The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110

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


Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in Seattle
against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to consider
impacts to the polar bear
and its Arctic habitat from toxic contamination caused by pesticide use
in the United States. The EPA did not respond to the Center's
notification of intent to sue for these failures, sent in June of this

Pesticides approved by EPA for use in the
United States are known to be transported long-distance via various
atmospheric, oceanic, and biotic pathways to the Arctic. 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.

Pesticides 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.

pesticide crisis is a silent killer that threatens not only the polar
bear but the entire Arctic ecosystem and its communities," said Rebecca
Noblin, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in
Anchorage. "The benefits of protecting the polar bear from pesticide
poisoning will reverberate throughout the entire Arctic ecosystem, with
positive impacts for Arctic people, who share the top of the food
pyramid with polar bears."

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 federally protected endangered species. 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
pesticides and other contaminants," said Noblin. "But the listing of
the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act gives the EPA both the
opportunity and the obligation to meaningfully address the poisoning of
the Arctic."

In addition to pesticide
contamination and loss of their 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.

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 2003 the Center filed suit over use of pesticides in the habitat of
an imperiled salamander in Texas; 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; and this summer, 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.

The Center is represented by Center attorneys as well as Chris Winter and Tanya Sanerib of Crag Law Center.

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.

(520) 623-5252