For Immediate Release, August 2, 2021

Contact:

Nathan Donley, (971) 717-6406, ndonley@biologicaldiversity.org

EPA Reapproves Pesticide Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

Proposed Protections Axed, Increasing Paraquat’s Risks to Farmworkers, Wildlife

WASHINGTON— The Environmental Protection Agency today reapproved paraquat, the most acutely lethal pesticide still in use.

The weedkiller has resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people in the United States in the past 30 years and is one of only two pesticides still in U.S. use that is banned in the European Union, China and Brazil. It has been found to double the risk of Parkinson’s disease in farmworkers and to harm and kill wildlife.

Today’s decision reverses protections proposed last year by the Trump administration that would have banned aerial application of the pesticide in most cases. This decision allows the aerial spraying of paraquat on all approved crops, including within 50 feet of houses for some applications. The EPA cited data provided by a pesticide industry consortium called The Agricultural Handler Exposure Task Force as leading to today’s reversal.

“It’s extremely disappointing that the Biden EPA is reapproving this dangerous pesticide, which is outlawed across a lot of the world,” said Nathan Donley, environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of banning a weedkiller linked to Parkinson’s disease in farmworkers, reproductive harm in small mammals and increased death rates for birds, this administration is bowing to the wishes of the chemical industry and allowing it to be sprayed on crops from the air. This is a huge step in the wrong direction for a president who insists he’s prioritizing both environmental health and environmental justice.”

Today’s decision, part of a process called registration review that happens every 15 years, effectively allows the pesticide to stay on the market for the next 15 years or more.

Despite its well-documented harms and international concern, paraquat use in the United States is now higher than it’s been in the past 25 years, with use rising nearly 200% since 2009. The increase has been triggered by its use on weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, commonly sold as Bayer’s Roundup.

“Not only are we reapproving paraquat when the rest of the world is banning it, but we’re using more of it than ever before,” said Donley. “You can bet the decisionmakers who approved the aerial spraying of this dangerous chemical within 50 feet of homes weren’t thinking of their own homes or their own children. This is truly a disgusting decision.”

A recent investigation by The Intercept revealed a revolving door between decisionmakers at the EPA’s pesticide office and the pesticide industry that has been going on for decades. Intense industry pressure in decisions at the EPA’s pesticide office results in so-called “yes packages”: pesticides that sail through the approval process due to political influence.

In response to the EPA’s proposal last year to reapprove paraquat, 52 farmworker, public health, environmental justice, conservation and farmer advocates joined a letter urging the agency to ban the chemical because of its substantial and demonstrated risks.

The pesticide also poses well-documented risks to wildlife. An environmental analysis estimated that approved uses of paraquat could expose small mammals like chipmunks to more than 600 times the levels known to cause reproductive harm. Small songbirds are potentially being exposed to more than 50 times the concentration of the pesticide known to kill them.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.