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3.31.2013 9:36 PM

Thousands of Pesticides Approved Despite Uncertain Safety Testing

Study criticizes EPA loophole used to approve 65% of "untested or under-tested" chemicals.

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Dates: Feb 18-21, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a lot like the Christmas Bird Count, but with a little less structure, so it's easier for a beginner to get involved. You can spend as little time as 15 minutes one day, or spend more time every day of the count. Either way, all you have to do is choose a spot and count the number and types of birds you observe.

Like the Christmas Bird Count data, the information informs scientists trying to understand how the populations of birds are changing. The annual snapshot is a valuable tool scientists can use to assess the health of all of the birds that winter in the United States.

Extend your participation throughout the year by helping the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology track the prevalence of an infectious disease, mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, which affects the eyes of house finches and American goldfinches, both of which are common at backyard bird feeders. (Boost your chances of seeing interesting birds by making your garden friendly to birds and other wildlife.

For more information, visit birdsource.org/gbbc for the Great Backyard Bird Count or birds.cornell.edu/hofi for the House Finch Disease Survey.

Photo: Istock

By Dan Shapley

The Environmental Protection Agency used a loophole to approve 65% of pesticides--roughly 10,000 chemicals in all--despite little or no testing data in support of their safety, according to a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Pesticides are used not only on farm fields, but to treat crops after harvest, and they are increasingly used in consumer products to lengthen shelf life or add antibacterial properties to soaps and the like.

Consumers may have assumed that pesticides permitted for use had passed testing requirements designed to protect human health and the environment. After all, since Rachel Caron published Silent Spring a half century ago, there has been widespread concern about unintended effects from overuse of pesticides. There is an ongoing effort, often led by environmental groups arguing in court and through complex government regulatory processes, to stop the use of harmful pesticides that have long been on the market, but the new study suggests there's reason to doubt the safety of even some chemicals approved for use recently.

Risks from pesticides are varied. Recently, concerns have grown about one class of pesticides for their potential contribution to widespread honeybee deaths. Other pesticides have been implicated in bird deaths. On humans, concerns from various pesticides differ, but exposure to some has been linked to everything from neurological disorders to endocrine disruption.

Reacting to the report in USA Today, the EPA said it hadn't yet reviewed the new study.


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