Tuesday, December 5, 2000
Hopes New Administration Will Continue Rigorous Examination of Pesticides
WASHINGTON – Consumers Union (CU) today called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to phase out non-agricultural uses of the pesticide diazinon an important move to protect children’s health and the environment from potentially harmful exposures to this widely-used chemical. With this move, EPA will have eliminated the use of all organophosphate insecticides in and around the home. EPA’s announcement also included the elimination of the pesticide’s use on many of the agricultural crops on which its use is now allowed.
“Children’s exposure to diazinon is a major concern,” said Adam Goldberg, a policy analyst at Consumers Union. “Not only is diazinon in foods kids eat on a regular basis, but it’s also commonly found in drinking water. Plus, it is used on lawns and in parks and other recreational settings. These are the places where kids like to play, and if diazinon is used there, they can’t avoid it.”
“We have been pleased with the EPA’s recent decisions to restrict uses of the riskiest pesticides, such as Dursban and diazinon,” Goldberg added. “With the arrival of a new Administration, there are likely to be changes in personnel at the agency. Regardless of who is in charge, we hope they will continue to make the progress that we’ve seen in the last six months.”
Diazinon is an organophosphate insecticide with a wide range of agricultural, ranching, home and urban applications. Diazinon is used on many of the foods that kids eat every day, including grapes, green beans, peaches and green leafy vegetables. Multiple uses create many different sources of exposure, both for people and birds, fish, bees, and other non-target organisms. It is a neurotoxicant and affects key developmental processes. Diazinon also can pose serious risks to farmworkers re-entering treated fields. People who live or work in farming areas can be exposed to dangerous levels by drift from treated fields or through water.
Diazinon is particularly toxic to birds. CU has worked with Pierre Mineau of the Canadian National Wildlife Research Centre to study the chemical’s effect on wildlife. Dr. Mineau’s research shows that even small exposures to diazinon can be lethal for many different species of bird.
Charles Benbrook, a CU consultant, said, “It is no wonder diazinon is responsible for so many bird kills in parks, people’s backyards and in and around treated farms. It is the most toxic pesticide registered for widespread use in these sensitive environments. These are places that attract birds and people for the same reasons. Diazinon is over six-times more toxic to birds than chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that EPA recently all but cancelled for most home and urban uses.”
“Consumers Union believes that EPA has, in fact, made a strong case to ban all uses of diazinon based on environmental risks, especially avian risks,” Benbrook points out. “The levels at which this insecticide is found in water, air, rain and fog makes it a danger to most common bird species, as well as many other non-target organisms, including people.”
“That’s why we recommended a complete phase out in earlier comments to EPA,” Benbrook added. “While we wish the agency had gone farther on agricultural uses, today’s decision on non-agricultural uses of diazinon will make a significant difference for children’s health.” [Note to Editors: CU’s comments on diazinon can be found on the Internet at http://www.ecologic-ipm.com/diazinon_comments.pdf.]
EPA’s review of diazinon was conducted under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). The FQPA, which Congress passed unanimously in 1996, requires EPA to review all pesticide exposure limits to make sure they are safe for young children. Review of the more than 9,000 pesticide tolerances on the books is ongoing, and the law gives EPA until 2006 to complete the task. EPA must not only review each individual pesticide use, but must examine the effects of exposure to more than one pesticide at a time, as well as exposures from multiple sources.
The diazinon review comes on the heels of EPA’s review of another controversial pesticide, chlorpyrifos, also known as Dursban. In that case, EPA eliminated most non-agricultural uses, severely restricted its use on grapes and apples, and prohibited its use on tomatoes.
“There are a number of effective alternatives for diazinon, and more are in the pipeline,” Benbrook said. “There is no reason, knowing what we know about this chemical, that it should remain on the market. EPA’s decision to phase out all non-agricultural uses, and a number of agricultural uses, gives farmers time to make the transition to safer alternatives and will assure wider margins of safety for children from exposure to this dangerous insecticide and others in its chemical class.”
Consumers Union Washington, DC Office
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumers. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers.