The New Science of How Herbicides Affect Health and the Environment

June 30, 2010
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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New scientific evidence from the fields of toxicology, endocrinology, developmental biology and biochemistry shows that a core assumption of toxicology, “the dose makes the poison,” is inadequate as a basis for regulatory standards to protect human health. Evidence shows that pesticides have interactive effects and adverse health effects at extremely low levels–below EPA allowable levels. These effects include adverse neurological, endocrine, immune, reproductive and developmental health outcomes.

Over the past three decades, citizens of Alaska have consistently voiced strong opposition to the use of herbicides by the Alaska Railroad and have successfully prevented the Railroad from applying herbicides since 1982. Alaskans have particular concern about the use of herbicides along the rail belt because of the many streams, wetlands, rivers and groundwater sources of drinking water. In addition, many people harvest wild plants, wildlife and fish along the rail belt. This year, however, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation granted the Alaska Railroad a permit allowing them to spray the harmful pesticide glyphosate, as well as additional solvents and surfactants that make the herbicide more persistent and toxic.

CHE-Alaska hosted a discussion of the current science of low-dose effects of glyphosate, the status of the EPA’s review of glyphosate, and why communities throughout Alaska oppose herbicide use along the railroad. We explored what policy changes are necessary to protect public health.

Featured Presenters

Dr. Warren Porter, PhD,has been Professor of Zoology and Environmental Toxicology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison since 1986. Dr. Porter's work has been published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals, including Environmental Health Perspectives and Toxicology and Industrial Health.  Dr. Porter received his doctorate in Physiological Ecology from UCLA.

Jay Feldman, (invited) Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, has a 30 year history of working with communities nationwide on toxics policies and safe management strategies that avoid reliance on toxic chemicals. He has tracked specific chemical effects, regulatory actions, and pesticide law. He works with local communities to develop successful strategies for reform. His work with media has helped to bring broader public understanding of the hazards of pesticides and safe alternatives. Jay has served on EPA advisory panels, spoken to groups across the country and worldwide, and contributed to the development of federal policy advancing chemical restrictions and green technologies.

Nichelle Harriot is a Research Associate with Beyond Pesticides. With a B.S. in Chemistry and Environmental Science and an M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy, Nichelle joined Beyond Pesticides as an intern in the summer of 2007, having previously worked with several conservation and public health issues, and then joined the staff as a research associate. Nichelle has also worked as a chemistry teaching assistant at GMU and co-authored a technical report on water quality issues in wetland systems.

Marc Lamoreaux (invited) is the Land and Environment Director for the Native Village of Eklutna (NVE), a sovereign Dena’ina Native Tribe and the last of eight aboriginal villages in the Anchorage area. The Native Village of Eklutna’s traditional territory includes the Municipality of Anchorage and the stretch of railroad  along Turnagain Arm and into the mountains between Bird Creek and Seward. NVE  has the responsibility to protect the health of the environment, especially the health of resources which can affect the health of their people