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Flusilazol (DuPont). Parents believe that exposure to Flusilazol during pregnacy resulted in severe eye deformities such as microphthalmia (small eyes) and coloboma, a defect in the structure of the eyes.
Leaked letter from DuPont Researcher proves DuPont knew pesticide put babies at risk
Chemical giant DuPont has always denied claims that their crop sprays damaged children in the womb, resulting in them being born without eyes or with severely underdeveloped eyes. But the Sunday Mail has discovered a letter, written by a DuPont scientist, which admits a chemical compound used in one of its fungicides exhibits "embryo toxicity characteristics".
Subject: THEY KNEW CROP SPRAY COULD PUT BABIES AT RISK;
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 18:31:20 -0400
From: Stephen Tvedten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: Get Set Inc. (www.getipm.com)
To: Paul Helliker <email@example.com>
Director, State of California, Department of Pesticide Regulation
Dear Mr. Helliker, I thought you might like to read another article on your "registered" POISONS: Copyright 2000 - Scottish Daily Record & Sunday Mail Ltd. - Sunday Mail - October 15, 2000, Sunday
HEADLINE: THEY KNEW CROP SPRAY COULD PUT BABIES AT RISK;
LEAKED LETTER COULD BE VITAL IN FAMILIES' FIGHT FOR COMPENSATION FOR CHILDREN BLINDED AFTER EXPOSURE TO FUNGICIDE
BYLINE: Donna White, Chief Writer Exclusive
VITAL new evidence has been uncovered by the Sunday Mail to help 20 Scots families win compensation for their children, all born with a rare eye deformity.
Chemical giant DuPont has always denied claims that their crop sprays damaged children in the womb, resulting in them being born without eyes or with severely underdeveloped eyes.
But the Sunday Mail has discovered a letter, written by a DuPont scientist, which admits a chemical compound used in one of its fungicides exhibits "embryo toxicity characteristics".
The explosive document - which goes on to instruct women workers to be kept away from the chemical - is a major breakthrough for families fighting for compensation.
But when The Sunday Mail contacted a senior toxicologist at DuPont, he denied Flusilazol, the chemical mentioned in the document, could have any effect on an unborn child.
However, the Attenboroughs, from Newburgh, Fife, believe they know different. Peter and Gillian Attenborough were living on a farm near fields being sprayed with Punch C - a DuPont fungicide containing Flusilazol - when Gillian, 33, was expecting their first son Jonathan, now 10.
He was born with microphthalmia (undersized eyes) and coloboma, a defect in the structure of the eyes. He is blind in one eye and only partially sighted in the other.
For the Attenboroughs, the DuPont document we have uncovered will be vital in helping prove that the crop sprays directly harmed Jonathan, and other children born with the same defects, in the womb.
Just 10 miles from the Attenboroughs' home, a little girl was born on the same day as Jonathan with exactly the same condition. It was later discovered that her mother passed the farm where the Attenboroughs lived on her way to work.
A coincidence? The families don't think so.
Particularly since, the previous year, another baby girl in the village was born with partially developed eyes. Her mother had gone potato picking during pregnancy.
The DuPont letter, uncovered by the Sunday Mail, refers to the testing of a product called Nustar - another name for Flusilazol.
Written in 1988, a year before Jonathan was born, to contractors Terra International, the DuPont employee admits: "Flusilazol does exhibit some health hazard concerns.
"Specifically, the active ingredient has chronic liver toxicity and embryo toxicity characteristics.
"We must not allow women to work in either the operating area or the laboratory during the Nustar campaign or subsequent cleanout."
When we contacted DuPont at its headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, senior toxicologist and director Dr Bob Gibson refused to elaborate on the effects of Flusilazol.
When asked if the chemical could affect children in the womb, he replied: "I don't believe so, but I am not familiar with Flusilazol. I haven't looked at it for quite a few years now."
And Mike Ricciuto, DuPont's director of communications for crop protection, told us: "There is absolutely no credible scientific evidence anywhere in the world that eye deformities have been caused by any of our products."
When confronted with the letter, he added: "It isn't unusual to see letters like these find their way into trials."
And, referring to the compensation action by parents being brought in the US courts, he said: "It is for the jury to decide whether one letter is representative of the truth."
We have now passed the Dupont letter on to Peter Attenborough, to be placed in the hands of his lawyers.
He and the other Scottish families affected have instructed American lawyer Jim Ferraro. In the States, where they have won the right to fight their cases, there is a greater chance of winning a multi-million dollar payout.
The case of Donna and Juan Castillo, from Miami, whose son John was born in 1990 without eyes, has encouraged families like the Attenboroughs to seek compensation.
The Castillos claimed John was affected by a chemical fungicide sprayed on crops near their home during Donna's pregnancy.
They won their court action in May 1996 and DuPont was ordered to pay them $ 3.98 million (pounds 2.7 million). However, the company is now appealing and the case still drags on.
Peter Attenborough, who has two other children - Lee, eight, and six-year-old Jennifer - said: "This fight against DuPont will never give Jonathan the life he deserves, but it will improve the one he has by making him financially secure."
