NRDC Applauds EPA’S Steps to Restrict Hazardous, Widely Used Insecticide

Exposures to Children, Workers, Wildlife Still Pose Concern, Group Says

WASHINGTON (June 7, 2000) – The Environmental Protection Agency is expected on June 8 to announce significant steps to reduce Americans' exposure to chlorpyrifos, the chemical ingredient in the most widely used insecticide in the country. But the EPA action does not go far enough and the agency should ban chlorpyrifos entirely, says the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the largest environmental groups in the country. According to NRDC, chlorpyrifos is one of the most hazardous pesticides to human health, and is especially dangerous to children.

"We’re pleased that EPA is taking steps to make sure that children and others will be exposed to less Dursban in the future," says David Wallinga, M.D., an NRDC senior scientist, "but we’d like to see the agency take products containing the chemical off the market more quickly." Wallinga noted that chlorpyrifos was first registered with EPA in 1965. It is known as Dursban in home products and Lorsban in agricultural products.

"There’s no good reason to continue using chlorpyrifos," says Jacqueline Hamilton, an attorney with NRDC’s Public Health Program. "Effective, affordable alternatives to this highly toxic nerve poison are available right now."

According to EPA sources, over-the-counter products containing Dursban will be withdrawn by the end of 2001. Until then, NRDC urges consumers to keep an eye out for this potent nerve-system toxin in household products and make sure professional exterminators and lawn care specialists are not using it in homes, gardens and schools. The organization urges consumers to use alternative methods to control pests.

"Scientific studies and surveys show that 82 percent of adults and 92 percent of children in the United States carry traces of Dursban in their urine," says Dr. Wallinga. Continued use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture and in the home, he notes, will perpetuate that exposure. Chlorpyrifos also frequently contaminates ground and surface water.

Chlorpyrifos is one of 37 organophosphates currently used on crops and around homes and schools. All are designed to kill living things. "While we applaud the important steps EPA is taking, this is just the beginning of what the agency has to do to fully protect children from exposure to all organophosphates," says Hamilton. "Our children will still be exposed to unacceptable levels of these hazardous nerve system poisons."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 400,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

For additional information on Dursban, see A Summary of the Hazards of Dursban.