Under the deal with EPA, Bayer can continue to use aldicarb on potatoes and citrus crops until Dec. 31, 2011. All production of the chemical must end by Dec. 31, 2014, and all distribution two years after that.
During the phase-out, the pesticide can continue to be used on cotton, dry beans, peanuts, soybeans, sugar beets and sweet potatoes.
"Although the company does not fully agree with this risk assessment approach, Bayer CropScience respects the oversight authority of the EPA and is cooperating with them," the company said in a prepared statement.
Exposure to aldicarb can cause weakness, blurred vision, headaches and nausea. Very high doses can paralyze the respiratory system and be fatal to humans. EPA has previously said that aldicarb is one of the most acutely toxic pesticides registered in the U.S.
In the 1980s, aldicarb poisoning was blamed for the illnesses of banana workers in Costa Rica and consumers of tainted watermelons in Oregon and California. In 1990, the use of aldicarb on potatoes was briefly suspended because of health concerns until Bayer submitted new data arguing that a more controlled application would be safe. Then, in 2003, the European Union banned many uses of aldicarb, citing safety concerns.
Already, the Bayer plant in Institute was under pressure following the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two workers and prompted new concerns about the facility's huge stockpile of MIC. Bayer has promised to reduce that inventory by 80 percent, at least in part by eliminating two of the four uses of MIC at the plant. When aldicarb production ends, the only use for MIC at Institute will be in making carbaryl, a key ingredient in the pesticide Sevin.
Bayer spokesman Jack Boyne said it is not clear what impact the aldicarb decision will have on the plant's production, use and storage of MIC. "We'll have to take a look at that," Boyne said.
Maya Nye, a spokeswoman for the group People Concerned About MIC, said Tuesday, "Bayer better start looking at how they're going to operate in an economy that holds corporations accountable for paying the true costs of production, because that's the way the world is moving."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.