EPA set to ban Dursban for household use

Thursday, June 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -- One of the most commonly used insecticides around homes and gardens will be banned for household use, sources said Thursday.

In line with a 1996 law that lowered the acceptable exposure limits for such chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that chlorpyrifos, sold under the trade names Dursban and Lorsban, can no longer be safely used where children are exposed to the residue, said an official familiar with the agency's decision.

Farmers probably won't be allowed to spray apple trees and grape vines after they bloom, but other agricultural applications will
continue without new restrictions, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The agency is to announce its decision June 8.

The chemical is most heavily used on corn and other crops, but it's also been used for years indoors and outside to kill termites,
roaches, ants, fleas and other pests. Some 20 to 24 million pounds of the chemical are applied annually nationwide.

The ban targets applications around the home because they represent a more direct and therefore higher level of exposure, the
official said.

The chemical's maker, Dow AgroSciences of Indianapolis, said in a statement that it stands behind the product's safety but that "the additional restrictions that the agency will require will be manageable" for the company.

The chemical is used on 75 percent of the nation's apple crop, so EPA's decision will force growers to switch to alternative
pesticides. With the new restriction, "the dietary risk issue is well under control," said Allen Jennings, who manages pesticide
policy for the Agriculture Department.

The restriction on the chemical's use with grapes is unlikely to have much impact because chlorpyrifos is generally applied when the vines are dormant, he said.

An EPA spokeswoman did not return telephone calls Thursday. The Washington Post first reported on the agency's plans in its
Thursday editions.

The agency is to release new estimates of the chemical's hazards, based on experiments showing the substance can cause brain
damage in fetal rats. The agency concluded the compound poses no immediate threat to public health and won't order a recall of
products containing it.

EPA is acting under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which requires it to reassess tolerance levels -- margins of safety -- for
hundreds of pesticides. Normally, the EPA sets the limit at one-one-hundredth of the level at which there are no detectable effects on an animal. Under the 1996 law, that level must be 10 times lower if children are exposed to the chemical.

Last year, the agency banned the use of methyl parathion on all fruit and many vegetables and restricted the use of azinphos-methyl. Like Dursban, those pesticides belong to a class of chemicals called organophosphates, which include nerve agents
developed as chemical weapons.

"The Food Quality Protection Act has fundamentally changed the way in which pesticides are regulated in the U.S.," Dow's
statement said. "The rules have changed, but the safety of chlorpyrifos products hasn't."

Environmental groups have been pushing EPA to ban home use of Dursban and restrict its use on fruit. "Any of the home uses,
professional or homeowner applied, those are the biggest risk to kids," said Richard Wiles, a researcher with the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.

On the Net: EPA: http://www.epa.gov

Environmental Working Group: http://www.bandursban.com