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Lawsuit Seeks Ban of Common VA Farm Pesticide

July 26, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - From apple growers to corn cultivators, many Virginia farmers rely on a pesticide called chlorpyrifos. Its use is as controversial as it is common across the country, and a new federal lawsuit seeks an outright ban by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Chlorpyrifos, also sold as Lorsban, affects insects by causing nerve damage, and watchdog groups say it can do the same to humans. It was banned for household use in the U.S. about ten years ago. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network have objected to its continued use in agriculture, and they say the EPA has had their petition asking for a ban for three years without taking action on it.

Their attorney, Kevin Regan with Earthjustice, says action is needed.

"As far as pesticides go, this is one of the worst of the worst. Science clearly shows that chlorpyrifos doesn't just poison insects, it poisons people. And our suit is attempting to get EPA to take action and make a decision, once and for all."

Regan says the EPA reevaluates pesticides every 15 years, and is not scheduled to act on chlorpyrifos until 2015. So, the suit is an attempt to speed up the process.

"Right now the United States is behind the curve with a number of other nations. Countries all over the world - for example, recently, South Africa - have already completely banned use of chloropyrifos. We believe it's time for EPA to take action."

Its maker, Dow AgroSciences, says the chemical has been the subject of more than 500 studies and reports that, in its words, are "largely reassuring" about its effects on human health and the environment. The company also has a website presenting farmers' comments saying the chemical is a necessary part of their pest control activities.

The suit was filed in the Southern District of New York.

Pesticide Action Network background on the chemical is at www.panna.org.

The Dow site is www.chlorpyrifos.com

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA