The death of honeybees and the Precautionary Principle – a needed reprise

In my last post on the existence of glyphosate in the urine of 80% of the random tested individuals, I mentioned the Precautionary Principle. A huge part of these stories on chemicals being found within us is a long time cover up by their makers, whether it be Round-up, Teflon, or some other product, that these chemicals are harmful to people. It reminded me of a story on the impact of neonicotinoids on honeybees, a major pollinator I wrote in 2013. Here it is.

There was a story by Michael Vines of the New York Times this weekend entitled “Soaring honeybee deaths renew alarm.” I first learned of this story about a year ago on “Real Time with Bill Maher” regarding the major decline in honeybee populations. Apparently since 2005, there has been a major colony collapse epidemic where beekeepers are losing 40% to 50% of their bee populations. For some the number is as high as 80% loss. A more normative number is under 10%. While conclusive evidence is not known, per Vines’ article researchers say “there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.”

“The pesticide industry disputes that. But, its representatives also say they are open to further studies to clarify what, if anything, is happening.” This may sound all well and good, but this is a very common stalling tactic which allows industry to keep doing what they are doing for years on end, until the evidence is so overwhelming, they need to cease the detrimental action. At that time, it is too late for many, in this case the bees. But, we also need to remember, that bees cross-pollinate many things. If the bee population dies off, it is not just the loss of honey we are talking about. The Department of Agriculture says “a quarter of the US diet, including apples, cherries, watermelons, and onions, depends on pollination by honeybees.”

Vines notes that “many beekeepers suspect the biggest culprit is the growing soup of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides used to control pests.” Since, beekeepers usually have their bees close to plants they want to feed the bees, they have a better sense of what is different about the surrounding areas. Plus, it may be multiple things precipitated by global warming, where more droughts are occurring in some areas.

But, let me stop at this point and reference a post I made last year called “The Precautionary Principle.”  This issue of what is causing the demise of bees is similar to all other potentially toxic actions where we as a country take a contrary view on how we must investigate links between potentially detrimental actions which may be causing toxic results. I will repeat some of that post below, but encourage you to read the entire post written on June 8, 2012, as it applies to all man-made threats to the environment and people.

The Precautionary Principle (excerpts from June 8, 2012)

We are at a crossroads in our country and on our planet. We must all become better stewards with the environment and address these issues today and in the future. The business side of energy retrieval and production along side the development of mass-produced products made out of or enhanced by petro-chemicals have placed our planet in a precarious position. For the longest time, these industries have been able to delay addressing issues citing the data is not conclusive or shows causality. Proof or true causality oftentimes takes thirty years or more. In the interim, the data can show a high correlation that an activity is leading to a problem. For those who did not take statistics, correlation means things rise and fall together.

In the US, we place the burden of proof on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and like agencies who govern other areas of commerce. Other countries have a variation of the EPA.  In some countries that burden resides with the developer to show that something is not toxic or harmful to others. Several scientists and concerned citizens got together at Wingspread in Canada to discuss these issues. One of the tenets of that meeting can be summed up by a statement made by Bradford Hill, a medical statistician and inventor of the randomized clinical trial, back in 1965:

“All scientific work is incomplete – whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have or postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.”

In short, we should not wait to do something later if the evidence is telling us something is amiss now. With toxic chemicals, for example, if you wait to fully prove something is bad, the damage is already done. Especially when you are dealing with children who are still developing and breathe in more than adults.

The group at Wingspread developed the following Precautionary Principle

“When an activity raises threat of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.”

The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action,” noted Dr. Sandra Steingraber in her book “Living Downstream – An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment.” In this book and her second book called “Raising Elijah” she notes industry has tended to stiff arm science to continue to conduct practices that are harmful to the environment and people. The democratic process she references is hard to conduct, when so much money is at stake.

The dilemma we face as a planet is there is a lot of money to be had in developing energy and chemical products from fossil fuels. As a result, the industry supports a lot of politicians with a lot of money and lobbying efforts. Yet, we must diminish our reliance on fossil fuels, we must understand the impact of petro-chemicals on our environment and people and we must put the burden of proof that an activity is not harmful on the purveyor of that activity beforehand and throughout. In the meantime, if anyone says we should do away with the EPA, for you, me and our children, tell them that is the dumbest idea you have ever heard and would be poor stewardship of our planet. Please help advocate the Precautionary Principle as well.

