EPA mandated changes will go into effect when new paraquat labels enter the market.
• By Amanda Huber,
Paraquat is a widely used, restricted-use pesticide in the United States. In peanuts, paraquat is often an important part in achieving successful yields by controlling a broad spectrum of weeds and keeping the crop weed-free until canopy closure. It is also an important tool in the fight against herbicide-resistant weeds.
An example includes the use of the paraquat product, Gramoxone, which can be used to control emerged annual grass and broadleaf weeds up to six inches tall. A split application of the top rate of 16 fluid ounces per acre may be made at “ground crack” and again four weeks later to achieve the best effects.
Although paraquat offers this ability to achieve broad-spectrum weed control from an over-the-top spray without the peanuts sustaining any long-term damage, it is also a highly toxic chemical to humans and can be fatal if ingested.
Sadly, because of the illegal transfer of the product from EPA-labeled containers to drinking containers, there have been 17 cases of accidental ingestion and death since 2000. Many cases with severe injuries regarding skin, eye and respiratory exposure have also been documented.
Label Changes Coming
Because of these poisonings, the Environmental Protection Agency is now requiring changes to paraquat-labeled products, which includes an additional applicator certification and the enaction of several mitigation measures. This additional training requirement and other changes outlined by the EPA will go into effect later in 2019, when new paraquat labels enter the market.
“Upcoming changes include that all applicators must have a restricted-use pesticide license and pass the EPA-approved training online,” says Ethan Carter, regional crop IPM Extension agency in Florida. “‘Use’ includes activities such as transport or storage of opened containers, mixing, loading, application, cleaning equipment in contact with the product, disposing of excess pesticide, spray mix or containers.”
Know What ‘Use’ Means
Products used in the 2019 cropping season were made and labeled in 2018. This training requirement only applies to newly labeled 2019 products. “The new rule will not go into effect until the new product labels and containers hit the market sometime in the fall. We are thinking mid-November,” Carter says.usparaquattraining.com and takes about 45 minutes to complete. The training will encompass toxicity, label changes and restrictions, and consequences of misuse. Once passed, applicators will need to keep a copy of the training certificate.
Excellent Stewardship Course
Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension weed specialist for cotton, says the new requirement is for anyone that applies paraquat, which includes Firestorm, Gramoxone, Helmquat, Parazone and other brand names, from this point forward.
“All in all, this is an excellent course about stewarding pesticides and continues to support the University of Georgia’s overall mission.”
Culpepper says first-time users will have to create an account with eXtension before being able to access the online course.
Once connected, it took Culpepper 29 minutes to complete the course, but part of that is due to slow internet connection. The test took about 11 minutes. Participants must make 100 on the test, but can retake it as many times as needed to make that score.
“Paraquat is an important part of nearly every single sound management program UGA weed science recommends in agronomic crops,” Culpepper says. “Critical points to remember include: a) paraquat can only be applied by a certified pesticide applicator and b) an EPA-approved paraquat training is required every three years.
“After completing this training, we will be changing the way we handle paraquat, protecting ourselves and our employees even more effectively than we did before this user-friendly training,” Culpepper says.
Additionally, he says he hopes producers will not wait to complete the training, which would be useful for any paraquat application and an important reminder of safety measures.
Paraquat Training Q&A
► Why are there additional training requirements to use paraquat?
Since 2000, there have been 17 deaths — three involving 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. In addition to these deaths, since 2000 there have been three deaths and many severe injuries caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the herbicide. To prevent these type tragedies, EPA is requiring training for certified applicators who use paraquat. One purpose is to reinforce that paraquat must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers.
► Who is required to take this training?
Any person who intends to use paraquat must be a certified applicator and is required to take the training. “Use” includes pre-application activities involving mixing and loading the pesticide; applying the pesticide; and other pesticide-related activities, including, but not limited to, transporting or storing opened pesticide containers, cleaning equipment, and disposing of excess pesticides, spray mix, equipment wash waters, pesticide containers, and other paraquat-containing materials.
► Who is permitted to use paraquat?
The use of paraquat, a restricted-use pesticide, is restricted to certified pesticide applicators only; noncertified persons working under the supervision of a certified applicator are prohibited from using paraquat, including mixing, loading, applying the pesticide and other pesticide-related activities.
► What are the training requirements for paraquat products?
To use paraquat products, you must be a certified applicator. In addition, paraquat-specific training is required by new paraquat labels and must be completed prior to using products with the new labeling. All paraquat labels are expected to include a link to the training by fall 2019.
The training provides important information about paraquat’s toxicity, new label requirements and restrictions and the consequences of misuse. The training must be retaken every three years. Although this training is a paraquat label requirement, a state may choose to approve it for continuing education.
► How will certified applicators show proof that they completed the required training?
Once the certified applicator successfully completes the training, a certificate will be automatically generated. Per the new labeling, applicators are required to retain certificates of training completion.
In addition, paraquat registrants have arranged for the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC) to retain certification records should the user, state regulators, or enforcement personnel need access.