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Flusilazole (DuPont). A contaminant found in another DuPont fungicide: Benlate.

Note from EC:
The following articles are from the website:
Unfortunately they are not dated. It would appear they were published from the mid to late 1990's.

copied from the Tampa Tribune Online

DuPont waged Benlate war in labs, courts

By Jan HolijngswortWTamPa Tribune
TAMPA - As Tim Schubert prepared to go on vacation one June morning in 1993, the plant pathologist was approached by an Alachna County sheriffs deputy armed with a subpoena from Dupont.

Schubert, the state Agriculture Department's lead plant disease expert, had confidential papers relating to the company's Benlate experiments. Dupont wanted them back, and got them.

DuPont has zealously sought to shield information about its fungicide through protective orders and confidentiality agreements that even seasoned lawyers find extraordinary.

"It's the damndest thing you ever saw. DuPont settles out of court and sends a truck to take all the documents away," said David Galloway, a Plant City attorney who represents growers with Benlate crop damage claims.

The company says confidentiality is vital to protect its legal and business interests. But state officials, growers and judges in two states say DuPont has abused its privilege by withholding information that casts Benlate in less than flattering light.

DuPont's secrecy also has served to keep important information sealed and inaccessible to agencies investigating possible health effects of the fungicide, officials said.

'DuPont has not been forthright on any front from the beginning," said Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford, whose agency has headed the statewide inquiry into plant damage and health complaints.

In a 1993 letter to Dupont CEO Edgar Woolard, Crawford complained that 23 boxes of documents the company did turn over to the state "are in no apparent logical order" and that "much of the data... are not in usable form."

Lawyers suing the company say records located at Dupont's multimillion-document depository in Wilmington, Del., are no less difficult to sort out.

"They scramble them up like a big salad," said James Ferraro, a Dade County attorney who represents a 5-year-old boy born without eyes.

DuPont vigorously denies engaging in improper conduct and cites 3 million pages of documents it has produced for various court proceedings

It has positioned itself as an "exemplary corporate citizen," sympathetic to the growers, unwaivering in the search of the agent of widespread crop destruction, which Dupont calls "The Unknown."

But a flood of once-secret documents that has entered the public domain conflicts with some of the company's representations about its product and research.

One of the most closely guarded DuPont documents - known as Path Forward - was unsealed by a judge in Hawaii earlier this year.

Created in March 1992, within days of Crawford's call for a probe into Benlat-related health complaints, Path Forward is a plan for dealing with the growing financial and public relations disaster in the wake of the Benlate 50 DF recall.

Path Forward recommends "creative communications approaches." It outlines a plan to build alliances with regulators and influence public officials in Florida, where some 1,200 crop damage claims and concern over possible human health effects fueled the Benlate controversy.

Among the suggested strategies:
-- Stay close to human health regulators.

-- Make Agriculture Commissioner Crawford look good. ("It's in Crawford's interest to shut this down.")
-- Support Crawford's legislative agenda.

-- put pressure on the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (WAS), which was conducting Benlate research, "via legislators."

-- Deliver key messages to key audiences - growers, regulators and UF researchers.

By 1995, Crawford's civil case charging DuPont with selling an adulterated and misbranded product had collapsed, the university had all but stopped its research and Dupont had delivered one key message outlined in Path Forward: "No contaminant in product."

But there were traces of other pesticides in the product. And documents indicate that Dupont knew it as early as the summer of 1990 - seven months before it pulled Benlate DF off the market.

Russian roulette: When Leesburg grower Frank Fuzzell summoned DuPont representatives to his dying nursery in August 1990, he was pretty sure Benlate DF was to blame, he said.

The plant symptoms - stunting, root damage, strange growth patterns and an unusual "greening" in some plants - mirrored effects the nurseryman had seen in 1989, the first time Benlate DE was the subject of a recall.

DuPont said some batches of the 1989 fungicide were contaminated with a weed-killer called atrazine. The company paid Fuzzell and other growers for the damage.

But when Dupont scientists analyzed the Benlate that Fuzzell provided in 1990, they found no atrazine. According to an internal memorandum they did find "significant levels" of two other fungicides - chlorothalonil and flusilazole, which is not registered for use in the United States.

Flusi1azole, when drenched into soil in high enough amounts, could cause "the 'greening' effect.,. distortions of the foliage... and/or reduction in the plant's growth," wrote one Dupont scientist.

Fuzzell's complaint was followed by another in North Carolina, a circumstance that spurred one frustrated DuPont registration specialist to dash off a memo about product contamination.

"We jump from atrazine to flusilazole to "What is next?" wrote Ronald Hamlen in an August 1990 memorandum. "We have very limited biological data to allow any meaningful interpretation as to the safety of our products... I feel it is a little like playing Russian roulette."

DuPont informed Fuzzell that Benlate was not the cause of his plant problems.

Meanwhile the company continued its efforts to get flusilazole registered for use on food crops in this country. The registration process required that DuPont notify the federal Environmental Protection Agency of any known adverse effects of the product.

In December 1990, DUPont advised the agency that preliminary results of a two-year feeding study indicated that the fungicide caused liver and bladder tumors in laboratory rats.

DuPont did not inform the EPA that flusilazole had been detected in some batches of Benlate DF just four months before. Or that the company had told its formulator to put it there.

The company says it does not consider the presence of flusilazole to be contamination because the chemical was reported at levels below federal guidelines of 500 parts per million. Internal memorandums say that DuPont authorized Terra International, the company it contracted to make Benlate, to add flusilazole to Benlate DF at levels as high as 1,000 parts per million.

