Talkers, this article was in a health newsletter I receive. In view of the
recent postings about the pros and cons of using chemical
pesticides/herbicides, thought you all might find this interesting. We use
chemicals when we have no other choice, but always with much caution and with
Judy Hunt in Louisville, KY
Swiss Study Says It's Raining Pesticides
FRED PEARCE and DEBORAH MACKENZIE c. c.1999 New Scientist
Rain is not what it used to be. A new study reveals that much of the
precipitation in Europe contains such high levels of dissolved pesticides
that it would be illegal to supply it as drinking water.
Studies in Switzerland have found that rain is laced with toxic levels of
atrazine, alachlor and other commonly used crop sprays. ``Drinking water
standards are regularly exceeded in rain,'' says Stephan Muller, a chemist at
the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology in
Dbendorf. The chemicals appear to have evaporated from fields and become part
of the clouds.
Both the European Union and Switzerland have set a limit of 100 nanograms for
any particular pesticide in a liter of drinking water. But, especially in the
first minutes of a heavy storm, rain can contain much more than that.
In a study to be published by Muller and his colleague Thomas Bucheli in
Analytical Chemistry this summer, one sample of rainwater contained almost
4,000 nanograms per liter of 2,4-dinitrophenol, a widely used pesticide.
Previously, the authors had shown that in rain samples taken from 41 storms,
nine contained more than 100 nanograms of atrazine per liter, one of them
around 900 nanograms.
In the latest study, the highest concentrations of pesticides turned up in
the first rain after a long dry spell, particularly when local fields had
recently been sprayed. Until now, scientists had assumed that the pesticides
only infiltrated groundwater directly from fields.
Muller warns that the growing practice of using rainwater that falls onto
roofs to recharge underground water may be adding to the danger. This water
often contains dissolved herbicides that had been added to roofing materials,
such as bitumen sheets, to prevent vegetation growing. He suggests that the
first flush of rains should be diverted into sewers to minimize the pollution
of drinking water, which is not usually treated to remove these herbicides
Meanwhile, Swedish researchers have linked pesticides to one of the most
rapidly increasing cancers in the Western world. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma,
which has risen by 73 per cent in the US since 1973, is probably caused by
several commonly used crop sprays, say the scientists.
Lennart Hardell of Orebro Medical Center and Mikael Eriksson of Lund
University Hospital found Swedish sufferers of the disease were 2-to-7 times
more likely to have been exposed to MCPA, a widely used weedkiller, than
MCPA, which is used on grain crops, is sold as Target by the Swiss firm
Novartis. In addition, patients were 3-to-7 times more likely to have been
exposed to a range of fungicides, an association not previously reported.
The patients were also 2-to-3 times more likely to have had contact with
glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in Sweden. Use of this chemical,
sold as Round-Up by the US firm Monsanto, is expected to rocket with the
introduction of crops, such as Roundup-Ready soya beans, that are genetically
modified to resist glyphosate. The researchers suggest that the chemicals
have suppressed the patients' immunity, allowing viruses such as Epstein-Barr
to trigger cancer.
(This article is excerpted from New Scientist, a weekly science and
technology magazine based in London. The New Scientist Web site is at
(Distributed by New York Times Syndicate)
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