Media Release 9 February 2023
Children are at risk from a toxic pesticide – New Zealand should urgently reassess chlorpyrifos.
We urgently need to get this toxic pesticide out of our children’s food. It’s been found in many foods, including raisins, peanut butter, tomatoes, a range of summer fruit and green vegetables.
Children in New Zealand are being exposed to potentially dangerous levels of a toxic insecticide known to harm their brains, and more than in other countries.
At 11.30am Thursday 9 February, the Safe Food Campaign is presenting a petition to Grant Robertson, calling for an urgent reassessment and ban of the insecticide chlorpyrifos. It is found in many foods and the environment in New Zealand, but already banned in 39 countries. [i] The petition is supported by an alliance of civil society organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand.
"Children are particularly at risk from exposure to even minute amounts of chlorpyrifos, such as residues in food"
“Children are particularly at risk from exposure to even minute amounts of chlorpyrifos, such as residues in food,” said Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign.
“Alarmingly, a recent study found NZ school-age children had levels of chlorpyrifos metabolites between two and seven times higher than their peers in the USA, Canada, Spain or Thailand.” [ii]
"It’s been found in many foods, including raisins, peanut butter, tomatoes, a range of summer fruit and green vegetables"
“We urgently need to get this toxic pesticide out of our children’s food. It’s been found in many foods, including raisins, peanut butter, tomatoes, a range of summer fruit and green vegetables. [iii], [iv]”
“The unborn infant is even more vulnerable: exposure to even very low levels at the foetal stage can result in structural changes in the developing brain and losses in cognitive function, particularly IQ and working memory,” said Claire Bleakley, of Pesticide Action Network.
Chlorpyrifos has been determined to meet the initial UN process for a global ban because of its environmental and human health impacts. The POPs Review Committee, the technical committee of the Stockholm Convention, has found that chlorpyrifos is persistent in the environment, bioaccumulates in the food chain, undergoes long range environmental transport and is highly toxic to people and both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. [v]
Asha Andersen of Flora and Fauna Aotearoa and Hana Blackmore of Weed Management Advisory support the petition and emphasise that New Zealand also has a duty and commitment to the environment.
“We know that chlorpyrifos has been found not only in our rivers and streams but in the air over the Southern Alps from the Canterbury Plains,” said Asha Andersen. [vi]
“The spray drift of this extremely persistent pesticide is carried through the air to faraway places, and it has even been found in Antarctica,” said Hana Blackmore. [vii]
The NZ EPA were concerned enough to put chlorpyrifos on its reassessment list after significant new information relating to harmful effects. [viii]
“The reassessment has been delayed, but in view of the recent NZ children study, we cannot wait for this process to slowly work its way through," said Alison White.
“It’s time for Aotearoa New Zealand to step up to its commitments to its environment, and to keeping children safe. We need urgent action now.”
Joint Media Release from the Safe Food Campaign, Flora & Fauna Aotearoa, Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand (PANANZ) and the Weed Management Advisory (WMA).
Petition presentation 11.30am Thursday 9 February parliament steps to Grant Robertson
[i] Chlorpyrifos is banned in at least 39 countries: this Pesticide
Action Network International consolidated list of banned pesticides was
correct in May 2022.
[ii] Yan Li et al. 2022. Study on Pesticide exposure in NZ school-aged children: Urinary concentrations of biomarkers and assessment of determinants. Environ. Int. 163:107206. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412022001325
[iii] Total Diet Study 2016
[iv] Food Residues Survey Programmes 2015-2021
[v]The insecticide chlorpyrifos has been found to meet the threshold criteria for a Persistent Organic Pollutant under the Stockholm Convention http://chm.pops.int/TheConvention/POPsReviewCommittee/Meetings/POPRC17/Overview/tabid/8900/Default.asp
[vi) Lavan et al. 2012. Using Trace Elements in Particulate Matter to Identify the Sources of Semi volatile Organic Contaminants in Air at an Alpine Site. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, 268–276.https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/es2027373
[vii] Hermanson, M. H., Isaksson, E., Hann, R., Ruggirello, R. M.,Teixeira, C., Muir, D. C. (2021). Historic Atmospheric Organochlorine Pesticide and Halogenated Industrial Compound Inputs to Glacier Ice Cores in Antarctica and the Arctic. /ACS Earth and Space Chemistry/, 5(9), 2534-2543. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsearthspacechem.1c00211
[viii] NZ EPA reassessment grounds (2020) https://www.epa.govt.nz/news-and-alerts/latest-news/first-step-towards-reassessing-controversial-insecticide/