When DuPont did advise the state Department of Agriculture and EPA after the March 1991 recall that chlorothalonil and flusilazole had been detected, the company said the chemicals were present in "trace" amounts and were not responsible for plant damage.

Regulators were not told of Hamlen's calculations that one of the lowest levels of flusilazole based Nustar the company reported - 42 parts per million - was six times more than the level at which DuPont researchers had observed plant damage when used as a soil drench.

The highest level of Nustar DuPont reported was 422 parts per million.

Enemies: By the summer of 1991, Dupont's scientists weren't the only ones trying to find the cause of massive damage to Benlate-treated plants in 40 states.

Independent consultants and umversity researchers also went to work to identify "The Unknown".

In Florida, the state hardest hit by the scourge, the effort was led by R. Hilton Biggs, a University of Florida biochemist who theorized that a combination of factors - including Benlate breakdown products, contaminants and climate - contributed to the weird array of plant effects reported by growers.

One of the culprits, he believed, was n-butyl isocyanate (BIC), a toxic gas produced when Benlate breaks down in the environment~

The UF researcher noted that BIC also was known to cause sometimes severe respiratory problems in sensitive individuals.

Biggs, a plant man, was drifting into the health realm.

"You couldn't avoid it," he said. "BIC is in the health realm."

Biggs was a member of the UF faculty for 35 years before, he Said,I chose to retire in disgust" when his Beniate research funding was cut off in 1993. He pressured the university to shut down his research.

In 1992-93, DUPont was a member of The President's Academy at UF, an honorary listing of individuals and companies who made major foundation gifts of at least $500,000 in cash or a pledge of at least $1.5 million.

DuPont says contributions to any academic institutions "have been and always will be devoid of any attempt" to influence university politics.

The company also says it never pressured the university "via legislators" as suggested in the Path Forward document.

Biggs had his supporters.

"He's a good scientist. They've tried to make him look like a quack or something," said Carl Whitcomb, a crop consultant who has testified against DuPont in Benlate cases in a half dozen states.

In a deposition earlier this year, both Whitcomb and Biggs were identified by DuPont public affairs consultant Pat Getter as subjects of a Path Forward initiative directed at scientists the company considered adversaries.

Under the heading "Experts," the Path Forward plan recommends:
-- Cut them off publicly.

-- Don't share information with them.

-- Get intelligence on them so we're not blind-sided.

-- Know your enemies.

Getter said last week that the Path Forward document, which was distributed to about a dozen scientists, lawyers and others in the company, was the result of a brainstorming session. "That doesn't mean that any or all of it got implemented," she said. "Some of it probably did. I'm certain that there's a whole lot that didn't."

For whatever reason, Benlate research in the U.S. has come to a screeching halt, said Whitcomb.

"Other than two or three folks at the University of Hawaii, there is no one at an agricultural college in this country working on this problem," he said.

Political science: In dealing with the unprecedented fungicide recall, DuPont initially wrote big checks to settle plant damage claims. But the company also was working to minimize potential liability.

A September 1991 letter written by Orlando attorney Thomas Burke, who DuPont hired to oversee its Benlate problems, lays the foundation for what was to become a two-front war that the company would wage in laboratories and courtrooms across the country.

"Scientifically, DuPont can maintain that it continues to search for a cause and that it will continue to do so as long as it appears necessary to address the issues raised by customers and regulators. At some point, I would expect that it will no longer be an issue, but am unable to predict when that may occur," Burke recommended to Dupont's in-house counsel.

"In the litigation mode, we will not be forced into admitting that we have found a cause and it is our fault. It is a much better litigation position to state that we have looked, are looking, and will continue to look but have had no success, leaving the issue unresolved than it is to have to admit that we have isolated the mechanism of injury," Burke wrote.

Five months later, DuPont research manager Bruce Hadley wrote a memorandum telling company scientists that "by your involvement in this research, you are essentially working for Tom Burke, not DUPont, in support of claims and litigation."

DuPont says Burke's 'only actual suggestion was 'I recommend the basic science effort continue at some level,' ' and that attorneys did not direct or influence its scientists' work "in any way.

Publicly the company has maintained that it mobilized its scientific resources to identify "The Unknown."

"The magnitude of this research effort is unprecedented in the agricultural chemical industry," Dupont Vice President William Kirk said in November 1992, when the company announced that its scientists had absolved Benlate of any role in adverse plant or human health effects.

But various documents - culled from Dupont and government files - say that some Benlate samples used for experiments were prescreened for contaminants, Benlate-treated topsoil at some Dupont test sites was removed and replaced before experiments were held and some of the plant species selected for experiments were described by one state scientist as "bulletproof"

Judge Kevin Chang, who presided over a Benlate liability case in Hawaii, also called DuPont's science into question.

In a 165-page finding of fact, Chang concluded in March that:
-- Duponts conduct "is suggestive of test bias."

-- Company scientists reported directly to Dupont's legal department and outside legal counsel.

-- Members of the 'independent" panel of scientists DuPont used to validate its research had signed consulting agreements with Burke's law firm "to promote the effective legal representation of Dupont."

-- The reliability of expert opinions based on Dupont's Florida and Hawaii field tests was open to question."

-- The testimony of an expert the company hired to conduct research "for the purpose of Duponts litigation effort... is not worthy of belief."

