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Measures announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are in place regarding the herbicide active ingredient paraquat (i.e. dichloride salt of paraquat, ortho paraquat CL, paraquat dichloride) due to increased human health concerns. Paraquat was first registered in 1964 in the US for weed control and crop desiccation; however, it is categorized as highly toxic through all routes of exposure by EPA where as little as one sip can be lethal with no known antidote. This includes such products as Cyclone, Blanco, Firestorm, Helmquat, Paraquat Concentrate, Bonedry, Devour, Gramoxone, Para-Shot, Willowwood Paraquat 3, etc. In summary, EPA has ordered the following measures to adequately protect applicators and the public, with many orders already in place. 

  1. Label changes emphasizing paraquat toxicity.
  2. Restricting use of paraquat products to certified applicators only.
  3. Closed-system packaging for all end use containers of paraquat.
  4. Mandatory EPA approved paraquat training for all individuals mixing, loading or applying paraquat.

Prohibiting the use of handheld or backpack sprayers (when applying paraquat) was considered, however due to compelling public comments EPA is permitting the continued use of handheld and backpack equipment if use complies with new closed-system packaging requirements and contains a dye to aid in early detection of leaks and spills (see closed container requirements below).

Label Changes. EPA is requiring updated label language and supplemental warning statements including: 1) highlighting ingestion risk and clarifying toxicity statements, 2) targeted paraquat training statements, and 3) statements designating paraquat products to only be handled by certified applicators.

Targeted Paraquat Trainings. EPA is requiring all applicators who handle, mix, load or apply paraquat to take an EPA-approved paraquat training program when indicated on the new product label. The paraquat training program will be available via an internet link included on all paraquat end-use labels. One example is available at https://campus.extension.org/enrol/index.php?id=1660. Applicators are expected to take the training every three years and print out certificates online and retain for their own records. In addition, the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC) will retain certification records as well.

All paraquat labels distributed by manufacturers currently include a link to the mandatory online training; however, dealers may continue to sell and applicators may use existing stocks of paraquat products with the previously approved labeling until such stocks are exhausted. Always follow the product label requirements attached to the product container. In other words, if individuals use older stocks of paraquat products without the online training requirement, they are not required to attend the online training. Follow the product label of the paraquat product you are using.

Dealers must ensure that individuals purchasing paraquat products have a restricted use pesticide license (i.e. private or commercial pesticide license); however, it is not the responsibility of the dealer to verify applicators have taken the mandatory online training to sell paraquat products. It is helpful to applicators if dealers remind applicators of online training requirements, additional personal protective equipment requirements, and potential shortage of required paraquat respirators due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Certified Applicators Only. Paraquat products are only to be used or handled by certified applicators who have met certified applicator competency standards established by states, tribal, and federal agencies. They are not to be used by uncertified individuals working under the supervision of a certified applicator. The statement shall read “to be used by certified applicators only – not to be used by uncertified persons working under the supervision of a certified applicator”.

Closed System Standards. EPA is requiring all paraquat non-bulk (less than 120 gallon) end use product containers sold or distributed by product registrants comply with EPA-approved closed system standards no later than 12 months after the EPA label stamp date. This is variable, but the final deadline is extended past September 2020, and likely won’t be in effect until the 2021 – 2022 field seasons. The closed system packaging for paraquat products must be engineered so paraquat can only be removed from the container using closed system technology.

FOR MORE INFO

Additional paraquat information can be found on the EPA website or see the EPA Paraquat Trainings now available news release, or access paraquat training directly at eXtension. For additional paraquat regulatory information contact a Montana Department of Agriculture field agent or Dr. Cecil Tharp, MSU Pesticide Education Specialist (406-994-5067; ctharp@montana.edu) with general paraquat questions.

Photo (No Till Farmer, https://www.no-tillfarmer.com)