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The pros and cons of Dursban alternatives

Now that chlorpyrifos is banned, what can you do to keep from going buggy?

June 9, 2000
Web posted at: 4:09 p.m. EDT (2009 GMT)

(CNN) -- Although the popular pesticide Dursban will soon disappear from store shelves, experts say bug-crazed consumers looking for alternatives have plenty of options, including some that don't involve chemicals.

Because of possible health risks to children, the pesticide chlorpyrifos -- most commonly sold under the trade names Dursban and Lorsban -- is being phased out for virtually all nonagricultural uses.

"Certainly, Dursban was one of the staples," said E. Randy Dupree, general manager of Acme Exterminating Co. in Manhattan. "But there are so many other products out there on the market. It certainly will not be missed," he told The New York Times.

VideoEnvironment Correspondent Natalie Pawelski explains the decision to ban the pesticide.
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 What consumers should do

Areas treated with Dursban should be evacuated and allowed to dry at least four hours before people or pets re-enter, according to the Dow Chemical Co. Web site.

The Environmental Protection Agency is not issuing an order to dispose of Dursban.

For safe disposal of Dursban, follow instructions on the label or contact local officials about nearby hazardous waste disposal sites.

More Tips from the EPA


EPA Administrator Carol Browner talks about the pesticide's health risks to children. (June 8th)

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Chlorpyrifos is now found in more than 800 products, from pet flea collars and lawn care products to a variety of bug sprays used in homes, schools, parks, and on residential lawns and gardens.

Retailers have until December 31, 2001 to stop selling those products and some merchants plan to stop carrying them long before that. Meantime, some manufacturers already have reformulated their insecticides with non-chlorpyrifos chemicals.

Here are some of the Dursban alternatives consumers may want to consider:

  • Diazinon, like chlorpyrifos, is widely used in homes and gardens. Last month, an EPA draft study, however, concluded that it may pose greater health risks than previously thought. A final review on diazinon is expected before the end of the year.

  • When it comes to targeting termites, the EPA Web site lists several pesticides it considers effective, including permethrin, cypermethrin, imidacloprid, fipronil, bifenthrin, esfenvalerate, deltamethrin and cyfluthrin. "In addition," the agency says, "several bait systems have been introduced in recent years. The pesticides used in these baits include sulfluramid, hexaflumeron, diflubenzuron and hydramethylon."

  • University of Florida urban horticulturist Tom MacCubbin told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper that he recommends these name-brand alternatives to Dursban: Orthene, Sevin, Merit and Tempo. To get rid of caterpillars, MacCubbin suggested bacillus thuringiensis, an insecticidal bacterium.

  • Some dog and cat flea collar manufacturers have replaced chlorpyrifos with insecticides called pyrethroids. Some exterminators have switched, too. But the alternative has critics questioning whether it really is safer. The Natural Resources Defense Council includes pyrethroids on a list of pesticides that "have been shown to adversely affect the developing nervous system of laboratory animals."

  • A bug-fighting method called "Integrated Pest Management" can be used to attack without pesticides. According to the National Pest Management Association, the method "calls for inspecting and monitoring pest activity, establishing thresholds at which the pest can be tolerated, and the application of appropriate tools -- including non-chemical applications -- to manage pest activity."

  • One of the best ways to stop indoor insects is relatively simple and chemical-free -- don't let them get inside in the first place. "Plugging cracks, leaving no standing water, clearing dishes out of the sink," said Adam Goldberg, a spokesman for Consumers Union. "If you take care of these other things," he told the New York Times, "then you probably don't have to spray."

  • For other non-toxic alternatives, the Environmental Working Group -- a research organization that created a Web site called -- directs consumers to the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and the Safer Pest Control Project.

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    Environmental Protection Agency
      •  Office of Pesticide Programs
      •  Consumer information
    National Pesticide Telecommunications Network
    Natural Resources Defense Council
    National Pest Management Association
    Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
    Safer Pest Control Project
    Dow Chemical Co.
      •  Dow AgroSciences
      •  Pest Control
    Environmental Working Group
      •  Pesticides
    National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides

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