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Amid continuing concerns about the health risks from paraquat, Thailand health officials have determined that a ban on the herbicide will remain in place.
Paraquat was first introduced in the United States in 1961, and has since been found to be highly poisonous, resulting in severe restrictions in many countries, including the U.S. and Australia, where it is restricted to licensed operators and has a number of safety measures in place to prevent accidental consumption and exposure.
Earlier this month, Thailand’s National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) rejected an industry push to lift bans on paraquat use in that country, with a regulatory committee voting 20 to 4 to maintain the ban, with three members abstaining.
The herbicide was originally banned by the NHSC in September 2019, along with the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is still available in the U.S. despite increasing pressure to have it removed from the market as well. The country also put heavy restrictions in place on the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which has been linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other forms of cancer.
Thailand officials said this decision is final, according to a report published on December 26 by the Bangkok Post.
Chlorpyrifos was first put into use in 1965. Although use of the product in household settings was banned in 2001, due to the health risks, it is still used on more than 40,000 farms nationally for 50 different types of crops, including grapes and almonds. It has been sold under a variety of brand names, including Dursban and Lorsban, as well as Scout, Empire, Eradex, and Warhawk.
In a study published in 2014, chlorpyrifos was added to a list of 11 chemicals identified as developmental neurotoxins, with widespread damaging affects to developing brains and reducing intelligence. Researchers indicated chlorpyrifos, along with other chemicals, may cause neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.
In October 2019, a month after the ban was enacted, Thai officials said they were pressured by the U.S. government not to ban the herbicides, particularly glyphosate, saying it would harm the import of U.S. soybeans treated with the weed killer.
In the U.S., paraquat is restricted to licensed users, contains a blue dye to prevent it from being confused for coffee, has a sharp odor added and an agent to cause someone to vomit if they accidentally drink it.
Australia put similar restrictions in place this summer, adding new label warnings and requiring licensed commercial users to undergo a paraquat training program.
Despite these bans and restrictions, paraquat is still one of the most widely used herbicides in the world.