September 24, 2002

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Contacts: Bill Sheehan (Ga.)
David Wood (Wisc.)

EPA virtually eliminates opportunity for public comment on toxic Dow herbicide

Athens, GA -- While common herbicides produced and marketed by Dow AgroSciences continue in use and cause significant financial harm to successful composting operations, an action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the request of Dow has all but closed the door for public comments on this important issue.

The composting industry is threatened by the increasingly widespread use of a particularly persistent herbicide made by Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company. The taxpayers of Spokane WA are having to pay $950,000 to buy the city out of a contract with a composting company whose product was contaminated with clopyralid, the active ingredient in Dow herbicides like Confront. Compost contaminated with clopyralid residues have been found in several other states and cities. Compost made from grass clippings cut from clopyralid-treated lawns has severely stunted certain food plants to which the compost is applied.

“Composting is one of the oldest and easiest types of recycling,” says Bill Sheehan, executive director of the GrassRoots Recycling Network. “Dow’s toxic products not only kill weeds, they are killing financially successful compost programs that keep thousands of tons of organic material out of landfills.”

GRRN has led the grassroots effort demanding that Dow follow the Precautionary Principle – take responsibility for the impacts of their products and remove them from use until they can be proven safe.

Recently, however, in an effort to preempt a stronger state ban in California, Dow AgroSciences asked U.S. EPA to absolve Dow of responsibility by simply adding a warning to product labels cautioning commercial users not to apply the herbicide on turf that could be composted. That action is not open to public comment, according to EPA. Dow also asked EPA to delete application of the product on “residential turf” as an approved use. On August 28th, EPA published public notice of the proposed deletion action in the Federal Register with a 6-month comment period – although they failed to include two of the three technical source forms of clopyralid.

Incredibly, EPA agreed with Dow’s request to shorten the public comment period because the issue is controversial, according to an EPA spokesperson. On September 20th, EPA issued a correction in the Federal Register that ends the public comment period on September 27th. This followed by five days the signing into law of the California bill (AB 2356) that goes beyond Dow’s self-serving requests for limited EPA action.

“Whether or not Dow is getting a free ride from the EPA is unclear, but to virtually exclude the opportunity for meaningful public engagement on this issue is shocking,” continues GRRN’s Sheehan. Only through GRRN’s pursuit of this issue was EPA’s error first detected and an opportunity for public comments offered. Concerned citizens can send comments to the EPA at GRRN’s Web Action Center,

Dow's requested action neither addresses the most significant uses of clopyralid products nor provides adequate warning of all the dangers presented by the product. The vast majority of product is applied by commercial and agricultural applicators, and clippings from commercial turf (the majority of turf in some states) frequently wind up in municipal compost programs.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network is a North American network of waste reduction activists and professionals promoting producer responsibility and Zero Waste as critical elements of a sustainable society. For more information on Dow’s persistent herbicide visit


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