Industry Pushes for Unsafe Fluoride Levels in Food
Dow AgroSciences, one of the nation’s largest pesticide makers, along with various food companies, have persuaded several members of Congress to endorse a bill that directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse a proposed phaseout of sulfuryl fluoride, a highly toxic food fumigant and potent greenhouse gas. If passed, the bill would make the U.S. one of only two western nations to allow sulfuryl fluoride on food, increase the number of American children ingesting unsafe levels of fluoride and create a food poisoning risk for consumers who purchase food that contains permissible levels of the fumigant.
The Pest Free Food Supply Act, sponsored by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) and 14 others, seeks to prevent the proposed phaseout of sulfuryl fluoride from taking effect. The phaseout, which EPA proposed in January 2011, was prompted by a joint petition from the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Beyond Pesticides.
In seeking to prevent the phaseout from taking effect, the bill’s sponsors have adopted Dow’s widely discredited talking points on the safety and necessity of sulfuryl fluoride fumigation. The public should know:
- Of the few western nations that allow food facilities to be fumigated with sulfuryl fluoride, only the U.S. and Australia allow fumigation to occur while food is still on the premises.
- EPA based the proposed phaseout on its finding that many children are currently being overexposed to fluoride, and that there is no safe room for additional fluoride exposures. Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the EPA cannot approve a pesticide if people are currently receiving too much of the pesticide chemical (in this case, fluoride) from other sources.
- Despite claims that sulfuryl fluoride produces a “tiny” increase in fluoride exposure, the maximum permissible levels in some fumigated foods are high enough to produce acute toxic reactions, such as nausea, vomiting and headache. A child eating a single portion of pancakes made with flour fumigated at the maximum permissible level (125 ppm F) would ingest enough fluoride to be at risk for flu-like symptoms. The risk is worse for powdered eggs, which are permitted to contain toothpaste-strength levels (900 ppm F). The Food and Drug Administration mandates that fluoride toothpastes warn users to immediately contact a poison control center if they accidentally swallow the paste. Unlike toothpaste, dried eggs are meant to be swallowed.
- Fluoride is neurotoxic. More than 30 published studies have reported an association between fluoride and reduced IQ in children, Dow’s own animal studies show that the brain is the main target for sulfuryl fluoride’s effects, and fumigation workers who use sulfuryl fluoride have been found to suffer impaired cognitive function.
- Sulfuryl fluoride is a potent greenhouse gas. Because of this, Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Health, Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Biological Diversity oppose Dow’s efforts to expand sulfuryl fluoride production.
“Before the agricultural processing industry uses its muscles to retain the use of sulfuryl fluoride, it should carefully research what other industrialized societies are using to protect food in processing and storage facilities," said Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides. "Some, like Canada, only allow the treatment of empty facilities before the introduction of food products; others use non-toxic methods like heat, refrigeration and carbon dioxide. In the U.S. some of these treatments would require the upgrading of old leaky storage facilities. This would be a far more sensible approach not only to protect our food supply but also to protect our children from unnecessary exposure to yet another toxic substance in their early lives.”
“There is a growing consensus that American children are exposed to too much fluoride, in part because of the use of sulfuryl fluoride," according to Sonya Lunder, senior analyst with the EWG. "To prevent the adverse health effects of overexposure to fluoride, EPA should finalize its proposal to phase out this pesticide and tackle the issue of fluoride in drinking water.”
“Fluoride is too neurotoxic to be allowed on children’s food and EPA’s pesticide division deserves credit for taking the correct course of action in protecting the health of infants and children, rather than the profits of Dow AgroSciences,” notes Paul Connett, PhD, director of FAN.
FAN, Beyond Pesticides and EWG will vigorously oppose efforts to overturn EPA’s proposed phase-out of sulfuryl fluoride on food, and will fight to uphold the FQPA.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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