EPA to end use of lindane

E&ENews PM
Lauren Morello, August 1, 2006

U.S. EPA announced plans today to ban use of the pesticide lindane.

The decision came as EPA is set to finish this week a 10-year effort to reassess acceptable limits for residues of existing pesticides, an undertaking mandated by the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act.

Under the law, cumulative risk assessments for lindane and other organophosphate pesticides are to be finished Thursday. Many of the chemicals are potent neurotoxins.

Lindane "is recognized internationally as one of the most toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative pesticides ever registered," said Jim Gulliford, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, in explaining why the agency chose to voluntarily cancel the chemical.

"EPA has determined [lindane's] remaining uses are not eligible for re-registration," Gulliford said. In the United States, the chemical is used in shampoos and creams to treat head lice and scabies, and as a seed treatment for barley, corn, oat, rye, sorghum and wheat.

Fifty-two other countries already have banned lindane, and parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants are considering whether to add lindane to the "dirty dozen" chemicals effectively banned by the treaty.

Meanwhile, the director of EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs said the agency has finished "99.5 percent" of the pesticide assessments required by FQPA -- which involve 231 pesticide ingredients and 9,741 food use tolerance levels.

Results of the FQPA-mandated reviews will be available on EPA's Web site on Thursday, said the pesticide official, Jim Jones.

EPA also plans Thursday to release a new final rule that will outline how the agency will comply with FQPA provisions that require EPA to review existing chemicals every 15 years to ensure they still meet appropriate health and safety standards -- a requirement referred to as "registration review."

The announcement comes after two employee unions representing about 9,000 agency scientists, risk managers and other staff questioned whether the agency has cut corners to meet the review deadline.

In May, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson claiming that agency managers and pesticide industry officials were exerting "political pressure" to allow the continued use of organophosphate and carbamate pesticide chemicals (Greenwire, June 28)