Need for a Formal Risk/Benefit Review of the Pesticide Chlordane

CED-80-116: Published: Aug 5, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1980.

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A review of the adequacy of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulation of pesticides used in and around the home revealed that chlordane, used for termite control, may pose unreasonable risks to man and the environment. In 1974, after studies showed that chlordane caused cancer in mice, EPA issued a notice of intent to cancel all registered uses of chlordane, except for subsurface ground insertion for termite control and dipping of nonfood plants. According to EPA, the decision to continue using chlordane for subsurface termite control was not based on a risk benefit review, but was an administrative decision based on available information. After lengthy cancellation proceedings, representatives of the chlordane manufacturer and other parties involved signed a settlement agreement in 1978 which cancelled, either immediately or over 5 years, all chlordane uses except for subsurface ground insertion for termite control and the dipping of nonfood plants.

Assessing the health risk of a widely used pesticide is critical when a pesticide, such as chlordane, has been found to cause cancer in a laboratory animal and where there is reason to believe that many people have been exposed to it. Air Force incidents showed that persons living in homes built on a slab with air ducts in or under the slab have been exposed to chlordane used during construction for termite control. Chlordane was found in the air of homes treated for termites as much as 14 years prior to sampling the air, which may mean that residents are being exposed to chlordane for long periods. Air Force studies and other data represent new information not available when EPA signed the 1978 agreement with the chlordane manufacturer cancelling most nontermite uses of chlordane. Aside from resolving questions on chlordane's continued use for home termite control, the question of the pesticide's possible harmful effects on persons living in homes already treated with chlordane still remains.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should initiate a formal risk/benefit review of chlordane to determine whether the pesticides registered for subsurface termite uses should be limited or cancelled. The Administrator also should work with the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services to determine the potential for adverse effects in homes already treated with chlordane and practical methods for reducing unreasonable risk to occupants.

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