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EPA Action to Terminate Endosulfan

Current as of June 2010

Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide that can be used on a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, cotton, and ornamental plants.  It has no residential uses.

In completing revised assessments, EPA has concluded that endosulfan’s significant risks to wildlife and agricultural workers outweigh its limited benefits to growers and consumers nationwide. The endosulfan manufacturer is in discussions with EPA to voluntarily cancel endosulfan uses. EPA is working out the details to terminate all endosulfan uses while considering growers' needs to timely move to lower-risk pest control practices.

On this page you will find information about the status of EPA’s initiative to terminate all uses of endosulfan.

June 2010 Endosulfan Action

EPA is taking action to end all uses of endosulfan in the United States. EPA has concluded that endosulfan poses unacceptable risks to agricultural workers and wildlife, and can persist in the environment.

Under the federal pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA must consider both endosulfan’s risks and benefits.  The Agency has evaluated the human health and ecological risks as well as the benefits of endosulfan uses.  While a few crop uses have relatively high benefits for growers, the nationwide benefits to society as a whole are low for all uses of endosulfan and do not exceed the risks.  EPA has determined that pesticide products containing endosulfan do not meet the standard for registration under FIFRA.

EPA’s decision is based upon the most current information available and is founded in the principles of sound science.  New data and scientific peer review have improved the Agency’s assessment of worker risks and ecological risks from pesticides like endosulfan with persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic characteristics.  

Public Involvement

EPA’s endosulfan decision is based on updated risk assessments and benefits evaluations developed over the past several years with substantial input from interested stakeholders and the public.  Throughout the endosulfan reassessment, EPA has provided the public and interested stakeholders multiple opportunities to participate in the process.

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Human Health Risk Assessment

Data developed since 2002 has shed additional light on the risks faced by workers who apply endosulfan and those who harvest crops and conduct activities in fields after the pesticide is used.  Risks faced by workers are greater than previously known, in many instances exceeding the Agency's levels of concern.

Handler risks are of concern for most use scenarios, even with maximum personal protective equipment or engineering controls, such as closed mixing/loading systems or enclosed cabs.  For many crops, updated restricted entry intervals (REIs) needed to protect postapplication workers are not feasible due to agronomic needs and would result in an inability to conduct activities necessary to grow and harvest the crops.

Although people may be exposed to residues of endosulfan through food and drinking water, endosulfan is used on a very small percentage of the U.S. food supply and does not present a risk to human health from dietary exposure.  Because endosulfan may be found in human milk, EPA evaluated risk to nursing infants and found that dietary exposure from human milk also does not present risk concerns. 

Because endosulfan is volatile and persistent, bio-accumulates in fatty tissues, and has the potential to migrate over long distances, EPA considered dietary risk to indigenous people of the Arctic region of the U.S. (Alaska) who rely heavily on subsistence diets as their food source.  Based on conservative assumptions, the Agency found that dietary exposure from subsistence gathering does not pose risk concerns.  

Household exposure is not of concern because endosulfan is not approved for residential uses.

Ecological Risk Assessment

EPA’s 2010 revised ecological risk assessment reflects a comprehensive review of all new, currently available exposure and ecological effects information for endosulfan, including independent external peer review recommendations made by the FIFRA SAP.  EPA finds that there are risks above the Agency’s level of concern to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, as well as to birds and mammals that consume aquatic prey in which endosulfan has bio-accumulated.

Benefits Assessment

As appropriate under FIFRA, EPA evaluated and weighed the risks and benefits of endosulfan uses in determining whether the risks associated with each use are justified by the benefits.  The Agency’s impact assessments for crops with significant endosulfan use are available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2002-0262 at regulations.gov.

Endosulfan Uses and Properties

An organochlorine insecticide first registered in the 1950s, endosulfan can be used on a variety of vegetables and fruits, on cotton, and on ornamental shrubs, trees, and vines.  Endosulfan has no residential uses.  Crops with the highest use in 2006 – 2008 included tomato, cucurbit, potato, apple, and cotton.  The use of endosulfan decreased overall from 2001 to 2008.  A restricted use pesticide, endosulfan may be applied only by or under the supervision of a trained, certified applicator.

Endosulfan is volatile, persistent, and has a high potential to bio-accumulate in aquatic and terrestrial organisms.  A large body of scientific literature documents endosulfan’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media.  Through the process of global distillation, endosulfan is present in air, water, sediment, and biota thousands of miles from use areas.

Endosulfan is one of the most abundant organochlorine pesticides found in the Arctic, and has also been detected in the Great Lakes and various mountainous areas including the National Parks in the western United States, distant from use sites.  Because of its presence in remote locations, endosulfan may be considered a persistent organic pollutant that may result in human exposure via the food web.

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For Additional Information

As noted above, EPA's endosulfan updated human health and ecological risk assessments and benefits or impacts assessments are available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2002-0262 at regulations.gov.

Background information about EPA’s reevaluation of endosulfan is available on the Agency’s Endosulfan reregistration Web page.

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