Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Guest Post: Evslin Responds on Buffer Zones

Last week I wrote a blog post criticizing a commentary written by Dr. Lee Evslin calling for pesticide buffer zones around schools greater than the 100 feet specified in the state's "good neighbor plan." He responded in comments, and I posed additional questions, with the offer that he could respond in a guest blog post.  

I hope his response here will serve as a catalyst for continuing an informed discussion around the topic of buffer zones, which is almost certain to be taken up by the Hawaii Legislature this year. -- Joan

By Dr. Lee Evslin

Joan has continued the dialogue with me by posing several questions and then giving me the opportunity to respond in this guest blog. I have done my best to answer her questions and I also respond below to one of her comments from the original review she did of my column in the Garden Island.

My major point of contention with your writings has been over the question of whether people actually are being exposed to pesticides used by the seed companies, which you seem to accept as a given.”

In the JFF report we stated repeatedly that although we found some medical conditions associated in the medical literature with pesticides at higher rates on the Westside such as ADHD and developmental delay, because of the small numbers and the lack of any exposure data, we could not state what caused these problems. The American Academy of Pediatric Review article, the EPA Manual on Pesticides and more recent studies conducted by California universities (Berkeley, Davis) have found these same health effects associated with pesticide exposures among children living in proximity to agricultural operations. To understand the local health statistics requires more investigation, investigations similar to the ones used in the studies above.

I don’t accept it as a given that pesticides used by the seed companies have a negative health impact specifically on our communities or our children-- but the problem is that there isn’t nearly enough data to determine this.

Which is why the JFF report (and my three follow-up columns) recommended that the state test dust, soil, air, water and human urine to determine if people were being exposed to pesticides or not being exposed.

“I also question why you have focused solely on pesticides used by agriculture (the seed companies), with no mention of pesticides used near homes by golf courses, resorts, landscapers and termite treatment companies, as well as residential pesticide treatment performed by contractors and homeowners themselves. Are you advocating for buffer zones between schools and any pesticide user, or only the seed companies?”

These are good points. After the American Academy of Pediatrics took the pediatricians of America to task for ignoring the subject of pesticides, I routinely  (after 2012) included a talk on the home use of pesticides in my well child visits until I retired. I strongly encourage every family to take precautions in the use of household pesticides.

But, as you know, the JFF was tasked with looking at possible environmental and health risks associated specifically with large-scale agricultural use of pesticides. Only three of my TGI columns actually addressed pesticides and they reflected the fact that I continue to support the recommendations of the JFF and I continue to follow news concerning the RUPs we studied.

I address buffer zones below.

“And do you believe the state legislature, whose members largely lack scientific training, is better qualified than the EPA to establish buffer zones? What criteria should lawmakers be using? If it's not scientifically based, how can these buffer zones be defended against the inevitable "taking" lawsuits?”

My understanding is that the EPA largely leaves buffer zones for schools and other fragile environments up to the purview of the states. The label requires a varying buffer zone that is specific to the pesticide, but it doesn’t take into account the surrounding land use or uses that may require unique applications of pesticide combinations. A ten foot buffer zone may be appropriate for chlorpyrifos if the closest neighbor is a road-- but it is clearly not appropriate if the neighbor is a school with an open bank of windows.

California has given us a model for how a legislative body can enact science-based buffer zones. There is more on that in the next answer.

“If Evslin had taken even 15 minutes to research this issue, he would have found that California's proposal followed an appeals court ruling. The judges found that the EPA acted correctly in refusing to institute uniform buffer zones for all pesticides that are registered for application by ground sprayers, broadcast, or aerial application, and that may cause certain human health effects.”

As you mention, the buffer zone policy that I am suggesting Hawaii examine came from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) after the ruling mentioned by you. The newly proposed DPR buffer zones addressed the concerns of the EPA and of the court. They are not uniform. They propose varying the buffers according to risk by sprayer type, products used, and what the nearby land use is (i.e. a school).

The DPR proposal has 17 pages describing the science and reasoning behind their recommendations. 

I am also not recommending a uniform buffer zone. I am not even recommending that we follow the DPR policy exactly. I am simply recommending that we learn from the work and debate occurring in California to adopt a comprehensive statewide buffer zone policy. 

I think the following paragraph from the DPR proposal is important. One, because it highlights the potential danger to children presented by chronic low exposure to pesticides. And two, because it highlights the importance of taking surrounding land use (like schools and other sensitive sites) into account when setting up a buffer zone policy.

