Daily News Archive
October 26, 2006
in Above Par on Golf Course Herbicide
Pesticides, October 26, 2006) A
revised assessment of health risks has the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) preparing to deny reregistration of all products containing
monosodium methane arsenate (MSMA) and other organic arsenical herbicides.
The decision is especially relevant in Florida where MSMA has been linked
to high arsenic levels beneath many golf courses.
Arsenic levels left
in MSMA’s wake “raise a concern for cancer risk,”
according to EPA. The agency is planning to revoke federal approval
of the herbicides' uses, pending a comment period that ends next month.
In addition to golf courses, MSMA is also currently used on athletic
fields, parks, cotton crops and other outdoor areas.
MSMA has been linked
to high arsenic levels beneath at least a dozen golf courses in Florida’s
Collier County and surrounding areas. Contamination
was discovered several years ago and was reported in a Miami-Dade Department
of Environmental Resources Management study, which found 37 percent
of wells tested at municipal golf courses exceeded recommended arsenic
levels. A 2002 Florida Department of Environmental Protection survey
of golf courses found that 96 percent reported using MSMA. Only ten
percent of the respondents, though, had systems in place to clean up
arsenic; one percent had staff trained to do the job, and another one
percent had contracted companies to clean up the chemical in case of
Southwest Florida’s high water table and sandy soils make the
area’s drinking water supply particularly vulnerable to contamination,
“We have many people who get their drinking water out of the shallow
aquifer, and the sandy soils allow the contaminants to reach the groundwater
faster than other soil types,” said Doug Jones, chief of the Florida
Department of Environmental Protection’s bureau of waste cleanup.
Mr. Jones says he is pleased with EPA’s decision to deny further
use of MSMA. In a four-page letter earlier this year, he had criticized
the federal agency for understating the weed-killer’s cancer-causing
“You look around golf courses where herbicides are being legally
applied and you’re still seeing contamination higher than our
(residential) cleanup rate,” Mr. Jones said.
By any measure, arsenic is bad for your health. Studies show exposure
increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes as well as liver, lung
and other types of cancer.
of MSMA and other organic arsenical herbicides concludes:
The Agency’s risk assessment – bolstered by actual field
monitoring data in both surface and ground water – estimates
levels of arsenic in drinking water from pesticidal uses that raise
a concern for cancer risk. Given that estimated drinking water exposure
from the pesticidal uses alone exceeds EPA’s level of concern
and that alternative herbicides are readily available, EPA concludes
that the benefits do not outweigh the risks and that all uses for
the active ingredients MSMA, DSMA, CAMA, and cacodylic acid are
ineligible for reregistration.
However, MSMA has been a popular choice among cotton growers and turf
managers since it appeared on shelves in the 1960s. Each year, farmers
and turf managers spray three million pounds of MSMA or the similar
DSMA nationwide, EPA estimates. Additionally, several golf course superintendents
in Florida signed form letters this year, urging EPA to spare MSMA.
Manufacturers are mounting a fight against the decision as well. There
are 90 brand-name herbicides that contain MSMA, according to EPA estimates.
The extensive use of MSMA and other pesticides on golf
courses raises serious questions about people's toxic exposure,
drift over neighboring communities, water contamination, and effects
on wildlife and sensitive ecosystems. However, environmental
principles for golf courses are available and some golf courses
are working to reduce pesticide use.
Daily News, Revised
Reregistration Eligibility Decision
ACTION: It is important to make your voice heard as MSMA
manufacturers are working to fight EPA’s decision. Tell EPA you
support their decision to deny reregistration of all uses for organic
arsenical herbicide, including MSMA, products and ask that they immediately
suspend all products from the market in order to prevent further health
risks. The deadline to submit
comments is November 9, 2006.