Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a deal with Bayer CropScience to end the use of a highly toxic pesticide, Aldicarb. This is good news for health and environmental protection. Aldicarb is part of the N-methyl carbamate family of pesticides, and EPA has taken action over the last year to eliminate two other carbamate pesticides: carbofuran (all food uses were cancelled), and carbaryl (uses in flea and tick collars for pets was cancelled) - both after significant pressure, including legal petitions, from NRDC.
That's all good news, since the carbamates are old war-era chemicals that over-stimulate nervous system function, causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and can lead to paralysis or death in extreme cases. Exposures during early life stages of development can interfere with normal brain and nervous system structure, causing permanent alterations and potentially long-term developmental damage.
What's the not so good news? Well, although EPA determined that these pesticides no longer met the safety standard required to be registered ('reasonable certainty of no harm'), EPA negotiated in all cases with the registrants, and only the registrants. No public health or environmental groups were consulted or involved. Maybe that's why all the pesticides were granted phase-outs of several years or longer. That means that even though EPA decided that Aldicarb is unsafe today, it will continue to be manufactured until 2014, and sold until 2018. That's a lot of years of unsafe continued use of a hazardous pesticide!
The Pesticide Office always does its business this way. For example, last month EPA negotiated a phase-out of endosulfan over 2 to 4 years (depending on the use). It is a hazardous, persistent pesticide that lasts for years in the environment and is found in breast milk and the body tissues of mammals even in regions where it is not used. It is already banned in over 60 countries, including the European Union. NRDC also fought to eliminate this nasty chemical - but it will be used another 2 to 4 years in this country. Why? Maybe because EPA negotiated only with the registrant instead of using a more public open process.
Kudos to EPA for taking the science seriously and forcing the removal of hazardous pesticides from the market when they cannot meet the safety standard. But, slap-slap for the closed-door negotiations that lead to years-long phase-outs while people and wildlife continue to get poisoned.
Hey, Pesticide Office, call me into the room next time you enter negotiations - i'll get your back!