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Sediments in many Central Valley streams contain toxic levels of pyrethroid pesticides

ks or sloughs, 17 irrigation ditches and two tailwater ponds in 10 Central Valley counties, including the ones with the greatest pyrethroid use: Fresno, Madera, Stanislaus and Sutter. Each sample was placed in a jar and left with 10 test organisms for 10 days, and the death rate compared with similar organisms raised with pristine sediment. The levels of pesticides in each sediment sample also were measured, and 75 percent contained pyrethroids.

Weston, who focuses on freshwater and marine pollution and how it gets from sediments into creatures living on the bottom, noted that another chemical sometimes applied with pyrethroids may be making the situation worse. Piperonyl butoxide, or PBO, is a synergist that shuts down the enzymes that detoxify pyrethroids, making them last longer in an organism and increasing their killing potential.

He and his colleagues are now trying to measure the level of pyrethroid that kills amphipods, which is around 3 parts per billion in sediments, and whether levels of PBO need to be considered in order to estimate the true toxicity of pyrethroid pesticides. The latter study is being conducted by UC Berkeley post-doctoral researcher Erin Amweg.

"I don't want to give the impression that pyrethroids are destroying the streams, since that has not yet been shown, but if we are serious about maintaining stream health, we have to consider the sediments and not limit our sampling just to the water above," said Weston. "While pyrethroids may be preferable to the organophosphates that preceded them, our work shows that the environmental effects of pyrethroids can not be ignored and have had too little study for too long. We need to know more about pyrethroids, because if we don't, how can we regulate them?"

Even if pyrethroids turn out to be little better than the pesticide compounds they replaced, Lydy doesn't expect them to go away any time soon.

"Farmers don't have another class of compounds waiting in
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Contact: Robert Sanders
rls@pa.urel.berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
6-May-2004


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