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Pesticides

EPA Proposes New Safety Measures for Paraquat

For Release: October 22, 2020

Today, EPA is taking the next step in its regulatory review of paraquat dichloride (paraquat), a widely-used herbicide.

As outlined in the proposed interim decision for paraquat, the agency is proposing new measures to reduce risks associated with paraquat in order to better to protect human health and the environment. These measures include:

  • Prohibiting aerial application for all uses and use sites except cotton desiccation;
  • Prohibiting pressurized handgun and backpack sprayer application methods on the label;
  • Limiting the maximum application rate for alfalfa to one pound of active ingredient per acre;
  • Requiring enclosed cabs if area treated in 24-hour period is more than 80 acres;
  • Requiring enclosed cabs or PF10 respirators if area treated in 24-hour period is 80 acres or less;
  • Requiring a residential area drift buffer and 7-day restricted entry interval (REI) for cotton desiccation;
  • Requiring a 48-hour REI for all crops and uses except cotton desiccation; and
  • Adding mandatory spray drift management label language.

In addition, EPA is proposing to allow truck drivers who are not certified applicators to transport paraquat when certain conditions are met.

The proposed interim decision for paraquat is now available for public comment for 60 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855 at www.regulations.gov, closing on December 22, 2020.

Background

Paraquat is 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. Because all paraquat products are Restricted Use Products, they can only be applied by certified pesticide applicators.

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.

The proposed interim decision (PID) for paraquat is the third step in EPA’s four-step process for evaluating a pesticide registration application that EPA conducts at least every 15 years. It is not a denial or an approval of the active ingredient.

In the PID, EPA proposes mitigation measures to reduce the human health and ecological risks identified in the agency’s human health and ecological risk assessments (step two). The agency published the draft risk assessments for paraquat in October 2019. The ID is the fourth step in the registration review process. In the ID, EPA finalizes mitigation measures to reduce the human health and ecological risks.

Additional information on the proposed interim decision for paraquat is available on EPA’s website.