USEPA taken to task for pesticide promotion

Published: Saturday 15 September 2007

The US environment regulator has been sued for approving a popular pesticide, harmful for farm workers and rural residents. On July 31, farmer unions and NGOs filed a lawsuit in the San Jose federal court against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approving the pesticide chlorpyrifos, sold under several brand names, including Lorsban.

The pesticide is popular in cotton, corn, almonds and fruit plantations. The lawsuit alleges that the EPA did not adequately study the ill-effects of the pesticide when it re-approved its use in farms in 2001. The active ingredient in the pesticide is said to interfere with nerve and muscle communications in insects, animals and humans. People exposed to the pesticide suffer from nausea, dizziness and sometimes death.

In the US, 11 million pounds of chlorpyrifos is sprayed annually, said the lawsuit.At least 28 Tulare county grape pickers in California had fallen ill after the pesticide drifted into their vineyard from a nearby orchard. "It is inexcusable for the EPA to allow the use of a pesticide they know to be damaging to people, especially children," said Erik Nicholson of the United Farm Workers. In its defence, the EPA said it had "significantly restricted uses of formerly widely used pesticides, including chlorpyrifos". Meanwhile, Dow AgroSciences LLC, a Dow Chemical Company subsidiary that makes Lorsban, called the lawsuit "without merit".

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