Gillian Attenborough, 33, was careful not to drink or smoke during her pregnancy and, as a dedicated vegetarian, even the food she consumed was of the highest nutritional quality.
Yet, just hours after Jonathan was born, she was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt at being told his eyes were not fully formed. What had she done wrong?
Exhaustive tests could find no genetic cause for the baby's condition. Doctors concluded the source must have been environmental.
When their little boy was three, the Attenboroughs read a newspaper story about a child with exactly the same condition, linked to exposure to pesticides.
They contacted a support group for more information and slowly, they began to figure out what had happened.
Up until six weeks before Jonathan was born, the Attenboroughs had lived in an idyllic cottage on a farm outside Newburgh. There were fields surrounding the cottage - fields which were being sprayed with Punch C fungicide.
Peter, 40, a painter and decorator, has dedicated the past seven years to researching the effects of fungicides on children born with anophthalmia (no eyes) or microphthalmia.
He has become something of an expert and gives regular talks on the conditions to hospitals.
While the Attenboroughs are concerned about the effects of Flusilazol, the majority of families joining their court battle believe their children have been harmed by Benlate, the brand name of another Dupont fungicide which uses a chemical called benomyl.
Fungicides are far more widely used in Britain and other European countries than in the US because of our damp climate - fungus, not insects, is the main enemy of our crops.
DuPont says its test results show that a human could eat the equivalent of half a ton of vegetables containing the maximum accepted levels of Benlate every day without coming to any harm.
But Dr Vyvyan Howard, senior lecturer in foetal and infant toxic-pathology at Liverpool University, points out that if the substance is inhaled or absorbed through the skin from a crop spray, it bypasses the liver, and is therefore detoxified far more slowly.
It will then remain in the mother's system for far longer, with potentially devastating effects on a developing foetus.
In Britain, Benlate used to be freely available over the counter for home use. DuPont stress that they only removed it from garden centre shelves in January 1998 because it was becoming less effective - not because it was dangerous.
Understandably, parents of affected children are sceptical about this claim.
"After 26 years on the market this is a very strange coincidence," said Peter Attenborough.
Since the Seventies the US Government's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have considered studies which showed that benomyl (Benlate) could cause birth defects in laboratory rats.
In 1972 two scientists fed rats high dosages of the chemical. The rodents' offspring displayed signs of anophthalmia and microphthalmia.
On the basis of this, the EPA proposed to tighten up on benomyl usage and in a 1979 report, they proposed that bags containing 5lbs or more of the chemical should carry a label stating 'Exposure to benomyl during pregnancy should be avoided.' But Dupont challenged this move, and were successful.
In 1991 scientists at the University of California discovered that 43.3 per cent of pregnant rats fed high levels of benomyl produced foetuses with severe eye defects, including anophthalmia.
The figure rose to 63.5 per cent when the dosage was administered to rats given a protein-deficient diet.
Benlate was applied to around 90,000 acres in Britain in 1995, where an average of 26 cases of anophthalmia were being reported over the year.
But as the numbers of parents going up against DuPont increase they are well aware that, in effect, they are like David battling the corporate Goliath.
DuPont have scores of lawyers, experts and scientists on their side who are well versed in how to argue the opposite for every statement made against them.
Yet, just watching a child like Jonathan, giving 200 per cent effort to conquer the small milestones in life, it is obvious why they must continue.
Not just for him, but to obliterate the risk for the countless children who could be born like him.
Little Jon's fight against the odds - TRAGIC
Jonathan Attenborough, now 10, was born with severe abnormalities of the eyes.
He is totally blind in his right eye, which is just a quarter of the size of a normal one, and only partially sighted in his left.
He wears a prosthetic eye over the blind one to make the difference in size less noticeable.
Jonathan's poor eyesight means that a task which might be simple for other children his age, takes twice as long for him to conquer - but he bravely perseveres.
His teachers say he is now 90 per cent competent at crossing the road and he has only just learned to swim, as for years he was petrified of water.
"It's confidence that Jonathan lacks, but he's getting better with time," said his dad Peter.
"He's now learning to touch type, since keyboard skills will probably give him his only chance of finding a job when he's older." DuPont says its test results show that a human could eat the equivalent of half a ton of produce containing the maximum permissible levels of Benlate every day of their life without coming to any harm.
But leading medical experts believe that the safe levels for an adult are completely different to safe levels for a developing foetus.
This is particularly true at the very earliest stage when the foetus is laying down the essential structures for its eyes and brain - as early as three weeks after conception when it is only the size of a small fingernail."
"As an added precaution, we must not allow women to work in either the operating area or the laboratory during the campaign or subsequent cleanout."
Well Mr. Helliker, what are a few eye problems when you can reap a fortune in POISON profits or continue to make a "living" by "regulating" the use of "registered" POISONS? Whatever happened to the Golden Rule or the Pecautionary Principal? When will it be "legal" (in your opinion) to use safe and far more effective alterntives to actually control pest problems in California?
Respectfully, Stephen L. Tvedten