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Why Banned Toxic Substances Diazinon & Dursban are Still In Use Today: An Interview with Environment

After the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the pesticides diazinon and dursban because of health concerns for humans and wildlife, they continued to be used until stockpiles ran out. They are, in fact, still legally available for some purposes today.

In's exclusive interview with Dr. Doris Rapp, board certified in environmental medicine, pediatrics and allergy and author of the important (and highly readable) book, "Our Toxic World: A Wake-Up Call," Dr. Rapp discusses how and why pesticides that are "banned" can take years to actually come off the market. You'll also learn why the chemicals still present a risk even after they are no longer in use.

If you have diazinon or dursban leftovers in your basement, if you visit golf courses, parks or other recreational areas, or if your home or town has recently been sprayed for termites or mosquitoes, don't miss this important piece below.

If you want more information after reading the interview, please visit Dr. Rapp's Web site.

Doris J. Rapp, M.D.

Doris J. Rapp, M.D.

1. What is dangerous about the pesticide diazinon (Ortho or Spectracide) and its chemical cousin dursban (Lorsban or chlorpyrifos)?

They are both in the chemical category called organophosphates. They both damage the nervous system so the nerve impulses cannot travel along the nerve pathways of insects - but humans, fish, bees and birds are similarly affected. They both are more dangerous for children than adults. There are also acute and reproductive risks for non-target aquatic and terrestrial animals.

Diazinon has been used on lawns, gardens, agricultural crops and livestock as an insecticide or nematocide (for worms). It has caused nausea, dizziness, burning sensations, headaches, blurred visions, stomach and muscle cramps, twitching, diarrhea, aching joints, disorientation and an inability to concentrate. If there is a major spill, this chemical can cause respiratory paralysis and then death.

Up to 18 million pounds of diazinon were used yearly in the United States until it was banned in December 2000. In 2000, it was the leading cause of acute reactions to insecticides and is still being used to control fire ants in California.

Initially it was phased out, restricted for use or "banned" in homes. This does not mean use had to be stopped. It can still be used as long as you have it stockpiled. Retail sale of diazinon products for indoor uses was permitted until about December 2002. Eventually, it was supposed to be really banned by 2004.

About 2 million pounds of dursban are used annually. Chlorpyrifos is the active ingredient in many pesticide products, including dursban, and up to 13 million pounds of this active ingredient is applied annually in structural and agricultural control of crops and on lawns, for example.

It can be used in hotels, schools, daycare centers, hotels, restaurants, hospitals and stores, etc. as well as on pets (in pet collars and baths), turkeys and farm animals. Various exposures can lead to massive polluted rain run-off, which eventually seeps into the water supplies of urban and rural areas. With the one exception of tomatoes, it will continue to be used agriculturally.

The phase-out period on dursban is 18 months for sales but it may take years for the stocks of this material to be used up--and it can continue to be used in spite of its acknowledged extreme toxicity and danger. This toxic chemical was allowed to be produced during the phase out of the "ban" until the end of 2000, in some cases even longer. No public notice is required.

Uses of dursban can be continued on and near golf courses during the phase-out period while the stocks are being used up and in containerized bait traps for cockroaches, for example. As a termiticide in new homes, it can be used until December 2005. Sources vary on when production was actually halted, 2000 or 2004. Spot and local treatment of preexisting buildings was allowed until December 2002. This means that factory workers and the public are definitely in danger from continued exposure. Many of the risks are 100 times over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) levels of concern.

2. Are they the worst pesticides on the market?

The chemical industry does not lack ingenuity or creativity. As the insects develop resistance to each new one, the industry creates an even more toxic chemical to use as a replacement. Unfortunately, the insects seem to be able to adapt to the toxic pesticides better than humans.

The pyrethroids, for example, such as Anvil, are presently being sprayed on and near humans to control insects, particularly for mosquitoes. Although this chemical is safer than some, this too appears to be toxic to wildlife and humans. The piperonyl butoxide "inert" used with Anvil causes birth defects and malformations, and has been linked to cancer in animals and possibly in man. It does degrade faster, however, in the air and sunlight than diazinon. Pregnant mice have newborns with holes in their brains and breast cancer cells in tissue culture go wild if sprayed with this "inert" substance.

Dursban may still be used on
golf courses.

Residential use of carbaryl, an insecticide that also damages the nervous system, has increased since dursban and diazinon have been phased out. This has increasingly endangered salmon and any animal that eats salmon, and is a likely carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance.

3a. Why was diazinon banned from the market?

The EPA needs more research to carefully evaluate links between this chemical and cancer and genetic damage.

3b. Why was dursban banned from the market?

This chemical is known to cause human and animal birth defects in many areas of the human body including the brain, nervous system, teeth, eyes, ears, nipples and genitals. It can cause profound growth and mental retardation when pregnant mothers are exposed. It also appears to cause lower birth weights of infants if mothers are exposed before and during pregnancy, and this is associated with lower IQs.

Low-level exposure to dursban is harmful to fish, birds, plants and animals. It damages the endocrine and immune systems. Its half-life indoors is about 30 days, but the granular form can last up to 180 days. For termite control, dursban is effective for more than 15 years.

Our Toxic World: A Wake-Up Call

Our Toxic World: A Wake-Up CallThis 520-page book will increase your awareness about the potentially tragic, harmful effects of the numerous chemicals to which we are all exposed on a daily basis.