-- The reliability of the growers paid experts "is also open to question and is unsettled in this case."

-- The only credible witness in the case was a University of Hawaii researcher who was not paid and testified for the growers that Benlate caused plant damage, Chang said.

In January, another Hawaiian judge fined DuPont $1 .5 million for withholding damaging information from growers' attorneys in a crop damage lawsuit. DuPont has filed an appeal.

Eight months later, a federal judge who presided over a Benlate liability suit filed in 1993 in Columbus, Ga., upped the ante, slapping DuPont with a record $115 million fine in a court ruling that found fraud and suppression of evidence.

"This Court had found Dupont's conduct to be the most serious abuse in its years on the bench and the most serious abuse reflected in the legal precedents," wrote U.S. District Judge J. Robert Elliott in a 79-page ruling that DuPont also is appeallng.

The company vigorously denies engaging in any type of improper conduct. "Underlying the dispute is science and our science is sound," Getter said.

A federal grand jury in Georgia is currently investigating whether Dupont illegally withheld test data in the Columbus trial.

In September, Florida's agriculture department failed to prove its case that Dupont had violated state law by selling an adulterated and misbranded product.

That ruling, says Dupont,"lays to resat any doubt" about the company's testing or the integrity of its product.

As for the health issue, said Getter, "There is no credible science to support health effect allegations regarding Benlate. Period."


Copied from the Tampa Tribune Online

Fungicide studies offer little comfort
By Jan HollingswortWTampa Tribune

TAMPA - Much of what is known about the possible dangers of flusilazole is considered a trade secret - unavailable even to state agents investigating health complaints.

What is known about the fungicide - which is not approved for use in the United States - offers little comfort to those who applied it to Florida farmland as an undisclosed ingredient in some lots of Benlate 50 DF.

According to a study conducted in Bulgaria, oral doses of flusilazole given to pregnant rats produced congenital defects such as protruding eyes, twins of unequal size joined at the jaw and grossy enlarged tongues.

In 1988, DuPont instructed the company it had contracted to make a flusilazole-based product that women must not be allowed to work "in the operating area or the laboratory" where they would come in contact with the chemical.

Laboratory results DuPont submitted to the EPA in order to register the product in the U.S. indicate oral doses produce liver and bladder tumors in mice and rats.

EPA documents reflect the agency's concerns about a number of flusilazole products, including one sold in Europe under the brand name Punch. "DuPont insists on pursuing registration. [Registration Division] also indicates that the [experimental use permit] for Punch will be suspended due to multiple adverse effects reports," said one EPA summary.

DuPont says it voluntarily chose not to renew Punch's U.S. experimental use permit in 1992.

The EPA conducted a risk analysis earlier this year that concluded "the dietary and occupational risks from exposure to Benlate contaminated with [another fungicide] and flusilazole are negligible.

The assessment did not take into account the interaction of the chemicals with each other, an issue now being addressed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the request of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

The EPA analysis centered on oral doses of the chemical, not skin exposure or inhalation, which are listed on the product's Material Safety Data Sheet as flusilazole's "principle health hazards."

DuPont toxicologist Bob Gibson has told health investigators that flusilazole's vapor activity is insignificant. But company literature promoting the fungicide touts its vapor activity as a selling point, saying it contributes to "enhanced field efficacy.

"Flusilazole's vapor phase action is enhanced by warmer temperatures," according to a DuPont technical bulletin.

One state agriculture scientist noted in 1994 that of 250 active ingredients in pesticides only 19 would vaporize more easily than flusilazole.

Scientist Ted McDowell went on to say, 'I would recommend extremely careful analysis of flusilazole's effects on humans and other non-target organisms."

Experiments conducted by Cornell University in the mid-1980s demonstrated that flusilazole's vapors could extend the chemical's fungus killing ability for an entire growing season.

Roger Pearson, the Cornell researcher who conducted the vapor study, died in 1991 at the age of 46 of unexplained respiratory failure.

Pearson s work had taken him around the world, where he was exposed to numerous chemicals and fungi, said his widow, Karen.


Benlate probe issues 'got way off track'

By Paul Power Jr and Jan Hollingsworthl Tampa Tribune

GAINESVILLE-- Farmers brought in twisted plants and photos of mutant wildlife.

They complained about livestock and pets dying, that their greenhouses were strangely devoid of insects, as if some toxic vapor lingered in the air.

For more than three years, a state pesticide advisory panel was dogged by growers, attorneys, consultants, Dupont public relations employees and scientists.

The panel was at the center of the Benlate controversy. Discussions often degenerated into whether information presented was "junk science or something useful.

Accusations of malfeasance and coverups ran rampant. Migrant workers appeared by the busload. One angry farmer passed out bumper stickers that said "Doo doo on Dupont."

"We heard a lot of rhetoric from a small number of people, but I think we got way off track and ended up chasing our tail," said Perry Sparkman of Orlando, a former Chevron employee and the chemical industry's representative on the panel.

Sparkman, who is now chairman of the Pesticide Review Council {PRC), added: "You might say that after three years, I don't think we accomplished anything on the [human] health effects side.

Politics ruled, from the courthouse to public forums, as investigators discussed how to get to the bottom of human health complaints that were piling up on top of plant damage claims that had cost manufacturer DuPont hundreds of millions of dollars.

The pressure points:

-- Government officials overwhelmed by the potential scope of the problem.

Regulatory agencies hindered by trade secrets laws and dependence upon Dupont to provide vital information.

