"Carcinogenic risk for three pesticides," by Vania Rivalta (IT)

Rassegna stampa

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) , the highest  level authority on the study of carcinogens, included recently three substances widely used in the composition of pesticides - malathion, diazinon, glyphosate -  in the “Group 2A”, the group including those agents that are likely to cause cancer in humans .  The magazine “Lancet Oncology” published a summary of the reasons that led 17 experts from 11 countries to come to this conclusion, while detailed assessments on the issue  will be published on the IARC Monograph no. 112.

Malathion: Malathion is an insecticide used not only in agriculture, but also in public hygiene and domestic disinfection, even in combating lice. It  is linked to cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) following  exposures at professional level.  Some Canadian case studies have instead  associated the professional use of malathion with an increased risk for prostate cancer.

Diazinon: experiments on animals  and in vitro corroborated the hypothesis of damages to DNA and to chromosome.  Diazinon as well is an insecticide used both in agriculture and in domestic  environments. This substance has been associated with an increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as for  lung cancer.

Glyphosate: the story of glyphosate is particularly complex.  For this pesticide again there is limited evidence of its link with the NHL, always related to studies on subjects exposed in an agricultural environment. It is a herbicide used in the composition of 750 different products intended not only to agriculture, but also to domestic and urban applications. The IARC working group concluded that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in laboratory animals, as well as evidence of DNA damage and of chromosomal makeup of human cells.

Reactions: A few hours after the publication on the Lancet website of the extract from the Monograph 112, Monsanto declared  its disagreement with the IARC  assessments about glyphosate (its Roundup product is made from this substance). According to Monsanto, the working group excluded relevant data, basing its statements  on old  research that do not establish a link between glyphosate and the increased risk for cancer.

The use of pesticides  in Italy: the latest figures, published by ISTAT, on the use of plant protection products in Italy show a trend in sharp decline. In the period 2002-2013, the amount of substances distributed for agricultural use decreased by a total of 76,000 tonnes (-45.2%). From 2012 to 2013, the amount of active ingredients included in plant protection products declined by a total of 39,000 tons (-41.3%);  the insecticidal, fungicidal and herbicidal active substances  recorded the most substantial decline (respectively -48.1%, -48.3% and -34.5%). I everything all right then? Not really, because there is a worrying datum. It is given by  ISPRA, the Institute for the Protection and Environmental Research, which in the latest edition of its  National Report on pesticides in Italian waters, based on data collected from 3,500 sampling points, showed that 175 different substances were found , a number higher in relation to previous years. Compared to the past, the presence of fungicides and insecticides in groundwater increased.

The biggest enemy is glyphosate. It is one of the most sold substances nationwide and its presence in the waters is widely confirmed by international data, but its detection is carried out only in Lombardy, where the substance is present in 31.8% of the surface waters monitoring points (171) while  its metabolite, AMPA, in 56.6%.



“Corriere della Sera”, 15 March 2015, http://www.corriere.it