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Goodbye Dursban: Consumers, Farmers Must Switch

If you normally buy the pesticide Dursban to fight pests like fleas, ticks and spiders, you'd better start shopping for a replacement.

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the removal of the chemical chlorpyrifos, known by most consumers as Dursban or Lorsban, for household use. DowAgrosciences, manufacturer of these products, voluntarily withdrew their products from the market.

Tested on Fetal Rats

"EPA has received information that indicates chlorpyrifos could have some effect on fetal rats," said Paul Guillebeau of the University of Georgia. Guillebeau is the Integrated Pest Management and pesticide coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"EPA became concerned there could be some risks to human children as well," he said. "That's why they are pulling the products off the market."

The ruling stems from the ongoing implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. The FQPA is fundamentally changing the way U.S. pesticides are regulated, Guillebeau said. Last summer, EPA removed methyl parathion and azinphos methyl from the market because of potential health threats to children.

"Products containing this chemical are widely used for both agricultural and nonagricultural applications, largely due to the economical control they offer against a wide spectrum of pests," he said. "For nearly 30 years, chlorpyrifos has been the mainstay for controlling pests. It would still be the best control in some situations. But it won't be available in five months."

Home-Use Sales Stop After 2000

More than 800 products contain chlorpyrifos. Those for home use won't be in the stores after 2000. The chemical can still be used as a termiticide for spot treatment until Dec. 31, 2002, and in new home construction until the end of 2005.

Chlorpyrifos is used to control insect damage on every major crop in the United States, so farmers are preparing for additional restrictions. Guillebeau said farmers won't be allowed to use chlorpyrifos on tomatoes, but can continue using it on other crops.

"Farmers will probably be restricted on how close to harvest they can apply it," he said. "We expect restrictions on additional crops to come in the future."

Choose an Alternative

But don't panic. Alternatives are available.

"There are still some other products we can turn to such as Diazinon and Malathion that will, in many cases, do just as good a job as Dursban," he said. Contact your county Extension Service agent for recommendations on alternatives.

"If you have Dursban at home, use it," Guillebeau said. "The best way to dispose of these products is to use them up. If you have too much to use at your house, share the product with your neighbors."

Guillebeau doesn't recommend rushing to the nearest garden center to buy all the Dursban you can.

"Some companies removed all chlorpyrifos products from their shelves immediately, but legally they have until the end of the year," he said. "I know some people are rushing to the stores and stocking up on these products now. Just don't buy more than a six-month or a year supply, or you'll be stuck with 10 gallons you can't use."

Don't Rush the Stores

Aside from wasting the pesticide by stocking up too much, Guillebeau said the product may not be effective after a year.

"Keep in mind that pesticides don't last forever," he said. "You may end up with a product that's simply not effective anymore. And you'll have no safe way to dispose of it."

Guillebeau says the EPA ruling should have consumers feeling more sympathy for farmers.

"The positive side of this ruling is now consumers see what farmers face when pesticides are removed from the market," said Guillebeau. "I think farmers are going to have a much harder time in the future as more products are removed from use."

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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