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EPA To Ban Common Pesticide

Associated Press
June 8, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) - Citing health risks to children, the Environmental Protection Agency is announcing today a ban on 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.

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., 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.

While the insecticide will be prohibited for use by commercial pest control or lawn care companies, the agency is not imposing a recall of products already on the market and on the shelves of stores nationwide, prompting 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."

EPA officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of the formal announcement, said the new restrictions and the agreement with Dow Chemical provides the swiftest way to remove the material from the market. Most of the products containing chlorpyrifos for nonagricultural purposes will be gone by the end of the year, said one of the EPA officials.

Chlorpyrifos is among a family of 37 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.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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