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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EPA Tries to Rein in Paraquat Poisoning

(CN) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a plan to stop poisoning by accidental ingestion of paraquat, an herbicide responsible for 17 deaths since 2000.

Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the country for weed control and also is used as a defoliant on crops such as cotton before harvest.

It has been blamed for 17 deaths since 2000, three of them children who drank it. In these cases the pesticide was illegally transferred to beverage containers, the EPA said.

A single sip can be fatal.

"We are taking tough steps to prevent people from accidentally drinking paraquat and to ensure that these tragic deaths become at thing of the past," said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention. "We are also putting safety measures in place to prevent worker injuries from exposure to this pesticide."

The EPA proposes new, closed-system packaging designed to make it impossible to transfer or remove the pesticide except directly into proper application equipment.

It also proposes special training for certified applicators who use paraquat, and labeling changes and warning materials to emphasize its toxicity.

In addition to the deaths due to accidental ingestion, there have been three deaths and many severe injuries since 2000 caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes.

To reduce exposure to workers who mix, load and apply paraquat, the EPA wants to prohibit application from handheld and backpack equipment and restrict its use to certified pesticide applicators.

The proposal will be available for a 60-day public comment period.

Paraquat acquired brief fame in the 1960s when hippies claimed the government was spraying it on marijuana crops to poison the weed for smoking. Those rumors were never confirmed, though the chemical was widely used in Mexico, Central and South America.

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