Poisonous “without end chemical substances” present in pesticides utilized in spraying mosquitoes on tens of millions of acres of earth
The amount of some of the chemicals in the pesticide, which has been used in at least 25 other states, has exceeded recent safety limits the state has set for drinking water. Given the amount of pesticide used and its spread over the years, experts say the chemicals are likely leached to groundwater and other water sources.
The latest results come from a series of tests carried out by the State Environment Ministry this fall. The company began investigating Anvil after advocacy tests found similarly elevated levels of the chemicals in the pesticide.
Environmental officials said they are trying to determine if it is safe to keep using the pesticide. Federal regulators have determined that it contains other potential carcinogens as well. Most of the spraying was done in the southeastern part of the state, where electrical and electronic equipment, a rare but fatal mosquito-borne disease, was the most common.
“We take this very seriously,” said Dan Sieger, State Secretary for the Environment. “When we find out the source of the contamination. . . We will make a decision. “
Officials from Clarke, the Illinois company that makes Anvil, said the pesticide did not use PFAS chemicals, but recognized the possibility that they could have been introduced through manufacturing or packaging.
Mark Smith, director of DEP’s office for research and standards, said he had investigated how the chemicals might have been distributed and whether they pose a health risk.
“The reason we take this so seriously and why we are concerned is because these compounds are so persistent in the environment,” he said.
Concern about PFAS, man-made chemicals invented in the 1940s as water repellant and flame retardant, has increased as a growing body of research links long-term exposure to a range of health problems. In response to this, more and more countries have set stricter limits for the amount permitted in drinking water.
So far, Smith’s assessments have indicated that the PFAS in the pesticide “does not pose a significant risk to the water supply due to the dilution factor,” he said. When the chemicals are dispersed, their concentration decreases.
“I did some worst-case calculations to see what levels could end up in a drinking water reservoir and the results would not be measurable,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that there are unknowns because the pesticide has been used in large quantities over the past 20 years and the PFAS does not break down and build up over time.
As of September, the department has tested nine samples from five separate Anvil containers and detected eight different PFAS compounds. Of these, three compounds exceeded the state’s new limits significantly, in some cases more than seven times. Other unregulated PFAS chemicals were detected in even larger quantities.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, criticized for delaying new standards to reduce PFAS exposure, said they would review the results and plan to run their own tests on Anvil.
“There are significant unanswered questions about the data currently available,” said Dave Deegan, a spokesman for the EPA’s New England offices, adding that the agency is working on an “analytical method” to detect PFAS in pesticides. “The EPA will continue to work closely with and assist the state on this matter. Aggressive control of PFAS remains an important, active and ongoing priority for the EPA. “
Last year, Massachusetts spent more than $ 5 million spraying anvils out of helicopters and airplanes. More than 2 million acres were poured over 26 days in 26 parishes. It was the deadliest electrical and electronic equipment outbreak by the state since the 1950s, with six deaths among the 12 people who contracted the disease.
That year, the state sprayed 200,000 acres in 23 communities with drought conditions that reduced the mosquito population. There were no deaths in 2020.
State officials did not provide any information about how much pesticide was sprayed on the ground.
Clarke officials defended their product, saying they were waiting for guidance from regulators on how best to conduct their own testing.
“Anvil has played an important role in maintaining public health for three decades,” said Karen Larson, vice president of government affairs for the company. “Confidence in these products is critical to achieving public health goals and we will continue to work closely with the EPA to conduct our own testing.”
Larson said it was unclear why the company’s pesticide contained PFAS.
“When this was first brought to our attention, we conducted an internal review of our manufacturing and supply chain to ensure that PFAS is not a part of the manufacture, manufacture or distribution of Anvil’s active or inactive ingredients,” she said .
“No PFAS ingredients are used in the formulation of Anvil or in the manufacture of any raw material in Anvil. PFAS components are never added in Anvil’s production, ”she added.
Some environmentalists were skeptical of the company’s claims, noting that PFAS has been used in other pesticides and can extend their shelf life and facilitate their spread.
In a letter to DEP officials, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington advocacy group, noted that the pesticide tested it contained 250 parts per trillion of any of the state-regulated chemicals – more than 22 times the new limit for water drink. They found other unregulated PFAS compounds in even larger quantities.
While Clarke doesn’t list the chemicals as active ingredients in Anvil, they could be inert ingredients, they said.
“Pesticide manufacturers typically keep information about inert ingredients from the public as ‘trade secrets’ or ‘proprietary’ information,” wrote Tim Whitehouse, executive director of PEER. “Hence, it is conceivable that pesticide formulations are deliberately added to PFAS.”
Larson rejected the possibility that PFAS were inert ingredients.
“We reached out to the manufacturers of the active and inert ingredients and they also acknowledge that PFAS is not an ingredient in the manufacture, manufacture or distribution of the ingredients in the product,” she said.
Whitehouse found that more and more communities in Massachusetts have seen elevated levels of PFAS in their drinking water and that many of them are now struggling to pay for the expensive equipment that is designed to filter out the toxic chemicals.
As of this month, 32 of 164 public water systems tested last year had more PFAS in their drinking water than allowed, state officials said.
“While some of the contamination is likely to come from sewage treatment plants and consumer products, it is also possible that some of the widespread contamination is caused by air and ground anvil spraying in Massachusetts,” wrote Whitehouse, who who State that they no longer use the pesticide or other PFAS-containing pesticides.
Some scholars and lawmakers reiterated his concerns. Laurel Schaider, a scientist at the Silent Spring Institute in Newton who has received large federal government grants to study PFAS, said she was “very concerned” about the state’s results.
She noted that some of the chemicals the state discovered in Anvil are newer “short-chain” PFAS compounds, which she described as “more mobile in the environment and more difficult to remove from drinking water.”
“We already have a public health crisis in this country in which PFAS is contaminating drinking water, and we do not want to make the situation worse,” said Schaider.
State Senator Jo Comerford, a Northampton Democrat, chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Public Health Committee and observer of the state’s newly created Mosquito Task Force, described the state’s findings as “seriously worrying”.
With the state anticipating a bad EEE season next summer – the disease usually occurs in three-year cycles – environmental officials should put a moratorium on anvils and take steps to protect the public without using such toxic chemicals.
“These results should be a wake-up call for us all,” Comerford said.
David Abel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.