Endosulfan manufacturer promotes its toxic products, while the chemical shipment on a capsized ferry prevents rescue attempts

The dangerous pesticide endosulfan was in the news this week, as the presence of 22,000 pounds of it on a capsized ferry in the Philippines has prevented divers from recovering some 800 bodies from the vessel.

Although the presence of the endosulfan is not responsible for the tragic deaths, one has to ask why endosulfan was even on the passenger ferry, since it had previously been banned for use in the Philippines.  Endosulfan is highly toxic, persistent in the environment, and bioaccumulative in human and animal tissues. Some in the Philippines are asking why the ban has been lifted. Senator Pia Cayetano, the Chair of the Philippine Senate’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Committee according to the Manila Times said: "the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) should explain why it had lifted the ban on endosulfan, a highly toxic chemical ... banned in many countries, including the Philippines,” The Senator further noted that, “Its hazardous effects on human and the environment have been thoroughly documented and established by experts.”

Some manufacturers including FMC and Bayer CropScience are finally doing the right thing by cancelling their registration and getting out of the endosulfan business.  A media release from FMC in 2002 announced that although it had sold the chemical for over 40 years, it was selling all EPA registrations and formulations to the Makhteshim Agan Group (MANA), and Israel-based company.

What kind of business ethics must a company have to pick up the registration of a chemical that is so toxic it is being dumped by other companies, and is subject to calls for a global ban?

In this blog I have reported on a petition to the US government for a ban on endosulfan from NRDC and over fifty-five prominent international scientists, medical doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. I have also reported on a ban-endosulfan petition originating with unions and worker protection advocates worldwide. And, I have reported on workers and activists in India being threatened with jail for calling for a ban on endosulfan in their country, where workers are poisoned and even killed from exposure to this very toxic pesticide.

While the campaign to ban the use of endosulfan continues worldwide, countries and their residents have the right to know what dangerous chemical substances are entering their borders. That is why endosulfan should be listed in the Rotterdam Convention at the upcoming decision in October of this year, which would force exporters to notify potential purchasers that endosulfan has been banned in many countries, called Prior Informed Consent.

We need to continue to press for global chemical policies that protect consumers, workers, wildlife and the environment from dangerous and unnecessary products like endosulfan.  Expanding the publics’ right to know about what, where, and how chemicals are being used, as well as which ones are banned in other countries, are a cornerstone of a sound environmental and public health policy. 

Meanwhile, companies that market chemicals that are highly toxic and persist in the environment must be forced to stop their deadly profiteering.

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Federal Toxics, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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