EPA Finally Bans Pesticide Linked to 1985 Watermelon PoisoningsAug 20, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
EPA Bans Toxic Pesticide
The US has finally banned the toxic pesticide aldicarb. Under a deal reached with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bayer CropScience, the manufacturer of aldicarb, which it sells under the name Temik, will phase out production of the pesticide by 2015 in all world markets.
Aldicarb is a pesticide used on numerous crops such as cotton, peanuts and potatoes. It is not intended for sale to homeowners or for use in residential settings. A restricted use pesticide, aldicarb may be applied only by trained, certified pesticide applicators. The pesticide was first registered with the EPA in 1970.
According to Environmental Health News, aldicarb residues are found in grapefruit, oranges, orange juice, potatoes, frozen French fries and sweet potatoes. It already has been banned in bananas because of the potential for high exposure in children.
Aldicarb is infamous for causing the worst known outbreak of pesticide poisoning in North America. The 1985 outbreak, which occurred among people who had eaten California melons, involved 2,000 cases of poisoning. California ordered an immediate ban on watermelon sales, and it was never determined how melons came into contact with the pesticide.
Aldicarb Poisoning North America
“After thousands of poisonings, it is mind-boggling that aldicarb is still in use,” Steve Scholl-Buckwald, managing director of the environmental group Pesticide Action Network North America, told Environmental Health News.
According to the EPA, recently submitted toxicity data indicates aldicarb no longer meets the agency’s rigorous food safety standards and may pose unacceptable dietary risks, especially to infants and young children.
The new data cited by the EPA show that babies and children under five can ingest levels of the insecticide through food and water that exceed levels the agency considers safe. According to Environmental Health News, an EPA memo issued August 4 said that aldicarb residue in infants can reach 800 percent higher than the than the agency’s level of concern for health effects, while children between the ages of one and five can ingest 300 percent more than the level of concern.
Under its agreement with the EPA, Bayer CropScience will voluntarily phase out production of aldicarb by December 31, 2014. All remaining aldicarb uses will end no later than August 2018. Additionally, EPA plans to revoke the tolerances (legal pesticide residues allowed in food) associated with these commodities. The agency said it did this to ensure we have the safest food supply possible.
During the phase-out, the pesticide will continue to be registered for use on cotton, dry beans, peanuts, soybeans, sugar beets, and sweet potatoes.
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