The EPA is taking aim at a widely-used weed control herbicide in the U.S. in an effort to safeguard workers from exposure to it and to stop poisonings caused by accidental ingestion of it.

Since 2000, three works have died and many have suffered severe injuries caused by paraquat getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the herbicide. To reduce exposure to workers who mix, load and apply paraquat, EPA is proposing:

  • Prohibiting application from hand-held and backpack equipment, and
  • Restricting the use to certified pesticide applicators only (individuals working under the supervision of a certified applicator would be prohibited from using paraquat).

Mistaking paraquat for a beverage

Additionally, there have been 17 deaths involving non-workers since 2000 – three of them children -- caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. These cases have resulted from the pesticide being illegally transferred to beverage containers and later mistaken for a drink and consumed. A single sip can be fatal. To prevent these tragedies, EPA is proposing:

  • New closed-system packaging designed to make it impossible to transfer or remove the pesticide except directly into the proper application equipment;
  • Special training for certified applicators who use paraquat to emphasize that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers; and
  • Changes to the pesticide label and warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with paraquat.

Public comments being taken

Paraquat is one of the most widely-used herbicides in the U.S. for the control of weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and is also used as a defoliant on crops such as cotton prior to harvest. The proposal will be available for a 60 day public comment period. EPA will consider all public comments before finalizing these proposed actions later this year. 

Actions on specific pesticides are one way that EPA is protecting workers from pesticide exposure.  EPA’s revised Worker Protection Standard and proposed Certification and Training Rule will also protect farmworkers and pesticide applicators.

To view related documents and submit comments, go to docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855 at For more information on paraquat: .