-- Sick growers, suspicious of Dupont's clout in a state where about a third of its retirement fluid is tied up in DuPont stock.

The PRC has no real flinding of its own and is dominated by agricultural interests.

"That much is true, whether it is officially or unofficially," said Rodney Dehan, a groundwater specialist with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

An obscure panel, it often mulls issues such as what chemicals are proper for highway rights of way, how to combat propellor clogged weed on lakes, and even the environmental fate of mothballs left in the closets of winter residents.

The group does not have any regulatory teeth but it does have a statutory obligation to offer recommendations to the Florida Department of Agriculture about particular pesticides.

To this end, Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford formed two PRC subcommlttees in 1992 to investigate Benlate-related complaints of plant damage and health effects.

The committees quickly became mired in a political swamp that pitted growers against regulators and state and federal agencies against each other.

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences found itself caught up in the controversy when Crawford asked the school to research the cause of plant damage that decimated the state's nurseries and greenhouses.

Part of the conflict swirled around R. Hilton Biggs, a UF biochemist who led the plant damage investigation.

Biggs concluded Benlate was to blame; he sounded an early warning about health problems he believed were tied to the fungicide.

In 1993, Biggs' research funds were cut off by the school's deans and he said he was forced to retire.

The institutes administrator, Jim Davidson, said there was no intent to come down on Biggs, nor to thwart any part of the scientific inquiry.

"We spent a lot of state resources on the problem, and the end result is that we don't know as much as we would like to," said Davidson.

Some growers complained when Biggs was not appointed to the PRC committee. They were outraged that toxicologist Raymond Harbison was.

According to court documents, Harbison was paid more than $85,000 between 1985 and 1992 to serve as an expert on behalf of Dupont and other chemical companies that were defendants in a group of personal injury lawsuits in Louisiana.

'We will not give out any information concerning our health problems to [the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services) as long as you sit on this committee," Lake Placid grower Maryann Delaney said in a 1992 letter to Harbison.

The committee is now inactive. Harbison has said that his critics overestimated his involvement in the Louisiana litigation and that it does not create any bias.

Growers' mounting distrust of state investigators impeded the health inquiry, said HRS' chief toxicologist Roger Inman, who served as chairman of the PRC during part of the Benlate controversy.

Nonetheless, a handifil of militant growers inundated PRC members with scientific studies and relentlessly prodded Crawford, Inman and other officials to act.

"The people who have had access to information have sat back waiting for the victims to bring it to them," said Shirley Smith, the only grower on the council's health effects committee.

"And by and large, the things that have been brought to their attention haven't been acted on," she added.

Three years later, Dupont and public officials say they still know of no definitive link between Benlate exposure and illness, when the product is used according to label instructions.

But those affected say that for all the posturing, meetings and memos, state and federal agencies have yet to thoroughly explore the Benlate health issue

"Our position has always been that the human health effects issue should have involved looking at human beings, as opposed to what the PRC did, which was study data and read reports," said Carl Webster, an attorney with the Rural Law Center in Apoplat, which represents the interests of farmworkers.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency called it a civil matter between growers and Dupont. The agriculture department turned to EPA to interpret state pesticide laws. HRS looked to the agriculture department for funding. All plead poverty

To date, state decisions related to health matters, including the disposal of Benlate-treated soil and plant material in state landfills, have all been based on data supplied by DuPont.

And every agency has sidestepped the most controversial issue of all: the contaminants contained in the pesticide that was drenched on Florida farmlands.

Both the agriculture department and EPA knew by mid- 1991, within months of a Benlate 50 DF recall, that the fungicide contained at least two other chemicals - chlorothalonil and flusilazole, a fungicide not approved for use in the United States.

But as late as September 1993, agriculture department employees were telling growers that the agency "has no data concerning the incorporation of flusilazole into the Benlate formulation."

Six months later, the department asked EPA to evaluate whether the flusilazole contamination violated federal pesticide laws.

The answer: Apparently not. There are no provisions regarding adulteration by chemicals not approved, but not specifically banned, EPA officials said.

Scott Garrison, an EPA attorney, said that much of the agency's attention is focused on meeting congressional mandates to fill in scientific gaps for current pesticides.

"So what happens is that anything that isn't registered takes a back seat," said Garrison. "It would be nice if we could step back and think about the health and environmental impacts" of EPA decisions.

Grower Smith is not placated by the agency's position.

"If a manufacturer can go out and make the entire world's food supply its experiment, what purpose does this multimillion dollar agency called EPA have?" asked Smith.

If the agriculture department and EPA were not overly concerned about the contaminants, the state health agency was.

HRS officials have said they found the issue of contaminants to be "particularly troublesome."

But even HRS didn't hotly pursue more data on flusilazole until pressured by growers, who were alarmed to discover that they had inadvertently applied an unapproved chemical to their crops via Benlate DF.

Certainly we're concerned about flusilazole. It's one of the most long-lived pesticides there is," said HRS' Inman in a recent interview. "But thats under the realm of the agriculture department."

To date, no state or federal agency has tested soil, water or crops to determine if this unregistered pesticide persists in the environment.

Steve Rutz, a pesticide manager at the agriculture department, said that the agency did not ignore the presence of flusilazole in Benlate.

"It may be a relevant issue, but you don't want to be myopic. You have to look at the whole package of contamination issues," he said.

The agriculture department addressed "the whole package" during an administrative hearing earlier this year.

