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EPA Set to Investigate Imprelis

Jul 18, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

DuPont and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are investigating the herbicide Imprelis, after landscapers in several states reported incidents of tree death and damage that followed application of the weed killer.  Last month, DuPont warned professional gardeners and landscapers not to spray Imprelis near Norway Spruce or White Pine trees, and at least one class action lawsuit has been filed claiming the herbicide is responsible for killing thousands of trees throughout the country.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the EPA held a teleconference on July 6 discussing suspected incidents of tree death and damage  in Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Wisconsin and West Virginia that could be associated with Imprelis.  Incident reports are being collected from those states, and other states have been notified of the problem, the EPA said.  The agency is expected to launch an "expedited review" soon, the Free Press said, and could end up ordering label changes for Imprelis, require additional testing, or order the herbicide off the market.

Imprelis, which is only sold to landscapers and professional gardeners, only came on the market in 2010. Claims that it was environmentally safer than previous products soon prompted many commercial turf managers to switch to Imprelis, and the product is now commonly used on golf courses and lawns. 

But sometime around Memorial Day, Imprelis users began complaining that Imprelis was killing and damage evergreen trees, especially Norway Spruce and White Pine.  By June, extensions services in several had issued alerts about the reports.  An alert issued by the Michigan University Extension Service warned that: "Damaged trees have symptoms consistent with growth regulator type herbicides. Injury includes curling and twisting of new growth." According to the extension service, universities "from Kansas to Pennsylvania have reported injury to conifers associated with Imprelis application to turf and lawns.'

In a letter dated June 17, DuPont acknowledge the reports and said it was investigating the problem.  In addition to warning Imprelis users to avoid spraying it near Norway Spruce or White Pines, the letter also said to avoid spraying it in places where the product might drift toward such trees or run off toward their roots. 

Just last week, members of the Michigan Polo Fields Golf & Country Club LLC of Southfield, Michigan filed suit against DuPont  alleges that Imprelis caused "the loss of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of mature pine and spruce trees," and the nationwide damage "is mounting with no end in sight."  The lawsuit, filed in Delaware federal court, seeks class actions status on behalf of all users and purchasers of the herbicide.

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