October 7, 2000

Locust spraying programs in Western Australia will soon extend to many areas in the eastern states, what will be the impact on public health?

The factsheet on the organophosphate pesticide fenitrothion to control plague locust is somewhat light on in describing the public risk of exposure and very selective in it's content, and ignores facts the public has a right to know.

The factsheet totally omits the well established fact that exposure to OP pesticides can cause or trigger the onset of diseases like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity even at low level exposures.

Mention of these diseases is totally omitted, because health authorities are under immense political pressure to pretend these diseases do not exist, to justify the continued use of highly toxic pesticides when there is no doubt they are harmful to public health.

No mention is made of the life-long "living nightmare" that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity imposes on it's victims, who often totally incapacitated, unable to function normally in society again.

No mention is made of similar locust spraying problems in Madagascar where out of 100 people tested 60% showed signs of pesticide poisoning. Where out of a further 38 persons tested, 80% showed a reduction in cholinesterase activity due to organophosphate pesticide poisoning.

The problems from locust spraying in Madagascar were considered so unacceptable, that even the World Bank (not known for it's interest in environmental issues) withdrew funding support for locust spraying programs.

New studies show primary producers who regularly use toxic pesticides suffer brain damage with decreased mental functions later in life. There is no mention of new evidence which shows pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables encourage the growth of dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria & E.coli 0157 increasing the risk of food poisoning from eating fresh produce such as lettuce, strawberries etc. This, at a time when antibiotic use in meat production as growth stimulants has rendered most human life-saving antibiotic drugs ineffective.

The factsheet says fenitrothion poses no risk to pregnant women and that it's not known to cause congenital birth defects, but notably issues a disclaimer of responsibility suggesting pregnant women suffering "distress" should consult with their doctor. Hardly comforting, when less than 5% of doctors have successfully been able to diagnose OP pesticide poisoning in the last 10 years.

OP pesticides are not known to produce birth defects of a physical type in the developing foetus, but there is a large body of evidence which links serious functional and behavioral problems in children to pesticide exposure early in life. To say there is "no risk" would have to regarded as "selective wording" in describing facts, if not downright misleading.

It's claimed the last locust plague in 1990 cost Western Australia $20 million in damage. By comparison the spiraling number of children with Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, (240% increase in the last 4 years) and other pesticide related health problems cost the country hundreds of millions each and every year. There's no quick fix antidote on offer for these. No quick fix for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. The cost to taxpayers is increasing with each new generation of permanently disabled children remaining intellectually impaired as adults.

While experts overseas are calling for the need to track chronic diseases to environmental causes, we are splashing this stuff on the land by the shipload. Worse still, aerial spraying an OP pesticide has no real control where the spray drift ends up and must be considered an act of stupidity if not gross negligence.

The National Registration Authority has never maintained a public Chemical Injuries Register for human beings, so it has no way to know what the actual impact of specific toxic chemicals on public health actually are.

Yet, it gives assurances that certain pesticides will not harm the public. It sounds more like a sales pitch from a shonky used car dealer than anything remotely scientific. Given the NRA usually ignores reports by members of the public and their doctors of serious injury from specific pesticides, how the hell would they know?

It obviously regards short term lab tests on rats provided by self interested chemical manufacturers more "reliable" evidence, and suggests human beings who report pesticide injury in the real world have overactive "imaginations" to avoid responsibility if it's decisions are later proved wrong.

If regulatory & health authorities are telling the public the truth on the safety of locust spraying programs, why have they omitted so many essential facts?

Rex Warren
Australian Chemical Trauma Alliance
Phone: (07) 4978 6022 (Business Hours)
Phone: (07) 4979 1828 (Home)

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