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Pesticides

EPA Makes Paraquat Draft Risk Assessments Available for Public Comment

For Release: October 15, 2019

Today, EPA is taking an important step in its regulatory review of paraquat—an herbicide used in agricultural and commercial settings only. The draft risk assessments are the product of an extensive evaluation of available data on the health and environmental impacts associated with the pesticide. The agency is seeking public input on draft human health and ecological risk assessments. These draft risk assessments are the next step in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) registration review process and are not a denial or an approval of the herbicide. Public comments will be accepted until December 16, 2019.

Additional Background

Paraquat is already applied annually to control invasive weeds and plants in more than 100 crops—including cotton, corn, and soybeans, and there are presently no direct alternatives to this product. All paraquat products are Restricted Use Products. Additionally, paraquat products can only be applied by certified pesticide applicators. EPA does not allow the use of paraquat in residential areas.

EPA has taken proactive steps, outside of the standard registration review process, to ensure paraquat is used in a manner that is safe and consistent with the label directions. This includes a safety awareness campaign and changes to labels and product packaging to stop improper uses, which have led to poisonings and deaths. Additionally, specialized training for certified applicators who use paraquat was released earlier this year to ensure that the pesticide is used correctly. EPA is continuing to evaluate the effectiveness of these measures as the agency works to complete the required registration review process.

EPA found no dietary risks of concern when paraquat is used according to label instructions. The draft human health risk assessment identifies potential risks to workers who apply paraquat or enter treated fields after application. There are also potential risks from spray drift to bystanders at the edge of the field. The draft ecological risk assessment identifies potential risks to mammals, birds, adult honey bees, terrestrial plants, and algae. Historically, EPA has received feedback from the public linking the proper use of paraquat to Parkinson’s Disease, however, EPA’s review of the available information in the draft assessment did not support a causal relationship. As with all aspects of the draft risk assessments, the agency is seeking additional feedback from the public during the 60-day public comment period on the relationship between paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease.

After public comments on the human health and ecological risk assessments are reviewed, EPA will determine whether updates or revisions to the assessments are necessary. EPA will propose additional risk mitigation measures, if necessary, in 2020, via its Registration Review Proposed Interim Decision. Learn more about paraquat.