WASHINGTON, March 3, 2016 – EPA is proposing a plan to stop poisonings caused by accidental ingestion of the herbicide paraquat, which can also cause severe injuries or death from skin or eye exposure.
The agency said that since 2000, there have been 17 deaths – three involving children -- caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. These cases have resulted from the pesticide being illegally transferred to beverage containers and later mistaken for a drink and consumed. A single sip can be fatal, EPA said.
“We are taking tough steps to prevent people from accidentally drinking paraquat and to ensure these tragic deaths become a thing of the past,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s office of chemical safety and pollution prevention. “We are also putting safety measures in place to prevent worker injuries from exposure to this pesticide.”
To prevent these poisonings, EPA is proposing:
•New closed-system packaging designed to make it impossible to transfer or remove the pesticide except directly into the proper application equipment;
•Special training for certified applicators who use paraquat to emphasize that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers; and
•Changes to the pesticide label and warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with paraquat.
In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, since 2000 there have been three deaths and many severe injuries caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the herbicide, EPA said. To reduce exposure to workers who mix, load and apply paraquat, EPA is proposing:
•Prohibiting application from hand-held and backpack equipment, and
•Restricting the use to certified pesticide applicators only (individuals working under the supervision of a certified applicator would be prohibited from using paraquat).
Paraquat is one of the most widely-used herbicides in the U.S. for the control of weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and is also used as a defoliant on crops such as cotton prior to harvest. EPA said its proposal will be available for a 60 day public comment period. The agency will tehn consider the comments before finalizing these proposed actions later this year.
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