Sunday, July 27, 2008

EPA Bans Carbofuran

Back in 2006, the EPA decided against renewing the registration of carbofuran as a permitted pesticide for sale in the United States, on the grounds that its application threatened the health of farm workers and killed millions of wild birds. This week, the agency announced that it would no longer allow food to contain carbofuran residues, this time because it poses undue risk to the health of small children. The regulation applies to both domestic and imported produce. Since the chemical is already being phased out in U.S. agriculture, it will probably have a greater effect on imported food, especially rice, coffee, bananas, and sugar cane.

An EPA fact sheet includes the following among the ecological effects of carbofuran:

  • Carbofuran is very highly toxic to birds on an acute basis, and highly toxic on a sub-acute basis. A chronic effect level could not be established due to the fact that all concentrations tested caused mortality in the test subjects.
  • Carbofuran is highly toxic to mammals on an acute basis. Chronic toxicity testing on laboratory rats showed reduced offspring survival and body weight reductions.
  • Carbofuran is very highly toxic to freshwater and estuarine/marine fish on an acute basis. The available chronic test showed larval survival as the most sensitive endpoint for freshwater fish and embryo hatching as the most sensitive endpoint for estuarine/marine fish.
  • Carbofuran is considered to be very highly toxic to freshwater and estuarine/marine invertebrates on an acute basis. Chronic tests showed reproductive effects.
The new regulation was posted in the Federal Register on July 23 and will be subject to a 60-day comment period, starting July 30. I will post a link to the comment form if I find one; in the meantime, you can find out more about the process here. It is likely that the new regulation will be contested by its manufacturers, who are already challenging the 2006 decision in court.