WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing safety measures to stop poisonings caused by ingestion of the herbicide paraquat, which can also cause severe injuries or death from skin or eye exposure.
Since 2000, there have been 17 deaths – three involving children – caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. These cases have resulted from the pesticide being illegally transferred to beverage containers and later mistaken for a drink and consumed. A single sip can be fatal. To prevent these tragedies, EPA is requiring:
- New closed-system packaging designed to make it impossible to transfer or remove the pesticide except directly into the proper application equipment;
- Special training for certified applicators who use paraquat to emphasize that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers; and
- Changes to the pesticide label and warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with paraquat.
In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, since 2000 there have been three deaths and many severe injuries caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the herbicide.
To reduce exposure to workers who mix, load and apply paraquat, EPA is restricting the use of paraquat to certified pesticide applicators only. Uncertified individuals working under the supervision of a certified applicator will be prohibited from using paraquat.
Paraquat is one of the most widely-used herbicides in the U.S. for the control of weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and is also used as a defoliant on crops such as cotton prior to harvest.
Actions on specific pesticides are one way that EPA is protecting workers from pesticide exposure. EPA’s Final Certification and Training and Worker Protection Standard rules will also protect pesticide applicators and farmworkers.