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EPA Takes Strong Steps to Prevent Poisonings and Protect Workers from Paraquat

Release Date: 03/03/2016
Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn Milbourn.cathy@epa.gov 202-564-7849; En español: Lina Younes, younes.lina@epa.gov, 202-564-9924

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to take action to stop poisonings caused by accidental ingestion of the herbicide paraquat, which can also cause severe injuries or death from skin or eye exposure.

“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.”

Since 2000, there have been 17 deaths – three involving children caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. These cases have resulted from the pesticide being illegally transferred to beverage containers and later mistaken for a drink and consumed. A single sip can be fatal. To prevent these tragedies, EPA is proposing:

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; and

Changes to the pesticide label and warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with paraquat.

In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, since 2000 there have been three deaths and many severe injuries caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the herbicide. To reduce exposure to workers who mix, load and apply paraquat, EPA is proposing:

Prohibiting application from hand-held and backpack equipment, and

Restricting the use to certified pesticide applicators only (individuals working under the supervision of a certified applicator would be prohibited from using paraquat).

Paraquat is one of the most widely-used herbicides in the U.S. for the control of weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and is also used as a defoliant on crops such as cotton prior to harvest. The proposal will be available for a 60 day public comment period. EPA will consider all public comments before finalizing these proposed actions later this year.

Actions on specific pesticides are one way that EPA is protecting workers from pesticide exposure. EPA’s
revised Worker Protection Standard and proposed Certification and Training Rule will also protect farmworkers and pesticide applicators.

To view related documents and submit comments, go to docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855 at
www.regulations.gov. For more information on paraquat: https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/paraquat-dichloride .