June 10th, 2010
10:57 AM ET

EPA moves to ban DDT cousin

By David S. Martin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Unacceptable neurological and reproductive risks to farm workers and wildlife have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to move toward a ban of the insecticide endosulfan, the federal agency announced.

The United States would join the European Union and other countries already barring the use of endosulfan, a chemical cousin of DDT currently used on vegetables, fruits, cotton and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines.
Some 1.4 million pounds of endosulfan are used annually in the United States, according to the EPA.

“My reaction is somewhere between its about time and this is going to really make a difference,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientists with the National Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental group that had been pushing for the ban.

Endosulfan does not pose a risk to consumers because it’s used on such a small percentage of the U.S. food supply, according to the EPA.

In its news release Wednesday, the environmental agency said it’s moving to ban endosulfan because new data show the risks of the insecticide are greater than previously known.

Sass said the U.S. decision could influence other countries still using the chemical, especially India, where she said the insecticide is used extensively by cashew growers and has caused birth defects.

As part of the announcement, the EPA said it was in discussions with Makhteshim Agan of North America (MANA), the manufacturer of endosulfan, about voluntarily terminating all uses of the chemical in the United States.

The Israeli company sells the chemical in the United States as Thionex 3EC and Thionex 50W for use in a wide variety of crops, including cherries, apples, peaches, potatoes, grapes, barley, oats, tobacco, cotton and wheat.

“From a scientific standpoint, MANA continues to disagree fundamentally with EPA’s conclusions regarding endosulfan,” Scott Rawlins, director of global governmental and industry relations for the company, said in a statement.

“However, given the fact that the endosulfan market is quite small and the cost of developing and submitting additional data high, we have decided to voluntarily negotiate an agreement with EPA that provides growers with an adequate time frame to find alternatives for the damaging insect pests currently controlled by endosulfan,” Rawlins said.

Endosulfan has been registered for use in the United States since 1954.
Use of another organochlorine, DDT, blossomed after World War II, peaking at 80 million pounds in 1959, before being banned in the United States over health and environmental concerns in 1972.

Like DDT, endosulfan is persistent in the environment, accumulating in the tissues of fish and mammals, including people. The chemical also becomes airborne and has been detected thousands of miles from where it’s used.

“Endosulfan is an endocrine disruptor associated with birth defects. It’s hazardous. Getting it out of commerce and out of the U.S. has benefits all the way to the Arctic,” Sass said.

Read more on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's yearlong investigation of chemicals in our environment at "Toxic America."

soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. ehealthlinks

    We need many more actions like this.

    As a youngster in the Panama Canal Zone in the early 1950s, I was fascinated by the small trucks which regularly drove through residential neighborhoods, spraying thick white clouds of DDT into the air, in order to fight disease-carrying mosquitoes.

    I and other kids would hop on our bicycles and follow the trucks, riding back and forth through the DDT clouds.

    We do a better job of protecting the environment today, but we still have a long way to go.

    Jim Purdy
    The 50 Best Health Blogs

    June 10, 2010 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      HEY "soundoff"!! DDT saved your life, knucklehead. From Malaria and "Break Bone" Fever. Two crippling diseases born by mosquitoes which DDT thankfully eradicated. DDT is an OrganoPhosphate which means it's harmless to humans. DDT has NEVER been proven to harm humans and your ascertion that we need to take more actions like this is uninformed. You owe your LIFE to DDT. A happy disease free childhood riding around on your bike.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:31 | Report abuse |
  2. Veganman

    Sounds like an even better reason to go ORGANIC.

    June 10, 2010 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      Hey "Veganman"! DDT is an OrganoPhosphate. It's made from purely 'ORGANIC' compounds. Look it up.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:33 | Report abuse |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    The more you try to eliminate the natural world, the more you destroy it.

    June 10, 2010 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Rob

    You're headed in the right direction EPA. Now we need to start looking at cell phones, saccharine, sucralose, nutrasweet and all FD&C colors.

