Safety + Health reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is offering training intended to help prevent poisonings among workers who apply the toxic herbicide paraquat, as required by agency regulations.
Used for weed control and as a defoliant on certain crops before harvest, paraquat is a restricted-use substance that may be administered only by certified applicators. Unintentional ingestion of paraquat has resulted in 17 deaths – including three children – since 2000, EPA states.
Additionally, three deaths and numerous severe injuries occurred after the chemical came in contact with workers’ eyes or skin.
Paraquat is used to control weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural use sites. It is also used as a defoliant on crops, like cotton, prior to harvest.
There are no homeowner uses and no products registered for application in residential areas.
All paraquat products registered for use in the United States are Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs), which can only be used by certified applicators.
Paraquat is highly toxic to humans. One small sip can be fatal and there is no antidote.
According to EPA, the 2016 Paraquat Dichloride Human Health Mitigation Decision mandates that certified applicators complete agency-approved training every three years “in order to mix, load, apply or handle paraquat.”
The training stresses that paraquat must not be moved to or kept in improper containers.
EPA previously established required “closed-system” packaging that makes it impossible to transfer the herbicide in ways other than directly into proper application equipment.