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Organophosphate Found in California's Santa Clara River
(from November 18, 2002)

Diazinon, a toxic pesticide, has been detected in California's Santa Clara River, according to The Los Angeles Daily News. The source of the contamination was determined to be lawns from nearby homes. Diazinon, despite its high level of toxicity, is commonly spread on lawns by homeowners to control outdoor ants, among other pests. From lawns, the organophosphate runs off into the Bouquet Channel, making its way to the Santa Clara River, and eventually to the ocean.

The county's Regional Water Quality Board first detected it during a routine wastewater check. The city conducted more extensive tests in September. Diazinon's presence in the river is a great concern since it is extremely toxic to aquatic life and birds. To combat further pollution of the river, EPA is "urging residents, retailers and pest control companies to stop using and selling" diazinon. It is allowed currently legal to use, but EPA is in the process of phasing out this chemical for residential uses. By December, it will no longer be sold for indoor uses. Outdoor use product sales will cease in June.

For the time being, wildlife and people, especially children, risk exposure to this poison. Diazinon is an organophosphate that affects the nervous system. Some symptoms of exposure are dizziness, nausea, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea or weakness. Gary Fisher, owner of the pest control company Newhall/Valencia Exterminating Co., mentioned several avenues of exposure for an average homeowner. He said some people overuse the product; don't rinse containers properly; leave supplies sitting around for years or dispose of the chemical improperly. Fisher does not use diazinon in his work, and relies on safer alternatives. David Deegan, an EPA spokesman, said, "We do believe there are affective alternatives available that don't pose these types of risks."

For more information about diazinon, see Beyond Pesticides' ChemicalWatch factsheet. Contact us for more extensive information.