Environmental Protection

EPA to End Endosulfan Use to Protect Farmworkers and Wildlife

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to end all uses of the insecticide endosulfan in the United States. Used on vegetables, fruits, and cotton, the chemical can pose unacceptable neurological and reproductive risks to farmworkers and wildlife and persist in the environment.

New data generated in response to the agency’s 2002 decision have shown that risks faced by workers are greater than previously known. EPA also 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 that have ingested endosulfan. Farmworkers can be exposed to endosulfan through inhalation and contact with the skin. 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.

Makhteshim Agan of North America, the manufacturer of endosulfan, is in discussions with EPA to voluntarily terminate all endosulfan uses. EPA is currently working out the details of the decision that will eliminate all endosulfan uses, while incorporating consideration of the needs for growers to timely move to lower-risk pest control practices.

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act EPA must consider endosulfan’s risks and benefits. While the agency implemented various restrictions in a 2002 re-registration decision, the phaseout is based on new data and scientific peer review, which have improved the assessment of the ecological and worker risks from endosulfan. The 2010 revised ecological risk assessment reflects a comprehensive review of all available exposure and ecological effects information for endosulfan, including independent external peer-reviewed recommendations made by the endosulfan Scientific Advisory Panel.

Endosulfan, an organochlorine insecticide first registered in the 1950s, also is used on ornamental shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants. It has no residential uses.

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