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Non-Agricultural Use of Diazinon Finally Canceled, But Risks Remain
(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2004) The good news is that EPA has finally issued the cancellation of all non-agricultural uses of diazinon, a highly toxic organophosphate insecticide commonly used on lawns and landscapes. The bad news is that the agency has allowed uses of existing stocks until they are depleted, despite known hazards, and continues to allow agricultural uses thereby failing to protect the agricultural community and workers.

Pesticide products containing diazinon known under the common trade names of Spectracide TM , Knoxout TM , Basudin TM will no longer be available for distribution, sale, or non-agricultural use as of December 31, 2004. Diazinon is the fifth most commonly used pesticide used by homeowners, with two to four million pounds used annually. Repeated exposure to low doses may cause muscle twitching, anorexia, malaise, depression, irritability, confusion, anxiety, and dizziness. High concentrations may cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion. Extreme exposures (e.g. accidents or major spills) may cause respiratory paralysis and death. Affects on the environment are equally hazardous and well-documented through hundreds of reports of (sometimes mass) killings of birds, bees, endangered species, and other insects and animals.

The EPA first announced the “voluntary” cancellations of registration for diazinon by industry in December 2003. (When EPA does a risk assessment that clearly and undeniably shows elevated dangers due to certain uses, it may encourage the manufacturers to voluntarily cancel registration of the problem uses rather than have the EPA take a ban action. This way the agency might avoid the embarrassment of banning a chemical it previously accepted and registered, often decades before.) The agency has the power to disallow existing stocks to be used, which would raise the level of public alert rather than just make the pesticide essentially disappear from store shelves. By allowing a phase-out of existing stocks, the agency is allowing people to be continually exposed to a chemical that the agency knows is exceedingly dangerous. It further perpetuates public ignorance of the hazards of pesticides and the lack of information that exists prior to their release into the public domain.

EPA has agreed to phase out some uses of diazinon in commercial agriculture over the next two to five years, leaving agricultural workers and their families vulnerable in the meantime despite the known risks and alternatives. In response to the agency’s assessment published in the Interim Reregistration Eligibility Decision (IRED) in 2002, a scientific advisory panel to the EPA stated that the failure of the risk assessment to address agriculture communities as especially vulnerable to high pesticide exposure was a very serious oversight. Consideration of these communities would include not just farm workers, but also populations that live near agriculture areas, farm families, farm worker children (known to be especially vulnerable to the effects of diazinon exposure) and effects of spray drift. Despite overwhelming evidence of added hazards for these communities, the agency is allowing continual exposure by failing to take immediate action.

For more information: See EPAs Interim Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Diazinon and/or comments to EPA by Beyond Pesticides regarding the inadequacies of the agency’s reregistration (11/2002 and 7/2000).