Trump's Pick to Head Interior Blocked Report Warning of Pesticide Risk to 1,000+ Endangered Species
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who faces a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday after President Donald Trump nominated him to head Interior permanently, acted to block a report that found that two pesticides "jeopardize the continued existence" of more than 1,200 endangered species, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
In 2017, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) scientists completed a report on the threat posed by three pesticides to endangered species. But before they could make it public that November, they were stopped by top political appointees including then-Deputy Secretary Bernhardt, who instead initiated a new process using a narrower standard for assessing risk, The New York Times reported. The Times' investigative report is based on more than 84,000 pages of Interior Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act requests by the Times and CBD.
"It's outrageous that Trump, Bernhardt and the industry hacks inhabiting this administration are speeding the extinction of nearly 1,400 endangered species by refusing to take any action on chlorpyrifos," CBD environmental health director Lori Ann Burd said in a statement. "If political appointees weren't stopping the government's own scientists from doing their jobs, this brain-damaging, wildlife-killing horror of a pesticide would already be banned."
The original study was part of a re-registration of the three pesticides, a process that takes place every 15 years. It found that chlorpyrifos put 1,399 species at risk while the pesticide malathion put 1,284 at risk and diazinon put 175 at risk. One species put at risk by pesticides was the San Joaquin kit fox, a five pound animal that had once been widely present in the California valley until pesticides like diazinon poisoned the grasses and birds it fed on. The FWS also found that the Cape Sable seaside sparrow in Florida was put in danger by the spraying of chlorpyrifos.
"For many vulnerable species, a single exposure could be catastrophic," the original report said.
EXCLUSIVE: Scientists at Interior Depart spent several years-& thousands of hours-studying impact 3 pesticides have… https://t.co/HMebrmBaNZ— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton)1553604142.0
The new standard being used to assess risk was "one that pesticide makers and users had lobbied intensively to promote," The New York Times reported. The New York Times reported that chlorpyrifos-maker Dow Agrosciences, which was recently renamed Corteva, had donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration committee. The company said the donation was not related to the policy change, but Corteva spokesperson Gregg M. Schmidt said the new policy would lead to "a better understanding of where and how pesticides are being used."
FWS staff wrote their original report assuming that the pesticides were being sprayed the maximum amount legally allowed on their labels, while the industry argued that they should base their findings on actual use. FWS staffers argued that historic usage data would not reflect how pesticides might be used in the future. Label limits are also legally enforceable.
The staff had worked literally thousands of hours--for years. Four biologists. Four toxicologists at Fish & Wildlif… https://t.co/Qk0RpH47nB— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton)1553605578.0
Former EPA official Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, who left the agency in late 2017, said that the shift in policy at Interior was consistent with what she had experienced at the EPA during the Trump administration. "It is certainly similar to the pattern we saw in toxic chemicals as well, where the regulated industry had a more sympathetic ear in the new administration," Cleland-Hamnett told The New York Times. "And that resulted in a shift in approach as to how these issues would be handled."
FWS spokesperson Laury Marshall Parramore told CNN that the agency has "continuously refined (their) methodology."
"This has necessitated delaying the release of the draft biological opinions but will ultimately ensure that they are legally sound and based on the best available scientific information," she said.
#Trump #EPA OKs 'Emergency' to Dump Bee-Killing #Pesticide on 16 Million Acres https://t.co/w8AVtDSyBU @bpncamp @pesticideaction— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1550541611.0
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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