US environment agency wants firm to pay $5 million after workers hospitalised after coming into contact with chlorpyrifos

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants a subsidiary of the Swiss agrochemical producer Syngenta to pay $4.8 million (£3.9 million) in fines for apparent violations of numerous pesticide regulations in Hawaii earlier this year. Back in January, 10 agricultural workers had to be hospitalised after entering a field recently sprayed with a restricted use organophosphate insecticide at Syngenta Seeds’ crop research farm in Kekaha, Kauai, the EPA announced earlier this month.

The agency’s complaint accuses Syngenta of misusing the pesticide Lorsban Advanced, the active ingredient of which is chlorpyrifos. The EPA says small amounts of chlorpyrifos can cause a running nose or nausea and dizziness, but more serious exposure can lead to vomiting, muscle twitching and even unconsciousness. Symptoms can appear within minutes and may last days or weeks.

With regard to the incident in January, the EPA claims that Syngenta failed to notify its workers to avoid recently treated fields and then allowed or directed them to enter the treated field without proper personal protective equipment. Further, the agency says that after the workers were exposed, Syngenta provided them with neither adequate decontamination supplies onsite nor prompt transportation for emergency medical attention.