Daily News Archive

European Union Aldicarb Phase-Out: A mixed bag
(from March 24, 2003)

On March 18, The European Union signed an agreement to phase out use of the deadly insecticide aldicarb, but eight member states --including Spain, France, Greece, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom (UK) and the Netherlands - will continue to use aldicarb until the end of 2007. Aldicarb is a carbamate pesticide largely considered one of the most acutely hazardous still used. It is a highly toxic pesticide and is classified by the World Health Organization as "extremely hazardous". Unlike most carbamates, aldicarb is extremely toxic through dermal exposure.

The European Council had proposed that all aldicarb products be withdrawn within an 18-month period, but the UK and some other member states opposed this. Under a new weaker proposal, aldicarb products will still be withdrawn within 18 months, but certain "essential uses" in the eight member states will continue to be authorized until December 31, 2007.

Aldicarb, used to prevent crop loss due to mites, nematodes, and aphids and other chewing and sucking insects, poses health threats to humans and wildlife. It has neurotixc effects and is highly soluble in water and highly mobile in soil, where it can persist for weeks to months. It is estimated that one granule is enough to kill a small bird.

Aldicarb continues to be registered in the U.S. as a Restricted Use Pesticide, available only to licensed applicators. Highly publicized incidents involving contaminated cucumbers and watermelons occurred in the mid 1980s. In 1990, Rhone-Poulenc Ag Company, the manufacturer of Temik (aldicarb), announced a voluntary halt on the sale of Temik for use on potatoes because of concerns about groundwater contamination. In the UK, one of the EU member states retaining so called "essential uses" of the pesticide, it is still used on potato crops, as well as parsnips, carrots, onions and ornamental plants.