While it is known that high exposure can cause vomiting, diarrhea and neurotoxic effects, the potential for chronic health effects from low exposure remains poorly understood. It is not carcinogenic, although researchers found a high rate of colon cancer in pesticide applicators exposed to high levels.
Its use has steeply declined in the U.S. over the past couple of decades, particularly on food crops. It is currently legal to use only on citrus, potatoes, dry beans, peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, sugar beets and cotton. Its main use is to kill mites and nematodes on cotton, potatoes and citrus.
In 2008, about 75,000 pounds were applied to California crops – almost entirely cotton - compared with more than half a million pounds in 1998, according to state Department of Pesticide Regulation data.
Union Carbide was the sole manufacturer of aldicarb until 1987. Its plant in Bhopal, India, was making aldicarb when a pesticide called methyl isocyanate leaked, killing several thousand people in 1984.
Aldicarb already has been banned in Europe, although it is still used, and perhaps manufactured, in other countries.
Under the new agreement, Bayer, the sole U.S. manufacturer, said its distribution will end by 2017. Use on citrus and potatoes will be banned beginning in 2012, and all remaining uses will end in 2018. In the meantime, new requirements will go into effect to change labeling and to protect ground water near cotton, soybean and peanut farms.
“We recognize the significant impact this decision will have on growers and the food industry, and will do everything possible to address their concerns during this transition,” Buckner said. He added, “We recognize the loss of this tool to growers and will seek innovative solutions to fill this void.”
But Scholl-Buckwald said he was disappointed that the agreement didn’t have earlier deadlines.
“After 40 years, the question is why should there be a phaseout period at all,” he said.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.