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Daily News Archive
From November 20, 2006                                                                                                        

Toxic Insecticide AZM To Remain in Use Until 2012
(Beyond Pesticides, November 20, 2006)
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final decision on the phase-out of Azinphos-Methyl (AZM) was released on November 16, calling for the gradual elimination of its use on agricultural products by September 30, 2012. The announced period is two years longer than the decision proposed by EPA in May, when it responded to a lawsuit brought by environmental groups (including Beyond Pesticides) with a four-year planned phase-out.

AZM, an organophosphate insecticide, can cause neurological damage to workers and their families, which are exposed through “take-home” contamination on clothing, cars, and drift. According to Carol Dansereau, of the Farmworker Pesticide Project, “The EPA has openly acknowledged for a very long time that even when they wear protective gear, workers face unacceptable risks . . . They should be ending the use now.”

This latest decision gives a timeline for specific crops, with the majority of uses extended through the full six years. EPA explained this gradual approach to the elimination of AZM, saying, “Many new alternatives have been registered sine the Agency’s previous benefits (grower impact) assessment in 2001 [when growers were granted four years to phase the chemical out, due to higher cost of alternatives]. These new chemistries are more costly and generally require more precise application. Crop experts point out the importance of adopting these innovations gradually, so that growers learn appropriate application techniques and gain confidence in the efficacy of the new pesticides.”

This justification does not sit well with activists who expected AZM’s phaseout to come much sooner. “It is outrageous that EPA allowed continued use of this pesticide knowing that it would expose farmworkers to unacceptable risks of pesticide poisonings,” said Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice. “Since growers have already had five years to shift to other pest controls, there is no reason to subject workers and their communities to more poisonings for another six years.”

The specific timeline assigns staggered end dates for different crops. By September 30, 2007, use of AZM on Brussels sprouts and nursery stock will end. October 30, 2009 marks the phaseout of AZM on almonds, pistachios, and walnuts will end. By September 30, 2012, AZM will no longer be permitted for use on apples, blueberries, cherries, parsley and pears. All other uses of AZM have been cancelled by its registrants. During the phaseout, EPA claims “several risk mitigation measures will be implemented or strengthened,” including:

• A mandatory racheting down of annual application rates to encourage movement to AZM alternatives
• Larger buffer zones around water bodies and housing
• Gradual elimination of aerial applications
• Education of post-application on how to reduce their exposure to all pesticides, including a specific AZM-component.

During the six year period, registrants and other stakeholders will meet periodically to discuss available alternatives, headed by EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

TAKE ACTION!: Express your concern about EPA’s extended phaseout of AZM by emailing EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson (Johnson.Stephen@epa.gov).

For past Beyond Pesticides Daily News stories on the EPA’s AZM decisions, click here and here.

For the EPA’s full announcement, click here.