The United States seriously lags behind other countries when it comes to regulating pesticides, a situation that brings additional health risks for the U.S. population.
Environmental health researcher Nathan Donley with the Center for Biological Diversity reviewed pesticide regulations in the United States versus the EU, Brazil, and China, which represent four of the largest agricultural producers and users of pesticides in the world.
He analyzed the approval status of more than 500 pesticides in the four nations. What he found is that 72, 17, and 11 pesticides approved for outdoor agricultural applications in the United States are banned or in the process of being phased out in the EU, Brazil, and China, respectively.
Of all the pesticides used in U.S. agriculture in 2016, 322 million pounds were of pesticides banned in the EU, 26 million were of pesticides banned in Brazil, and 40 million pounds were pesticides banned in China. More than a quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in the United States is comprised of pesticides banned in the EU. Most of the pesticides banned in the EU, Brazil, and China have not “appreciably decreased” in the United States during the last 25 years and most of them have either increased or stayed constant in the last decade.
Donley also found that the pesticides banned in at least two of the other nations may have been implicated in acute pesticide poisonings in the United States. Some of them are restricted by individual states. There is a big regulatory problem with the United States, he points out in his study. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has all but abandoned its use of non-voluntary cancellations in recent years, making pesticide cancellation in the USA largely an exercise that requires consent by the regulated industry,” he stated.
Five of the pesticides (bensulide, dicrotophos, phorate, terbufos, and tribufos) banned in other countries but used in the United States “are in the neurotoxic organophosphate class that was once used in chemical warfare in World War II,” Donley wrote in a blog post.
Paraquat is another chemical used in the United States but banned in other countries. It is “one of the most acutely lethal pesticides still in use today, with a teaspoon-sized dose being enough to kill a grown adult,” he writes.
California is the top agricultural producing state in the United States and produces half of the nation’s produce. Pesticide use in the state is at near record-high levels, according to recently released data.
In 2017, pesticide use in California exceeded 200 million pounds for the third consecutive year. Pesticides included in the total increase are the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos and two fungicides (chlorothalonil and mancozeb) known to cause cancer.
Glyphosate is one of the pesticides most widely used in the state. The World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen in 2015, and California lists it in a list of chemicals under Proposition 65 known to cause cancer.
What You Can Do
There a few things you can do to help reduce pesticide use in the United States.
- Buy organic produce. By increasing the market for organics, you help to reduce the need for pesticides.
- Appeal to your local, state, and federal government representatives to make sure they know you don’t want to be exposed to these pesticides.
- Grow your own fruits and vegetables when you can.
Gina-Marie Cheeseman is a freelance writer. This article was first published on NaturallySavvy.com