The herbicide Paraquat is known to be acutely toxic. This product will stay in the US market with apparently better safety measures meant to reduce exposure to farmworkers. The Environmental Protection Agency made the call in an interim decision on Aug. 2. The surprising move comes amidst over 100 lawsuits against the pesticide’s manufacturer Syngenta and its distributor Chevron USA. The lawsuits stem from agricultural workers who claim that their exposure to the herbicide Paraquat contributed to their Parkinson’s disease.
The EPA, in what can only be described as incredibly paradoxical logic, publicly acknowledged the acute toxicity of Paraquat by clearly stating on its website that “One small sip can be fatal and there is no antidote.” But out of the same brilliant minds, the agency also dismisses several scientific studies that link Paraquat exposure to Parkinson’s disease. It’s as if certain death was not concerning enough to hit the brakes on this toxic herbicide.
The EPA had proposed banning the aerial spraying of Paraquat under the previous administration. Shockingly, they have changed their stance after—wait for it—after reviewing data from the pesticide industry. The EPA has now said that aerial applications are allowed with a few restrictions.
What restrictions? For one, aerial applications are prohibited in residential areas. Were they allowed before? Are there any crops around people’s houses that need to be sprayed with chemicals?
Other safety measures include: stopping the use of backpack sprayers, using human flaggers to guide aerial applications, and increasing the duration before people can re-enter fields after spraying.
Here is a thought—why not stop using the herbicide? Surely there are other options? Here is a brief list of safe alternatives:
- Natural Acids (vinegar, and/or citric acids)
- Herbicidal Soaps
- Iron-Based Herbicides
- Salt-Based Herbicides
- Phytotoxic Oils (Essential oils such as clove, peppermint, pine, or citronella.)
- Corn Gluten
Environmental groups are immensely disappointed that the EPA would continue to allow the use of Paraquat
Environmental groups are immensely disappointed that the EPA would continue to allow the use of Paraquat in the United States. The EU, China, and Brazil have already banned Paraquat because of its scientifically proven health risks to agricultural workers and others unlucky enough to be near this toxic herbicide. It wasn’t until 2016 that the transfer of Paraquat to beverage containers was made illegal, and that’s only AFTER it led to cases of accidental ingestion and death.
“Instead of banning a weedkiller linked to Parkinson’s disease in farmworkers, reproductive harm in small mammals and increased death rates for birds, this administration is bowing to the wishes of the chemical industry and allowing it to be sprayed on crops from the air,” said environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity Nathan Donley in a statement.