Dursban: Is it harmful to humans & animals?

FOR DECADES one of the most widely used insecticides, chlorpyrifos is found in 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.

The pesticide is used in 20 million U.S. households annually, and has been manufactured for more than 30 years by a unit of Dow Chemical Co.

The Washington Post first reported the EPAâs plan last week in a report that also ran on MSNBC.com.

Under an agreement that heads off further regulations, Dow Chemical Co. and five smaller producers will halt production of chlorpyrifos for virtually all nonagricultural uses. But products with the pesticide will not be recalled and some retail sales will be allowed until December 2001.

Manufacturers had strongly opposed a recall. EPA administrator Carol Browner said that getting a voluntary agreement to halt production was "the fastest possible action that we could have taken." Any other approach would have resulted in years of litigation, Browner told reporters Thursday.

The EPA also will impose tighter restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos 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 advocacy group Consumers Union reported earlier this week that Dursban was found in 22 foods tested by U.S. Department of Agricultureâs Pesticide Data Program from 1994 through 1998.

The highest chlorpyrifos residues showed up in apples from New Zealand, grapes from Chile, tomatoes from Mexico, and domestically grown soybeans, according to the report.

Dow AgroSciencen, a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co., 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.

But the EPA said blurred vision, muscle weakness, headaches and memory loss have been linked to large amounts of exposure to Dursban, and that therefore its use in homes should be restricted.

NO RECALL
The EPA's decision not to recall products already on the market and on the shelves of stores nationwide prompted complaints from some environmental and health advocates.

"There's concern that these products are going to remain on the shelves" and that the insecticide will continue—although at much reduced levels—to be used in agriculture, said David Wallinga, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Wallinga called it "good step" but added that under the EPA phase-out, existing stocks of Dursban may continue to be sold for household and garden use for 18 months.

Echoed Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides: "When the EPA identifies hazards it should stop their use."

Wallinga noted that 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.

OTHER PESTICIDES REVIEWED
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.

Organophosphate Pesticides

Organophosphates account for about half (by amount sold) of all insecticides used in the U.S. In addition to major crops such as cotton, corn, and wheat, they are used on many important minor crops. Some also are used for mosquito control to protect public health against diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and encephalitis.

Trade Name: Orthene, Payload
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: suspected carcinogen, gastrointestinal or livertoxicant, neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Guthion, Sniper
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Use scaled back
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant

Trade Name: Betasan, Prefar
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: Rugby
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No Only found in imported compounds.
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: Fortress
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: Lorsban, Dursban
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Use scaled back
Health risks: Suspected endocrine toxicant, neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Reldan
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, Neurotoxicant, skin or sense organtoxicant

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: Co_Ral
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: D-Z-N
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,developmental toxicant, gastrointestinal or liver toxicant,neurotoxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant

Trade Name: DDVP, Vaprona
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Recognized carcinogen; suspected cardiovascular orblood toxicant, developmental toxicant, gastrointestinal or livertoxicant, neurotoxicant, reproductive toxicant, skin or sense organtoxicant

Trade Name: Bridrin
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Cygon
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected carcinogen, cardiovascular or bloodtoxicant, developmental toxicant, endocrine toxicant, gastrointestinalor liver toxicant, kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant,skin or sense organ toxicant

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: Suspected gastrointestinal or liver toxicant,neurotoxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant

Trade Name: Di-syston
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant

Trade Name: Ethon, Tomahawk
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Mocap
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No"
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant, carcinogen

Trade Name: Orthophos, Phoskil
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected carcinogen, cardiovascular or bloodtoxicant, developmental toxicant, endocrine toxicant, neurotoxicant,reproductive toxicant, respiratory toxicant, skin or sense organtoxicant

Trade Name: Nemacur
Canceled or proposed for cancellations: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Sumithion, Rothion
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant

Trade Name: Baytex, Tiguvon
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant,skin or sense organ toxicant

Trade Name: Dyfonate
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: Oftanol, Lighter
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Cython
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,endocrine toxicant, gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, neurotoxicant,respiratory toxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant

Trade Name: Monitor
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant, skin or sense organtoxicant

Trade Name: Supracide
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected carcinogen, neurotoxicant, skin or senseorgan toxicant

Trade Name: Penncap M
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Use scaled back
Health risks: Suspected endocrine toxicant, gastrointestinal orliver toxicant, neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No Only found in imported compounds.
Health risks: Suspected gastrointestinal or liver toxicant,neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Dibrom, Legion
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected gastrointestinal or liver toxicant,neurotoxicant, reproductive toxicant

Trade Name: Megasystox R
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Recognized reproductive toxicant; suspectedneurotoxicant

Trade Name: Thimet
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No Only found in imported compounds.
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant

Trade Name: Imidan
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected carcinogen, developmental toxicant,neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant

Trade Name: NA
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: Suspected carcinogen, gastrointestinal or livertoxicant, neurotoxicant

formerly known as Tebupirimiphos
Trade Name: Aztec
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: NA

Trade Name: Silosan
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Curacron
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Safrotin
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected gastrointestinal or liver toxicant,neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Bladafum
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Bolstar
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: Yes
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Abate
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant,gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Counter
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Rabon, Gardona
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected carcinogen, skin or sense organ toxicant

Trade Name: DEF6, Folex
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected carcinogen, neurotoxicant

Trade Name: Dylox
Canceled or proposed for cancellation: No
Health risks: Suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant, developmental toxicant, gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, immunotoxicant, reproductive toxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant

CONSUMERS UNION REPORT
On Tuesday, Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, urged the EPA to do more to ban the use of dangerous chemicals, claiming that favorite children's foods like apples and grapes have high levels of toxic residues from pesticides.

Consumers Union spokesman Adam Goldberg said the EPA should look more closely at about 20 specific chemicals that he says are responsible for the lion's share of residues found in foods.

The group released an update to its 1999 report on food safety, concluding that pesticide residues in foods children eat every day often exceed safe levels.

Parents should not stop feeding their children fruits and vegetables, the group advised, but they should limit exposure to pesticides by peeling fruit and washing it well before eating.

It also encouraged consumers to consider buying organically grown varieties of foods with the highest pesticide residues.

The group said it based its conclusions on an independent analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 1998 tests of thousands of fruit and vegetable samples, domestic and imported, fresh and processed, for pesticide residues.

It said it found that some foods contain high levels of relatively toxic residues, including winter squash, peaches, apples, grapes, pears, green beans and spinach, as well as strawberries and cantaloupe.

Other foods like bananas, broccoli, canned peaches, canned and frozen peas, canned and frozen corn, milk, orange juice, apple juice and grape juice had few residues.

Consumers Union also expressed concern that organochlorine pesticides banned in the 1970s were still showing up in foods that children eat today.

For instance, the chemical dieldrin remains in soil, and crops such as squash, cantaloupe, soybeans, sweet potatoes and spinach contained residues, the report found.

EPA REJECTS HUMAN TESTS
Separately, the Washington Post reported Wednesday that the EPA has decided to sidestep a major political quagmire by rejecting the use of human experiments in setting regulatory limits for pesticides.

Worried about a resurgence in human experiments by pesticide companies—some of which have been testing products on students and other volunteers for decades—the EPA will adopt a policy of officially ignoring such studies in establishing legal limits for pesticides in food and water, the paper quoted agency officials as saying.


Jefferson C. Sousa

PRESIDENT
Sousa's Landscape Management Co. Ltd.




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