DOW CHEMICAL PRODUCT MAY HURT HUMAN HEALTH - EPA
By Julie Vorman
WASHINGTON - U.S. environmental officials were cited as saying one of the
U.S. 's most popular pesticides may be unsafe for Americans who use it in
their gardens, fields and homes. Blurred vision, muscle weakness, headaches
and problems with memory, depression and irritability have been linked to
large amounts of exposure to Dow Chemical's Dursban, the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) said
in a preliminary scientific assessment posted on its web site late
The EPA analysis found exposure to Dursban on the skin, in food, or by
inhaling it could be harmful to human health. The EPA was quoted as saying
it had a "particular concern" with Dursban poisoning cases reported to
federal officials. About one-fourth of 325 illnesses reported from 1993
through 1996 were serious enough to require hospitalization. "Data from the
two human studies suggest that humans are as sensitive and possibly even
more sensitive than animals," the EPA said in the detailed report. One of
the studies was conducted with inmate volunteers at a prison.
Dursban is used to kill insects that attack everything from home-grown
tomatoes to corn fields. It is also a powerful weapon against termites and
cockroaches, and is frequently used in homes, schools, hospitals, and in pet
collars. More than 20 million pounds of Dursban are used annually in the
United States, according to the EPA.
The report laid out potential health risks, but did not indicate whether the
agency planned to tighten use of Dursban, require new labels alerting
consumers to the risk, or phase it out. The agency will not make any final
decision until summer.
"This preliminary risk assessment indicates that risks from the use of
chlorpyrifos in residential settings, as well as its risks to applicators,
are of concern," the EPA was quoted as saying in a brief statement released
to the press.
Dow Chemical, in a letter to the EPA that was included in the report,
said EPA's analysis was misleading and based on "fundamental errors" of
"Three decades of use have shown that unless seriously misused,
chlorpyrifos products have wide margins of safety that protect users and
consumers, including infants and children," the letter also read.
Dursban is one of Dow's biggest pesticide products.
EPA's scientific analysis of Dursban is part of a mammoth project to
check for harmful residue in food, drinking water and households from some
9,000 U.S. pesticides.
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