Neonicotinoid pesticides found contaminating streams and rivers throughout Midwest

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(NaturalNews) Researchers for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tested nine rivers in the Midwest during last year's growing season and discovered high concentrations of neonicotinoids, or neonics, in 100 percent of the water samples.

Neonicotinoids, similar to nicotine, are a class of neuro-active insecticides that kill a broad range of pests and are used globally. The application of neonicotinoids has nearly doubled over the past two years, particularly in agriculturally dense regions like Iowa, where vast amounts of corn and soybeans are grown.

Seeds are coated with neonics before they're planted, instead of being sprayed on growing crops, which becomes problematic when rain washes the chemicals out of the soil and into nearby rivers, streams and lakes.

"We noticed higher levels of these insecticides after rain storms during crop planting, which is similar to the spring flushing of herbicides that has been documented in Midwestern U.S. rivers and streams," said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report's lead author.

"In fact, the insecticides also were detected prior to their first use during the growing season, which indicates that they can persist from applications in prior years."

The destruction of the environment by the neonicotinoid family

The seven different chemicals that make up the neonicotinoid family are known to be extremely toxic to the environment. The insecticides have been linked to reducing bird populations, disrupting aquatic life and dismantling the honeybee species and other pollinating insects, directly affecting non-target animals.

New research led by an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands found a direct correlation between the deaths of farmland birds, including starlings, tree sparrows and swallows, and areas exhibiting high levels of neonicotinoid pollution.

The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were among the nine rivers and streams tested by USGS researchers; plus, the researchers studied most of the rivers draining from Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, states with the highest levels of neonicotinoids in the nation.

"Maximum concentrations of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid measured in this study were 257, 185, and 42.7 nanograms per liter, respectively," stated the USGS article announcing the study, which was published in Environmental Pollution.

Imidacloprid, which behaves similarly to thiamethoxam and clothianidin, is known to be toxic to aquatic life at 10-100 nanograms per liter.

The chemicals dissolve quickly in water, which makes them more susceptible to running off fields and polluting water sources. Neonicotinoids do not break down quickly in the environment, giving them ample chance to wreak havoc on nature's organisms.

Clothianidin was most commonly detected, showing up in 75 percent of the water samples and at the highest concentrations.

"Thiamethoxam was found at 47 percent of the sites, and imidacloprid was found at 23 percent. Two, acetamiprid and dinotefuran, were only found once, and the sixth, thiacloprid, was never detected," according to the USGS report.

Researchers force the world to acknowledge dangers of neonicotinoids

"Neonicotinoid insecticides are receiving increased attention by scientists as we explore the possible links between pesticides, nutrition, infectious disease, and other stress factors in the environment possibly associated with honeybee dieoffs," said USGS scientist Kathryn Kuivila, the research team leader.

While officials at the US Environmental Protection Agency say the family of chemicals is "not likely" to be carcinogenic to humans, they are certainly deadly to bee populations

Last year, the European Union (EU) voted to ban neonicotinoids in order to protect and save honeybees. The measure didn't receive the majority required under EU rules, but the hung vote was handed to the European Commissioner who promised to implement the ban.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also announced plans to eliminate the use neonicotinoid insecticides for growing crops used to feed wildlife on National Wildlife Refuge System lands. The agency intends to phase them out completely by 2016 for Region 1, which includes the following states and territories, as listed on

Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the Pacific Trust Territories.

Additional sources: [PDF]


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