Tuesday, September 28, 2010


With regards to recent articles in Rapport of  18/09/2010 (Maak plaagdoder skoolkinders siek?)  & 25/09/2010 (Dokter se hy sukkel self in gifstof-omgewing)

Exposure to agricultural chemicals   (pesticides / fungicides / herbicides ) is a well  documented problem in South Africa.

The Chameleons Montessori  issue  first appeared in Die Burger on Friday 26 March 2010,  in an article titled  " Middels plaas talle leerders glo in gevaar "
On  27 March, an article appeared on page 11 of Die Burger     " Spuitstowwe waarskynlik onskadelik, sê kenner " (Gerhard Verdoorn)

There were further articles on the subject that appeared in Rapport on 18/09/2010 & 25/09/2010   ( http://www.rapport.co.za/KaapRapport/Nuus/Twis-oor-gif-by-spogskool-20100918   &    http://www.rapport.co.za/KaapRapport/Nuus/Dokter-se-hy-sukkel-self-in-gifstof-omgewing-20100925  )

Gerhard Verdoorn 's reply, regarding the problem of pesticide spray drift from Nitida wine farm is untrue and misleading. Verdoorn is, I understand, employed by, and or spokesperson / consultant  for, AVCASA & ACDASA and as such represents the agricultural chemical industry in South Africa and so could very well have vested interests. I  leave it up to the readers as to why Verdoorn would make the claims that he does.

If we look at Verdoorn's comments in Rapport on 25/09/2010, he as expected, trashes my opinion saying that as I am not a scientist, my opinions are not based on scientific research . He did the same to Dr Johan Minnaar (a medical doctor) in an article dated 12 July 2008  (Boys grew breasts after crop spraying) that appeared in most of the national newspapers   (http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/boys-grew-breasts-after-crop-spraying-1.408045) in which Dr Minnaar  exposed the well documented problem even further. Verdoorn, however, said Minnaar's allegations were not based on scientific evidence. "I'm sick of everyone jumping on the pesticide bandwagon We're not saying there isn't a slight problem in the area but to attribute every symptom to pesticide poisoning is rubbish … If that's the case then everyone in town, plus the farmers and farm workers, will show the same symptoms." 

So he sees exposure to pesticides like chlorpyrifos as being "slight" and not really worth worrying about ?  We are not talking about low dose exposure here - we are talking  about agricultural strength class 1b pesticides being sprayed in large quantities, with resultant clouds of spray drift being blown into residential areas.

Just why is it that Verdoorn 'trashes' everyone else's opinion besides his own?   I again leave it up to the readers as to why Verdoorn would make the claims that he does.

On the popular TV programme   "50/50"  of  31 May 2010   (http://www.5050.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=446:killer-on-the-loose-street-poisons&catid=49:episode-31-may-2010&Itemid=185)  

Verdoorn had the following to say with regards to a question that was asked :

Question  :  How is this poison ending up on our streets?
Dr. Gerhard Verdoorn:I can give you one answer. Because controls in our country is nullified because of a poor governance system

At a recent SAPCA (South African Pest Control Association)  Verdoorn gave a presentation  on those chemicals which are used in the Pest Control Industry that should, in his opinion, be banned by Government due to their potentially harmful effects on humans, animals and or the environment.  One of the chemicals mentioned was Chlorpyrifos an insecticide which has been used for decades, but which has recently been banned by the South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery.  The Minister banned the chemical for home and garden use, but it is, however, still allowed to be used for pest control in the agricultural sector.  ( http://www.rentokil.com/blog/industry-adapts-to-losing-chlorpyrifos-as-a-pesticide/ )

Earlier this year Verdoorn, on behalf of AVCASA & ACDASA ( the Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of South Africa   & Agricultural Chemical Distribution Association of South Africa) )  had much to say about the banning of Chlorpyrifos  (http://www.pcsib.org.za/articles/Guillotene-on-chlorpyrifos.pdf)

For the information of the readers, the efforts made by Jurgen Schirmacher, Dr Johan Minnaar, The TATIB Foundation, its members, and several other NGO's, were instrumental in the banning of Chlorpyrifos for residential use within South  Africa. We would furthermore like to see the product banned in Agriculture as it is obvious that given the current methods of application (centrifugal mist blowers and or aerial spraying) the operators are unable to control spray drift into residential areas, and the authorities are unwilling to enforce the law, despite several High Court Orders compelling them to do so.

