Pesticide peril

an unpublished report of the Austrian government has said that the European Union should ban the pesticide lindane with immediate effect because of its potentially serious effects on human health and the environment.

The report, released by the Pesticides Trust, a uk -based environmental lobby group, said the chemical, widely used by farmers in several European Union ( eu) countries, may be carcinogenic, hormone disrupting and persistent in the soil.

"Even though this report says clearly that lindane should be taken off the market, it is still being used extensively in countries including the uk , Belgium and Italy,' said David Buffin of the Pesticides Trust while speaking to Reuters, the news agency. Lindane is a generic product made by several manufacturers. Among other things, lindane is used to protect seeds against soil-borne pests and to protect timber.

To check their safety, eu governments are reviewing more than 400 active chemical ingredients used as herbicides and pesticides in farming. The Austrian report, which is part of this process, will now be examined by the 14 other eu governments, who must decide whether to add lindane to a list of substances approved for use in the eu or ban it.

Austria's concerns "lead to the conclusion that lindane should be recalled from the market until a final assessment of the required data is possible and performed,' the report said. Even though lindane is already banned in Denmark and Sweden and is subject to tight restrictions in France, it could still take as long as a year before the other eu states take a final decision, Buffin said.

He called for individual governments to stop its use immediately, rather than waiting for the eu to act. "Around 100,000 kg of this were used last year in Britain alone,' Buffin said. "It is one of the most dangerous pesticides in use in the uk and there are serious bottlenecks in the eu approvals process.' A British chemical industry spokesperson said British regulators had not chosen to ban the substance so far, but the industry would respect the decision if the eu decided to remove lindane's licence.

"We wholeheartedly support the European process for dealing with these substances,' said David Priestley, regulatory affairs manager for the British Agrochemicals Association. "But it is really for the companies which market lindane to fill in the gaps in the data identified in this report.'

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