By Shannon Kelleher
Online retail giant eBay has been illegally selling hundreds of thousands of harmful pesticides and other unsafe products, posing “unacceptable risks” to communities across the country, according to a complaint filed Wednesday by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The legal action was filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court in New York. It argues that the company’s actions violated environmental laws including the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
“The complaint filed today demonstrates that EPA will hold online retailers responsible for the unlawful sale of products on their websites that can harm consumers and the environment,” David Uhlmann, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a press release.
The DOJ and EPA allege that eBay sold at least 23,000 unregistered, misbranded, and restricted use pesticides, including a highly toxic insecticide banned in the US, and products that make false claims about protecting against the virus that causes COVID-19.
This was not eBay’s first alleged FIFRA violation. In June 2020, the EPA ordered eBay, as well as Amazon, to stop selling pesticide-containing products that claimed to prevent COVID-19. The following summer, the agency ordered eBay to stop selling an additional 170 unregistered or misbranded pesticide products.
By Shannon Kelleher
The US agriculture industry puts food on Americans’ tables, but many of the farming practices used to produce that food are controversial. Critics say large corporate interests dominate agriculture and push policies and practices that endanger human and environmental health and harm the interests of small farmers and rural communities.
A group of community advocates announced on September 20 that they were joining forces with legal and food system experts to form an organization they’re dubbing “FarmSTAND,” with the specific goal of challenging the companies that dominate US industrial animal agriculture through court actions. The group said it is working to dismantle a “corporate-controlled, industrial food system” and support regenerative farming to help “change the system from the ground up.”
The New Lede spoke with FarmSTAND Executive Director Jessica Culpepper about the group’s goals.
Q: What is your mission? How do you envision FarmSTAND’s role?
A: We really believe that independent farmers and ranchers, food chain workers, and consumers of agricultural products deserve a legal advocacy group that’s focused only on them. That doesn’t exist yet. We are really excited to be that for them.
Wildlife exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) poses added added threats to species already struggling to adapt to habitat loss and harmful climate change, a new paper warns.
In a discussion paper published Tuesday in Science of the Total Environment, scientists wrote that there is enough evidence of the toxicity of persistent chemicals such as PFAS in humans to cause substantial concern about the same chemicals’ impacts on wildlife. Considering toxic chemicals’ health harms to wildlife is especially important, they write, as multiple pressures cause steep drops in biodiversity worldwide.
“There’s an incredible body of scientific evidence linking PFAS to health harms in humans, and this should really serve as an indicator of the potential health harms that may be occurring in wildlife globally,” said David Andrews, a co-author on the paper and a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental advocacy group.
PFAS are commonly used for their stain- and water-resistant properties and have been used for years as a common ingredient in firefighting foam and many household products. Almost all US residents have PFAS in their blood, and the chemicals contaminate water systems serving millions of people nationwide. PFAS are abundant in the natural environment, as well: According to one analysis by the Waterkeeper Alliance, over 80% of natural waterways are contaminated with the chemicals.
Toxic across taxa
There are thousands of types of PFAS, and scientists have found evidence that many can impair the immune system and spur developmental and reproductive problems, as well as cause thyroid and hormone disorders, liver problems, cancers, and nervous system effects.
“What we know [about health harms] in humans indicates that this is a threat to wildlife species globally,” said Andrews.
By Shannon Kelleher
Most mornings, Nathan Berwick rises well before dawn at his home in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, setting out on nearby Lake Charles in a small fishing boat to check his crab traps. If it’s not too hot and the water is calm, Berwick’s family occasionally joins him on the boat. His eleven-year-old daughter enjoys playing with baby crabs that fall from the traps as Berwick hauls them from the water.
Berwick comes from a long line of crabbers dating back to the 1820s, when his ancestors first arrived in the heel of the Louisiana boot – the state’s southwest corner.
“Thirty years from now I want my children to be able to say, ‘this is my home, this is where eight generations of Berwicks have lived,’” he said.
But this simple dream is in danger from a growing threat facing Berwick and others who contribute to – and depend on – the $1.5 billion fishing industry along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.
The fossil fuel industry has identified the Gulf region as a key site for expanding liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals. Eight new terminals are planned for southwest Louisiana alone, with a total of at least 16 new LNG projects anticipated for the Gulf region in coming years.
The terminals take in gas from transmission pipelines, cool it to a liquid, and store it for overseas exports. LNG is considered the cleanest of fossil fuels because it produces less carbon dioxide than coal and oil. And industry groups, including the Center for LNG, claim the fuel is vital to a clean energy future, with the potential to provide energy security and “lift people out of poverty.”
But environmental groups and concerned residents call the claims “greenwashing,” citing emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane and other air pollutants associated with LNG facilities, leakage, and emissions along its supply chain. They also point to a history of alleged shoddy operating practices that jeopardize public health and safety – all forced on communities with little consent.