Agriculture, forestry and fishing

EPA proposes ‘tough steps’ to prevent paraquat poisonings

Reprints
EPA

Washington – Since 2000, 17 deaths – including three cases involving children – have occurred due to ingestion of the herbicide paraquat, and the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing measures aimed at protecting workers and preventing poisonings.

In each of the cases, paraquat was placed in a beverage container and consumed inadvertently. EPA warns that one sip of the herbicide can result in death. In addition, three deaths and several severe injuries have occurred from the pesticide contacting the skin or eyes of individuals working with the chemical.

EPA has proposed the following:

  • New packaging that prevents relocating or removing paraquat except into the proper application equipment
  • Training for certified applicators that stresses the herbicide should not be moved to or stored in improper containers
  • Highlighting the pesticide’s toxicity and risks on its label
  • Prohibiting application of the pesticide from handheld and backpack equipment
  • Limiting use to certified pesticide applicators

Comments are due May 19.

Paraquat is one of the most commonly used weed killers in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, according to EPA. A recent NIOSH study concluded that paraquat and fellow herbicide diquat were involved in 85 percent of herbicide-related deaths in the United States.

“We are taking tough steps to prevent people from accidentally drinking paraquat and to ensure these tragic deaths become a thing of the past,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the EPA office of chemical safety and pollution prevention, said in a press release. “We are also putting safety measures in place to prevent worker injuries from exposure to this pesticide.”

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