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Bibliography Tag: ethics and environmental justice

Agrochemicals, Environmental Racism, and Environmental Justice in U.S. History

Porter, M. Jayson; Agrochemicals, Environmental Racism, and Environmental Justice in U.S. History. Northwestern University, The Organic Center (2022).


In theory, pesticides should have the toxicity to deter pests without harming plants or people. However, a closer look at pesticide history in the United States reveals an enduring legacy of environmental racism against communities of color and their collective action for environmental justice. Humans have harnessed the toxicity of chemicals to kill agricultural insects for millennia. However, the rapid proliferation of modern agrochemicals between 1870-1914 increased how much agriculture itself could hurt places and people. The burden of protecting people and places has always fallen on communities rather than governments and institutions.


Donley et al., 2022

Donley, N., Bullard, R.D., Economos, J. et al. “Pesticides and environmental injustice in the USA: root causes, current regulatory reinforcement and a path forward”. BMC Public Health 22, 708 (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-022-13057-4


Many environmental pollutants are known to have disproportionate effects on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) as well as communities of low-income and wealth. The reasons for these disproportionate effects are complex and involve hundreds of years of systematic oppression kept in place through structural racism and classism in the USA. Here we analyze the available literature and existing datasets to determine the extent to which disparities in exposure and harm exist for one of the most widespread pollutants in the world – pesticides. Our objective was to identify and discuss not only the historical injustices that have led to these disparities, but also the current laws, policies and regulatory practices that perpetuate them to this day with the ultimate goal of proposing achievable solutions. Disparities in exposures and harms from pesticides are widespread, impacting BIPOC and low-income communities in both rural and urban settings and occurring throughout the entire lifecycle of the pesticide from production to end-use. These disparities are being perpetuated by current laws and regulations through 1) a pesticide safety double standard, 2) inadequate worker protections, and 3) export of dangerous pesticides to developing countries. Racial, ethnic and income disparities are also maintained through policies and regulatory practices that 4) fail to implement environmental justice Executive Orders, 5) fail to account for unintended pesticide use or provide adequate training and support, 6) fail to effectively monitor and follow-up with vulnerable communities post-approval, and 7) fail to implement essential protections for children. Here we’ve identified federal laws, regulations, policies, and practices that allow for disparities in pesticide exposure and harm to remain entrenched in everyday life for environmental justice communities. This is not simply a pesticides issue, but a broader public health and civil rights issue. The true fix is to shift the USA to a more just system based on the Precautionary Principle to prevent harmful pollution exposure to everyone, regardless of skin tone or income. However, there are actions that can be taken within our existing framework in the short term to make our unjust regulatory system work better for everyone.  FULL TEXT

Rohr, 2021

Rohr, J. R.; “The Atrazine Saga and its Importance to the Future of Toxicology, Science, and Environmental and Human Health;” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2021, 40(6), 1544-1558; DOI: 10.1002/etc.5037.


The herbicide atrazine is one of the most commonly used, well studied, and controversial pesticides on the planet. Much of the controversy involves the effects of atrazine on wildlife, particularly amphibians, and the ethically questionable decision making of members of industry, government, the legal system, and institutions of higher education, in most cases in an effort to “bend science,” defined as manipulating research to advance economic, political, or ideological ends. In this Critical Perspective I provide a timeline of the most salient events in the history of the atrazine saga, which includes a multimillion-dollar smear campaign, lawsuits, investigative reporting, accusation of impropriety against the US Environmental Protection Agency, and a multibillion-dollar transaction. I argue that the atrazine controversy must be more than just a true story of cover-ups, bias, and vengeance. It must be used as an example of how manufacturing uncertainty and bending science can be exploited to delay undesired regulatory decisions and how greed and conflicts of interest—situations where personal or organizational considerations have compromised or biased professional judgment and objectivity—can affect environmental and public health and erode trust in the discipline of toxicology, science in general, and the honorable functioning of societies. Most importantly, I offer several recommendations that should help to 1) prevent the history of atrazine from repeating itself, 2) enhance the credibility and integrity of science, and 3) enrich human and environmental health. FULL TEXT


Curl et al., 2020

Curl, C. L., Spivak, M., Phinney, R., & Montrose, L.; “Synthetic Pesticides and Health in Vulnerable Populations: Agricultural Workers;” Current Environmental Health Reports, 2020, 7(1), 13-29; DOI: 10.1007/s40572-020-00266-5.


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review aims to summarize epidemiological literature published between May 15, 2018, and May 14, 2019, that examines the relationship between exposure to synthetic pesticides and health of agricultural workers.

RECENT FINDINGS: Current research suggests that exposure to synthetic pesticides may be associated with adverse health outcomes. Agricultural workers represent a potentially vulnerable population, due to a combination of unique social and cultural risk factors as well as exposure to hazards inherent in agricultural work. Pesticide exposure among agricultural workers has been linked to certain cancers, DNA damage, oxidative stress, neurological disorders, and respiratory, metabolic, and thyroid effects.

SUMMARY: This review describes literature suggesting that agricultural workers exposed to synthetic pesticides are at an increased risk of certain cancers and neurological disorders. Recent research on respiratory effects is sparse, and more research is warranted regarding DNA damage, oxidative stress, metabolic outcomes, and thyroid effects. FULL TEXT

Richmond, 2018

Richmond, Martha E., “Glyphosate: A review of its global use, environmental impact, and potential health effects on humans and other species,” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Published online 09/28/2018, doi:10.1007/s13412-018-0517-2.


