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Hawai'i CFS

USGS Finds Widespread Contamination of Neonicotinoids in U.S. Streams

August 19, 2015
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety Warns of Extensive Ecological Damage

August 19, 2015 (Washington, DC)--Center for Food Safety today commented on a new nationwide study released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showing widespread detection of neonicotinoid insecticides in U.S. streams. According to the study, at least one neonicotinoid was detected in 53% of the stream samples collected. Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species and are considered a major factor in overall population declines and poor health. Neonicotinoids are slow to break down, causing them to build up in the environment  and endanger a wide range of beneficial species.

“It is clear that the problems with widespread uses of neonicotinoids extend well beyond the impacts to pollinators. This study shines a light on the alarming prevalence of contamination throughout aquatic ecosystems, with ramifications that will be felt throughout entire food chains,” said Larissa Walker, pollinator campaign director at Center for Food Safety. “If meaningful action is not taken soon, we may be headed toward a second ‘Silent Spring’.”

“EPA’s benchmarks for neonicotinoid toxicity are far too lax and fail to consider the long-term chronic impacts that neonicotinoids have on these ecosystems, in addition to additive and synergistic effects. With such extensive contamination of waterways, EPA needs to take a much closer look at the cumulative and long term impacts of these widely used chemicals,” said Walker.

Neonicotinoid products are applied on more than 150 million acres of crop land annually. The runoff from these products flows, both above and below ground, far beyond the agricultural fields, gardens, trees, lawns, and other areas where they are first applied. This leads to unintended effects on non-target species across a vast array of wetlands and water bodies. Peer-reviewed studies from Holland already show that neonicotinoid water contamination correlates significantly with bird population declines and numerous other species are thought be at risk and new science suggests sub-lethal exposure in agricultural landscapes could be even more damaging to pollinating species, particularly wild bees, than acute exposure.

These recent USGS findings follow a similar July 2014 USGS study that found alarming neonicotinoid contamination levels in regional waterways around corn and soybean fields in the Midwest. The correlation between neonicotinoid contamination and wildlife declines supports the decision last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to phase out uses of neonicotinoids on some National Wildlife Refuges.

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