Thu, May 01, 2014 - Page 7 News List

French environmentalists urge action over pesticides

The Guardian, PARIS

French children in agricultural areas are being exposed to a dangerous cocktail of pesticides, some of them banned, a French health and environment group has claimed.

Generations Futures carried out independent analysis of hair from young people living or studying near farms or vineyards after parents expressed concern about their children being exposed to poisons that could disrupt their endocrine system.

The group, a nonprofit organization specializing in the use and effects of pesticides on humans and the environment, says its findings confirmed their fears.

Researchers took hair samples from a selected group of children aged between three and 10 living or attending schools between 50m and 200m from different agricultural zones. It sent the samples to an independent laboratory in Luxembourg, which used methods similar to those employed by detectives investigating poisoning cases.

A total of 624 pesticide traces were found in the 29 samples tested — one sample was deemed of insufficient quantity — suggesting that 80 percent of the children had been exposed to agricultural pesticides in the previous three months.

In total, the laboratory found traces of 53 pesticides believed to affect hormone system of mammals, leading to cancerous tumors, birth defects, developmental disorders and learning disabilities in humans.

An average of 21.52 different pesticides were found for each child, 35 so-called “endocrine disruptor” pesticides were found at least once, while 13 were discovered in every hair sample. Just under three-quarters of the children ate organic produce regularly, suggesting the contamination came from an outside source and not their food.

“The presence of more than 21 pesticides, on average, that are endocrine disruptors in the hair that was analyzed shows that our children are exposed to a significant cocktail of these substances,” Generations Futures spokesperson Francois Veillerette said. “Now the European commission must finally [make] public a clear and protective definition of the endocrine disruptors that have to be banned.”

The report urges urgent action.

“Our demand is simple and based on an ambitious goal: No organism should contain endocrine disruptors in order to protect the health of unborn children,” it said.

Generations Futures says the French government’s own national strategy to deal with endocrine disruptors has reached a dead end. The plan was originally to be published last year, but has been repeatedly postponed until the end of this month.

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