The spray drift issue and resulting ill health effects hit national television in May 2007 and was aired on Carte Blanche (http://beta.mnet.co.za/carteblanche/Article.aspx?Id=3319)

On 27 November 2009 SAPCA released the following via petwise.co.za   ( http://www.petwise.co.za/live/content.php?Item_ID=1317 ) in which Verdoorn had the following to say:

Dr Gerhard Verdoorn of the Griffon Poisoning Centre believes that people don’t realise that technically, anything can be dangerous to human and animal health – with regards to chemicals. Consumers should be aware of the procedures when using chemicals as it is often not the chemicals that harms humans or the environment but the incorrect use thereof. Verdoorn concludes by saying that it is important for the industry and government to recognise the need for institutions such as SAPCA and that pest control operators should be members of an industry association that can implement self-administration and self-regulation of the pest control industry

Verdoorn just seems to contradict himself so many times. So he now admits that chemicals can harm humans & the environment ?

It is interesting to note that Verdoorn believes that DDT is used in tiny quantities and there is simply no prospect of any environmental damage arising from its use (http://www.malaria.org/bateftddt.html)    Another contradiction by Verdoorn ?

According to  an article ( Cape Times 16 November 2007 )  written by Professor Leslie London , Occupational & Environmental  Health Research Unit University of Cape Town, spray drift has been well documented in many areas of the Western Cape and also overseas and that the scientific evidence on the health consequences of harmful pesticide exposures is extensive. Professor London goes on to say that  " Previous published studies in our unit have shown that only 10% of acute poisoning by pesticides is reported in the current notification system and chronic effects of pesticide exposure go completely undetected."

There are numerous class 1b Highly Hazardous Pesticides, that are registered for use in South Africa, and these are pesticides that are used in vineyards and orchards throughout the Western Cape, and all over South Africa.   Dichlorvos, Dicarzol, Endosulfan, Chlorpyrifos  & Azinphos are some examples  (3 of these are highly toxic organophosphates). When an agricultural chemical is given a class 1b rating, this means that it is a highly hazardous and toxic compound, and that it will cause chronic effects in humans. One does not need to be a scientist nor have to have done extensive scientific research to arrive at this conclusion. The relevant research has already been done by international organisations, like the WHO for example, hence the class 1b rating.

U.N. chemical experts have recommended that the pesticides endosulfan and azinphos-methyl be included in the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. A review committee for the Rotterdam Convention found the chemicals posed an "unacceptable risk" to human health, the U.N. Environment Program said. The panel said endosulfan could cause reproductive and developmental damage. The insecticide is used primarily for cotton, coffee and tea but is also used widely in South Africa , on vineyards for example. Azinphos-methyl is derived from chemical nerve agents used as weapons during World War II. Its primary use is as an insecticide on several kinds of fruit trees.

Verdoorn is aware of the abovementioned review committee's findings yet has chosen to not mention this within his reply. Again we leave it up to the readers as to why Verdoorn would choose to remain silent on this issue. Now who do we believe  - Verdoorn or the Rotterdam Convention ?

