Pesticide companies will soon need to include a skull-and-crossbones image and alarming language on a toxic herbicide to ensure that the chemical isn’t accidentally ingested.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued its final mitigation for paraquat dichloride Dec. 15, banning screw caps and other “open” systems of dispensing the product; updating the labels to say ‘DANGER-ONE SIP CAN KILL’ with a skull and crossbones symbol; and requiring special training for certified applicators to emphasize that paraquat must be stored in the proper container.
The EPA rolled back on a proposed requirement in the draft decision that would have prevented paraquat applications from handheld or backpack equipment. Such equipment is allowed under the final decision, as long as the equipment complies with the new closed system standards.
EPA is reviewing the registration for paraquat, sold under the name Gramoxone by Syngenta. The Registration Review Draft Risk Assessment is scheduled to publish in late 2017, and a final decision is slated for 2018.
Syngenta Supports Label Changes
“Syngenta supports effective changes to pesticide labels and warning materials as well as additional training to reduce the risk for accidental ingestion,” said company spokeswoman Ann Bryan in a statement. “Our paraquat products already include rigorous requirements on the label concerning [protective equipment] and use directions, which ensure the product may be applied safely.”
Environmental groups criticized the agency for stopping short of banning the herbicide.
“The new rules are yet another case of EPA making its bed while the house is on fire,” Kristin Schafer, policy director at the Pesticide Action Network, said in a statement. “While we applaud the agency for taking action to protect children and workers, a phaseout of this antiquated pesticide is long overdue.”
There have been 17 accidental paraquat-related deaths since 2000, the EPA says, in which individuals mistakenly drank the herbicide after it had been poured in a beverage container.
Used as Weed Killer, Desiccant
Registered in the U.S. since 1964, paraquat is used to kill weeds and as a desiccant on some crops. The pesticide gained notoriety in the 1970s as a weedkiller for Mexican marijuana fields. It is also used as a method of suicide in rural areas. Thirty-three out of 50 paraquat deaths between 1983 and 2011 were intentional, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
The EPA received 76 comments on the proposed decision and removed the restrictions on the handheld and backpack equipment in response to feedback from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other farm interests.
“There has to be some balance,” Richard Gupton, vice president of public policy and counsel for the Agricultural Retailers Association, told Bloomberg BNA. “This is a widely used herbicide in the ag sector for a number of crops.”