The head of the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday signed a long-awaited order banning use of the controvesial pesticide DBCP in all states except Hawaii.

The ban, effective immediataely, permits use of the chemical only in Hawaiian pineapple groves because the pesticide does not leave a residue on pineapples.

EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle said there was substantial evidence that DBCP -- known chemically as dibromochloropropane -- could cause cancer or sterility.

"Some 7,300 pages of testimony at public hearings during the past two months demonstrate that, for every use but pineapples, the danger of DBCP to human health outweighs its agricultural importance," Costle said.

He added that DBCP "has caused sterility among workers producing it and has been shown to be a suspect cancer agent and a possible source of human chromosome damage."

Manufacturers and growers are expected to appeal the EPA ban, a process that will take another year. The ban is temporary until their appeals are exhausted, but the pesticide may not be sold or used.

DBCP, which has been used in this country since the 1960s, is a liquid pesticide intended to control roundworm "nematodes," which attack the roots of fruit trees, vines and row crops. EPA stopped most vegetable uses of DBCP in 1977, the same year it was banned in California.

Costle's action affirms a ruling earlier this month by EPA Aministrative Law Judge Gerald Harwood, who found that continued use of the pesticide posed an "imminent hazard" to public health.