Using its own research, the agency pursued an administrative complaint against Dupont for distributing an "adulterated and misbranded product." The complaint named a half dozen contaminants, including flusilazole.

The hearing officer ruled that the state based its allegations on faulty laboratory procedures. He said that testimony from Dupont scientists, who questioned the state's testing methods, was "more credible" than the evidence offered by the agriculture department.

Plaintiffs' attorneys and state employees who sat in on the six-week proceeding noted that boxes of data were never entered into evidence by state lawyers.

"We tried to introduce them but the court disallowed it, claiming there was a lack of roundation," said an agriculture department spokesman.

Crawford's critics wonder why the agriculture commissioner used department attorneys instead of securing outside legal council to take on the chemical giant.

"If you tried to match the DuPont legal machine, you'd have to spend about $200 million," Crawford said in an interview earlier this year.

Growers have been more successiful than the state in convincing judges and juries that Benlate contamination and other factors contributed to crop damage. Although litigation has resulted in mixed verdicts across the country, growers have been awarded tens of millions of dollars in damages since DuPont halted its voluntary settlements in the fall of 1992.

In May - four years after the product was recalled - EPA filed its own administrative complaint against Dupont, seeking $120,000 in fines for selling a mislabeled pesticide. DuPont is appealing the action.

Even if the fine stands, the issue of human health remains unresolved. The agency's action may have been too little, too late, said Inman.

I think EPA should have been on this and more involved in the beginning," he said But EPA had its own problems.

In April 1993, as Benlate-related health issues were heating up, EPA Administrator William Reilly left the agency to join Dupont's board of directors. His successor, Carol Browner, the former head of florida's Department of Natural Resources, took office in 1993.

Meanwhile, the EPA's investigation of the recalled fungicide was hampered by the reassignment of the Atlanta-based agents who led the federal inquiry, as well as the reassignment of John Stockwell, the agency's representative on PRC's health effects committee.

In 1993, Stockwell, an expert on occupational and environmental medicine - and an outspoken critic of Benlate, who called the product a health risk - was transferred to another post within the agency, said EPA pesticide administrator Carlton Layne.

"There was a lot of potential there, but the case was taken out of the [Atlanta] region's hands," Layne added.

"Aside from some of the problems," said EPA product manager Carl Grable, "Benlate is still a good fungicide. Apparently it got contaminated with something or other, but the product has worked for a number of years."

Jay Feldman, director of the public interest group National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, said the Benlate affair demonstrates what happens when state agriculture officials "rubber stamp" federal decisions.

  Copied from the Tampa Tribune Online

Scientists see complex puzzle

by Jan Hollingsworth/Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - The symptoms in people who believe they have been injured by Benlate are as varied as the damage noted in plants treated with the fungicide.

DUpont insists that its product - when used as directed - harms neither plants nor humans.

While Benlate DF's active ingredient, breakdown products and contaminants do have the potential to create adverse effects in both, no single known factor seems to explain the diverse symptoms in either.

"I have likened it to trying to put together a six-foot picture puzzle with pieces the size of a penny. Don't underestimate the complexity of it," said Carl Whitcomb, a crop consultant who believes that sulfonylureas (SUS), a class of potent weedkillers that have been named as a Benlate DF contaminant, most likely are responsible for the widespread plant damage.

The powerful plant-killers target one enzyme system specific to bacteria, yeast, fungi and plants, he said, citing the basis for the assumption that the chemicals are nontoxic to humans and animals.

"Where it gets unclear is the question of breakdown products of these herbicides," said Whitcomb. As these things break down in the environment, they may or may not affect people."

More is known about the breakdown products of benomyl - Benlate's active ingredient - which converts to carbendazim, n-butyl isocyanate (BIC) and dibutylurea in the environment.

According to tests performed by regulatory agencies and independent laboratories, all have been found to persist in air and soil samples after they should have dissipated. And some can be harmful to human health.

Of the three, BIC - a form of cyanide gas - is rated high on the list of suspects related to respiratory complaints from people who say they've been exposed to the fungicide. "The isocyanates are known for their ability to sensitize people," said Roger Inman, the state's chief toxicologist. "You could get tearing, nosebleeds and allergic-type reactions right down to pulmonary symptoms like asthma."

The presence of BIC and other breakdown products after they should be gone indicates an imbalance in the number and kind of microorganisms in the soil, say some scientists working on the puzzle. These organisms are responsible for breaking the compounds down in the environment.

In essence, the chemicals may be killing the organisms, said Whitcomb. Its supposed to work the other way.

SUs, which can affect bacteria, yeast and fungi, as well as plants, could be one factor in upsetting the microbial world, he said. DUpont says SUs were not present in any of the recalled Benlate DF.

Benomyl, itself, could also affect microorganisms. Benlate's active ingredient is known to cause mutations in some microorganisms.

It has been suggested that microbes could even be the source of some symptoms. At least one Benlate-related human health complaint involves a man infected with fusarium, a fungus known to mutate when exposed to Benlate.

There are other factors as well.

Chlorothalonil and flusilazole - two other fungicides discovered in some batches of Benlate - are contaminants that recently have become the focus of more intense scrutiny by regulatory agencies.

Chlorothalonil, a chemical whose residue is supposed to be washed from stems and leaves, was found inside some Benlate DF treated plant tissues - a place it was not expected to be.

Flusilazole is not registered for use in the United States.

Both compounds are not supposed to be applied to soil, which they were as part of Benlate DF soil drench treatments by growers who didn't know they were in the fungicide.

