Bayer CropScience belongs to the largest producers of Endosulfan. Bayer sells Endosulfan under the brand name Thiodan in Central America, Southern and Central Africa, and many parts of Asia.

April 11, 2007, Pesticide Action Network

Endosulfan one step closer to listing under international toxics treaty

Pesticide Action Network applauds move toward prior informed consent requirement for trade of toxic pesticide endosulfan

Pesticide Action Network (PAN), an international network focused on protecting community health and the environment, applauds the recent recommendation by government chemical experts that politicians include the toxic chemical endosulfan on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list of the Rotterdam Convention in 2008.(1)

"This deadly pesticide is a leading cause of poisoning worldwide," says Carina Weber of PAN Germany. "Communities should not have to suffer from exposure to endosulfan when so much is known about its dangers."

PAN has been highlighting the dangers of endosulfan through its regional centers in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America for more than two decades. Endosulfan is acutely toxic, is known to disrupt the hormone system, can damage the human reproductive system and has been linked to breast cancer among other human health effects. Davo Simplice Vodouhe (OBEPAB, Benin): "It is the second most widely used insecticide in cotton production, and has been linked to many incidents of pesticide poisoning, sometimes fatal, among West African cotton farmers." This is highlighted in PAN's recent report "Living with Poison".(2) Endosulfan has been linked to the occurrence of disproportionate incidence of severe birth defects, among other health impacts, among communities exposed to the pesticide in many countries like India. Effective alternatives are available; and it is already deregistered or banned in many countries.

"PAN Asia and the Pacific in collaboration with partners in India and other countries in Asia, have documented the negative effects of endosulfan on communities", states Jennifer Mourin of the PAN Asia Pacific regional centre. "Endosulfan is extremely hazardous especially under conditions of use in the South, and many Asian governments have banned or restricted its use. Endosulfan's addition on the PIC list is long overdue."

"The continued use of this pesticide jeopardizes human health and the environment everywhere because of its ability to travel long distances on air and water currents, and its persistence in the environment and human bodies," says Medha Chandra of PAN North America. "It's high time governments take steps to protect communities from endosulfan, and addition to the PIC list will be an important step in the right direction."

The experts' recommendation to add endosulfan confirms that the toxin meets the technical criteria for inclusion in the Treaty, and gives the 116 governments that have ratified the Rotterdam Convention a clear mandate to definitively add endosulfan to the PIC list at the Conference of Parties in November 2008. This will be the final step, giving governments around the world a fair chance at keeping this deadly pesticide out of their countries and preventing illegal dumping within their borders. PAN will continue to keep up the pressure to ensure that financial and political interests do not further delay the inevitable control of this dangerous, outdated, and replaceable pesticide.

Background: Endosulfan's Threat to Human Health and the Environment

Endosulfan is very toxic for nearly all kind of organisms.

Acute Toxicity to Humans
The Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety has identified endosulfan as an acutely toxic pesticide that poses significant public health problems for developing countries/ economies in transition.1 The U.S. EPA has classified it as Category 1b - highly hazardous. It is readily absorbed by the stomach, lungs and through the skin, and all routes of exposure pose a hazard.2

Endosulfan acts primarily on the nervous system, and many cases of poisoning, including fatalities, have been reported - in Benin, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, and USA. It is one of the main causative agents of acute poisoning in Central America, in southern India and other areas.3

In laboratory tests endosulfan, administered by any route, has been shown to be even more toxic to female than to male rats. Endosulfan was found among the most frequent reported intoxication incidents, adding unintentionally further evidence to its high toxicity for humans and "Excessive and improper application and handling of endosulfan have been linked to congenital physical disorders, mental retardations and deaths in farm workers and villagers in developing countries in Africa, southern Asia and Latina America." 4

