EPA Seeking Public Comment on Paraquat Health & Environmental Dangers

Published on October 31, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comments regarding the health and environmental dangers associated with paraquat, a widely used pesticide that has been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

Like other pesticides, paraquat must undergo EPA review every 15 years.  According to documents posted to the Federal Register on October 16th, the agency is leaning towards reapproval.

An EPA press release published a day earlier asserted that that the ongoing assessment “did not support a causal relationship” between paraquat use and Parkinson’s, but stated additional feedback on the matter was welcomed during the comment period, which concludes on December 16, 2019.

20 Fatal Paraquat Poisonings in Past 2 Decades

Paraquat is the active ingredient in Syngenta’s Gramoxone.

According to the EPA, 17 people have died after accidentally drinking the pesticide over the past 20 years, while three were killed when paraquat entered their bodies through the skin and eyes.

Even low doses of paraquat can cause eye damage, kidney or heart failure, lung damage, and liver injury.

Because of its highly toxic nature, paraquat is considered a restricted use pesticide and may only be handled by certified applicators who’ve received specialized training. In March, the EPA issued new guidelines recommending that paraquat only be applied in accordance with label instructions and that workers use personal protective gear while handling the pesticide. Paraquat should also:

  • Always be securely stored to prevent access by children and/or other unauthorized individuals.
  • Never be stored in or around residences.
  • Never be used around home gardens, schools, parks, golf courses or playgrounds.

Paraquat Use Rises in United States, Despite Bans Elsewhere

Multiple studies suggest that farmers and agriculture workers exposed to paraquat face a significantly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. The pesticide is already banned in the European Union and more than 30 other countries, including China and Brazil, because of these and other concerns. Yet the use of paraquat-based herbicides has actually increased by 80% in the United States over the last decade, mainly due to the emergence of “super weeds” that are resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup.

Earlier this month, the Center for Biological Diversity slammed the EPA assessment and accused the regulator of ignoring paraquat’s association with Parkinson’s, as well as other adverse health and environmental effects.

“A pesticide this toxic has no place near our food or the people who help to grow and harvest it,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA should follow the lead of nearly every other major agricultural country in the world and ban this dangerous stuff for good.”

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