Deadly Pesticide Endosulfan Finally Banned in United States


November 15, 2010
10:50 AM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

Endocrine-disrupting Chemical Is Highly Toxic to Wildlife, Threatens Endangered Species and Is Dangerous to Human Health

WASHINGTON – November 15 – The Center for Biological Diversity today praised the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to finally ban endosulfan, a highly toxic pesticide that for decades has threatened rare wildlife species and been linked to severe human health problems. The Center has filed several suits over the use of the pesticide and its effects on wildlife in California and earlier this year won an agreement restricting endosulfan’s use in endangered species habitats in the San Francisco Bay Area. The EPA recently announced the pesticide will be phased out by 2016 in the United States.

“Good riddance to a widespread killer of wildlife and a chemical known to be incredibly dangerous for people,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, there are hundreds of more toxic pesticides registered by the EPA and in widespread use that pose unnecessary threats to endangered wildlife and human health and deserve equal scrutiny.”

Endosulfan is an antiquated, dangerous insecticide used on tomatoes, cotton and other crops that is a pervasive pollutant of waterways and a threat to numerous endangered species. It has also has been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive disorders and other severe effects on human health. Conservationists, public health officials, farmworkers and indigenous groups have been calling for a U.S. ban on this DDT-era pesticide for years. Endosulfan is already banned in the European Union, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.

The EPA is cancelling the registration of endosulfan, reversing a 2002 Bush administration decision that allowed continued use with some restrictions. Most currently approved endosulfan crop uses will end in two years, and all uses will be phased out by 2016. Endosulfan was first registered for use in the 1950s, and there are currently about 80 endosulfan products. The EPA estimates that 1.3 million pounds of endosulfan were used annually from 1987 to 1997. In California, annual use of endosulfan declined from 230,000 pounds in 1995 to 60,000 pounds in 2008.

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed several lawsuits to force assessment of the impacts of endosulfan on endangered species in California, require the EPA to conduct formal consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service, and prohibit its use within sensitive habitats. In 2006 the Center reached a settlement agreement that prohibited use of endosulfan and 65 other toxic pesticides in and near core California red-legged frog habitats, and in 2010 won an agreement restricting endosulfan use in habitat for endangered species in the San Francisco Bay Area such as the salt marsh harvest mouse, San Joaquin kit fox, California tiger salamander, San Francisco garter snake, Valley elderberry longhorn beetle and Bay checkerspot butterfly.

For more information, read about the Center’s Pesticides Reduction campaign.

Background on Endosulfan

Endosulfan is highly toxic to terrestrial and aquatic organisms, birds, amphibians and fish, and its use has been documented to poison numerous nontarget species. It travels great distances from where it is applied and has been detected in stream sediments and biota nationwide in a study by the U.S. Geological Survey. It is one of the most abundant organochlorine pesticides found in the Everglades, Arctic and other remote locations. It accumulates up the food chain and poses grave risks to aquatic ecosystems since it is extremely toxic even at low concentrations. The EPA determined that after a typical endosulfan application to tomatoes, concentrations of endosulfan downstream can be up to 28 times higher than the level fatal to the average freshwater fish; application has caused massive fish kills.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service determined as far back as 1989 that uses of endosulfan jeopardize numerous endangered species, including the Wyoming toad, Nashville crayfish, piping plover, wood stork and many federally protected fish and mussel species. The Service recommended that the EPA cancel use of endosulfan in 2002. In California, endosulfan contamination from the San Joaquin Valley has been implicated in the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog in the Sierra Nevada and the pesticide is considered a threat to numerous other California endangered species.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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