Alongside scientific proof are practical tips you can use to protect yourself and your family from toxins. You'll learn:

  • Signs and symptoms of chemical sensitivity
  • How to determine if you've been hurt by chemicals
  • Four ways to pinpoint causes of a chemical sensitivity or allergy
  • What to do about a chemical sensitivity
  • How chemicals affect behavior and learning in children
  • The connection between chemicals and reproduction
  • What kinds of chemicals are in our bodies, environment, food, water and more
  • All about pesticides and their risks
  • How to protect yourself, your family, your home and your town

Order "Our Toxic World: A Wake-Up Call" now, or read more about it on Dr. Rapp's Web site.


4. How extensive was the ban?

As is typical of an EPA ban, such action does not mean the use of the toxic chemical is suddenly stopped. Even if the EPA knows a product is terribly toxic, it is typically only phased out. There are exclusions, exceptions and extensions that allow most banned chemicals to be used for several to many years with a few restrictions. They can usually be applied without too much restriction for a year or two so the chemical company has time to sell its stock of the toxic chemical.

When delaying tactics have finally stopped entirely, our government then allows these known toxins to be sold to third-world countries so their population of humans and wildlife can be harmed.

In December 2000, the four-year phase out "ban" on diazinon began. Customers were not warned of the neurotoxic properties of this chemical at any phase of the banning process. It could be sold throughout the early part of the phase-out period and anyone could continue to use it until the stock of that chemical was depleted.

The ban on diazinon indoor in residences began around December 2002. Outdoor and garden use was not phased out until about December 31, 2004.

In June 2000, dursban was similarly allowed to be sold until 2001 in spite of its toxicity. In addition, all stocks of dursban were to be available until they too were used up. The ban on retail and indoor use of dursban was December 2001. The ban did not affect insecticides on food crops except for tomatoes. Ten million pounds continued to be used in agriculture.

Residues, of course, are on some foods--up to 14 days on lettuce, for example--and the chemical also seeps into the nearby water. After the bans, air and cord blood samples showed fewer chemicals, so newborn infants were helped and were less exposed.

The fact that the uterine fluid and cord bloods of so many newborns show so many chemicals certainly indicates that "bans" are still far from adequately protective, however. DDT and chlordane were banned in the '70s, for instance, and most humans of all ages, including newborns, are contaminated with these chemicals.

5. Is it true they are still being used on golf courses?

I often wonder if they do not like golfers, because they certainly do allow chemicals such as dursban to be used for longer periods of time on golf courses, in spite of their toxic effects.

Dursban can also continue to be used professionally to control ants and mosquitoes.

6. Are they being used elsewhere?

Of course they are. Many pesticide companies and uninformed or misinformed people stockpiled them and can use them until their stash is gone. Some are also allowed to be used legally because of exceptions.

Diazinon, for example, is being used to grow mushrooms. Dursban will be used for termite control until at least the end of 2005. It is also still used in some places for mosquito control.

7. How can you best avoid contact with these harmful poisons?

Use lawn care that is environmentally safe. Be careful if you go to a play area such as a park or a golf course that was sprayed recently. This is especially true if you are pregnant. Avoid any direct contact with any herbicide sprays.

8. If you have been exposed, how do you recommend detoxing?

The third chapter of my book, "Our Toxic World: A Wakeup Call," tells many ways to detox, inexpensively and effectively. These include drinking lots and lots of water, improving your lymphatic drainage, using homeopathic or herbal remedies, exercising, deep breathing, sauna therapy, and nutrition programs.

9. Are pesticides discussed in your book, "Our Toxic World: A Wakeup Call"?

They certainly are. The dangers to all forms of wildlife and humans are discussed in detail. These chemicals damage the immune systems making humans and animals prone to infections, allergies and cancer. They damage the endocrine system causing more thyroid disease and diabetes. They damage the nervous system and brain causing learning, memory and behavior problems, and they harm the reproductive system causing smaller and deformed genitals, hermaphrodites and changes in the typical manifestations of sexuality.

It discusses how you can recognize that a pesticide is causing you to become ill and then exactly what you can and should do about it.

If you have diazinon or dursban in your garage or basement, contact a waste control service to dispose of it.

10. Do you know of any natural alternatives to pesticides that people can use safely in their own homes?

You can download a whole book at no charge from The book is called "The Bug Stops Here," by Steve Tvedten. He gives specific information about the various types of pests that can become a challenge in a home.

11. What do you do if you find you do have some diazinon or dursban in your garage or basement?

If someone still has these chemicals in some form stored someplace, they must be careful to dispose of it safely, as the granules, for example can easily contaminate water, wildlife, fish, birds and humans. Do not dump it in the toilet or down the drain because large bodies of water can be contaminated. And, due to the recycling of water, in a dilute form it can eventually find its way to your kitchen and bathroom faucets.

Instead, consult a waste control service. It is somewhat surprising that you can continue to use this poison that is stockpiled; you simply can no longer purchase it.

12. What can the government do to correct the poor way that chemicals are being handled?

The government must be urged to keep the safety factor of pesticides paramount in their thinking. The safe level for children is at least 10-fold below what is all right for adults. Children are so much more sensitive than adults to the toxic effects of chemicals.

The bottom line is that the EPA will allow chemicals that are obviously toxic to continue to be used if they believe the environmental and human risks are offset by the strong benefits of the use of this chemical.

Our Toxic World: A Wakeup Call  

They certainly know these chemicals are hazardous to the health of humans, especially children. EPA compromises with chemical companies are unjustified, unwarranted and unacceptable. The brains of our children, and their nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems, are all being put at unnecessary risk.

Recommended Reading

Organophosphates: What You Don't Know Can Indeed Hurt You

Girls Hitting Puberty at Younger & Younger Ages: Experts Say Exposure to Plastics and Insecticides May be the Cause

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