The Truth And Nothing But The Truth
By Hans Willems©2002
Imagine the following scenario. You have the most toxic poison known to man – so poisonous the United States security agencies considered classifying it as a terrorist weapon
Imagine this poison is odourless and tasteless and therefore impossible to detect, there is no antidote and there are no medical tests capable of detecting this super poison in the body. The poison works with stealth as it takes several hours to develop symptoms. This poison is so toxic that skin contact, inhalation, contact with the eyeball or ingesting as little as 0.06 (6/100) of a metric gram, said to be the size of a full stop, means certain death.
The poison takes a very long time to break down and it can not be diluted - its level of toxicity remains the same regardless of what it is mixed with.
Because the poison is slow acting it causes a prolonged and painful death. If this sounds like a horror story, you’re right. Such a super poison exists! Right here in beautiful, clean, green New Zealand the poison is spread far and wide from helicopters and planes. It’s name: sodium monofluoroacetate abbreviated to ‘compound 1080’.
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It takes a rabbit, a cat or a dog between three and forty hours to die from 1080.
The list of symptoms includes; restlessness, hyper excitability, trembling, rapid and shallow breathing, incontinence and diarrhoea, excessive salivation, twitching of facial muscles, involuntary movement of the eyeballs, bulging eyes with enlarged pupils, rapid blinking and discharge of mucus from the eye, lack of balance and coordination, abrupt bouts of screaming and finally bursts of violent activity after which the victim falls to the ground in a massive seizure with limbs rigidly extended from the arched body.
This tonic phase is then followed by a clonic phase in which the victim lies and kicks or paddles with the limbs, screams, crawls around with eyes rolled back and grinding teeth, protruding tongue and, in male victims, erect penis. Breathing will be rapid and laboured and the victim may be partly choking on saliva.
Then follows the terminal stage where the victim begins to breathe slowly and with limbs still extended dies of cardiac and/or respiratory arrest.
Compound 1080 has a scientifically and medically well documented and well-characterised mechanism of action through interference with the Krebs cycle in mammalians by causing a lethal accumulation of citric acid in the body, which in turn causes the violent convulsions and death from cardiac or respiratory arrest.
Tests have shown that dogs and rabbits accumulate 1080 in their bodies following sub lethal doses until lethal levels are attained. Tests reports by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) state that non-human primates and rodents have shown an increased tolerance (not immunity) to challenging doses following repeated sub lethal doses of the poison.
What would happen to people ingesting a sub lethal dose?
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Trabes et al. in a 1983 report presented a documented case of a 15-year old female attempting suicide by ingesting 1080.
After showing a variety of the symptoms previously described, the patient became comatose following about five hours of suffering, regaining consciousness after three days and growing progressively alert over the next two weeks. Subsequent neurological examinations showed an array of neurological dysfunctions to extensive to mention here.
After 18 months the patient presented with severe memory disturbances and persistent depressive behaviour combined with permanent cerebellar ataxia (loss of control of bodily movements).
Sodium monofluoroacetate was first synthetically produced in 1896 by a Belgian scientist and, initially used as a contact/systemic pesticide (David 1950), was patented in 1927 (Twigg & King 1961).
However the chemical proved to be so toxic it was deemed too dangerous and in Belgium and other western European countries 1080 was withdrawn from the market and not been legally available since.
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The United States Fish and Wildlife Service experimented with the poison during WWII and classified it suitable as a rodenticide and in 1944 attached the name ‘Compound 1080’.
The Facts And The Fable
Right now, the 1080 issue is a huge one among outdoor recreationists and it is not only crucially important to the health of the New Zealand population at large but also to the survival of our native bird and insect life, not to forget the survival of the overseas perception of our country as a clean, green place.
Our typical laissez faire - laissez passé attitude towards a government department is the very attitude that has allowed this hideous poison to be used in New Zealand for almost 50 years!
The poison 1080 is manufactured in the USA by Tull Chemical Co of Alabama USA and imported by Polygon Products of Lower Hutt. Of the two factories in New Zealand which manufacture the bait and mix it with the poison, one is located in the North Island (Wanganui) and one in the South Island (Waimate) .Both factories are State Owned Enterprises ( SOE’s) and the directors appointed by the government may include ministers of the Crown and MPs. While there may be a degree of moral/ethical conflict, legally all is above board and there are no ministers (past or present) who own the factory.
The manufacturer, Tull Chemical, clearly states in its instructions as to the poison’s proper use that the poison should be kept out of waterways and should only be used in secure bait stations and/or burrows underground.
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Despite those recommendations and despite regulations by the Civil Aviation Authority as to the safe dispensing of chemicals (CAA Regs Sec. 137.53) governmental, local and district bodies continue aerial drops, knowing full well it will get into waterways and be exposed on the ground.
CAA Regs. 91.235 state that it is an offence to drop anything from an aircraft without taking reasonable precautions.
Is it taking reasonable precautions knowing the poison will get in waterways, kill protected wildlife and endanger the health and well being of people?
