LOS ANGELES — Traces
of a herbicide toxic to garden vegetables has been found in
compost in three states, a discovery that worried the lawn
waste recycling industry.
Compost and recycling
companies told the Los Angeles Times that their
businesses could go bankrupt unless the herbicide is
"You cannot have
a system that mandates recycling of green waste and license
a garden chemical that makes the waste unrecyclable,"
said Gabriella Uhlar-Heffner, solid waste manager for
Seattle's public utility company.
The small amounts of
Clopyralid, which is produced by Dow AgroSciences, were
found in compost made from recycled grass, straw, and manure
in California, Washington, and Pennsylvania as well as New
Zealand. The herbicide, used mainly to kill weeds, is not
deadly to humans or animals, but it can kill vegetables such
as peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes.
Clopyralid is used in
dozens of products popular with crop farmers and commercial
companies accept about 28 million tons of yard trimmings
each year. The material comes from more than 9,700 curbside
collection programs run by city and county sanitation
departments in 37 states. In California, nearly half the
compost made from recycled garden clippings is used for
plants by imitating hormones called auxins and causing
abnormal growth. During commercial composting, most
chemicals used in lawn care and agriculture break down
completely enough to satisfy organic farmers, but Clopyralid
survives the process. It can remain lethal up to 18 months
Dow did not study the
chemical's effects in compost when it originally sought
federal approval in 1987. Seven years later, the company
began putting warnings on the labels of Clopyralid products
saying consumers should not compost materials treated with
the herbicide. Dow spokesman Garry Hamlin said problems
happened because Dow's label warnings were ignored. Material
treated with the herbicide should have been disposed of
another way but was recycled, he said.
Some areas are finding
high levels of the herbicide in its compost. In Washington,
Clopyralid residues are at rates of 50 to 1,500 parts per
billion, five to 300 times higher than the amount needed to
kill sensitive plants.
The chemical was first
discovered in the soil around dying plants in 1999 in
Dow products using the
chemical include Lontrel, Transline, Stinger, Reclaim and
Confront, Hornet, Scorpion, and Redeem. Other companies'
pesticides that use Clopyralid bought from Dow include
Millennium, Momentum, Chaser Ultra, Battleship, Strike
Three, and TruPower.
Friday, December 28, 2001
By Associated Press
Copyright 2001, Associated Press
All Rights Reserved