US exports banned pesticidesAt least 26 million kilograms of "dirty dozen" pesticides were exported from the US between 1991 and 1994, according to information released by the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE). The Pesticide Action Network International "dirty dozen" list targets pesticides which are among the world's most hazardous agrochemicals, linked to widespread human poisoning, severe chronic health effects and/or environmental contamination. Specific targeted pesticides listed as exported from the US between 1991 and 1994 are aldicarb, chlordane, DDT, EDB, heptachlor, lindane, paraquat, parathion and pentachlorophenol. Paraquat shipments accounted for the greatest percentage of total targeted exports, amounting to a rate of 13 tonnes per day over the four-year period. The FASE project to trace US exports of banned and other hazardous pesticides began in 1990. Attempts to obtain listings of pesticide exports from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were denied on the basis that such data is "confidential business information". As a result, the FASE project team relies upon a time-consuming process of sorting, decoding and analysing US Customs records which, in spite of their many shortcomings, are the most complete source of publicly available information on exports. FASE found that Customs records for the year 1990 were often cryptic or vague, so it was possible to identify product names of only about 25% of the pesticides exported. Among those compounds that could be identified, however, enough banned, never registered and restricted-use pesticides were found to amount to an average export rate of at least 64 tonnes each day. The records for 1991 exports indicate that the rate of unregistered and restricted pesticide exports had increased to 73 tonnes per day. Again, nearly 75% of the compounds exported were not identified specifically in Customs records. Among the most unexpected findings was the export of over 86 tonnes of DDT, a compound banned for use in the US more than 20 years ago. In the most recent analysis, nearly 30 shipments of "dirty dozen" pesticides to countries in which they are banned were noted, involving nearly 5 million kg of these hazardous products. The annual quantity of all "dirty dozen" pesticides shipped to countries which had banned them rose over the four-year period. Chlordane and heptachlor accounted for nearly 4 million kg of that total. A 1987 EPA review of chlordane noted that the agency was not able to establish a level at which chlordane exposure did not cause tumour formation because "these effects often occurred at the lowest dose levels tested". Chlordane is bio-accumulative and persistent, and is highly toxic to aquatic organisms and birds. In addition, it is reported to have reproductive and endocrine-disrupting effects. The Republic of Korea, which banned chlordane in 1979, received a total of more than 91 tonnes of the chemical in 1991 and 1992. Singapore banned chlordane more than a decade ago, in 1984. However, shipments of this compound are still sent to Singapore from the US — over 227 tonnes were sent in 1991 alone. The FASE analysis revealed that the Netherlands, which banned chlordane in 1981, was named as the final destination of chlordane shipments totalling nearly 600,000 kg. As was the case with Singapore, the quantities increased over the four years. Shipping records also indicate that large quantities of heptachlor continue to be shipped to the Netherlands — 1 million kg in 1993 alone. Heptachlor has been banned in the Netherlands since 1981. US Customs Service requires only that a shipment's first destination be listed on export forms. As a result, subsequent reshipments to other countries are not monitored. Firms receiving chlordane and heptachlor in Singapore and the Netherlands serve as formulators, adding the "inert" or carrying ingredients, whose weight would add too much to the cost of the initial shipment to be economical. In the case of both Singapore and the Netherlands, although the national government has banned the domestic use of chlordane and heptachlor, imports of these compounds are allowed for formulation and subsequent re-export. FASE is currently completing its analysis of export records for the years 1991-1994. A report will be issued later this year which will provide a detailed examination of exports during this period.
Abridged from Global Pesticide Campaigner, September 1995. Contact: Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, 4801 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 215, Los Angeles, CA 90010, USA.