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EPA bans endosulfan in light of the pesticide's human health effects

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The human health effects of pesticides have been much in the news since late May, when a study published in the journal Pediatrics pointed to a link between organophosphate exposure and ADHD in children.

Of course, concern over the chemical cocktails used in large-scale agricultural production is nothing new. The insecticide DDT, banned for use in the U.S. in 1972, has been the subject of countless studies examining its relationship to diabetes, breast cancer, and developmental and reproductive problems.

Now, according to a Wednesday announcement by EPA officials, it's curtains for endosulfan, an insecticide associated with damage to kidney, liver and male reproductive organs. Scientific American reports the compound, an organochlorine chemically similar to DDT used widely on tomatoes, potatoes, apples and cotton, will soon be banned in the U.S.:

Because of the risks to human health and the environment, "pesticide products containing endosulfan do not meet the standard for registration" under a federal law governing pesticides, EPA officials announced. The agency is now working with endosulfan's sole manufacturer, Makhteshim Agan of North America, a North Carolina subsidiary of an Israeli company, to terminate all uses yet give growers time to shift to alternatives.

. . .

EPA officials said new research shows that the health risks to workers who apply endosulfan to crops "are greater than previously known, in many instances exceeding the agency's levels of concern." The agency also found the risks for wildlife, particularly fish and birds, were greater than estimated in 2002.

A 2007 study by the California Department of Public Health found that women living near fields sprayed with endosulfan and its cousin difocol may be more likely to give birth to autistic children.

Dicofol will be the last major chlorinated pesticide at work in the U.S. following endosulfan's ignominious departure to greener fields.

Photo by Richard0

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