A federal judge on Monday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to take concrete steps to get the word out to consumers about the dangers some pesticides pose to salmon. The EPA was told to send letters to pesticide retailers, distributors, and wholesalers in three states telling them they are responsible for notifying consumers about the dangers posed to salmon by the chemicals, which are widely available in garden and yard stores.
In January 2004 U.S. District Judge John Coughenour banned the use of some pesticides within protective buffers along salmon streams in Washington, Oregon, and California, except for public health reasons like controlling mosquitoes. The ban remains in place while the EPA determines if these chemicals harm threatened and endangered salmon. Pesticide makers tried to dodge this decision by appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but they lost.
In addition to ordering no-spray buffer zones in the January 2004 ruling, the judge also ordered retailers in affected urban areas to post warning labels alongside products that contained seven salmon-harming pesticides. Few retailers posted the warnings or even knew about them. The judge ruled that the EPA had failed to adequately get the word to pesticide makers and users when it only publishing a notice in the Federal Register and on an industry Web site. Fishing and conservation groups asked the judge for clarification which led to the Monday ruling with the judge ordering the EPA to advise retailers and suppliers by mail of the new requirements.
“This is good news for salmon,” said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman. “Consumers will have the information in the store to make informed choices to protect salmon from pesticides.” Urban areas in three states that have threatened or endangered salmon and steelhead runs are required to post the notices.
The notification must state:
This product contains pesticides
that may harm salmon or steelhead.
Use of this product in urban areas
can pollute salmon streams.
The warnings apply to pesticides containing the following seven ingredients: 2,4-D, carbaryl, diazinon, diuron, malathion, triclopyr, and trifluralin. These pesticides have been frequently detected in waterways near urban areas and are in products such as weed & feed products, Sevin, Bug B Gon Granules, malathion insect sprays, and combination slug and insect baits. Diazinon is not longer sold in urban markets.
Judge Coughenour also ordered the EPA to list products containing those chemicals in its notification to retailers. He ordered similar notices sent to pesticide distributors, wholesalers, retailers, brokers, dealers, and others.
The original lawsuit aimed at getting dangerous pesticides out of salmon streams was filed against the EPA by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Washington Toxics Coalition, and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations in 2001. The lawsuit sought to compel the ESA to determine how dangerous certain pesticides known to harm salmon were to the survival of threatened and endangered fish. The government’s own data at the time indicated that even very low levels of pesticides can damage salmon and that the chemicals were already in salmon and steelhead streams.