Glyphosate, [N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine], was synthesized in 1950 and patented as a chemical chelator, capable of binding metals such as calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Glyphosate’s ability to bind to manganese was later found to inhibit an enzyme used by plants and bacteria for biosynthesis ofthree amino acids found in all proteins, and the commercial value ofthis property led to the development and marketing of glyphosate as a broad-spectrum herbicide. In 1974, the Monsanto Chemical Company introduced the herbicide as Roundup™, a formulation of glyphosate and adjuvants. Roundup™ was originally used for weed control in specific farming and landscaping operations and around power lines and train tracks. Following introduction of Roundup Ready™ seeds, in the 1990s, glyphosate use increased significantly. Although Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate expired in 2002, the widespread and growing use ofRoundup Ready™ seed globally and competitive glyphosate marketing by other chemical companies have led to glyphosate’s significant increase in the environment. Concerns about potential adverse effects have also grown. While, at present, many regulatory agencies have determined that there is little risk of adverse health effects to the general public or to farmworkers using proper handling techniques, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) assessing hazard data on glyphosate identified it in 2016 as a category 2A carcinogen (likely to cause human cancer). Response to this classification has been divided: The agribusiness industry has been forceful in its opposition, while other experts support IARC’s classification. The following article examines these issues. It also examines the basis for regulatory decisions, controversies involved, and questions of environmental justice that may or may not be addressed as glyphosate continues to be used. FULL TEXT

Di Renzo et al., 2015

Gian Carlo Di Renzo, Jeanne A. Conry, Jennifer Blake, Mark S. DeFrancesco, Nathaniel DeNicola, James N. Martin Jr., Kelly A. McCue, David Richmond, Abid Shah, Patrice Sutton, Tracey J. Woodruff, Sheryl Ziemin van der Poel, Linda C. Giudice, “International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics opinion on reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemicals,” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2015, 131, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2015.09.002


Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals during pregnancy and breastfeeding is ubiquitous and is a threat to healthy human reproduction. There are tens of thousands of chemicals in global commerce, and even small exposures to toxic chemicals during pregnancy can trigger adverse health consequences. Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and related health outcomes are inequitably distributed within and between countries; universally, the consequences of exposure are disproportionately borne by people with low incomes. Discrimination, other social factors, economic factors, and occupation impact risk of exposure and harm. Documented links between prenatal exposure to environmental chemicals and adverse health outcomes span the life course and include impacts on fertility and pregnancy, neurodevelopment, and cancer. The global health and economic burden related to toxic environmental chemicals is in excess of millions of deaths and billions of dollars every year. On the basis of accumulating robust evidence of exposures and adverse health impacts related to toxic environmental chemicals, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) joins other leading reproductive health professional societies in calling for timely action to prevent harm. FIGO recommends that reproductive and other health professionals advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals, work to ensure a healthy food system for all, make environmental health part of health care, and champion environmental justice. FULL TEXT

Goldman et al., 2004

Goldman L1, Eskenazi B, Bradman A, Jewell NP., “Risk behaviors for pesticide exposure among pregnant women living in farmworker households in Salinas, California,”  American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 45:6, 2004, DOI: 10.1002/ajim.20012


BACKGROUND: Farmworkers and their families are at risk for pesticide exposure, however, little is known about behaviors that increase their risk. We determined the frequency of risky behaviors among pregnant farmworkers and characterized those at greatest risk.

METHODS: Participants included 153 pregnant farmworkers and 248 pregnant non-farmworkers who resided with farmworkers from the CHAMACOS (Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas) study. We examined risky behaviors relating to handwashing, bathing, protective clothing, house cleaning, laundering of work clothes, wearing of work clothes and shoes into the home, and eating produce from the fields.

RESULTS: Between 25 and 60% of women demonstrated risky behavior on each item. Practices of households with pregnant farmworkers and non-farmworkers did not differ. Women who lived in the United States longer, and in crowded households demonstrated the most risky behavior overall.

CONCLUSIONS: Pregnant farmworkers and those living with farmworkers need to be educated to reduce potential take-home pesticide exposure.

Schafer et al., 2004

Kristin S. Schafer, Margaret Reeves, Skip Spitzer, Susan E. Kegley, “Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability,” Report by the Pesticide Action Network North America, May 2004.


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Kabasenche and Skinner, 2014

Kabasenche WP, Skinner MK, “DDT, epigenetic harm, and transgenerational environmental justice,” Environmental Health, 2014, 13:62, DOI: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-62.


Although the environmentally harmful effects of widespread dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) use became well-known following Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), its human health effects have more recently become clearer. A ban on the use of DDT has been in place for over 30 years, but recently DDT has been used for malaria control in areas such as Africa. Recent work shows that DDT has transgenerational effects in progeny and generations never directly exposed to DDT. These effects have health implications for individuals who are not able to have any voice in the decision to use the pesticide. The transgenerational effects of DDT are considered in light of some widely accepted ethical principles. We argue that this reframes the decision to use DDT, requiring us to incorporate new considerations, and new kinds of decision making, into the deliberative process that determines its ongoing use. Ethical considerations for intergenerational environmental justice are presented that include concern and respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, and justice. Here, we offer a characterization of the kinds of ethical considerations that must be taken into account in any satisfactory decisions to use DDT. FULL TEXT

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