The Wildlife Act 1953 (Sect. 6 Sched. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) states that all wildlife specified in said schedules , including birds, is absolutely protected and that actions in breach are a punishable offence. Any reasonable person knows that blanketing an area with a deadly poison known as super toxic will kill birds.
Is it then reasonable that DOC et all escape prosecution by stating they have or had no intent of killing protected birds, despite knowing and having publicly stated, that native birds will die because of their actions?
Does a murderer or a drunk driver get away without prosecution because they had no intent of killing? If ignorance before the law is said not to be an excuse or justification, why is it so interpreted when government, provincial and local authorities are involved?
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Statement: 1080 Breaks down in water.
The poison will not break down in pure water. It only breaks down in impure water which has micro-organisms to facilitate the breakdown. Breakdown rate is subject to the quantity of these organisms and the water temperature. The colder the water, the longer it takes to breakdown the poison.
Sick animals head to water and when entering an area where a 1080 drop has occurred, it is common to find rotting carcasses of deer, possums, rats, stoats and native birds in streams and rivers. Rivers which in New Zealand are often the source of town and city water supplies.
1080 occludes (clings) vigorously to vegetation and wipes out aquatic, surface and sub-surface insects and worms. During aerial drops, bait dust laden with 1080 is carried for large distances in the air, settling onto trees, roofs, grass etc. and therefore can get into drinking water.
Statement: 1080 breaks down quickly in soil.
In optimum conditions it can break down in about one month.
For this to happen it is imperative that soil or water temperature is an optimum 23 degrees Celsius – something which, even in summer, what with New Zealand’s fast flowing waterways, is unlikely to happen under the tree canopy. Whenever research claims the poison breaks down in water fast, one should keep in mind that such tests have been performed in a laboratory under the most favourable conditions ie, a water temperature of 21 to 23 (DOC claims 11 – 20) degrees Celsius.
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In cool conditions 1080 takes months to break down. The poison remains in the forest’s leaf litter for three months or longer even under the most favourable conditions for break down (Mead’s Report, Whitecliffs, 1994).
The Meads report was particularly damning about the use of 1080 and it comes as no surprise that it was never published because the Department Of Conservation claimed it not of satisfactory scientific standards (Jenkins, August 2002).
This toxic menace kills anything that ingests it and the effect on birds and insects is dramatic.
The poison is considered mobile and thus leaches into the soil where it inevitably settles in the cooler layers, remaining there for extended periods. In the light of this, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the poison keeps on leaching into waterways for a long time. It is equally reasonable to state that the poison is absorbed by trees and plants.
Allegedly one New Zealand forestry company has stopped its contractors from using 1080 in possum control after overseas buyers complained about high concentrations of the poison in timber.
The ramifications of that don’t bear thinking about. Timber and wood pulp is used in paper and carton manufacturing and fruit boxes – another way for the poison to get into the food chain.
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Statement: 1080 is a safe poison.
Apart from the fact that it is a nonsense to call any poison safe, world authority Charles Eason (Landcare NZ) stated that 1080 is one of the world’s super toxins and needs to be treated with infinite care.
Apart from the previously mentioned properties 1080 is so poisonous that each pellet of bait is said to contain enough poison to kill up to six healthy adult humans. Since it does not break down in the body, there is a high risk of direct or secondary poisoning to non-target creatures.
The following is but one example of the many ecological and environmental disasters caused by the Department of Conservation. After one poison drop over Kapiti, DOC under public pressure released the following data referring to bird mortality:
10 - 20 per cent kiwi, 20 per cent kaka, 90 per cent weka, 50 per cent+ native robin, 90 per cent certain wren species (mohua, tomtit), 100 per cent fern birds and 27 per cent stitch birds.
As to the above figures DOC (Jenkins 2002) claims, for reasons obvious, that fernbirds are (not were) not found on Kapiti.
The implications of the 50 per cent kill of native robins in the Kapiti poison drop alone are a sure-fire recipe for extinction.
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The robins’ gene pool, reduced every five years (considered the optimum frequency for spreading 1080) by 50 per cent over a period of 50 years, would mathematically reduce the gene pool by more than 99 per cent over that period. Result? The bird’s extinction.
This is not a hypothetical situation as there are several other incidents like this caused by the very people in charge of fostering native bird life; DOC.
There are alternative methods of possum eradication and for keeping game numbers to acceptable levels for everyone concerned. These have worked in the past and they will work again, provided DOC and the government, who uses its monopoly on processing this poison as a money spinner, show the will to seriously attack the possum problem. Bait stations can be operated in any area accessible by helicopter and a decent bounty on possums is not only a healthier and cheaper alternative, it also creates jobs.
It would behove all involved in using this poison to consult with previous and present commercial possum trappers as to the solutions to the problem. Sadly however, complaints, objections and suggestions as to more environmental and healthier solutions fall on the deaf ears of departments and authorities that are in the habit of bulldozing their way ahead regardless.
Research in this matter revealed that after nearly 50 years of use of what probably is the most toxic substance known, there was until very recently no blood testing procedure in place in New Zealand.
What’s more, there is only one laboratory capable of analysing these tests, Landcare.