Toxic effects are aggravated by protein malnourishment and diabetes.5

Acute Toxicity to Wildlife
Endosulfan is acutely toxic to wildlife, cats, dogs, honeybees, birds, amphibians, fish and aquatic insects, crustacea, molluscs, alligators, crocodiles, turtles, plankton, soil microorganisms, and arthropods.6

It has caused massive fish kills in numerous countries, including Germany, Canada, USA, Sudan, and is implicated in the worldwide decline of amphibians.7

Endocrine Disruption
Endosulfan is known to interfere with hormonal mechanisms at very low concentrations, and existing levels of environmental contamination pose a threat to the long-term viability of animal populations, and of chronic illness and death in humans.8

Endosulfan clearly exhibits oestrogenic properties, causing the proliferation of human breast cancer cells and increasing the risk of breast cancer.9 It significantly increases the ratio of 16-hydroxyestrone (the tumour promoting oestrogen) to 2-hydroxyestrone (the non-genotoxic oestrogen) resulting in increased breast cancer cell proliferation, development, and promotion.10 It interferes with mammary gland development by affecting mRNA transcriptional activity.11 It also causes changes to intracellular oestrogenic signalling at very low picomolar to nanomolar concentrations (e.g. 10-10 M), which causes rapid secretion of prolactin that in turn causes cell proliferation.12 Breast cancer risk is also increased by endosulfan's effect on the immune system - as it induces death of T-cells important in tumour suppression - and because it is genotoxic and mutagenic. Results of carcinogenic studies are equivocal, but a number suggest that endosulfan may be genotoxic and mutagenic.13

Endosulfan can bind to progesterone receptors, increasing the risk of miscarriage.14 It also inhibits testicular synthesis of androgens, and alters sex ratios.15 Impacts on male reproductive health include reduce sperm quality and count, testicular damage, delayed sexual maturity, and decreased penile length.16

chronic effects
In laboratory studies, endosulfan damages red blood cells, thyroid, kidneys, liver, muscles, and the developing foetus. It is hepatotoxic, genotoxic, mutagenic, clastogenic, a tumour promoter, and inhibits immune function.17 It has produced malignant neoplasms and lymphosarcomas in rats.18 Behavioural and neurological changes have been observed.19

Endosulfan has resulted in congenital birth defects, reproductive health problems, cancers, loss of immunity, neurological and neurobehavioural problems amongst exposed villagers in Kerala, India.20
Limb deformities have been seen in salamander larvae.21

Endosulfan is volatile and persistent and there is evidence of widespread human, environmental and food chain contamination around the world.

The half-life of combined residues of endosulfan (alpha- and beta-endosulfan, and endosulfan sulfate) varies form 9 months to 6 years with persistence increased by acidic conditions.22

The half-life in water varies from 35-187 days.23

Endosulfan sulphate is the main degradation product. It is as toxic as the parent compound but of greater persistence.24

Residues of endosulfan have been detected in the environment in areas far distant from where it has been used: in air in the Arctic and Mt Everest regions, lichen, snow-water and lake-waters, rainfall and snow samples in Californian mountains, and remote European mountain lakes.25

Residues have also been found in air including indoor air, rain, lakes, rivers, stream sediments, groundwater, well water, spring water, municipal water supplies, marine water and sediment, prawn ponds, lagoons, estuarine and river sediment, soil, tree bark, aquatic plants, fish, crocodile eggs, and other biota. It has been found in Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Benin, Belize, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Europe, Ghana, Greenland, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, North America, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.26

Residues have also been found in food around the world, including Australia, Benin, Brazil, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Canada, Finland, Ghana, India, Italy, Kenya, Kuwait, Madagascar, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, USA. They were found in dairy foods, meat, chicken, vegetable oil, peanuts, seeds, fruit, and many different vegetables.27

In Europe endosulfan has been among those pesticides with the highest frequency of MRL exceedences identified by the EC Commission. 28

The U.S. EPA considers endosulfan as having a high potential to bioaccumulate in fish, and hence may affect animals higher up the food chain.29 It has been found in trout from lakes in North America, and in fish in Benin, Nigeria and Uganda.30 The European Union has banned importation of fish from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya due to high levels of endosulfan.31

Residues have been detected in human umbilical cord blood, placental tissue, breast milk, fat, blood and urine - in Colombia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Spain, and Sub Saharan Africa. 32

Regulatory status, government programmes and action
Many countries have already banned or restricted the use of endosulfan because of human health and environmental impacts.