A  Somerset West farm, on which another Montessori School is situated, has admitted to using organophosphates in the area, with tests conducted by Universities of Stellenbosch & Koblenz, Landau Germany,  on the Lourens River (which runs through the farm),  confirming the presence of 3 highly toxic organophosphate poisons  (chlorpyrifos, azinphos & prothiofos )

Whilst we agree with Verdoorn's comments, that spraying within the framework of Act 36 of 1947 should pose no threat to the public, the reality of the situation is that spray drift is extremely difficult to control given the nature of the application process.  Act 36 of 1947 specifically states that the Product Label needs to be obeyed at all times. This clearly states that spray drift into areas not under treatement (in this case a school) is prohibited. There is little or no enforcement by the Dept of Agriculture insofar exposure to spray drift is concerned, which is why there are so many cases of pesticide poisonings every year. The actual application is also left to poorly paid farm workers, who for the majority have not been properly trained in the application of these highly toxic pesticides. The farmer is often totally unaware (or at least uses this as an excuse) that his workers spray in such a way that clouds of spray drift get blown into residential areas that border on the farm.

Verdoorn, in his articles in Die Burger & Landbouchemie of 26 March actually confirms that there is a problem with enforcement of Act 36 of 1947 and that furthermore there is a shortage of experts in South Africa  inosofar the testing of agricultural chemicals is concerned. He goes on to state that "Geen voedselprodukte of plaagdoders word meer ontleed nie" . In other words there really is not much scientific research in South Africa when it comes to pesticides and their symptoms of exposure.  We thus need to rely on the information contained in the Product Labels & Material Safety Data Sheets that are supplied with the product itself.   We thus have to to rely on the information to be found on many international sites such as WHO, INTOX, PANNA, INCHEM as there is very little information to be found locally.  

The Deptartment of Health has also admitted that it does not have the resources nor the funds, to research the side effects of all agricultural chemicals that are registered for use within South Africa, and that it relies purely on the information contained in the statutory Product Label & Material Safety Data Sheets.  Its officials have also stated that issues of exposure to pesticides, as a result of spray drift, need to be reported to the National Department of Agriculture as they, The Dept of Health, are not mandated to investigate such matters.   Where they have received complaints from members of the public who have fallen ill as a result of spray drift, they have referred the matter to the Dept of Toxicology at Tygerberg Hospital.   They are also not mandated to enforce the terms and conditions of Act 36 of 1947 (ie no spray drift allowed to leave the area being treated and to blow into a residential area) and so really cannot state that they have found everything to be in order insofar the Chameleons Montessori / Nitida issue. Had the National Dept of Agriculture been called in to investigate, and had they wound evidence of spray drift, I am certain that criminal charges would have been brought against the farmer and school.

With regards to the article in Rapport of  25/09/2010   (http://www.rapport.co.za/KaapRapport/Nuus/Dokter-se-hy-sukkel-self-in-gifstof-omgewing-20100925)  there is a statement along the lines that  " Verskeie provinsiale gesondheidsamptenare by wie KaapRapport kers opgesteek het, stem saam met Verdoorn "  with regards to Verdoorn's belief that neither Dr Minnar nor myself have based our opinions on scientific research.  I strongly urge these so called 'provincial health officials' to come forward and enter into further discussion on this issue as quite clearly they are the ones who have no idea as to the very real, and well documented health issues, associated with exposure to agricultural chemicals (pesticides / fungicides / herbicides )  Looking at the state of our Municipal & Provincial systems, its no wonder that no one knows what is going on.

There has recently been a victory for a family who suffered after being sprayed with chlorpyrifos. They have been awarded  $23.5 million in damages.   
(http://newsandtribune.com/local/x1561144440/New-Albany-family-awarded-23-5-million  )

My family and I used to live next to a vineyard, in a small Boland town named Riebeek-Kasteel.  When we became seriously ill,  following exposure to large clouds of pesticide, we asked the farmer what he was spraying. He told us that nothing that he sprayed was poisonous to man and or the environment.  One of the products that he admitted to spraying (and we have this in writing ) was Dursban - an organophosphate containing Chlorpyrifos. We were sprayed with this product on a regular basis. 