Nevertheless, concerns about the risks associated with pesticide use at or near schools and child day care facilities have persisted through the years due to children’s potentially increased sensitivity and exposure. The dose that may cause adverse effects in children may also be lower than adults. For example, based on current scientific findings some pesticides may cause effects to a child’s developing nervous system. Also, children may have higher exposure than adults due to their higher breathing rate relative to their body weight. While DPR accounts for these factors in its evaluation of potential toxic effects and exposure, there may be disproportionate impacts to children when unintended drift occurs. Moreover, schools and child day care facilities are considered sensitive sites because large numbers of children can be located there for extended periods of time.”

Thank you again for allowing me to answer specific questions. These are complicated issues with evolving science and do not have simple answers. A well-informed dialogue is always a step in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone including Dr. Evslin knows for a fact that Kauai's high drug use (by parents and family members) is not a major factor in children's ADHD and developmental delay symptom's supposedly found on the Westside. It's quite easy to leap to a conclusions that support one's agenda and to ignore any other possible causes.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the both of you

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget about pesticides and all other cleaning and misc chemicals found within the home as this would have continued long term exposure risk as opposed to sporadic spraying from AG entities.

Anonymous said...

What we need is a buffer zones to keep anti-GMO activists away from farms. Like a TRO.

Allan Parachini said...

It's ironic that this dialogue surfaces just two days after four people were killed by pesticides applied incompetently under a house. If there is no national database that captures untoward incidents involving household or non-commercial pesticide use, there should be. If there is, we ought to pay much more attention to it. I continue to think that Kauai needs to look much more closely at community awareness of how to appropriately supply household pesticides. And since the vast majority of farms use pesticides of some sort, why stop any of this with the seed companies? Shouldn't best practice pesticide precautions--whatever they turn out to be--be instituted on EVERY farm on Kauai?

Anonymous said...

Thank you to you both for your civility and dialog. Maybe we can start to talk to one another rather than at one another. But unless the dialog is not only about agricultural pesticide exposure, the children will be just as exposed elsewhere. What pesticides are used on the school grounds? What pesticides are used inside the cafeteria, the classrooms? you live near the golf course, no matter how much reduction in agriculture pesticide use, you are being exposed to pesticides, so how bout we stop limiting this discussion and stop the finger pointing.

Eric Toulon said...

You both make excellent points, just like anonymous said at 9:30 about civility and dialog, it's amazing what can be accomplished when the fanatics are taken out of the equation and people use intellect.

Anonymous said...

ADHD is one of the most common childhood brain-based conditions. Researchers still don’t know the exact cause, but they do know that genes, differences in brain development and some outside factors like prenatal exposure to smoking and lead might play a role.

There is no one cause of developmental delays. Certain genetic conditions (such as Down syndrome or a cleft palate) cause delays. Other risk factors can also contribute:
• Complications at birth: Being born too early (prematurely) or with low birth weight or not getting enough oxygen at birth.
• Environmental issues: Lead poisoning, being exposed to alcohol or drugs before birth, poor nutrition and poverty.
• Other medical conditions: Chronic ear infections, for example, which can cause delays in speech and language development.

Written by Amanda Morin, aA parent advocate and former teacher, Amanda Morin is the proud mom of kids with learning and attention issues and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H.

Anonymous said...

He repeats the most glaring mistake in the JFF report. They somehow came up with the teort that the population where they looked was too small to make a valid statistical claim. That not true. Rare events, like superstorms and other phenomena are analyzed. Indeed the centers for disease control does this all the time. As does the Hawaii state department of health. As when they caught several cases related to a health food supplement. This basica misuderstanding of even more basic statistics demonstrated that the JFF could not find a fact that suported what some contended. The reults actually say that the small numbers indicate it is statistically not true that pesticides cause any illnesses on Kuai. Not that one could not perform an analysis.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Evslin, how do you propose to isolate pesticide exposure from large scale agricultural operations, from home exposure or exposure from other sources of application, among test subjects? Who do you propose should be involved in any proposed studies you support?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Evslin, it looks like from all the above that your gleeful activist agenda to blame ag pesticides for the Westside's ailments is debunked.

Anonymous said...

I tried to post the story about the children getting killed by RUP exposure but it wasn't posted on yesterday's blog post.

Anonymous said...

Ag know - it - alls trying educate a doctor on the dangers of pesticides? Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Logical to intuit that babies are more sensitive to chemicals than adults. Don't know if its fact, but plausible. However, trying to associate (assume cause of) abnormalities and illnesses with pesticides use by big ag on the westside, without consideration of socioeconomics, is at best, conjecture. Any epidemiologist would have exposed that, however the JFF (unfortunately) succeeded in thwarting any sort of credible peer review, courtesy of the JFF. What a botched debacle.