According to some scientists,. either of these compounds by themselves, or in concert with other chemicals in Benlate DF - known and unknown - may have created microbial mayhem toxic to all living things.

Only this year has anyone even agreed to explore the synergy - the combined action of these compounds - upon each other, the environment and human health.

"This is a problem of monumental proportions. where are the scientists that are supposed to be working on this?" said whitcomb.

University of Florida researcher R. Hilton Biggs, who for a time led the state's investigation into plant damage, believes that the contaminants and breakdown products in Benlate, combined with certain environmental factors, creates both chemical buildup and an imbalance in microorganisms. Both have toxic implications, he said.

He believes the phenomenon is not limited to the recalled dry flowable formulation, but includes all forms of Benlate, which was introduced in 1970. Biggs' theory is that Benlate has been accumulating in the environment ever since. The process was more rapid and dramatic when certain batches of the DF formula - containing contaminants - was applied as a root drench he said.
"In my opinion, Benlate is the second worst chemical disaster in the history of the world," said the retired biochemist. Second only to the "Silent Spring" of DDT.

"And its still out there," he said.



Copied from Tampa Tribune Online

Investigative timeline on Benlate

From The Tampa Tribune


1987 - DuPont introduces Benlate 50 DF

1989 - Limited recall of DF formula.

1990 - DuPont cancels post-harvest use of Benlate on fruit crops.

March 1991 - Second recall. DuPont removes all DF from the market.

September 1991 - DuPont cancels other formulations of Benlate for use on ornamental and container-grown plants, in greenhouses, or as a soil drench on any plants.

November 1991 - Agriculture department begins to receive health complaints.

March 1992 - Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford directs HRS to investigate health claims.

June 1992 - Crawford appoints two scientific project teams to investigate Benlate's effects on crops and health.

August 1992 - State officials complete 75 interviews with sick growers September 1992 - State enlists federal assistance, citing increasing evidence of health problems.

October 1992 - 30 farmworkers march on Tallahassee to urge officials to ban all forms of Benlate until more is known about health effects.

November 1992 - Dupont stops paying all crop damage claims. Produces new research it says proves that Benlate was not to blame.

February 1993 - HRS seeks $60,000 from Legislature to perform medical tests on 40 people.

April 1993 - Funding for medical studies left out of state budget.

April 1994 - State files administrative complaint against Dupont for selling an adulterated

and misbranded pesticide.

August 1994 - Study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concludes that Benlate's active ingredient is absorbed through skin; recommends more study.

May 1995 - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences begins review of Benlate in combination with two key contaminants.

Sept. 1995 - Florida administrative law judge rules in favor of Dupont on state adulteration complaint, faulting agriculture department's laboratory methods.


Copied from The Detroit News

Benlate jury awards $4 million to family of eyeless child

By John Pacend /Associated Press Writer

MIAMI -- Ajury ordered awarded $4 million in damages Friday to couple who alleged their son was born without eyes because his mother was exposed to DuPont Co.'s fungicide Benlate while she was pregnant.

Donna Castillo alleged in the lawsuit that she was drenched with benlate in 1989 while she was just six weeks pregnant by a tractor spraying tomato fields that bordered her Miami-area residential neighborhood.

"This will not bring the sight back to my son, that is something we have to live with the rest of our lives," Juan Castillo, an accountant, said after the decision by the Dade County jury. The son, John, is now six.

DuPont's Stacey J. Mobley derided the decision, calling it "a blow to science and to our jury system." The company argued there was no proof that benlate caused birth defects. It also said it doubted Donna Castillo was exposed to the fungicide.

"There is no credible scientific evidence linking the use of Benlate to human health effects," Mobley said. "Time and again, scientific authorities and governmental agencies worldwide have independently come to this conclusion."

But during the four-week trial, attorneys for the Castillos said DuPont had conducted studies in 1980 and 1982 that indicated a link between the active ingredient in Benlate and similar birth defects among rat pups.

The company has been accused in other lawsuits of hiding test results on the effects of benlate.

The decision sets a bad precedent for DUpont. Many families from farming communities in England and Scotland are waiting to file a class-action lawsuit against the chemical company, believing their children have been born with eye defects because of Benlate.

'We've been keeping an eye on the trial and this will have a big impact and probably accelerate our case," said David Logan, an attorney from Fife, Scotland who represents about 25 families.

Friday's decision was just the most recent of DuPont's trouble with the fungicide.

Last year, a Florida hearing officer dismissed allegations by the Department of Agriculture that Benlate DF, blamed for a $1 billion in crop damage, had been contaminated by a potential weedkiller.

Earlier, the company was fined $1 million for withholding evidence during a 1993 trial in Georgia.

The Castillos hope to use The money to send their son to a high-quality school and allow for necessary procedures to fill the empty eye sockets with prosthetics.


  Benlate created medical mystery

By Jan Hollingsworth/Tampa Thibune

TAMPA - A boy with no eyes. A girl with kidney failure. Men, women and children with aches, pains, nosebleeds, respiratory problems, cancers.

And a widow haunted by a Christmas tree.

Nearly five years after Benlate 50 DF was last applied to Florida crops and ornamental plants, these are the people who still want to know if the funngicide's legacy extends beyond the devastation it is said to have wreaked upon nurseries and farms in 40 states.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford dubbed

"the worst man-made agricultural disaster in history."

But a larger question remains: Could the chemical blamed for massive crop failure have affected human health as well?

