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EPA training designed to help prevent paraquat poisonings

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Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency is offering training intended to help prevent poisonings among workers who apply the toxic herbicide paraquat, as required by agency regulations.

Used for weed control and as a defoliant on certain crops before harvest, paraquat is a restricted-use substance that may be administered only by certified applicators. Unintentional ingestion of paraquat has resulted in 17 deaths – including three children – since 2000, EPA states. Additionally, three deaths and numerous severe injuries occurred after the chemical came in contact with workers’ eyes or skin.

According to EPA, the 2016 Paraquat Dichloride Human Health Mitigation Decision mandates that certified applicators complete agency-approved training every three years “in order to mix, load, apply or handle paraquat.” The training stresses that paraquat must not be moved to or kept in improper containers. EPA previously established required “closed-system” packaging that makes it impossible to transfer the herbicide in ways other than directly into proper application equipment.

EPA advises applicators to follow label instructions and use personal protective equipment when handling paraquat. The substance should:

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

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