The thought of an America without grizzly bears, foxes, wolves, spotted owls, or sparrows, is unfathomable. Yet they’re some of the more than 1,700 most endangered species in the nation. And if their future wasn’t uncertain enough, two common pesticides may all but ensure their disappearance, says a new report by the EPA.
According to the EPA analysis, the pesticides malathion and chlorpyrifos may make survival difficult for 97 percent of endangered species in the U.S., a list that includes mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, insects, and plants.
Chlorpyrifos is commonly used in extermination of pests such as mosquitos and termites; malathion is frequently applied to fruits and vegetables at risk of certain pests. It’s also used in treating pets with ticks.
“The risk posed by malathion and chlorpyrifos is so widespread across the U.S. that the few species considered not at risk are mainly those already classified as extinct,” reports the Guardian. And to make matters even more confounding, last year, the World Health Organization concluded that malathion and diazinon, another pesticide threatening about 79 percent of endangered species, are both probable human carcinogens.
“For the first time in history, we finally have data showing just how catastrophically bad these pesticides are for endangered species,” Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Guardian.
“These dangerous pesticides have been used without proper analysis for decades, and now’s the time to take this new information and create commonsense measures to protect plants, animals and people from these chemicals.”
But all hope is not lost. The EPA has taken steps to review and restrict some pesticides linked to declining bee populations, such as the neonicotinoid class of pesticides already restricted in the EU because of the threat to bees.
Companies are taking steps to reduce their impact on the planet as well. Just this week, Dannon announced a comprehensive sustainability pledge, which includes steps to protect soil and ecosystems, as well as a move away from herbicide-dependent GMO crops, like corn and soy.
“These evaluations are a huge step forward for the EPA,” says Burd. “Now that we know the magnitude of danger these pesticides pose, it’s clear we need to take action.”
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Northern Spotted Owl image via Shutterstock