Dursban - Case Study in Poisoning
Exposure Case Study
Available for More Than 20 Years, Pesticide Dursban Is Taken Off Market
By Dana Warn
N E W Y O R K — When Joe Crozier, 41, and Yvette, 30, and James Maiangowi moved into their home in Scottsdale Ariz., in 1996, they never thought about pesticide poisoning.
Within months, though, 4-year-old James began grinding his teeth at night and having headaches and vomiting spells. Joe developed asthma-like symptoms. Severe fatigue, headaches and blurred vision plagued Yvette.
Eventually, they were diagnosed with pesticide poisoning by Dr. Stuart Lanson, a Scottsdale physician who specializes in environmental illness. Tests of the air inside their home and other records revealed Dursban and other pesticides had been used several times in their home for termites before they moved in, says Crozier.
Each year, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people are poisoned by pesticides in their homes. Many are not as fortunate as Crozier and his family, and are misdiagnosed and treated for problems such as chronic fatigue and asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the risks associated with thousands of pesticide uses while Americans continue to be exposed to these potentially toxic compounds.
Toxic To Children
The case of chlorpyrifos, commonly known as Dursban, which has been on the market for more than 20 years and has been the most widely used pesticide in homes and schools, highlights how Americans have been exposed to what is now considered a substance not appropriate for most consumer uses.
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a phase-out of most home and garden uses of Dursban. As part of the review required by the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, the EPA reviews pesticides to ensure that uses consider children’s safety.
The EPA found chlorpyrifos to be unsafe for children. It was the third organophosphate pesticide to be restricted under this act.
“Children are not just small adults,” said EPA Administrator Carol Browner when announcing the phase-out. “Their bodies are still developing and are more susceptible to risks from toxic chemicals. They play on floors and in yards where pesticides have been applied. And they eat proportionately more food with respect to body weight than adults do.”
But Dow AgroSciences, based in Indianapolis, Ind., stands by the safety of its product. The company reached an agreement with the EPA about the product because regulators in the United States were determined to use safety standards many times those accepted elsewhere, Dow AgroSciences spokesman Garry Hamlin says.
Chronic Effects Go Unnoticed
More than 6 percent of the pesticide-related calls to poison control, or approximately 7,000 calls a year, were related to the pesticide, according to the EPA. About 200 acute cases each year require special medical attention.
Although the cause or medical attention received is not recorded, symptoms of poisoning from organophosphate pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, include headaches, dizziness, muscle twitching, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, sweating, blurred vision, and tightness in the chest according to the Dow AgroSciences Web site.
Chronic effects, however, are far more difficult to quantify, says Adam Goldberg, a policy analyst with Consumers Union, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C. A person who has been sprayed with pesticides is in some ways easier to treat, because the cause is clear.
Crozier contends that people who react to pesticides used in their homes often are not diagnosed, because so few doctors are aware of the symptoms associated with long-term, low-level pesticide poisoning.
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Dursban - Case Study in Poisoning