The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a ban yesterday on the farm insecticide carbofuran, which has been blamed for the deaths of millions of birds and illnesses in some farm workers.
The bug-killer, sprayed over corn, soybeans and other vegetables, was the greatest remaining chemical menace to bald eagles, migratory songbirds and other birds since the pesticide DDT was banned in the 1970s, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
"Based on our evaluation, there are high ecological and occupational risks associated with this pesticide," said Enesta Jones, a spokeswoman for the EPA.
The chemical is marketed as Furadan by the Philadelphia-based FMC Corp., which runs a plant in Baltimore.
The EPA in 1994 banned a pellet form of the chemical because birds ate it in farm fields, mistaking it for seed. But farmers have continued to spray about 1 million pounds a year on their fields.
The EPA is proposing to phase out all use of the chemical over the next four years, with a final decision made after a 60-day comment period.
"Removal of this pesticide will save tens of thousands of birds," said George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy.
Maryland officials said farmers here haven't used the chemical much since 1994.
"It doesn't surprise me it's being banned," said Bob Willard, owner of Willard Agri-Service, a supply company in Frederick. "It's old chemistry that was very wicked."