    June 10, 2010 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sissy

    All chemicals are poisonous, even those that appear naturally. If we had not had the hysterical reaction to DDT from Rachel Carson and had the chemists been allowed to modify it instead of just banning it, there would have been 90,000,000 African children survive and DDT would have killed trillions of mosquitos. Our best response to malaria even in 2010 is to buy mosquito nets which is preposterous and the children are still unprotected from mosquitos and even their drinking water is untreated because of stupid junk science and they are dying in droves. Is this another case of a group having to suffer because of junk science propelled by media scare tactics? I'm not an African nor an Indian but this is ridiculous – these people were sacrificed on the altar of the religion of "environmentalism" and should not have been victims of such stupidity.

    June 10, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. pringerX

    Everything in moderation, including pesticides. The food requirements of Earth's growing populations demands judicious use of chemicals to increase crop yields, be it fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides. Educating farmers about how to take advantage of techniques that minimize pesticide use is far more reasonable than outright banning them. Even the more toxic ones like DDT are valuable tools, for example careful local use to eradicate malaria carrying mosquitoes.

    June 10, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      Hey "pringerx"! DDT id NOT toxic. It's persistant. There is a huge difference. It should only be used as a vector control and NEVER as a pesicide on food. DDT has NEVER been proven to be harmful to humans.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
  7. Jimbob Q. Science

    An organochlorine compound is by definition "ORGANIC"

    June 10, 2010 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dan Richardson

    I teach pesticide and herbicide safety. So don't try to snow me with a self serving comment. Until you can prove to me that you have read the little book on the back side of any pesticide cover to cover that is readily available to the public please keep your uneducated mouth shut.

    June 10, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      Hey 'Dan Richardson'. Are you visiting us in your time machine from the 1950's. Educate us. What, as you say, is "written" on the back of my DDT spray???? Oh, that's right. I live in the present where there is not DDT spray. hmmmmmmm.......uneducated? No, I'm aware. Aware that you're a fool.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
  9. Leo

    Sissy, even WATER is a chemical. No, not all "chemicals' are poisonous.

    However, your ignorant statements about environmentalism being "junk science" are offensive. It's that sort of attitude that has led to a deluge of cancer and neurological diseases, brought on by these chemicals. You think spraying DDT everywhere would have helped in the long run? Sure, you might prevent SOME cases of malaria... and then you'd poison the whole population. The stuff works as a pesticide because it's DEADLY. That's right! It works like a poison for mosquitoes because... drumroll, please... it IS a poison!

    If you think it's safe... how about you roll around in it yourself? Put some in your morning coffee. Let your kids play in it. Have your pregnant daughter carry your grandchild while being exposed to the stuff. Then you tell me how safe you think it is.

    June 10, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      Hey "Leo"! You just proved Sissy's point about the "Altar of Environmentalism" by telling her that her "statement is offensive". Your religion was criticized. Of course you offended. Come back down from your Environmentaly Dogmatic Hysteria and learn something. DDT saves lives.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
  10. Guy from NM

    As usual the US is lagging behind Europe, when it comes to protect its citizens.

    June 10, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Chris

    "Endosulfan does not pose a risk to consumers because it’s used on such a small percentage of the U.S. food supply, according to the EPA."


    "the environmental agency said it’s moving to ban endosulfan because new data show the risks of the insecticide are greater than previously known."

    So why ban it? What risks to whom? Is it dangerous or isn't it? Count the EPA as in-bed with industries they should oversee as the MSS, FDA, FAA, etc. Thank you, deregulation.

    June 10, 2010 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. David Sea

    Well folks. Tell that to the thousands around the world who are dieing of malara because YOU want to feel good about your pitiful self.

    June 10, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Lex

    DDT is not harmful to anything except insects. Hey hey, when you spend all your time insulting anyone who disagrees with you rather than doing the hard task of research, you'll believe anything.