For Donna Lloyd it's a question that comes to mind every time she looks at the seven-foot cedar that guards the front gate of her Thonotosassa Christmas tree farm.

The tree - the sole survivor among hundreds planted in this field - is a study in lush, green symmetry. But it should be twice its size, says Lloyd.

She considers it a miracle that it lives at all. Its presence is a perpetual reminder that her husband, Fred, does not.

"I look at it every day and I wonder if there's some connection" to her husband's death four years ago, she said.

Among those who believe they may have been injured by Benlate exposure:

-- The family of a 5-year-old South Florida boy, born without eyes, who is the subject of the first Benlate-related personal injury lawsuit set for trial.

-- Four state employees who have reported adverse health effects after visiting Benlate-treated sites in Central Florida.

-- A scientific research team that became ill while collecting samples from a Wauchula greenhouse more than two years after Benlate had been applied.

-- People, pets and livestock living or working on Benlate-treated land who have experienced miscarriages and birth defects.

-- More than 100 growers and farmworkers who have contacted state agencies to report symptoms ranging from headaches and nosebleeds to cancer and respiratory problems.

Dupont, the fungicide's manufacturer, steadfastly denies that Benlate poses any risk to human health.

"They were exposed to everything under the shining sun," DuPont toxicologist Robert Gibson said of affected farmworkers and growers

On this point DuPont and agencies investigating the medical mystery agree: The sheer number of chemicals used in agriculture is a confounding factor in isolating a cause.

Only one thing is certain: People are sick. Some are dying. And no one knows why.

The possible connection to Benlate was not immediately made by many of those who now believe the fungicide may be responsible for their medical problems.

When 5-year-old John Castillo Jr. was born without eyes, his family didn't know what to think, said attorney James Ferraro. It was not until the boys mother joined a support group for children who shared the birth defect - called anophthalmia - that she heard reports of cases in Great Britain, where health investigators were looking at Benlate as a possible cause.

The Castillo family lived next to a Homestead farm where the fungicide was used, Ferraro said.

For Dade City Christmas tree grower Debbie Harris, the connection came after a visit to Lloyd's farm in the fall of 1992.

Harris' 6-year-old daughter had been hospitalized earlier that year with kidney and liver failure and respiratory problems, days after the appearance of a rash that covered the child's body.

Doctors were unable to settle on a diagnosis, said Harris. Months of dialysis put the little girl on the road to recovery, she said.

Fred Lloyd had experienced kidney failure and respiratory distress before he died, his widow told Harris.

"The thing that stuck with me was when Donna Lloyd mentioned that her husband had pains in his joints before he got really sick," said Harris. "Sarah had terrible joint pains."

Circumstantial link: The seedlings were the first to go.

The Lloyds watched the baby cedars begin to wither and die in February of 1991, shortly after Fred Lloyd sprayed them with BenlateDF a granulated form of one of the most widely used fungisides in the world.

"A DuPont representative came out to look at the seedngs," said Donna Lloyd. "He sat at my kitchen table and said, 'Mrs. Lloyd, your whole nursery is going to die. I've seen it before.'"

"Before" was 1989, when similar crop damage prompted a limited recall of batches of Benlate DF that Dupont said was contaminated with traces of a weed-killer called atrazine.

Dupont initially fingered atrazine as the culprit in the 1991 recall. But the company soon announced that the amount of atrazine found in some boxes of Benlate DF was not enough to kill plants.

The official cause of death? Unknown, said DuPont, which nonetheless began writing checks to compensate growers for their losses as it did in 1989.

But this time the damage was more dramatic and far more widespread.

Farms and nurseries in 40 states reported stunting, deformities and plant death. All said they had used Benlate DF.

Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii were particularly hard-hit.

Berries, cucumbers, tomatoes and other food crops sprayed with Benlate sustained some of the damage. But the most damage occurred at ornamental nurseries and greenhouses where the fungicide was not only sprayed on leaves, but drenched into the soil - a common practice in Florida.

Most of the health complaints came from these kinds of operations, where human contact with the treated plants was more intimate than with field crops.

In September 1991, six months after the recall, DuPont revised the Benlate label to omit the fungicide's use on ornamental and potted plants, in greenhouses, or as a soil drench.

But the company said it still had not discovered what was killing the plants.

Two months later, the health complaints began to trickle into Florida's agriculture department. Four more months passed before Crawford asked the state's Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to investigate them.

By then, many growers were discovering that the land itself seemed sick, producing weird and stunted growth in new, untreated plants - if it produced anything at all.

On April 29, 1991, 57-year-old Fred Lloyd was hospitalized with failing kidneys and labored breathing. The diagnosis multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer.

I remember them questioning him about the chemicals he used," said Donna Lloyd, who would become a widow 37 days later.

Many of the stricken growers report similar inquiries about toxic exposure when they sought medical help.

HRS files document those who turned to the state health agency for an explanation.

One Homestead nursery owner reported that her four children experienced "horrifing" nosebleeds and recurrent headaches after playing in Benlate treated greenhouses and fields. The family pet died of' poisoning," according to a veterinarian, she said.

A Jacksonville family of four reported suffering sore throats, headaches and "mysterious" rashes that became more intense after working in fields and greenhouses. The family dog died.

A Defray Beach greenhouse operator said she suffered frequent sore throats, nausea and aching joints. A puppy, chronically ill for seven months, was recovering after being banished from the greenhouse, she said.

