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Aug 31, 2008 | From the print edition

EPA sued over endosulfan, bans carbofuran



in the last week of July, a coalition of civil society groups filed a lawsuit against the us Environmental Protection Agency (epa) seeking to stop the use of endosulfan.

Endosulfan is an organochlorin, part of the same family of chemicals as ddt, which the epa banned in 1972. Crops commonly treated with endosulfan include cotton, tomatoes, melons, squash and tobacco. Studies say acute poisoning from endosulfan causes headache, nausea, convulsions and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and even death. It is also linked to smaller testicles, lower sperm production and an increase in the risk of miscarriages, the coalition charges. The eu and over 20 countries including Cambodia, the Philippines, and Tonga have already banned endosulfan. It has also been nominated for inclusion in the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty that bans persistent chemicals from global use. The coalition thus claims that by allowing the use of endosulfan, epa has failed to consider the risks to children, despite its own analysis which confirmed that endosulfan posed severe risks to humans and minimal benefits to growers.

While epa is yet to take any decision regarding endosulfan, it has banned the use of another insecticide carbofuran--used to control insects in a wide variety of crops like soybeans, potatoes and corn--on all food crops including those imported. It is a systematic insecticide, which means the plant absorbs it through the roots, distributing it primarily to vessels, stems and leaves. Even if the exposure to carbofuran through food is low, epa has identified risks on human and environment.

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