Lindane Education And Research Network
Home Alert News Archive Resources Contact Donate Search

"The future will depend on our wisdom not to replace one poison with another."
National Pediculosis Association®, Inc.

Lindane in the North Sea. Greenpeace. Dirty Dozen Campaigner, January 1990. PANNA.

Dirty Dozen Campaigner
A Publication of the Pesticide Action Network
January 1990

Lindane in the North Sea

In a study released in 1989, Lindane and Other Pesticides in the North Sea: A Reason for Concern,
researchers at the kopol Institute in Hamburg (FR Germany) revealed disturbing findings about the behavior of lindane in the environment. (Unlike other organochlorine pesticides, lindane is still widely used and regarded as relatively safe in Europe.) Although lindane use has reached a plateau or decreased in some European countries since the 1970s, lindane levels in the North Sea have increased. 

Government scientist attempting to determine safe levels from laboratory studies were shocked to find that these had already been exceeded in coastal waters.

Another surprising discovery was that large amounts of lindane disperse from crops into the atmosphere. The result is that the atmospheric burden of lindane in the Northern hemisphere is far heavier than that of other organochlorine compounds (such as DDT and PCB) which tend to occur at higher concentrations than lindane in other media.

The kopol report cites a number of independent and official studies that challenge claims by the lobbying group Centre International d'Etudes du Lindane (CIEL), which is funded by five of Europe's biggest agrochemical concerns  (Rhone-Poulenc, Inquinosa, Shell Agrar, ICI, and Chemie Linz ;AG). These studies contradict claims made in CIEL documents that lindane is not persistent and does not accumulate in  vertebrate animals. The kopol report argues that CIEL lacks necessary evidence to support assertions that lindane is well tolerated by ecosystems, and that any imbalances remain localized or short-lived. Quoting from numerous scientific publications, the authors illustrate that lindane accumulates in organisms in the North Sea, with concentrations in fatty tissues of higher marine animals occurring at levels up to 10,000 to 1,000,000 times that in the surrounding water.

The Hamburg scientists conclude that "the disinformation techniques allegedly used by CIEL may also be clouding the picture of the effects of the other agricultural biocides that now give cause for concern. By barring access to production, sales, and application figures concerning these products, manufacturers are also preventing informed assessment of probable levels at large in nature."

According to the kopol study, other biocides which manufacturers claimed were not persistent are also being discovered in the North Sea as detection methods improve. Prominent examples are the triazines (atrazine, simazine, and  propazine) and phenyl urea derivatives diuron, chlortoluron, metoxuron and linuron, all herbicides. The same substances are also being recorded at levels significantly above European Community official limits in many rivers and estuaries feeding the North Sea. The report authors believe that proper monitoring and seabed sampling would reveal offshore levels of many biocides in line with river, estuary, rainwater and groundwater levels. The report highlights lindane because analytical techniques are further developed for lindane, not because it appears to be more dangerous than other substances.

The researchers make a compelling case for a sharp reduction and eventual elimination of lindane use in the North Sea. They warn that lindane should be viewed as an example of the problems that occur when assumptions are made about the properties of complex synthetic substances. It is becoming increasingly obvious that judging the impact of 300-400 pesticide active ingredients and their residues, impurities, and breakdown products (let alone any possible interactions) is an impossible task. Governments should instead work to reduce use of all biocides to an absolute minimum.

This article was adapted from a piece which appeared in the November 1989 issue of Countdown, published by Greenpeace
International. Copies of the lindane report are available from Greenpeace International; Keizersgracht 176; 1016 DW
Amsterdam; Netherlands.

Pesticide Action Network North America Regional Center
116 New Montgomery Street, #810 
San Francisco CA, 94105 


Lindane Education And Research Network is a project of the National Pediculosis Association® (NPA)
The NPA, a non-profit tax exempt, 501(c)3, organization, receives no government or industry funding
and provides this website with proceeds from our educational resources and the LiceMeister® Comb.
Please read our disclaimer and privacy policy. Report any problems with this site to the webmaster.