    June 10, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. j.s

    Sorry sissy there arent any eviromental laws in Africa banning DDT or South America for that matter....

    Fun Fact: the US companies still use DDT down in south america then ship the fruit & vegs to the US..

    June 10, 2010 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      Sorry 'j.s'. DDT is coming back in a big way. First BEDBUGS and now Dengue Fever. DDT is organic (organophosphate) and is NOT toxix. It's persistant which is exactly what we need. VERY LITTLE goes a LONG way. DDT is not a villain. Environmentalist genocidal maniacs are the villains for banning DDT in the first place.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
  15. 4sanity

    sissy wrote that the ban on DDT was based on junk science and "If we had not had the hysterical reaction to DDT from Rachel Carson and had the chemists been allowed to modify it instead of just banning it, there would have been 90,000,000 African children survive..... – these people were sacrificed on the altar of the religion of "environmentalism" and should not have been victims of such stupidity."

    It's been an argument that's been falsely laid at the feet of Rachel Carson by a number of political non-scientists on several occasions. Rachel Carson was never against the use of DDT for control of malaria mosquitos, nor is it banned in most third world countries where malaria is endemic. Infact the WHO has reinstituted DDT use as an effective site-specific pesticide (i.e. inside people's huts/houses).

    It should also be noted that while large scale spraying in Africa is effective, it is not the reason why malaria has been eradicated in many malaria prone countries. Concerted public education, sanitation and surveillance programs did that. The resurgence in many areas is a testament that control and eradication requires long term comittment and money which in many countries has been difficult to maintain.

    DDT was banned in the US for its widespread indiscriminate use as an insecticide on food crops and its deleterious effects on wildlife. That's not junk science nor hysteria.

    DDT in limited application –> OK.
    Gulf of Mexico-style indiscriminate pollution with DDT –> environmental disaster (and in endosulfan's case human health effects).

    June 11, 2010 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Bryan

    Pesticides and fertilizers should be banned permanently. There are plenty of natural solutions that don't disrupt the biodynamic balance of nature and kill off ecosystems to meet corporate gain. Read up on "Secret Life of Plants" Or any book by Rudolph Steiner.

    June 11, 2010 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Carol

    @ Jimbob: perhaps true, and it depends on one's perspecive. I wonder if we're talking about organic, the noun, -or- organic, the adjective. I'm guessing Veganman means the organic, the adjective, pointing out that the use of compounds that are created without the use of inorganic chemicals may be less harmful...versus...an organochlorine pesticide such as "6,7,8,9,10,10-hexachloro-1,5,5a,6,9,9a-hexahydro-6,9-methano-
    2,4,3-benzadioxathiepin 3-oxide" would likely be more harmful to the humans, the environment, etc...And such a pesticide could not by definition be compounded in an organic manner.

    June 11, 2010 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. missy

    sissy, how would those 90 million African kids have eaten, had they lived? how the food have gotten to them at all if the bugs didn't eat it first? how would they have avoided aids or death by machete if they lived on? do you have more money to give to the government so it can give more of our food to poor people who don't live in our country while our own citizens suffer through the worst economy since the great depression?

    sure we put bad stuff in the air. and it's too bad sometimes. i got news for ya though. the planet isn't going to carry 6 billion humans very long before it does something about us, or we do something about ourselves. so 90 million people suffered some kind of poisoning and died. they were weak and we can't feed them anyway. OTSS and keep the bugs off our food however you can.

    June 11, 2010 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      Hey 'missy'. You're right. The genocidal environmentalists banned DDT because of OVERPOPULATION. The term used in the 1970's when DDT was banned was: "Population Explosion". Banning DDT served these Environmenatlist Genocidal Maniacs by letting African babies DIE. Bring Back DDT if for nothing else but to shame the Environmentalist Dogmatic Hysterical portion of our species. DDT by the way is ORGANIC.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
  19. Joseph L Cooke

    The socialist infested EPA should be eradicated today.