Leo Fish, a Glen St. Mary hydroponic tomato grower, wrote to state agencies about his family's continuing health problems, which included nosebleeds, swollen joints and glands, fatigue, nausea and memory loss. Fish added: "We've had two cats to die, which was unexplainable. We put our dog in the hospital. They said it looked like he was poisoned with something.... There were no live insects inside or around the greenhouses when we shut them down nine months ago."

Roger Inman, chief toxicologist for FIRS, said he takes the complaints seriously. "Do I believe there's something there? Yeah, but I can't prove that it's Benlate. Therein lies the frustration."

Information withheld: By autumn of 1992, HRS had completed a telephone survey of 75 people - mostly growers and their families - who reported health effects they believed might be related to Benlate.

The agency concluded that the complaints needed more study "considering the reported extent of the health problems, the fact that these symptoms tended to fall in three broad disease clusters and the inability to explain crop damage."

Eight cases of cancer were reported among those surveyed. But these were not included in the final results because the long latency period of most cancers made it unlikely that they were related to the Benlate DF formulation, which was introduced in 1987.

Still, the report noted that other forms of Benlate had been used extensively for 20 years and "scientists must consider whether the newer [DF] formulation could be the cause of both plant and animal effects or whether a steady accumulation over many years of use caused the problems."

The survey was followed by a review of the medical records of 28 of the 75 particinants,which provided no additional insight into the reported health effects.

"The problem is there was no common test done," said Inman "One guy and his wife may have had blood work and some en~rrnes done and maybe the next couple didn't."

Litigation further complicated investigative efforts, said Inman. ".An along we've had trouble with the fact that many people who settled with Dupont [for crop damage) signed nondisclosure statements. They are cautious about releasing information for fear they might have to pay the money back," he said.

Litigation also prompted DuPont - the subject of more than 600 crop damage lawsuits - to circle its wagons. There are still 120 pending lawsuits, including 14 for personal injury.

The company eventually provided the state with some 60,000 documents related to past Benlate studies. But when asked by regulatory agencies for details of its ongoing studies and analysis of samples from Florida farmlands, the company refused, citing ongoing litigation.

A 1992 HRS status report noted that "state statutes apparently are inadequate to force the company to reveal this and other essential information."

Meanwhile, state agencies fielded inquiries from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, where Benlate had become the focus of health complaints.

Little investigation: In Florida - the eye of the Benlate storm - the three-year medical inquiry has generated more heat than light, with angry growers suggesting that corporate cover-up and regulatory impotence may have buried the answers to the riddle beneath a mountain of confidentiality.

"Does Duponts influence with our government and university so outweigh the interest of the growers and the public that you are paralyzed?" said Charlotte County grower Shirley Smith in a letter to Crawford.

For the most part, it has been lawyers representing growers in personal injury suits who have pried documents from the reluctant Delaware-based chemical company. They have pursued theories ranging from toxic gas to mutant microbes.

A Crawford-appointed health effects team concentrated on the known effects of benomyl - the fungicide's active ingredient - and the breakdown compounds it produces when reLeased into the environrnent.

Regulators paid little or no attentton to the role that contaminants might have played

The health effects committee in 1993 asked the state Legislature to appropriate $60,000 to perform medical tests on 40 affected growers and farmworkers, but the money never materialized.

A federal study in 1994 concluded that Benlate's active ingredient could be absorbed through skin into the body.

To date, no agency - state or federal - has conducted a systematic examination of anyone who has reported adverse effects from exposure to the fungicide.

According to Ramana Dhara, a specialist in occupational environmental medicine, the investigation has not even begun.

"If there is a medical problem at all it has to be pursued. But even the initial step in the pursuit - a systematic clinical evaluation of the people with the problems - has not taken place," said Dhara, who was appointed by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consult with the states health effects team.

Nor, say the growers, has anyone taken a serious look at what was in the Benlate box.

State and federal agencies report that a variety of contaminants were present in some boxes of Benlate DF in varying quantities, including one pesticide not approved for use in the United States.

For years, officials seemed satisfied with DuPont's assurances that the compounds appeared in insignificant "trace" amounts.

Only under continuing pressure from growers have regulators begun to take more than a cursory look at the contaminants.

"Benlate is a Pandora's box, Dupont has created a monster,' said Raymond Sibley, a liflisborough County grower who believes that Benlate has seriously affected his family's health.

But Dupont stands by its product.

"We've stated before and we will absolutely not waver from our belief that when used according to label, Benlate does not cause any adverse health effects," said one spokeswoman Pat Getter.

Since Novernber of 1992, DuPont has maintained that the fungicide did no damage to plants, either.

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ars in voluntary crop damage settlements - most of it to Florida growers - the chemical giant closed the cash drawer and announced that its research absolved Benlate of any role in crop damage.

The company's position angers Donna Lloyd.

"In the beginning they admitted and paid me and others for damage done to our nurseries. When the health question came up they all of a sudden began to deny any wrong doing and stopped payments to growers for damaged plants," Lloyd said in a recent letter to Crawford.

"Enough time has passed and by now we should have had some answers to the questions being asked over four years ago," she wrote.

Some of those answers maybe buried within the corporate files of Dupont.

Thousands of confidential company documents have recently become unsealed. One of them - known as "Path Forward' - offers insight into the company's efforts to manage a growing financial and public relations disaster.

"I think there's a ton of information sitting in Delaware, just waiting," said Camille Godwin, a Tallahassee attorney representing six Florida growers.