The EPA is taking safety measures against the herbicide paraquat, which can cause poisoning when ingested and severe injuries or death when skin or eye exposure occurs.
The herbicide is widely used in the U.S. to control weeds and as a defoliant on crops before harvest.
Seventeen people – three of whom were children – have died since 2000 from accidentally ingesting paraquat. The herbicide, which can be fatal after even one sip, had been transferred to beverage containers and later mistaken for a drink.
Three more people died and numerous others suffered severe injuries after the herbicide got onto their skin or in their eyes while they were working with it.
“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 the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention.
“We are also putting safety measures in place to prevent worker injuries from exposure to this pesticide.”
The EPA proposes:
- 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
- Changes to the pesticide label and warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with it
- Prohibiting application from hand-held and backpack equipment
- Restricting the use to certified pesticide applicators only
The EPA’s proposal will be available for public comment for 60 days, after which time the EPA will finalize the proposed actions. To submit comments, go to docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855.