The EPA Bans the Pesticides Dursban and Lorsban

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Dursban is found in everything from flea collars to garden and lawn chemicals.

What’s in a name? If it ends in “ban,” watch out. The EPA bans the pesticides Dursban and Lorsban.

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency officially began the process of removing two of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S., with this the EPA bans the pesticides Dursban and Lorsban from the consumer marketplace. The toxic products will be phased out of stores and wholesale warehouses over the next two years due to what the EPA cites as potential nervous system and brain damage to young people. The ban was made under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which requires the EPA to restrict a pesticide’s use if it poses a threat to children.

Technically speaking, Dursban is an organophospate insecticide and a member of a class of chemicals developed during World War II to attack the nervous system. Chlorpyrifos can cause headaches, seizures and even death. Dursban is found in everything from flea collars to garden and lawn chemicals, while Lorsban — also made with chlorpyrifos — is used to protect crops.

The EPA ban seems to have been a long time coming. In 1990 Durshan went on trial when the family of a three-week old baby, paralyzed for life, sued Dow for damages. The agrobusiness giant settled out of court when Duke University researchers concluded that Dursban was linked to the kind of nerve damage the boy suffered. Another settlement was reached in 1995 when the Harper United Methodist Church in Harper, Kansas, sued Orkin after its grounds were sprayed with Dursban, which made several church officials ill and required a two-year cleanup.

Even with the ban in place, Dow seems insistent that pesticides that attack insects’ nervous systems are not dangerous. For several years they have been promoting spinosad, an organic alternative to chlorpyrifos. The company claims on its Web site that like chlorpyrifos, spinosad works by exciting insects’ nervous systems, but “does not result in any mammalian nervous system effects.”

At the most, the EPA ban will ensure that more innocent people are not harmed by toxic pesticides. At the very least, it will offer peace of mind to those concerned about their environment.

Michael Asprion