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In 1999 a US EPA report stated that 1080 should not be used because there is inadequate safety data available to determine hazards to non-target fish, birds and mammals, and because of the absence of a validated analytical method with detection limits low enough to determine concentrations of the poison.
The Department Of Conservation, through a column by Mr Chris Jenkins in the Rotorua Daily Post, August 2002, claims the department took over 1000 water samples after major aerial 1080 drops and Quote[…no evidence was found of prolonged 1080 contamination.] unquote.
This is but one example of the department’s way of stating half-truths and/or befuddle the public at large.
Firstly, the observant reader will note that there was contamination.
Secondly, do we take it that DOC’s sampling methods are more sophisticated than those of the US Environmental Protection Agency?
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Mr Jenkins, in his report, then continues to state that rules forbid any dropping of 1080 within 50 metres of waterways.
Not only is this writer intimately familiar with the New Zealand back country but also with the workings of helicopters.
I can therefore indisputably state that if the department were to adhere strictly to that rule, and it should, what with the infinite number of minor waterways all shedding their water ultimately in rivers, aerial poison drops in the greater New Zealand back country would be next to impossible.
The US EPA considered the quality of safety data on 1080 inadequate and outdated and therefore has cancelled the registration of 1080 for all baits in the USA, except for limited use in livestock collars.
In that context it is interesting to also note Mr Jenkins’ statement that Quote[…field samples show that 1080 does not leach through soils in measurable amounts (ie, amounts so small that they are undetectable] unquote.
Even if we were to accept the doubtful fact that DOC’s testing procedure’s are more sophisticated than those of the US EPA, is the public supposed to be assured by that statement? Especially in view of the fact that a minute 0.05 grams of this poison is deadly to humans and tests have shown 1080 to work accumulatively in non-human primates?
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Long term Effects
A report on the link between Parkinson’s disease and pesticides (Meriel Watts, Soil and Health
2001, volume 60, No 1, page 16 – 18) states the gathering evidence of worldwide medical research, implicating 1080 among other pesticides, as an important trigger factor in the development of this devastating and irreversible condition. Other forms of chronic neurological disease are also implicated.
Quote: [A steady stream of studies from around the world have shown again and again that a common thread among victims of Parkinson’s is a history of exposure to insecticides and herbicides (Montague 1999.] unquote.
In addition, sodium monofluoroacetate is declared by the State Of California to…cause cancer and or is reproductive toxic.
Make no mistake; it is not only the people involved in the direct handling of the poison who will be affected. As the poison will stay around for extended periods in the areas where aerial 1080 drops have taken place, it will also affect trampers, hunters and bird watchers. In fact, anyone venturing in the outdoors.
That alone should be enough of an argument to stop the use of this highly toxic substance in New Zealand by way of aerial blanket drops.
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If not, then consider the fact that more than 99 per cent of all 1080 used worldwide is aerially spread in clean, green New Zealand. That should serve as enough of a warning to those who justify its use by never telling the whole truth.
Or could it be that those using it so extensively don’t know the full truth themselves?
One DOC officer involved in aerial poisoning tried to justify the use of sodium monofluoroacetate by saying; ”You should be more worried about fluoride in your drinking water”. Little did he know that it is precisely fluoride that 1080 ultimately breaks down to in water and the question arises how much or how little of a fluoride concentration is acceptable in our water.
Its only a matter of time before somebody dies through contact with the poison. When that happens there will be no Cave Creek cop-out for DOC and the only just verdict will have to be murder.
The Government gets up in arms about nuclear propelled ships entering our ports, about shipments of uranium passing us by umpteen thousands of miles away and about Genetic Engineering because there’s political gain to be had. What happens if ever anything goes wrong with a shipment of 1080 to our shores? Yet the Government’s silence on the matter is deafening because it is the financial beneficiary.
Worse is the fact there is only one political party with responsible policy on the matter, Outdoor Recreation NZ.
If anyone cares to find out more about this scourge go on the internet and use the Google search engine and type in “poison + 1080”. What you’ll find out won’t be pretty.
What will become clear is that there are literally thousands of pages of anti 1080 content. This writer has still to find a single page advocating 1080 as the conservation blessing the Ministry and Department of Conservation et all want to sell it for to New Zealand.
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In the final analysis it seems a great irony that this highly dangerous substance is solely used by the very organisations that are supposed to look after the country’s environment and human and animal health.
I for one, having seen a dog die after just carrying a dead possum carcass in its mouth, wonder where the SPCA is in all of this. Or is the death of a pet more horrific than that of an animal living in the wild?
The greatest of ironies however, must surely be the seal of justification through the support of those self-proclaimed scions of conservation, the Forest and Bird Society (F&B), with former president Kevin Smith as principal advisor to Sandra Lee, the last minister of conservation.
To add injury to insult, Janette Fitzsimons (e-mail 22-05-2002) states that the Green Party has no policy on the matter.
No threat to the environment, real or perceived, can be so great it needs to be fought with an even bigger evil of 1080’s calibre.
Minds are like a parachute; they only work when open.
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About 3000 words
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