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UF/IFAS Announces EPA’s Mandatory Paraquat Certified Applicator Training

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People who need certification in applying paraquat – a weed killer – must take a course from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension faculty.

Paraquat is used in production of many important crops in Florida, including vegetables and peanuts, said Fred Fishel, professor of agronomy and pesticide specialist for UF/IFAS Extension.

Applicators become certified by passing exams approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. By passing the tests, applicators show they can competently handle restricted-use pesticides. County faculty at UF/IFAS Extension offices throughout the state administer the tests. Some of these offices also offer exam training prep courses prior to exams, Fishel said.

Paraquat manufacturers developed the educational program as part of the EPA’s 2016 risk-mitigation requirements, Fishel said.

“This training is important because it emphasizes safety practices in handling this pesticide, because there is no available antidote to reverse its effect,” Fishel said.

Paraquat is one of the most widely used weed-control herbicides in the U.S., Fishel said. Pesticide applicators use it to defoliate crops such as cotton, before it’s harvested.

Since 2000, 17 deaths have been caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat, he said. Many of these deaths resulted from people illegally transferring the pesticide to beverage containers and the victim later mistaking it for a beverage.

Also since 2000, three other people have died, and many others severely injured by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with it, Fishel said.

To help prevent these tragedies, certified applicators must now take paraquat training 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.

In addition to training, the EPA is requiring:

  • Changes to the pesticide label and distribution of supplemental warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with paraquat products.
  • Restricting the use of paraquat to certified pesticide applicators only. Individuals working under the supervision of a certified applicator are prohibited from handling paraquat.
  • New closed-system packaging designed to prevent transfer or removal of the pesticide except directly into proper application equipment. This will prevent spills, mixing, pouring the pesticide into other containers or other actions that could lead to paraquat exposure.

View the mandatory paraquat training here.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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