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Pesticide Expert says: Stop spraying humans

Pesticide Expert says: Stop spraying humans with Foray 48B

Dr Meriel Watts, a member of the Pesticides Board and the Agrichemical Trespass Ministerial Advisory Committee says she supports constitutional lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Palmer's opinion that: “Aerial Spraying of the Auckland community must cease.”

Dr Watts today released a detailed critical analysis of the Health Risk Assessment on which MAF and Cabinet rely. Her analysis shows that the Health Risk Assessment is flawed in many ways, including failure to account for inhalation of Benzoic acid, one of the chemical components of the spray.

Says Dr Watts: “The government is clearly mistaken in believing it has the evidence on which to base its assurances that aerial spraying of human populations with Foray 48B is safe and that the health effects suffered by Aucklanders are minor. On the contrary there is evidence both scientific and experiential to support the community’s concerns about adverse health effects caused by the spray.”

Dr Watts argues in her report released today that:

The Health Risk Assessment (HRA) for the Foray 48B aerial spraying programme identifies most of the symptoms reported by the West Auckland community during or after the aerial spraying. These include eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, nausea, headache, aggravation of asthma, and anxiety and anger.

The HRA for the current spray programme concludes that the risks from these effects are “small”. This has subsequently been interpreted as the spray having a “proven safety record”, a “clean bill of health” and to be “harmless to humans and animals” - which is not what the HRA said.

The HRA is flawed for reasons which include:

Failure to take heed of the symptoms previously reported by exposed communities because no link could be proven (e.g. Operation Evergreen in East Auckland, 1996-7);

An assessment of exposure that differs significantly from the actual exposure: the assessment assumed that people would be exposed only once per spray event, when in fact some people have been directly exposed up to six times per day, together with ongoing exposure to residual spray in homes and work places;

Failure to describe the risk of inhalation of the chemical components of the spray, relying only on data for dermal contact and ingestion, when it is known that some chemical are many times more toxic by inhalation;

In particular, failure to identify the inhalation risk for one of the ingredients, benzoic acid: whilst benzoic acid is regarded as being of low toxicity when ingested, except to those people allergic to it, there is no known safe level of exposure by inhalation;

The failure to identify the chemical ingredients in the formulated product so that the assessment can itself be assessed;

Failure to determine the effects of the mixture of chemicals that constitutes Foray 48B, allowing for synergistic or additive effects, as opposed to assessing each chemical as if it were the only chemical to which people would be exposed, when it is known that mixtures can be significantly more toxic;

Failure to determine the effects of ongoing low dose exposure, as opposed to one-off exposure to toxic levels, when it is known that this can result in chemical sensitivity.

Sue Berman, spokesperson for the Stop Aerial Spraying Network, which commissioned Dr Watts' report at the request of Sir Geoffrey Palmer to assist him in providing them with a legal opinion about MAF’s aerial spraying programme for painted apple moth, said today that Dr Watts’ 26 page report "makes alarming reading for those of us who are being exposed to the poison."

"Dr Watts has told us that foetuses and children are more susceptible to chemical poisoning from pesticides than adults. West Auckland has a very young population,” said Ms Berman.

Stop Aerial Spraying has sent Dr Watts’ report to all MP’s of electorates in the spray zone, seven of whom are Labour MP’s.

“The time has come for them to tell their government that the people have had enough. If spraying continues through April, when Cabinet must review the programme, some areas will experience as many as 12 more sprays. Having read Dr Watts report no democratic government should allow so much as one more spray of a human population with this secret substance without the community’s express consent,” said Ms Berman.

Sue Berman said that the Stop Aerial Spraying Network was calling for: Immediate public disclosure of the ingredients of the spray All aerial spraying, both blanket and hot-spot spraying, to cease while a full health impact assessment of the effects of aerial spraying with Foray 48B is carried out. Safer approaches in future to pest eradication in the event of biosecurity breaches.


Background – Dr Meriel Watts

Dr Meriel Watts is an independent policy analyst with many years’ experience in the area of pesticides, particularly in the effects of human health and the environment. She has a PhD in the area of public policy from the University of Auckland and completed her PhD thesis in 2000 on the topic of “Ethical Pesticide Policy.”

A full copy of Dr Meriel Watts’ report can be downloaded from 7.30am, Tuesday, February 4, 2003 from http://www.geocities.com/no_spray/

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