The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Biden EPA moves closer to total ban of toxic weedkiller DCPA

‘Most serious risk to fetuses of pregnant individuals,’ warns agency, releasing health assessment now because ban may take years

The Environmental Protection Agency this week released part of its health assessment

showing the weedkiller DCPA, sold under the brand Dacthal and widely used on U.S. food for decades, poses serious risks to humans, particularly those who are pregnant.

The EPA identified concerns about DCPA in its assessment of occupational and residential exposure. As a result, now the agency is considering banning all uses of the herbicide, which is used on produce and on turf for golf courses and athletic fields. The assessment refers to a new study showing DCPA can harm the developing fetus in animals exposed at very low doses, the same levels agricultural workers can be exposed to.

The EPA says it is releasing the health assessment now to inform the public about the potential risks of DCPA, because banning the chemical’s use on produce could take many years.

“We applaud the EPA for informing the public that this dangerous pesticide is in food and water and is highly toxic, in case people want to take steps to avoid exposure, since regulation could take years,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG.

EWG’s 2022 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, which relies on pesticide tests conducted by the Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program, found DCPA widespread on kale, collards and mustard greens. EWG’s own tests confirmed this data.

A 2022 peer-reviewed study

by EWG scientists identified DCPA as a pesticide of concern due to its toxicity and harm to the thyroid and its classification as a possible cause of cancer. According to EWG’s analysis, about 15,000 pounds were applied each year on farm fields in Ventura County, Calif., between 2016 and 2018. Farmworkers, their families and other residents are at risk as a result.

“By now the American public should assume that just because a pesticide is legal doesn’t mean it is safe. DCPA is the most recent in a very long line of examples,” said Cook.

Potential for ‘serious’ health risks

DCPA was first registered in the U.S. in 1958 for use on turf. It has been used on dozens of food crops, and its breakdown products have contaminated groundwater across the country.

In 1995, the EPA said DCPA might cause cancer in humans,

, and in 2009 it was banned by the European Union. EWG has urged the Biden administration to ban the herbicide.

The new EPA health assessment comes after repeated attempts over the past decade to get DCPA’s manufacturer, agrochemical giant AMVAC, to prove the weedkiller does not pose a risk to human health. The company ignored those requests while continuing to press the agency to allow the chemical to be used on non-organic produce.

“Given the potential for serious, permanent, and irreversible health risks, EPA is considering whether feasible mitigation measures exist that would address these potential risks or whether canceling the registration of all products containing DCPA is necessary,” says the assessment.

“Given the potential that cancellation of this pesticide

could take several years to complete, EPA is releasing this assessment in order to provide the public with timely information about its risks,” the EPA says.

DCPA can drift from the fields where it is sprayed and is regularly detected in dust samples from the homes of farmworkers and those living in agricultural areas. A 2021 study

found an association between DCPA in dust samples and increased risk of childhood leukemia.

More than 50 percent of adolescent girls from farmworker communities in the Salinas Valley were found to have been exposed to DCPA in a 2019 study

led by scientists at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health.

"The EPA has begun to take significant steps toward protecting the most vulnerable populations from this highly toxic weedkiller,” said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., senior toxicologist at EWG.

“Yet the new data showing the risks linked to DCPA exposure during pregnancy require immediate action to stop exposure to this harmful crop chemical,” Temkin said.