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Endosulfan to be Banned, Poses 'Unacceptable Risks' to Farm Workers and Wildlife, EPA Says

Declaring that endosulfan is unsafe, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it is about to ban one of the last organochlorine pesticides still used in the United States.

Endosulfan - used largely on vegetables, apples and cotton - "poses unacceptable risks" to farm workers and wildlife, EPA officials said. In response, the agency is moving to cancel the pesticide's registration.

Endosulfan is a chlorinated insecticide that is chemically similar to DDT, which was banned nearly 40 years ago. Like DDT, endosulfan builds up in the environment and in the bodies of people and wildlife, and it is transported around the world via winds and currents. Nearly all other organochlorine pesticides already have been banned.

Because of the risks to human health and the environment, "pesticide products containing endosulfan do not meet the standard for registration" under a federal law governing pesticides, EPA officials announced. The agency is now working with endosulfan's sole manufacturer, Makhteshim Agan of North America, a North Carolina subsidiary of an Israeli company, on a timeframe to terminate all uses yet give growers time to shift to alternatives.

The agency's move reverses a decision made in 2002 under the Bush Administration that allowed continued use of endosulfan with some restrictions. That decision triggered a lawsuit two years ago filed by farm labor unions and environmental groups.

EPA officials said new research shows that the health risks to workers who apply endosulfan to crops "are greater than previously known, in many instances exceeding the agency's levels of concern." The agency also found the risks for wildlife, particularly fish and birds, were greater than estimated in 2002.