    – josephlcooke.blogspot

    June 11, 2010 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Bob

    Leo, actually if you're classifying water as a "chemical" than yes even water is poisonous. Remember that the dose determines it's toxicity.

    June 11, 2010 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. JR

    I think that the underlying point with DDT is that WE were able to eradicate malaria here, yet so many die in Africa because we wouldn't use it to help them.

    Yes yes yes, I understand the concept of the dangers of neurotoxins, no no no I do not want to encourage the use of them if at all possible.

    I just know that were it to make a serious come back in the US, we wouldn't be sleeping under mosquito nets, we'd be demanding chemical eradication. Even if we had to dig up a dead chemist from the 50s for make it for us.

    There has to be a happy medium between a chemical that can give a frog two heads and mosquito nets. I think that the answer that we have come up with is lame for the people in question, and absolutely not what we would tolerate in the west. For to me, that is like saying 'sorry there is no real solution', meanwhile, people die, oh an here's your net and be grateful...what?

    Not good enough.

    June 11, 2010 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Doris Pruitt

    Red Pepper mixed with soapy water is a good pesticide. It is not harmful to the environment either.

    June 11, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Robert

    Hey Leo, give me some of that DDT if you find it for Sissy! I would love to have a truly effective, relatively harmless pesticide in my arsenal of chemicals!

    Far too many of you drank the punch and will believe whatever the clergy of environmentalism tells you is gospel. Do some research for yourselves, and you just might find that you're being lied to repeatedly by the green weenies! BTW, you have to research peer-reviewed science. Gray and black literature reports aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

    June 11, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. retired chemist

    1) The endosulfan molecule is much more similar to chlordane (also banned) than DDT, (see Wikipedia entries for those three), but I don't suppose I can expect a headline writer to distinguish among different chlorinated organics.
    2) It is very probably true that DDT has saved more lives than penicillin. Ditto pesticides vs. antibiotics. (Isn't an antibiotic a baterial pesticide?)
    3) Many things are highly useful if used properly and highly dangerous if used to excess and without regard to potential problems; for instance: antibiotics, matchsticks, automobiles, firearms, pesticides, etc. – even food. The difference is willingness to learn and think. "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    June 11, 2010 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dismayed

    "DDT is not harmful to anything except insects."

    So many absurd comments. The hazards of DDT are well documented, and the overuse of DDT drove many birds of prey close to extinction.

    Still searching for evidence of intelligent life on the Internet . . .

    June 11, 2010 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guy Smith

      DDT did not drive any birds to the brink of extinction. Do the research. It was the overdosing of MANY different pesticides by farmers that merely thinned the eggshells of ONE bird which happened to be our National Bird: i.e. The Bald Eagle. Hysteria and feel good science was the result of banning DDT. Look it up.

      September 9, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse |
  26. Aaron

    Holy smoke, I thought Endosulfan had already been banned....it is bad, nasty. goole and find the UN report on it, and look at the little girl form India on the cover with crabs claws for hands....

    June 11, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. sissy

    Actually, my whole family was exposed to DDT back in the fifties. We were a large family and lived in a poor neighborhood. There was no restraint on stray dogs or cats and our neighborhood was infested with what seemed to me like millions of fleas – I was 8. My mother asked my daddy to take care of it. Having been a sharecropper farmer (he raised cotton) he immediately went to what he knew would work He dusted with DDT under the house, all over the yard, everywhere he thought a flea might live and within a very short time you couldn't find a live flea. We actually played in that neighborhood for years – I recently had a checkup and my only problem is that I'm slightly overweight – my doctor's diagnosis. Don't even have elevated cholesterol.

    June 11, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Catch 22

    Chemicals – we can't live with 'em and we can't live without 'em. We have more people alive today than at any other time in history because of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, but we also have more cases of Alzheimer's disease, cancer, Autism Spectrum disorder, etc.... All we can do is act on the information we have at the time and keep working to reduce our use of the stuff.

