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Wayne Parsons
Wayne Parsons
Attorney • (808) 845-2211

Breast Cancer Risk in Hawaii Linked to Pesticides in Drinking Water and Indoor Air

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Pesticides leach into the Hawaii ground water system and end up in our drinking water. The warm tropical sun causes the pesticides to evaporate and enter the building through gaps in the foundation and infect breathing spaces inside the homes and schools and office buildings. Not only cancer but many respiratory diseases are caused by pesticides. Controlling insects with pesticides is a huge risk to drinking water and indoor air quality in Hawaii, and ultimately to matters of life and death to the public in Hawaii.

Unfortunately the diseases manifest themselves years after exposure and no immediate symptoms appear. And when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer it is impossible to determine the cause. It isn’t that the cause isn’t known. It is just that businesses make more money if they can use chemicals in construction and since you can’t prove that your breast cancer came from the pesticides that were used under your house or in your public school, these unscrupulous businesses continue to poison the community. If I sound a little angry about this I don’t apologize. My wife died of cancer this year and I am committed to saving others from what she went through.

Chlordane was taken off the market in 1988 because it causes cancer. Dursban was taken off the market in 2000 because it causes cancer. The announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2000 made it clear the seriousness of pesticides

Today, the Clinton-Gore Administration is announcing a major step to improve safety for all Americans from the health risks posed by pesticides. We are eliminating virtually all home and garden uses of Dursban — the most widely used household pesticide in the United States.

This action comes after completing the most extensive scientific review of the potential hazards from a pesticide ever conducted. This action — the result of an agreement with the manufacturers — will significantly minimize potential health risks from exposure to Dursban, also called chlorpyrifos, for all Americans, especially children.

Hawaii children and families were heavily exposed to first Chlordane and then Dursban over a period of 50 years in all of the building of homes and schools and government buildings.

Do you, like me, wonder why companies like Dow AgroSciences and DuPont complain that too much government regulation is making it hard for them to bring new pesticides, fungicides and herbicides to the market, when their products routinely are removed from wide use in public places because they cause cancer and other serious illnesses? Why do Hawaii housing developers like Gentry, Castle & Cooke, Haseko and others continue to use pesticides on their projects? The only reason is that they make more more profits by using a cheap pesticide rather than other available methods. They know that the pesticides are invisible and that homeowners don’t realize what they are being exposed to these health risks in their indoor air, their kids playing in the yard or their drinking water. They put profits ahead of people.

We are all concerned about the melt down in our financial institutions. But isn’t our health even more important? Both crises are caused by lax regulation of big corporations. Both involve greed. And in both situations the public is paying dearly: in dollars with the banks and with our health and our lives with pesticides in our air and drinking water.

Is this new? No. In a 1997 study, Breast Cancer and Pesticides in Hawaii: The Need for Further Study, by Ruth H. Allen, Michelle Gottlieb, Eve Clute, Montira J. Pongsiri, Janette Sherman and G. Iris Obrams © 1997, Published by: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the link between the widespread use of pesticides and breast cancer in Hawaii have been made:

Only 30% of all breast cancer can be explained by known risk factors. Increases in breast cancer incidence rates in Hawaii over the past few decades cannot be attributed solely to improvements in screening and detection. Avoidable environmental factors may contribute to a proportion of the unexplained cases. Emerging evidence on endocrine disruption suggests that environmental chemicals may play a role in the development of breast cancer. Agricultural chemicals, including endocrine disruptors, have been used intensively in Hawaii’s island ecosystem over the past 40 years leaching into groundwater, and leading to unusually widespread occupational and general population exposures.

They studied documented episodes of exposure to two endocrine-disrupting chemicals, chlordane/heptachlor and 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane (DBCP), and recommend that further studies be conducted to warn Hawaii residents of other risks due to the continued use of pesticides in the Hawaii construction industry both public and private.

Interestingly the huge companies that have won billion dollar contracts for the massive military privatization housing projects now being constructed in Hawaii are using pesticides under and around all of the new homes where young military families will be living. Alternatives exist but the decision-makers for Actus Lend Lease and other of the privatization companies continue applying chemical pesticides despite the fact that they brag publicly about environmental and green building. each of the homes that will house young military families for the next 50 years will be be treated with pesticides to control pests, further endangering the air, soil and drinking water. They know about the health risks they are exposing the young military families to because they have encountered soil poisoned with Chlordane in the initial construction. Unless the public speaks up or Hawaii elected politicians take a stand, the women who contract breast cancer in the future from exposure to pesticides in Hawaii will die for a few dollars of profit for a huge corporation.