Time Line for the Discontinuance of Four Major Broad-Spectrum Pesticides
Regulatory controls on pesticide use were established by the U.S. government to limit human exposure to residues and at the same time sustain the agriculture industry's ability to provide an abundant, nutritious, and safe food supply. Prior to 1972, approval of pesticide use was based on assurance that use would be safe and effective as sold in interstate commerce—the criteria by which most broad-spectrum pesticides were registered for use in the 1940s. After 1972, approval was based on tests that proved use would not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects to humans or the environment. Suspension of a pesticide use is based on a finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that continued use would pose an imminent hazard. Unless cancellation proceedings are held, the use of the pesticide is reinstated. Cancellation of a use is based on findings that use will result in unreasonable adverse effects to humans or the environment. (Tolerances are set for residues of pesticides resulting from use on food. Revocation of a tolerance can also limit or cancel a use on food or feed crops.)
Below are listed four broad-spectrum pesticides that EPA removed from the market because they were found to have unacceptable impacts on nontarget species—including human beings. Decades lapsed between the time these pesticides were registered for use and the time of their suspension of use, cancellation of registration, or withdrawal from the market.
Chlordane—an insecticide used for termite control
December 1975: EPA issues suspends registration for the use of chlordane
January 1977: a Circuit Court of Appeals affirms chlordane use on termites
March 1978: EPA cancellation hearings take place as registrant agrees to phase out uses of chlordane on corn and other crops
August 1987: registrant agrees to stop sale for use on termites
EDB—a fumigant used to control plant pathogens
September 1983: EPA issues a notice of intent to cancel registrations of EDB for major uses
poetic treatise about the unanticipated adverse effects of chlorinated hydrocarbons such as DDT. By 1962 several target pests were already resistant to DDT, a resurgence of secondary (minor) pests was associated with its use, and DDT began to accumulate in the food chain. DDT residues eventually were found in the blood and fat tissues and breast milk of humans (National Research Council, 1993b).
Partly in response to such concerns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 under the Nixon administration; authority for the regulation of pesticides was transferred from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to EPA. FIFRA was overhauled by Congress in 1972, providing EPA with new authority to regulate pesticides. EPA inherited a backlog of 40,000 registra-