The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110

Polar Bears Poisoned by Pesticide Pollution: Lawsuit to Be Filed to Force EPA to Protect Arctic From Pesticide Contamination


Today the Center for Biological Diversity notified the Environmental
Protection Agency of its intent to file suit against the agency for
failing to consider impacts to the polar bear and its Arctic habitat from toxic contamination resulting from pesticide use in the United States.

approved by EPA for use in the United States are known to be
transported to the Arctic via various atmospheric, oceanic, and biotic
pathways. Such pesticides are biomagnified with each step higher in the
food web, reaching some of their greatest concentrations in polar
bears, the apex predators of the Arctic.

and related contaminants have been linked to suppressed immune
function, endocrine disruption, shrinkage of reproductive organs,
hermaphroditism, and increased cub mortality in polar bears. Human
subsistence hunters in the Arctic, who share the top spot on the food
web with the polar bear, also face increased risks from exposure to
these contaminants.

"The poisoning of the Arctic is
a silent crisis that threatens not just the polar bear, but the entire
Arctic ecosystem, as well as the people and communities that live
within it," said Rebecca Noblin, with the Center for Biological
Diversity in Anchorage. "Because the polar bear sits at the top of the
food pyramid, if we do what is necessary to protect the bear from
pesticides, we will also be protecting the Arctic ecosystem and the
people that depend upon it."

All pesticides in the
United States must be registered by the EPA before they can be lawfully
used. Courts have held that the agency must examine the impacts of any
pesticide it approves on species protected under the Endangered Species
Act. The polar bear was formally listed as a threatened species under
the Endangered Species Act on May 15, 2008 following a petition and
litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity, but the EPA has yet
to examine the impacts of any approved pesticide on the species.

United States has lagged far behind the international community in
taking action to protect the species and people of the Arctic from
contaminants," said Brendan Cummings, a senior attorney at the Center.
"But with the listing of the polar bear under the Endangered Species
Act, the EPA now has not just the opportunity but the legal obligation
to take meaningful steps to address the poisoning of the Arctic."

IUCN's Polar Bear Specialist Group, comprised of the world's leading
polar bear scientists, met last week in Copenhagen and highlighted
adverse health impacts from contaminants as one of the leading threats
to the polar bear in its summary of the meeting.

addition to pesticide contamination and loss of sea-ice habitat from
global warming, polar bears face threats from increased oil and gas
development in their habitat and the proliferation of shipping routes
in an increasingly ice-free Arctic. These activities bring heightened
risk of oil spills and rising levels of noise pollution and other kinds
of human disturbance.

Today's 60-day notice of
intent to sue is a legally required precursor before a lawsuit can be
filed under the Endangered Species Act to compel the EPA to comply with
the law.

While today's action marks the first legal
challenge to pesticide registrations due to their impacts on the
Arctic, the Center has brought several successful lawsuits against the
EPA over the impacts of pesticides in the lower 48 states. In 2006 the
Center reached a settlement with the agency over the use of 66
pesticides in the habitat of an imperiled amphibian in California,
while last week, as a result of a settlement of another Center lawsuit,
the EPA proposed restrictions on 74 pesticides due to their impacts on 11 threatened and endangered species in California.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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