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EPA seeks to ban acephate pesticides to protect human health and environment


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a proposal to cancel nearly all uses of acephate-based pesticides to protect human health and the environment. These pesticides are widely used in fruit and vegetable production. The proposed ban would allow only non-food bearing tree injections, which the EPA has determined do not pose risks to humans or the environment.

This decision follows assessments of public health risks and drinking water published last year, which identified acephate as a significant cause of dietary and neurological problems, including tremors, fatigue, and nausea. For decades, U.S. farmers have used acephate as a cost-effective pesticide for crops like cotton, soybeans, celery, lettuce, and peppers, as indicated by federal data from Earthjustice.

Acephate is one of 18 organophosphate insecticides undergoing the EPA’s routine safety review, conducted approximately every 15 years. Updated guidelines for many of these pesticides will be released between 2024 and 2026.  
Although acephate was banned in the European Union more than 20 years ago, it continues to be used in the U.S. to control aphids and other pests. Acephate is a neurotoxicant that disrupts nerve cells and is linked to intellectual disabilities in children.

Don Collins, a licensed agricultural consultant, warned that the loss of acephate would lead to increased use of less effective pesticides, adversely affecting cotton and soybean production in the Mississippi Delta. “The removal of acephate from our insecticide toolbox would be like sending a soldier off to battle without his rifle,” Collins stated in a public comment.

The EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal until June 29 and is considering alternative mitigation options to address the identified risks, aiming for quicker implementation of protection measures. The process for canceling a pesticide can take up to five years, making alternative solutions crucial.

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