Over the last four years, this administration’s EPA has dealt numerous low blows to public and environmental health when it comes to pesticides — from reversing the planned ban of the brain-harming pesticide, chlorpyrifos, to keeping crop-damaging dicamba on the market.
And, in the last days of Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s tenure, the agency is up to the same old tricks, gifting the pesticide industry with one last (we hope) favor, by approving continued use of paraquat, the most deadly herbicide used in the country today.
Quite literally deadly
Paraquat, manufactured by the pesticide giant Syngenta, is the most acutely lethal herbicide still in use in the United States today. Despite its status as a Restricted Use Pesticide, there have been numerous deaths and poisonings over the last 30 years. Additionally, chronic exposure has been associated with increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and it is a suspected endocrine disruptor.
This highly toxic chemical has already been banned in many countries around the world, including the European Union, China, and Brazil. Yet, in the United States, paraquat use is higher now than it has been at any point in the past 25 years.
EPA itself has found serious risks to farmers and farmworkers who are exposed to high levels of paraquat on the job, as well as considerable injury to mammals, birds and pollinators that forage near treated fields. Despite this, the agency is still proposing re-registration in a blatant failure to protect public health and the environment.
With the proposed re-registration, EPA has introduced some restrictions on use — such as prohibiting aerial applications. However, as this includes an exemption for cotton desiccation, the most common aerial use, this is unlikely to have much of an impact.
Another long-overdue restriction, prohibiting paraquat application by backpack sprayer and handgun, will eliminate some high-level exposures, but ignores the issue of chronic low-level exposure and the link to Parkinson’s disease.
Farmers, farmworkers, and their families will continue to suffer from damaging exposure to this toxic chemical as long as paraquat is being used in any way, and this is an unacceptable risk to our communities.
The U.S. must join numerous other countries in banning the use of paraquat immediately. Sign on to our petition today to block this parting gift to the pesticide industry, and urge EPA to do its job.