Testing soil, water, or even people on the westside is a goose chase, where the government (not any of anti crusaders) is simply throwing money down a rathole, with no intent nor hope of determining causality regarding human heath, if these same sampling metics are not done anywhere else than the "westside."

Not to be derogatory, but the "canaries in the coal mine" are the field workers who are most likely to be exposed to pesticides. I do not know what the medical confidentiality laws are, but If the Feds and State have the jurisdiction over pesticides, then they should test the workers who apply them and work in the immediate environment, for their and their families' sake, safety and wellbeing. This should not be applicable to only the big ag seedcorn/gmo associated workers, but to all pesticide applicators, particularly pest control applicators who apply pesticides in homes, schools, resorts, public areas.

The JFF was a big witch hunt. Dr. Evslin just confirmed that.

Anonymous said...

2;13 that was exactly what my question was to be. and i guess the answer would be as you said "who will do the study" any result will be contoversial same as the JFFC findings (non-findings) since i think no definative smoking pesticide gun would be found pointing exclusively to the seed companies.....i just hope that the ones who want to persue more studies pay for it themselves....if they can prove the seed companies liable, they can get their money back...if not , loser pays both sides claim and defense costs...maybe thats why EJ has yet to bust a move and instead just pick at their pet project..attack the deep pockets for more $$$...a lot of lawyer jokes are so true

Joan Conrow said...

Sorry, @6:56, but I didn't get the comment. You can try posting again.

And @7:30, you'd be surprised how much some ag people know about pesticides, since they work with them and take a rigorous test in order to be licensed to use them.

Anonymous said...

6:56 The RUP that killed the children in Texas was a black market pesticide meant to kill larger pests, namely mice and weasels. Not only was this an illegal pesticide that is no longer used, but it was applied by a homeowner that wasn't trained how to apply this poison. While your point is apparently that pesticides are harmful to humans, I think the more obvious point is that non-professionals should not be messing with pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals. Let those that know the proper mixtures, quantities, and application processes handle these products, not the weekend warrior. Remember sodium chloride (salt) is a dangerous chemical in large quantities, yet humans need NaCl to survive. Leave the regulation and monitoring of RUPs to professionals.

Anonymous said...

4 children killed after pesticide released toxic gas underneath their home, police say
By Amy B Wang Post NationJanuary 3 at 1:58 PM

Poisonous gas kills four in Texas home Play Video0:48

Four minors were poisoned and killed by chemical gas after one resident tried to fumigate a home with pesticide in Amarillo, Tx. (Reuters)
By the time first responders arrived at the home in Amarillo, Tex., early Monday, one child inside was already unconscious.

Other members of the household were sick and disoriented. Firefighters used CPR to attempt to revive the unresponsive child but could not.

Six people were rushed to a hospital, where three more children from the home would later die, officials said.

The culprit was not what they thought at first.

“They initially thought this was going to be carbon monoxide,” Amarillo police spokesman Jeb Hilton told The Washington Post in a phone call Tuesday morning. But interviews with family members — as well as a distinct odor in the home — ruled out the colorless and odorless gas, he said.

[Video: How to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning]

Instead, investigators concluded that someone had used a professional-grade pesticide containing aluminum phosphide under the home.

At some point, a family member tried washing the chemical from underneath the house with water, according to an Amarillo Fire Department statement.

The combination of water and aluminum phosphide creates phosphine, a gas that can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs and cardiac arrest if inhaled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said they believe it was exposure to this gas that sickened the family and ultimately killed four of its children.

“It’s a very lethal chemical,” Amarillo fire spokesman Larry Davis told the Amarillo Globe-News. “It causes pulmonary edema and basically the lungs fill up with fluid. We don’t know that that’s the cause of death so far, but that’s one of the more severe symptoms. It took us a long time to identify the chemicals.”

Unknown said...

@ 7:59 I actually use aluminum phosphide to kill prairie dogs. The product comes in little pellets and reacts with the moisture in the soil to release a gas that puts the varmints to sleep (permanently). Now, if you spray water on those pellets, they dissolve instantly and several days worth of gas is released instantly and the result is usually fatal.

They should've read the label and evacuated the area. Also, the label warns about keeping the product away from water. There are reasons why you need a pesticide applicators license to buy, and use, these products. Most local chemical dealers won't even handle aluminum phosphide.

Our cyanide traps (to kill coyotes) have 2 signs by each trap and posters on every gate post to warn humans about the impending dangers of trespassing on our property.

Instances like this are so sad. We need to do a better job about educating the general public about the dangers of pesticides. It's illegal to use the product to fumigate houses. Also, you need to post warning signs when using aluminum phosphide.


