American companies export somewhere between 400 and 600 million pounds of pesticides a year. Unfortunately, no one knows the exact amount, not even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is supposed to monitor the exports. Of the total, the General Accounting Office (GAO) says some 25 percent have never been tested or have been banned or suspended from use in this country. Why have they been banned or suspended? Because they have been diagnosed as hazardous to human health or to the environment. Apparently, however, hazardous only to Americans.
Recent investigations by the GAO and a congressional subcommittee show that the EPA has inadequately monitored exports of those dangerous pesticides, has made collection of basic information about the exports nearly impossible, and has failed to inform foreign governments of hazardous products entering their countries.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to one million poisonings and 10,000 deaths a year can be attributed to worldwide use and misuse of pesticides. And the U.S. is not immune. Exported U.S. pesticides contaminate food which is then imported into this country. For example, chlordane, whose use is prohibited in the United States, is produced and exported by an American company. Last year, 84,000 pounds of Honduran beef tainted with the highly toxic pesticide were consumed in the U.S. The beef contained chlordane levels three to eight times the amount permitted by the Food and Drug Administration.
Unfortunately, none of this information is new. A Rolling Stone article, which-reported that an estimated 500,000 people were poisoned yearly by banned pesticides and drugs, was named the third “best censored” story of 1976. What is new in this case is that WHO now estimates up to one million poisonings annually.
In 1980, The Nation, in the sixth “best censored” story of the year, reported that 25% of U.S. pesticide exports are products that were banned, heavily restricted, or never registered for use here. Common Cause magazine reports the same statistic in 1989.
It is obvious that the EPA has failed miserably in its responsibility to monitor pesticide exports; it is equally obvious that the mass media have failed to hold the EPA responsible for this international tragedy.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: TAHD FRENTZEL
SOURCE: COMMON CAUSE MAGAZINE 2030 M Street, NW Washington, DC 20036, DATE: July/August 1989
TITLE: “A FEW BUGS IN THE SYSTEM”
AUTHOR: PETER MONTGOMERY
SOURCE: ROLLING STONE 745 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10022, DATE: 2/10/77
TITLE: “BANNED CHEMICALS EXPORTED TO THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES”
AUTHOR: DAVID WEIR
SOURCE: THE NATION 72 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011, DATE: 11/15/80
TITLE: “THE CIRCLE OF POISON”
AUTHORS: DAVID WEIR and MARK SHAPIRO
COMMENTS: As noted in the synopsis, this is not a new story; in fact, it was the “third best censored story” in the first year of Project Censored. At the time, investigative journalist David Weir, who had spent two years researching the issue, said the article was unique among all he had written for Rolling Stone since it “did not get mentioned or quoted by a single other media outlet.” Then, in 1980, when it was apparent that the media were still ignoring the problem, “The Circle of Poison,” by David Weir and Mark Shapiro, was cited as the sixth “best censored story.” The article revealed how dangerous pesticides create a circle of poison by endangering the workers in American chemical plants, injuring Third World workers in the fields where they are used, and, finally returning to the American people in the food we import. And now, a full 14 years after David Weir and Rolling Stone tried to alert the public to the issue, Congress is making an effort to break up the “circle of poison.” In early June, 1990, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted to prevent U.S. companies from exporting pesticides that can’t be used in this country.