    June 11, 2010 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Christine

    Dismayed, great comment! One of the few educated posters on this blog!

    June 11, 2010 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Joe McGrath

    I have gotten sick from eating "organic" food, every time. Now I grow my own, or buy OTC veggies. Perhaps all those ordained safe "organic" farming practices don't cover the application of foecal bacteria....how many folks in the US died from eating organic spinach? I haven't yet found that more folks bought it from pesticide exposure. I have found that furadan makes bananas taste better, however.

    June 11, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Doh

    People saying we should get rid of cell phones: Are you one of those people that lives in fear of everything?! Things are going to kill you no matter what, but you got 1 life so you might as well enjoy it! Also, organic can only sustain 1/3 of the world and is more harsh on our soil...how do you plan to feed the other 2/3 and renew the soil of its nutrients so you can keep on sustaining that elite 1/3? Get real...our moms/dads/grandparents grew up with this crap (DDA) and they turned out just fine and their children's children turned out to be A-OK! The article even mentions that the US doesn't use enough to see any harmful side effects...not saying we should use these, but you need to wake up and look at the facts...a lot of the diseases mentioned here...Alzheimer's, cancer, etc. is based merely on genetics...so please, stop with your conspiracy theories

    June 11, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mel Rene

      Hey Doh....I really liked your response. You seem to be really reasonable person. It's good to know that there are thinking people in this world.

      July 7, 2010 at 01:18 | Report abuse |
  32. Dave Hackenberg

    Endosulfan is NOT banned in EU countries. The pesticide endosulfan was only not included in annex 1, due to scientific data which is in possession of the patent holding, parent company was kept away or the registration not renewed only out of the commercial inviability of a European Company. Italy has been spraying Endosulfan (even after a publised ban of endosulfan in EU) on hazel nuts. France continues to sell it to Sahelean Countries! Who is banning Endosulfan. In the recent report published by EPA the endosulfan is allowed for use on cattle. So where is the ban! It is not certain, a chemical used by EU country for 50 years – invented, made, used and sold for about 50 years – did not leave any victims in EU. But after endosulfan became a high volume off patent pesticide, most of the EU countries turned aorund to slap a ban on it!

    June 14, 2010 at 03:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Mel Rene

    Amazing discussion. Everyone concentrated on DDT and no facts about Endosulfan.
    first of all what MANA is doing is not at all voluntarily but pure business. If it was voluntarily they wouldn't have to discuss details of the deal with EPA! As someone mentioned nicely that Endosulfan is not considered by EPA as risky though they still want to ban it all over the world. Why? if the question is why, then it's money, what is the answer.
    Endosulfan was used for almost 60 years in Europe without any bad incidents. Suddenly when western companies like Makhteshim or Bayer or Monsanto can not compete in prices with India or China, they request Stockholm Convention to put Endosulfan on POP list and ban it once and for all. Moreover they base their decisions on studies made by EPA US (2002) and a report of NGO in India sponsored by EU. Both reports claim POSSIBLE endocrine disruption of Endosulfan. What means possible?
    Moreover the NGO's report is scientifically unacceptable. so many frauds I have never seen in my life.
    None cares for the most recent review of Endosulfan made by APVMA (Austarlia). 2005 the Austalian authorities made additional study due to EPA's report. They checked for their own safety if EPA's study i correct. Surprisingly the results are totally different.
    I hate all this quasi – science made by big companies/countries in order to gain more and more. Science is science you should not fraud it.

    June 14, 2010 at 04:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Dave Hackenberg

    The US EPA is NOT banning the popular pesticide Endosulfan but only a response to Makhteshim Agan's voluntary phase out. It is more to do with the company's incapabilities of producing data to support further re-registration. Once the company wishes to register endosulfan Makhteshim can re-enter Endosulfan or any other company can support registration proceeding by supplying scientific data. The USEPA report also 'does not alarm'! It is not at all putting anything against Endosulfan.
    Produce new data and register endosulfan!

    June 14, 2010 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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