Endosulfan is banned in Bahrain, Belize, Cambodia, Columbia, Germany, Kuwait, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, St Lucia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Tonga, United Arab Emirates. Malaysia banned endosulfan in April 2005, with a phase out period that concluded in August 2005.

It is restricted in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Norway, Panama, Russia, Serbia & Montenegro, Thailand, Taiwan, USA, UK, Venezuela.

In India in 2006, the government of Kerala State announced relief and remediation to a community whose health has been badly damaged by endosulfan spraying.33 An unusually large number of illnesses occurred among the people within the cashew plantations in the villages of Kasargod where aerial spaying of endosulfan has been ongoing for 26 years. The occurrence of these illnesses has been found due mainly to endosulfan34.

In the overall conclusion to Directive 91/414/EEC, the EU decided not to include endosulfan in Annex I of Council Directive 91/414 which practically means a ban of all plant protection products containing endosulfan in all EU member states. Under the EU Biocide Directive 98/8/EC, endosulfan was not notified for inclusion. This means that biocides containing the active ingredient endosulfan can be marketed in the EU at present but not beyond the phasing out period laid down in the directive.
In the framework of the EU water policy endosulfan was identified as priority hazardous substance in "Annex X - List of priority substances in the field of water policy" of Decision No 2455/2001/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2001 establishing the list of priority substances in the field of water policy and amending Directive 2000/60/EC.35 Endosulfan has been included in the OSPAR List of Chemicals for Priority Action (update 2002). In addition Endosulfan is on the list of priority substances agreed by the Third North Sea Conference (Annex 1 A to the Hague Declaration).

In the UNEP-GEF Regional-based Assessment of Persistent Toxic Substances (PTS), it is rated as follows:

Suffering at field level
According to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (Art. 3.5 and Art. 5.2.4), the conditions of use in developing countries are an important indication of the potential health risks to workers posed by the use and exposure to pesticides. Under current conditions of use in developing countries safe use of endosulfan is not possible, and poses an unacceptable threat to the health of workers and small scale farmers. Documentation of adverse effects of endosulfan use under conditions of use in developing countries are being made available by PAN and show detailed evidence that endosulfan needs to be covered by the Rotterdam Convention. 36

The existing bans in countries which formerly used endosulfan products demonstrate that alternatives to endosulfan are available, especially if attention is not only given to chemical alternatives but to alternative pest management strategies as they are developed in integrated pest management systems or biological agriculture.

(1) Under the Rotterdam Convention or "PIC Treaty," once a chemical has been banned in two or more countries in different regions of the world, it can be added to the PIC list. Countries exporting chemicals on the PIC list must inform importing countries that the chemical has been listed, and importing countries can refuse trade in PIC listed chemicals that could threaten the health of their communities. The Chemical Review Committee, a panel of experts from those governments that have ratified the treaty, recommended that governments consider addition of endosulfan to the list when they meet 2008.

(2) PAN UK, PAN Africa, and the Organisation Beninoise pour la Promotion de l'Agriculture Biologique recently published 'Living with Poison: Problems of Endosulfan in West African cotton growing systems', which documents some of the damage caused by this outdated, toxic organochlorine pesticide in communities. http://www.pan-uk/LivingWithPoison

For more information, contact:
- Carina Weber, PAN Germany,, +49 (0) 40-3991910-0
- Jennifer Mourin, PAN Asia and the Pacific,, +60-4-6570271
- Medha Chandra, PAN North America,, +1-4159811771