forbidden in Europe causes high death toll among cattle in Paysandu
A new incident involving endosulfan
as protagonist occurred a few days ago in the City of Guichon, 110 Kilometres
to the east of the capital of the region of Paysandu. On 9th April,
a spray plane suffered a fault in flight and dropped an unknown quantity
of endosulfan on a field where cattle were pastured.
According to first estimates, just
one day after the incident, 50 young animals of more than 250 kg in
weight died from eating contaminated grass. In addition hundreds of
fish, reptiles and birds of many species. As if this were not enough,
fish mortality has been detected in a river (Cañada del Horno)
that provides water to the drinking water plant and to the city itself
Obviously this is an unfortunate accident and normally nobody drops
endosulfan on a field where animals are feeding. It was the presence
of the cattle, their poisoning and subsequent death, that made this
incident “news”. As a neighbour said to the press, “we
only realise there’s a problem when the animal is dying.”
All the same it is essential to
bear in mind that even when there are no cows or people suffering the
direct impacts of the poison, endosulfan is no less dangerous and that
it is an insecticide that is frequently used to combat shield or stink
bugs in soya production.
What is endosulfan?
Endosulfan is an organochlorine
insecticide. It is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency
of the US and the European Union as category 1b, highly dangerous. In
scientific literature there is plenty of information about its high
level of (eco) toxicity, what happens to it in the environment, its
residues in food and forage and its concentration levels in the environment.
Based on available information, endosulfan may be classified as a Persistent
Organic Pollutant (POP). It brings together the four characteristics
that cause a substance to be classified as a POP: high toxicity to nearly
all living organisms, very persistent in the environment, high bio-accumulation
levels, and it travels long distances.
In laboratory animals, encosulfan
is neurotoxic, nephrotoxic (kidney poison)  It causes congenital
physical impacts, mental impacts and death among workers and rural populations.
Endosulfan is found to be involved in the majority of cases of poisoning
by pesticides notified at global level . Endosulfan is highly persistent.
It has been found to remain for than a year in the soil . It has
a heightened level of bio-accumulation. Studies with freshwater and
slat water fish show high levels of bioaccumulation, from 2,400 to 11,000
. It can be carried great distances through the environment. There
is abundant information available corroborating the presence of endosulfan
massive distances from where it is produced or used, such as the air
and waters of the Arctic .
It is prohibited throughout
the European Union
Because of all the above, the EU
has prohibited the commercialisation and use of endosulfan and has asked
for it to be included in the list of the Stockholm Convention, a process
designed to limit and prohibit the use of Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Even though all available scientific
investigations have indicated for a long time that Endosulfan should
be prohibited worldwide and is in many countries, in ours it continues
to be used at increasingly high levels.
Endosulfan in Uruguay
The principal application for endosulfan
in our country is soy cultivation. From the beginning of the soya “boom”
we saw an explosive increase in imports of endosulfan. During 2007,
for example, 250 tonnes of endosulfan were imported, some 50 times the
amount imported 7 years before. Logically enough, this massive use of
endosulfan soon began to show its consequences. Its presence has been
confirmed in soils in our country  and in the hydroelectric dam’s
reservoir at Salto Grande . Residues of organochlorines (among which
is endosulfan) have been detected in fish from the Uruguay River. .
In addition, there have been a number of cases of serious poisoning
of animals and human beings due to endosulfan . To these we must
add the event at Guichon, whose full significance has still to be assessed.
Endosulfan has been prohibited for
many years in Europe, precisely because there is no way to guarantee
its safe use, in spite of the high levels of regulation and control
in Europe. In Uruguay its use continues to be permitted. What happened
in Guichon is a disaster, but it has allowed us to fully appreciate
the impacts of this insecticide. Unfortunately the destruction caused
by this substance appears to have been overlooked for years. We hope
that now, following the events at Guichon, the authorities forbid the
use of this substance and that Uruguay will join the large number of
countries that consider this insecticide a silent assassin that must
therefore be prohibited.
13 April 2009
Translated by Helena Paul
 Diario La República,
12 de Abril de 2009
 ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Register). Toxicological
Profile for Endosulfan, septiembre de 2000. Se puede consultar en la
dirección siguiente: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp41.pdf
 End of the Road for Endosulfan. Environmental Justice Foundation
 Laabs, V. y otros. Fate of 14C-labelled soybean and corn pesticides
in tropical soils of Brazil under laboratory conditions. J. Agric. Food
Cehm. 50, págs. 4.619 a 4.627 (2002).
 Schimmel, S.C y otros. Acute toxicity and bioconcentration of endosulfan
in estuarine animals. En: Aquatic Toxicology and Hazard Evaluation,
editado por F.L. Mayer, J.L. Hamelink, 1st Symp. ASTM STP 634, Philadelphia
(PA), págs. 241 a 252, (1977).
 - Ruedel, H. Volatilization of pesticides from soil and plant surfaces.
Chemosphere 35 /1/2) págs. 143 a 152, (1997).
 Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agropecuaria, 2005
 CARU. 1993. II Seminario de calidad de aguas y control de la contaminación
en el Río Uruguay. Colón, Argentina. http://www.caru.org.uy/publicaciones/2doSeminario-de-calidad-de-aguas-y-control-de-la-contaminacion-en-el-Rio-Uruguay.pdf
 Bruno, A. Plaguicidas usados en el cultivo de soja. Evolución
de su uso y estimación de su impacto ambiental, Río Negro,
7 junio de 2007 en seminario organizado por CAF (2007).
 Efectos del endosulfán en el Uruguay: casos de intoxicación
registrados. RAP-AL Uruguay, 2006 - http://webs.chasque.net/~rapaluy1/Comunicados/Intoxicaciones.html