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EPA To Ban Common Pesticide

June 8, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Citing health risks to children, the Environmental Protection Agency today banned one of the most common pesticides for use in gardens and homes, while curtailing its application in agriculture.

The agency, after a lengthy review, has concluded that the pesticide, chlorpyrifos _ sold under the trade names Dursban and Lorsban _ poses a risk to children because of its potential effects on the nervous system and possibly brain development.

``We are turning off the manufacturer of this chemical ... for garden and home uses,″ said EPA Carol Browner. She said the widely used insecticide is expected to be largely off store shelves by the end of the year, although the agency did not require a product recall and some retail sales may be allowed until December, 2001.

Dow AgroSciencen, a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co., which is the leading manufacturer of the pesticide, said it remains convinced the chemical is safe if used properly, but that ``it no longer made business sense in the current regulatory environment″ to continue making the chemical for other than agricultural uses.

For decades one of the most widely used insecticides, chlorpyrifos is found on everything from pet flea collars to garden and lawn chemicals and indoor bug sprays. It also has been used widely in agriculture to protect fruits, vegetables and grains from insects.

Under an agreement that heads off further regulations, Dow Chemical Co., and five other lesser producers will immediately halt production of chlorpyrifos for virtually all nonagricultural uses. The EPA also will impose tighter restrictions on its use on some agricultural products, specifically apples and grapes, and ban its use on tomatoes. These restrictions are designed to eliminate the chemical’s residues on foods often consumed by children.

The decision not to remove products containing chlorpyrifos from the shelves prompted complaints from some environmental and health advocates.

``When the EPA identifies hazards it should stop their use,″ said Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides.

``There’s concern that these products are going to remain on the shelves″ and that the insecticide will continue _ although at much reduced levels _ be used in agriculture, said David Wallinga, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He said that under the EPA phase-out, existing stocks of Dursban may continue to be sold for household and garden use for 18 months.

Hundreds of consumer products contain the chemical compound and many people can be expected to buy the products _ bug sprays and lawn and garden insecticides, for example _ this summer not knowing of the health risks, said Wallinga, who nevertheless called the EPA action ``a good step.″

Manufacturers in lengthy negotiations strongly opposed a recall. Browner said that getting a voluntary agreement to halt production was ``the fastest possible action that we could have taken″ to phase out the chemicals use in homes, gardens, parks, schools and other areas frequented by children. Any other approach would have resulted in years of litigation, Browner maintained.

Elin Miller, a Dow AgroScience vice president, said that under the agreement the company will continue to supply the pesticide until October. She said retail sales of existing stocks will continue to be allowed until the end of 2001. But Browner said the halt in production and the availability of alternatives will largely dry up the market by the end of the year.

Chlorpyrifos is among a family of 45 pesticides known as organophosphates that attack the nervous system and are under review by the EPA because of their potential health effects on children. Congress passed a law four years ago requiring the review to be completed by October, 1999, but so far only a handful of the chemicals have been examined.

Last year the agency banned the use of the pesticide methyl parathion on fruits and many vegetables and restricted the use of azinphos-methyl. Like chlorpyrifos, they are in the organophosphate family.

Last month, an EPA draft study concluded that another insecticide, diazinon, which is also that family, may pose a greater health risks than previously thought. This pesticide also is widely used in homes and gardens. A final review on diazinon is expected before the end of the year.

Under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, the EPA is required to restrict or ban a pesticide’s use if it poses a specific threat to children. The increased concern about chlorpyrifos emerged after studies _ some conducted by Dow Chemical Co. _ found that the compound causes brain damage in fetal rats, whose mothers were given the pesticide.

No such direct link has been established in humans, but the animal tests were enough to trigger a finding that the pesticide should not be used where children might become exposed, scientists said.

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