PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK NORTH AMERICA UPDATES SERVICE
Mevinphos Withdrawn in U.S. But Will Still Be Exported
August 3, 1994
In June 1994, in response to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of California's planned
actions to remove the pesticide mevinphos from the U.S.
market, the Amvac Chemical Corporation of Los Angeles
formally requested an immediate cancellation of all
registrations of the pesticide. However, despite its extreme
toxicity and history of worker poisonings, Amvac intends to
continue production of mevinphos (Phosdrin) for use overseas.
According to current U.S. law, pesticides that are banned in
the U.S. may still be produced in the U.S. for export to
other countries; beyond a notification requirement, there are
no export restrictions on pesticides voluntarily withdrawn.
As part of the mevinphos cancellation agreement, Amvac must
stop production of mevinphos for sale and distribution in the
U.S. effective June 30, 1994; existing stocks can be sold and
distributed through December 1994; and farmers will be able
to use existing stocks through February 1995. Approximately
200,000-300,000 pounds of mevinphos, a broad-spectrum
organophosphate pesticide, are used annually in the U.S. on
22 specialty/minor use crops such as strawberries, lemons,
broccoli, spinach and lettuce.
Mevinphos is one of the most acutely toxic pesticides
available on the U.S. market today. It is classified by the
EPA as a Toxicity Category 1, or very highly hazardous
pesticide, its highest toxicity calssification. The United
Nations World Health Organization (WHO) classifies mevinphos
as Class 1A or "extremely hazardous." According to the EPA,
less than one teaspoon of mevinphos spilled on the skin could
be lethal to an adult. Mevinphos is even more toxic if taken
orally -- ten drops or less could be fatal if swallowed.
Based on mevinphos' extreme toxicity and the large number of
poisoning incidents associated with it, the EPA determined
that worker protection standards do not adequately mitigate
the risks of this pesticide. Recent EPA reviews of poisoning
incidents in the U.S. have shown that a high number of human
poisonings from mevinphos have occurred even when workers
followed label restrictions. The EPA stated, "Use of
mevinphos poses an imminent hazard to the health of
agricultural workers and others who may be exposed."
California incident data on over 1,000 organophosphate
poisonings of agricultural workers showed that over 40% of
the cases were associated with mevinphos. The EPA states
that over 600 mevinphos-related poisoning incidents were
reported during the past decade. In August 1993, 17 apple
orchard workers in Washington state were poisoned by
mevinphos; several required hospitalization. In 1989, more
than 75 field workers in Florida were poisoned when they were
sent back into fields too soon after mevinphos was applied
Although mitigation measures had been discussed with Amvac,
EPA decided that they were "insufficient to mitigate the
unacceptable hazard posed by the use of mevinphos." Rather
than face the stigma of having their product 'banned,' Amvac
moved to "voluntarily withdraw" the registration of Phosdrin.
(Interestingly, the lawyer Amvac hired to try to keep the
product on the market or negotiate the best deal is Steve
Shatzow, the head of EPA's pesticide program under President
Reagan and currently with the Washington DC-based law firm of
Morgan, Lewis and Bockius.)
The Clinton Administration has included provisions in its
pesticide policy reform package which would prohibit the
export of any pesticide which has been banned in the U.S. for
health reasons. At this point, however, it does not seem
likely that the Administration proposals or any other
"Cirlcle of Poison" legislation will become law in 1994.
Sources: EPA Press Release and Questions & Answers:
Voluntary Cancellation of Mevinphos, June 30, 1994; CalEPA
Press Release, June 1994; Agrow, July 8, 1994; PANUPS,
September 16, 1994; Marion Moses, Harvest of Sorrow, Part 2,
Contact: Sandra Marquardt, Greenpeace USA, 1436 U Street NW,
Washington DC 20009; phone (202) 319-2472; fax (202) 462-
4507; email email@example.com. org; Erika Rosenthal, PANNA.
The Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS) is a
pesticide-related news service posted weekly by the
Pesticide Action Network North America Regional Center
(PANNA). PANNA is located at 116 New Montgomery Street,
#810, San Francisco, CA 94105. Tel: (415) 541-9140. Fax:
(415) 541-9253. To receive a standard information packet
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