Now in light of the fact that Chlorpyrifos has been banned for residential use ( as international studies have found it to be highly toxic and dangerous to humans, especially children) how could the farmer be so stupid as to tell us that it was harmless?  The same farmer uses Dicarzol  & Thioflo (Endosulfan) both of which are class 1b Highly Hazardous compounds. The farmer, on his webpage, under "farming philosophy ", boasts  that  he uses the bio-dynamic equilibrium method of farming incorporating Globalgap and Natures Choice approved soft chemicals which adhere strictly to world wide export regulations.   Surely the use of Dichlorvos, Dicarzol, Thioflo, Dursban, Folpan (to name but a few highly toxic agricultural chemicals) would not be the correct products to use on vineyards farmed in a so called  "organic & bio-dynamic equilibrium" manner ?  Perhaps the farmer really believes what he says and is prepared to put this in writing, just as he did when he appeared  on Carte Blanche and told South Africa that "nothing he sprayed was harmful to man and the environment".  Like with Verdoorn,  I leave it up to the readers as to why Vlok would make the claims that he does.

Chameleons Montessori is situated on a working wine farm and is, as such, surrounded by vineyards. The vineyards are sprayed by means of tractor driven centrifugal mist blowers, which discharge large volumes of agricultural chemicals (pesticides/fungicides/herbicides) creating clouds of mist / spray drift , which get blown onto the school's premises. The headmistress, has admitted that during the spraying of the adjacent vineyards, the children and brought indoors and all doors & windows firmly shut. Whilst this may help insofar their exposure during the spraying process, as soon as the children are allowed outdoors, they will be exposed to the volatile vapours and residues that have settled for example, on the lawns and other areas where they play.  Nitida wine farm has admitted, in writing, to spraying the following agricultural chemicals :-

Folpan, Sovrin Flo, Topaz, Mamba, Spiral, Thiovit, Korog, Legend, Hygrobuff, Diathane/Dithane, Rootmaster, Prosper, Phopshite, Acarol, Goemar, Switch, Nufilm.

It would be relatively easily, for anyone with internet access, to locate the statutory Product Labels & Material Safety Data Sheets of the abovementioned products, so as to see for themselves the obvious warnings with regards to exposure to these products.

Folpan, according to its manufacturers, induced duodenal tumours (cancer) when exposed to laboratory mice. On one Folpan product label, its manufacturer warns that this product must not be sprayed nears schools, creches, parks or public places and that this product is not suitable for use in the domestic garden. According to tests conducted by The Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) Folpet, the active ingredient of Folpan, is a known carcinogen.

Mancozeb, the active ingredient of Diathane/Dithane and Misaxinal , contains Manganese which is a neurotoxin. According to PANNA, Mancozeb and its break down product Ethylene Thiourea, are carcinogenic, reproductive & developmental toxins, and endocrine disruptors. These are certainly not the kind of chemicals that should come into contact with children.

Tatib has, in its posession, doctors reports/letters  & photographic evidence, following the exposure of 2 adults and 1 child to Prosper (one of the products used on Nitida) that resulted in acute dermal burns (contact dermatitus) , burnt eyes and respiratory tract inflamation. Again these are certainly not the kind of chemicals that should come into contact with children nor adults for that matter.

The problem with Chameleons Montessori is that it is situated on a working wine farm, where agricultural chemicals are sprayed by means of mistblowers. There will thus be exposure to the spray drift, volatile vapours and toxic residues. Either the school needs to be relocated, or the farm needs to look at alternative methods of spraying  and the use of organic & environmentally  / human friendly products.

Tatib also has in its possession, details of what has been sprayed on the Oak trees of Stellenbosch & Paarl. We also have the Product Labels & Material Safety Data Sheets and then also the WHO & other studies done on the active ingredients and break down products.  There are some very serious and frightening warnings on the MSDS's etc as to the side effects of exposure to the products used. Again in this regard we dont have to be 'scientists like Verdoorn'  to have access to the international studies done on these active ingredients, nor to arrive at the conclusion that these products will harm ones health if one is exposed to them.

There is too much evidence pointing to the fact that exposure to agricultural chemicals can be dangerous to humans.  There will always be those who try to cover up their unlawful activities by trashing the integrity of others.


No comments:

Post a Comment