Paraquat: A controversial chemical's second act

jueves 2 de abril de 2015 11:07 GYT

(This story accompanies a Special Report: "Why Brazil has a big appetite for banned pesticides")

By Paulo Prada

April 2 (Reuters) - One of the oldest and most widely used pesticides in the world is also one of the most toxic and controversial.

Paraquat, a herbicide used to control weeds since the 1950s, was banned in the European Union in 2007. It is restricted for use only by licensed technicians in the United States and, since 2012, many of its formulations in China are being phased out.

Known for its toxicity to vital organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart and respiratory system, it is deadly if ingested and has long been criticized by public health experts. They say farm workers, especially in less educated and less regulated markets, are at risk if they use the chemical improperly.

"It's terribly toxic," says Mark Davis, senior officer for pesticide management at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "Once it is in your body there is no antidote."