the countries of manufacture of 12 articles could not be determined. Furthermore, this investigation extends the range of chemical residues tested for in a sub-set of the products to include organotins (in 21 articles with plastisol printed fabric, 5 footwear articles and 6 sports tops), perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs, in 7 waterproof clothing articles, 3 footwear articles and 5 s articles of swimwear) and antimony (in products containing polyester based fabrics). Details of the analyses carried out and information on the various chemicals quantified in this study are provided within this report.

You can read the full article in English here.


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