Farm Chemicals, Cancer and Non-Disclosure

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Feminist Law Prof Sandi Zellmer (Nebraska) has an important post over at the Center for Progressive Reform’s blog about the impact of pesticides and herbicides on the incidences of cancer in farm communities.  Here is an excerpt:

My family has gotten a lot smaller lately. My mother died in 2004, my father in 2007, and my uncle in 2008. * * *

Atrazine is one of the most commonly detected herbicides in water. A government  map of atrazine in the groundwater of agricultural states shows an alarming blotch of bright red throughout western Iowa, where I grew up, and eastern Nebraska, where I currently live. The red depicts the highest levels of atrazine detection in shallow groundwater (over 75%). An EPA monitoring program  found that 94 of 136 public water systems tested between 2003 and 2005 had atrazine concentrations above the federal drinking water standard of three parts per billion.

Not to worry, says Syngenta, a major producer of atrazine. * * *

In the end, it might not be atrazine that caused the death of my parents and my uncle. And it might not be atrazine causing breast cancers in midwestern women. Maybe it was DDT. At least one  study has found that women with breast cancer are five times as likely to have DDT residues in their blood. Otherstudies have linked pesticides and pancreatic cancer.

No wonder farming is considered one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Who knew that farmers’ families, their neighbors, and their neighbors’ neighbors were at risk, too. If we miss this opportunity to delve deeply into the potential link between a widely used chemical and the health of our food producers and their communities, anger:not acceptance:is the appropriate response.

To read Professor Zellmer’s full post, Atrazine,  Syngenta’s Confidential Data, EPA’s Review, and the Five Stages of Grief, see here.

-Bridget Crawford

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