A herbicide lives inside of us

A very alarming article called “‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples” by Carey Gillam in The Guardian is must reading for us all. The article can be linked to below, but here are the first few paragraphs that sound the bell.

“More than 80% of urine samples drawn from children and adults in a US health study contained a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer, a finding scientists have called ‘disturbing and concerning’.

The report by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that out of 2,310 urine samples, taken from a group of Americans intended to be representative of the US population, 1,885 were laced with detectable traces of glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in herbicides sold around the world, including the widely used Roundup brand. Almost a third of the participants were children ranging from six to 18.

Academics and private researchers have been noting high levels of the herbicide glyphosate in analyses of human urine samples for years. But the CDC has only recently started examining the extent of human exposure to glyphosate in the US, and its work comes at a time of mounting concerns and controversy over how pesticides in food and water impact human and environmental health.

‘I expect that the realization that most of us have glyphosate in our urine will be disturbing to many people,’ said Lianne Sheppard, professor at the University of Washington’s department of environmental and occupational health sciences. Thanks to the new research, ‘we know that a large fraction of the population has it in urine. Many people will be thinking about whether that includes them.’

Sheppard co-authored a 2019 analysis that found glyphosate exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and also co-authored a 2019 scientific paper that reviewed 19 studies documenting glyphosate in human urine.

If you are a homeowner in the US and abroad, you have likely used a weedkiller, even Roundup, on those pesky weeds. We have. So, that would likely mean we are candidates to be in the 80% category of the above statistic not the 20% one.

This disturbing statistic reminds me of the movie “Dark Waters” where the factories that made Teflon existed, the workers and their families and citizens that lived close by had high degrees of cancers and other abnormalities. Yet, the other statistic cited by this true story, is the chemicals in Teflon are forever chemicals. And, a substantial percentage of humans likely have these chemicals in their bodies from use of the product.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist, biologist and bladder cancer survivor noted in her books and speeches to Congress and the European Parliament that we do not emphasize enough the environmental causes of cancer. When we do, they make movies out of the hard fight to expose the Dupont’s, Monsanto’s and Pacific Gas and Electric’s of the world for poisoning our environment. She also notes, we need to test more for the impact on kids (as done in this urine sampling). Kids’ lungs and brains are not fully developed until they become adults, they put hand to mouth more after touching things, they mouth breathe more, and they are lower to the ground. As these toxins spread onto things, the kids become infected faster and more frequently than an average adult. It should be noted that for the longest while, outdoor playground equipment was treated with an insecticide that was made of arsenic.

We must insist companies follow the “precautionary principle” meaning if they know of a problem, they need to stop and test it before going on. They cannot cover it up which is an even worse crime. People died because of these chemicals. People died because of the cover-ups.

Per a website called organiconsumers.org the following blurb can be found:

“Monsanto has falsified data on Roundup’s safety, and marketed it to parks departments and consumers as ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘biodegradable,’ to encourage its use it on roadsides, playgrounds, golf courses, schoolyards, lawns and home gardens. A French court ruled those marketing claims amounted to false advertising.”

This finding is supported by this piece from the Sierraclub.org:

“The internal communications made clear that Monsanto—the company that created saccharine and went on to develop DDT and Agent Orange—was not only aware that independent scientific studies had found that its blockbuster weed killer, Roundup, and the primary ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, were probably carcinogenic and harmful to human health, but the company had also tried to bury the findings.”

In another blaring example of this, per “Dark Waters,” Dupont moved pregnant women off the Teflon line as they knew of the danger but did not tell them why. And, they did not tell the public what they knew. And, after the largest data-driven sampling was conducted proving the risk to the public, Dupont reneged on its offer to help people if the study found them at fault. Then Dupont lost every individual lawsuit for millions of dollars until they realized they needed to settle.

So, if you have these chemicals in your body, do some research on what, if anything, you can do about it. For the future, avoid the weedkillers, use masks when handling chemicals and throw out all of your Teflon plated cookware. And, per Steingraber, bladder cancer is a bell weather cancer. If someone you know he gets it, the cause is usually environmental related. If you don’t follow-up, you are risking your and your family’s lives.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jul/09/weedkiller-glyphosate-cdc-study-urine-samples