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Planning to Use Paraquat? Complete Paraquat Certified Applicator Training First

By Lizabeth Stahl, Natalie Hoidal, and Kerry Richards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced certified applicators must successfully complete an EPA-approved training program before mixing, loading, and/or applying paraquat dichloride, an herbicide commonly referred to as paraquat.  Paraquat is a restricted use pesticide sold under brand names such as Blanco, Bonfire Herbicide, Devour, Firestorm, Gramaxone, Helmquat, Para-SHOT, Paraquat, Parazone, and Quik-Quat. 

Why is additional training being required to use paraquat?

Paraquat is highly toxic to humans:  Just one small sip can be fatal and there is no antidote.  Additionally, several deaths and many severe injuries have been caused by paraquat getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the product.

From an EPA Press release (dated March 8, 2019):

Since 2000, 17 deaths have been caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. Many of these deaths resulted from people illegally transferring the pesticide to beverage containers and the victim later mistaking it for a drink. A single sip can be fatal. In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, since 2000, three more deaths and many severe injuries have been caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with it.

To help prevent these tragedies, certified applicators must now take paraquat-specific training before use, to emphasize that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers. The training also covers paraquat toxicity, new label requirements and restrictions, consequences of misuse, and other important information.

The requirement for training is only one of several actions EPA has taken to prevent poisonings, including making label changes, restricting the use of all paraquat products to certified applicators only, and requiring closed-system packaging for all non-bulk (less than 120 gallon) end use product containers of paraquat.

For more details about paraquat and to take the training:

Additional considerations:

  • Training must be repeated every three years 
  • New closed handling systems for mixing and loading are on the horizon, but will not be ready for the 2019 growing season. Expect to see new packaging and mixing / loading systems in 2020. 
  • EPA is allowing the sale of paraquat that is already in the channels of trade, so some paraquat sold this growing season may NOT have the new training requirement on the label. 
  • If the new training requirement is listed on the label of the product you purchase, you MUST complete the training
  • If you currently have a remaining supply of paraquat from previous years, you are allowed to use it up. You are not required to complete the training until you purchase new product with new labeling.
  • You’ll notice new changes to labels including improved toxicity communication in English and Spanish, a “DANGER – ONE SIP CAN KILL” statement with a skull and crossbones symbol, and additional risk communication information. 

Authors:  Lizabeth Stahl, Extension Educator-Crops and Natalie Hoidal, Co-Coordinator-Pesticide Safety and Environmental Education, University of Minnesota Extension, and Kerry Richards, National Pesticide Safety Education Center

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