EPA OKs CO Pesticides Despite Charges of Industry Influence

All but five of the 31 organophosphate pesticides-chemicals that have been linked to neurological and other problems in children and fetuses-that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week recommended for continued use are registered in Colorado, as are two other pesticide chemicals that the agency is recommending for phaseout or banning, according to a search of the Colorado Pesticide Information Retrieval System.This group of pesticides kill insects by attaching their nervous systems, inhibiting enzymes that help transmit nerve signals. In May, a group of EPA and other federal scientists wrote a letter to the EPA administrator charging that the agency’s review of these pesticides was influenced by the pesticide industry and that “EPA’s risk assessments cannot state with confidence the degree to which any exposure of a fetus, infant or child to a pesticide will or will not adversely affect their neurological development.”

Among the organophosphate pesticides that the EPA approved are malthion, widely used in Colorado for mosquito control, and acephate, which is used to control aphids on roses and other plants.

The EPA is recommending a ban on agriculture uses of lindane, which is used by some Colorado farmers to treat seeds. Lindane can cause damage to the nervous system and seizures, and it persists in the environment, according to Pesticide Action Network North America. Sixty-two percent of U.S. residents carry the insecticide in their body, according to a 2003 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The environmental agency is also recommending phase out of all uses of carbofuran, which is fatal for birds even in small doses. This chemical is also registered for use in Colorado.

If the bans become final, then the pesticide manufacturers will not be able to register the pesticides for use in Colorado. But it may take awhile before the state is completely free of the chemical. “When EPA cancels products, usually there’s a date by which the registrant has to stop distributing it. But they don’t usually put a date to stop selling it, and hardly any time do they do anything when it’s in the hand of the consumer,” said Barbara Quackenbush, pesticide registration coordinator for the Colorado Agriculture Department.

[cross posted at www.muckrakingmom.com]

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About the Author

Nancy Watzman

is a Denver-based writer.

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