Joan Conrow said...

Bradley, why do you kill prairie dogs and coyotes?

Anonymous said...

Could this be the end of Bradley on this site? I sure hope so

Unknown said...

WE lost 2 caves out of a pen of 40 head in 24 hours ($2,000). This happened 150 feet and 1/4 mile from our house. They (the coyotes) also killed all of our farm cats, which we use to control mice and rats. We had the federal trapper come out and he said he had never seen so much coyote shit and so many coyote tracks on a road in all his 40 years working for the government. Evan killed 3 in 2 hours with a hand gun while running musk thistles (they are that hungry or tame). They are so tame that they follow the windrower looking for dead voles, pheasants, rabbits, and moles killed by the mowing machine (in broad daylight). Packs would follow the combine during harvest trying to kill pheasants in broad daylight.

As for the prairie dogs, they were building mounds in the hay fields. They would kill huge circles of crop and the mounds of dirt would plug up the mowing machine. That bare ground would cause wind and water erosion issues (weed issues too). Also, machinery gets tore up when the tires fall in their deep holes at 8-10 mph. They were also decimating several acres of crop (corn & soybeans) ground. Merv Casper lost 30 acres (1/4 of the field, or $250,000) of high dollar seed corn and Monsanto cancelled his seed contract. That was a bad deal because the prairie dogs were coming off of the government game reserve and he wasn't allow to kill them as long as their burrows were on government ground.

I'm ok with coyotes in manageable numbers, but their comes a point when their numbers need to be put back in check. Prairie dogs have been know to put ranchers (who didn't control them) out of business. Nature's predator numbers go in cycles, sometimes we speed up the cycle. Our local coyote population is like feral cats in Hawaii. We hit that point where human intervention was needed. Same is starting to hold true with prairie dogs. When they venture miles out of their natural habitat, their numbers are too large.

I have a picture of coyotes eating water mellows out of my dad's garden right behind the house.

Anonymous said...

If you ever fly over the mainland in irrigated crop areas, you will see the terrible damage from prairie dogs. You can see the dead spots from prairie dog forage and they mess with the irrigation water seepage rates. It was my job when a kid to go shoot prairie dogs on the farm.

Unknown said...

Google terrain on Google Earth the wild life management areas around Keene and Hildreth NE.... The government introduced the Prairie dogs, but monoculture ecosystems are out of balance with nature.... Without natural predators, they have overrun the system. The same applies North of Harlan County reservoir.

To correct my previous comment, coyotes have been eating water melons in the back yard..... I really need to proofread the auto correct sometimes.....

Marjorie Ziegler said...

So refreshing this blog. Almost every commenter
"got the memo." Sad about the coyotes and prairie dogs though.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear Marjorie,
I know you typically affiliate with groups that do send out memos to ensure that everyone thinks in lockstep, but the comments on this blog occur organically. Congratulations for venturing out of your echo chamber!

Anonymous said...

January 4, 2017 at 12:14 PM On the contrary, Bradley Choquette is a member of the small 1-2% of this country who feeds the rest of us, and he clearly knows his business. I do not know how you earn a living, but lucky you if you ave mastered your profession to the extent he has mastered his. I doubt you have. He is welcome here and he knows what he is talking about. Do us a favor and read and learn a bit before exercising your fingers.

Anonymous said...

Bradley, man is out of balance thanks to people like you who put themselves and there finances above all other life. When man killed all the apex predators in the US they created your prairie dog problem.

Joan Conrow said...

@8:40 I don't think anyone who is running a farm like Bradley is putting "there [sic] finances above all other life." In case you hadn't noticed, family farms aren't exactly the way to pull down large sums of cash.

It's obvious the prairie dog "problem" is greater than an apex predator issue, since he's also got an abundance of coyotes.

And please don't even try to pretend that you and every human on the face of the earth isn't part of the "man out of balance" equation.

Anonymous said...

You got it Joan, at 9:38 AM, that's what I wanted to say! "And please don't even try to pretend that you and every human on the face of the earth isn't part of the "man out of balance" equation"

Every single one of us, with our car/train/plane use, computers, homes, electricity, toilets, food consumption, clothes/jewelry-wearing, shampoo, cosmetic-wearing, medicine-popping, Amazon-shopping, etc. has an impact on everything on earth. Isn't it amazing how we pretend we don't, only others do?

And we're all polluters, too.

Anonymous said...

You're comparing apples to oranges.

Unknown said...

I would guarantee cities have displaced more coyotes, wolves, beavers and/or prairie dogs than my farms ever have....