The Environmental Protection Agency, citing a potential health hazard to consumers and farmworkers, yesterday ordered a temporary ban on the widely used pesticide dibromochloropropane (DBCP).
"We've concluded that DBCP's risks outweigh its benefits, at least during the time it will take to consider a permanent ban," said EPA Deputy Administrator Barbara Blum.
A spokesman for the agency said that the suspension will go into effect in five days unless producers of the chemical compound request a public hearing. During the time that a hearing would take - about 60 days - the spokesman said no ban would be in effect.
The matter manufacturer of the pesticide in the United States in the Amvac Chemical Corp. in Los Angeles. A spokesman for the firm was not available for comment yesterday.
Researchers have found that DBCP can cause cancer in laboratory animals. Two years ago, after reports that it also caused sterility in male workers in a California manufacturing plant, EPA ordered a halt to the use of DBCP on 19 fruit and vegetable crops. The agency has allowed the pesticide to continue to be used on other crops such as grapes, citrus fruits, cotton and soybeans.
Earlier this year investigators found DBCP residues on several crops though to be free of the pesticide. In addition, the chemical was also found in drinking water supplies in California, Arizona and Hawaii at levels up to 30 times the acceptable health standard on one part per billion.
In California, where all uses of DBCP have been banned by that state for two years, growers have pressed to have the pesticide reinstated to the market and have claimed the ban could cost them $150 million annually. Blum said yesterday that EPA estimates show that a nationwide ban of DBDP is likely to result in additional costs to all farmers of approximately $45 million a year.