WASHINGTON (AP) â€” The government and manufacturers agreed Thursday to phase out use of one of the most widely applied pesticides because of concern that it poses health risks to children in homes, schools and parks. Still, the product may remain on store shelves until the end of 2001, prompting complaints from some health advocates.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced it was banning the use of the pesticide chlorphyrifos â€” commonly sold under the trade names Dursban and Lorsban â€” for virtually all nonagricultural uses and curtailing its application on some crops, including apples, frequently eaten by children.
The pesticide can be found in more than 800 products from pet flea collars and lawn care products to a variety of bug sprays used in homes, schools, parks, and on residential lawns and gardens. It is one of the most widely used pesticides with more than 20 million pounds sold annually, officials said.
An agreement between the EPA and Dow AgroScience, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, and five other manufacturers, calls for all retail sales to end in 18 months, although new production of the chemical is to stop by the end of the year for virtually all nonagricultural uses.
``We are turning off the manufacture of this chemical ... for garden and home uses,'' declared EPA Administrator Carol Browner, predicting the chemical will be largely off store shelves by the end of the year because, she said, the market ``will dry up.''
Dow AgroScience, 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. That's because a 1996 law requires the EPA to impose much tougher restrictions on a pesticide's use if it is found to pose a special risk to children.
The EPA also said it is imposing tighter restrictions on the pesticide's 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 pesticide may still be used on a variety of grains and other crops.
While environmentalists and health advocates generally praised the move, they questioned why the EPA did not pursue a recall of products already on shelves and in the pipeline. Actual retail sales will not have to end until Dec. 31, 2001 under the agreement.
``When the EPA identifies hazards it should stop their use,'' said Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides. ``It's a buyer-beware situation. We're urging people to stop buying and selling this product.''
David Wallinga, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the action a ``good step'' but said that the EPA should have pursued broader restrictions on agricultural products and sought a faster phaseout of the nonagricultural uses. In addition, Dursban can still be used in some areas such as on golf courses and around houses under construction.
Manufacturers in lengthy negotiations strongly opposed a recall.
``This is the fastest possible action that we could have taken,'' said Browner. ``If we had been forced to go through the legal process (for a recall or immediate ban) it would have taken ... years.''
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.
The American Crop Protection Association, which represent manufacturers and pest control companies, called the EPA ban an overreaction and said the agency's ban was based on ``a flawed or incomplete process'' and ``uneven consideration of valid scientific data.''
On the Net:
Environmental Working Group: http:www.bandursban.com