EPA warns of brain damage from weedkiller

By Marc Heller | 04/02/2024 01:28 PM EDT

Officials cautioned farmworkers about the dangers of the pesticide DCPA and told the manufacturer it can’t safely be used as registered.

Pesticide sign.

A sign warns of pesticide-spraying risks. jetsandzeppelins/Flickr

EPA issued a rare warning to farmworkers Monday on the dangers of the weedkiller DCPA, saying the chemical could harm pregnant women and their fetuses even when applied as the law allows.

The warning came as the environmental agency also wrote to the pesticide’s manufacturer, AMVAC Chemical, calling the company’s proposals to lessen the risks inadequate and informing AMVAC that officials are moving toward suspending or canceling the chemical’s registration.

“DCPA exposure represents a serious risk to pregnant workers and their children, so it’s imperative that we warn people about those risks now,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff in a news release. Scientists have found links to thyroid disorders, cancer, impaired brain development and lowered IQ in laboratory rats, for instance.


DCPA, also known as Dacthal, has been a mainstay for growers for 70 years and is used on crops such as onions and broccoli. AMVAC voluntarily ended use on turf, such as golf courses, in December to address the health risks to workers and golf players, for instance, that EPA identified. The company has also said it would be willing to end use on melons, turnips and some other crops.