Organophosphate pesticides are health risk to members, patients

OH&S activists asked to discontinue use of Dursban after product voluntarily withdrawn in U.S.

Local OH&S activists are being asked to keep an eye out for a dangerous pesticide that’s been withdrawn from use in the United States.

The commonly used pesticide chlorpyrifos, most often marketed under the brand name “Dursban”, is an organophospate — a class of chemicals developed in World War II as a nerve gas.

Dursban and other chlorpyrifos pesticides were the most widely used pesticide south of the border until last week, when their manufacturers voluntarily withdrew them from the U.S. market.

Dursban has been targeted by a coalition of workers and consumers known as “Ban Dursban” for several years.

Although an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study conducted between 1993 and 1997 revealed more than 300 cases of poisoning, Dursban’s manufacturer Dow Chemical insists the chemical is safe if properly used.

Since Dursban generates revenues of about $100 million a year for Dow, the chemical giant is reluctant to remove the pesticide from the Canadian market.

“Health Canada is failing in its duty to protect workers and consumers from the dangerous effects of this chemical,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “In the interests of our members and the patients and residents they care for, we’re asking local OH&S activists to take steps to discontinue its use.”

The union is asking local OH&S activists to take the following actions: — record instances where pesticides are being applied at your workplace by checking maintenance department records and noting the chemical name, amount used, date, time and location; — discontinue the use of all organophosphate pesticides; — if Dursban has been used, forward details to Catherine Jeffrey at HEU’s provincial office; and — where pesticide application is essential, ensure that the least toxic chemical is used.