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Talking Point
June 2001
In this issue:

Vice-President’s Report
Pesticide Blues
Was it something you ate?
Research Update
Medical Seminar (Aug 25)
Support Groups

Pesticide Blues

By Peter Evans

Anyone living in Adelaide in recent years probably knows about the Mediterranean fruit fly eradication program. This is the small army of blue overall-clad men, with backpacks of poison and truckloads of toxics, ready to spray at high pressure into your back yard and onto your fruit trees and vegetables. This blanket spraying with organophosphate pesticides is done so that South Australia can sell fruit and vegetables to Europe, while claiming it to be free from Mediterranean fruit fly. If you’re lucky, you might see the blue army coming. You certainly won’t know where they have left their poison, because they leave no notification.

Unfortunately exposure to these kinds of pesticides can result in acute poisoning, as well as prolonged periods of poor health. In fact, organophosphate exposure is implicated by medical research as a triggering event which may later result in multiple chemical sensitivity. Common symptoms of organophosphate exposure, particularly in the chemically sensitive, are sore throat, asthma or difficulty breathing, skin rash, bloating or gastrointestinal disturbance, concentration and memory difficulties and persistent fatigue – to name a few.

The Department of Primary Industries and Resources insist that its fruit fly program is conducted safely. A recent series of public meetings to discuss the issue took a different view. The tone of the meeting was, at times, quite angry. Many people spoke of the damage that pesticide exposure had caused to their health, some had been hospitalised. There were distressing stories of dying dogs, cats and birds, as well as lost insect populations in organic gardens.

After considerable discussion, the meeting approved a motion to call on the Premier of South Australia to adopt a moratorium on the use of organophosphates and other poisons in the Mediterranean fruit fly program, until they are proven to be safe. In response to this the Government has ceased cover spraying with one of the pesticides, fenthion – for the time being – but will continue baiting flies using malathion, a hormone disrupting pesticide under increasing international scrutiny for its toxic health effects.

South Australia’s fruit fly eradication program places people with chemical sensitivities at serious risk of organophosphate pesticide exposure, either from direct contact in treated areas or by spray drift. The program gives little or no recognition that chemical sensitivity even exists. If you have concerns about the way the fruit fly eradication program is being conducted, write to:

The Honourable Bob Kerin MP
Minister for Primary Industries and Resources
PO Box 668
Adelaide SA 5001

More information

Australian Chemical Trauma Alliance

Total Environment Centre

Healthy Home Solution

The Allergy, Sensitivity and Environmental Health Association

Dr Mark Donohoe’s medical site

Environmental and Genetic Solutions – Dr Judy Ford

Californians for Pesticide Reform

Pesticide Action Network of North America

Avoiding pesticides and hormone disruptors. From the Canadian World Wildlife Fund. It makes compulsory reading for anyone wishing to avoid toxics.

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