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Dursban Banned

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner said Thursday that all home and garden uses of the chemical sold under the trade names of Dursban and Lorsban will be stopped within a year.

CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Bob Fuss reports the chemical called chlorpyrifos is found in more than 800 products to kill termites and fleas and keep lawns and gardens pest-free.

"We are turning off the manufacture of this chemical ... for garden and home uses," said Browner, who called the chemical one in a whole family of older pesticides that can cause illness in people, especially children.

According to the EPA, chlorpyrifos has been one of the most widely used pesticides on food and lawns for some 30 years, with between 20 million and 24 million tons applied annually. The manufacturer, Dow Chemical, claims its product is safe, but in order to avoid a long legal battle it has agreed to phase out its use in virtually all nonagricultural uses. In exchange, the chemical will continue to be sold for many agricultural uses, albeit under tighter restrictions - and the home products that contiain it will stay in stores until supplies run out.

That trade-off bothers environmental and consumer activists who sought a total ban.

"When the EPA identifies hazards it should stop their use," said Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides.

"There's concern that these products are going to remain on the shelves" and that the insecticide will continue - although at much reduced levels - be used in agriculture, said David Wallinga, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He said that under the EPA phase-out, existing stocks of Dursban may continue to be sold for household and garden use for 18 months.

Hundreds of consumer products contain the chemical compound and many people can be expected to buy the products - bug sprays and lawn garden insecticides, for example - this summer not knowing of the health risks, said Wallinga, who nevertheless called the EPA action "a good step."

CBS News Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports the EPA's move is a reaction to research showing that the chemical can cause brain damage to fetal rats whose mothers were exposed to the substance. At issue: how much exposure to chlorpyrifos is too much.

Some scientists argue that
chlorpyrifos, often used on
lawns, may pose special risks
for children.

Environmental health expert Dr. Philip Landrigan, one of a group of scientists who has demanded the EPA restrict the chemical's use, said its immediate damage is hard to measure, but could be particularly dangerous for children.

"This is a lot lik low-level lead poisoning: it needs to be tested. Children appear to be normal, it's only when you test them that you find they're lacking five or 10 points of IQ," Landrigan told CBS News.

Steve Echters, who's been in the lawn care and gardening business for 30 years, said safer options are out there to kill bugs.

"Everything we sell with Dursban has an alternative we could use," he said. "It may not be quite as effective but there is an alternative."