Cutting Back On Chemicals

pesticides graphic, with drums of chemicals
The Environmental Protection Agency has reached agreement for the phaseout of a widely used pesticide, diazinon, because of its potential health risks to children, agency sources said Tuesday.

The chemical, used in household ant and roach sprays and in a wide range of garden and lawn sprays, is among a class of chemicals known as organophosphates which attack the nervous system and are believed to pose special threats to children, even at low doses.

Under an agreement to be announced Tuesday by the EPA, the use of diazinon will be banned for use indoors and will be phased out over a four-year period for outdoor lawn and garden applications, according to a source familiar with the proposal, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The insecticide is commonly found on the shelves of hardware and lawn and garden shops under trade names such as Ortho, Spectracide and Real-Kill.

The chemical's manufacturer has maintained that the insecticide poses no health risks with normal application as instructed on the product packages. But the manufacturers contend that the extensive tests needed to prove the product safe under a stricter law enacted in 1996 could not be justified, so they agreed with the phaseout, sources said.

Diazinon is one of 45 pesticides known as organophosphates, a group of chemicals derived from the same family of chemicals as the sarin nerve gas agent developed during World War II.

Organophosphates attack the nervous system and have been under special review by the EPA for more than four years because of their potential health effects on children, including their impact on neural development.

Under the Food Quality Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1996, the EPA is required to restrict or ban a pesticide's use if it poses a specific threat to children. Last May, an EPA draft study concluded that diazinon, may pose a greater health risk than previously thought.

It is one of several widely used pesticides that the EPA has restricted or banned as part of its review of organophosphates. In June, the agency, also citing health risks to children, banned the chemical chlorpyrifos for use in gardens and homes.

Chlorpyrifos for decades was widely used under the trade name Dursban in everything from flea collars to bug spray for gardens and lawns. Some restricted agricultural uses for chlorpyrifos were continued.

By H. Josef Hebert © 2000, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed