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In the wake of the tragic deaths of two children exposed to phosphine by a local extermination company, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering tightening the rules that govern residential use of pesticides that contain phosphine. In 1998, the EPA proposed a rule that prohibited use of such pesticides within 100 feet of homes, which would have effectively precluded home use, but that proposal was fended off by industry groups and the current rule is no use within 15 feet. Now the EPA is revisiting the issue.

Citing the recent deaths in Utah, as well as the preventable deaths of a 4-year-old in Texas and a 5-year-old in South Dakota, the EPA is aggressively looking at tighter rules for phosphine use. Other rules proposed in 1998 that may get a second look are a 500 foot no-phosphine zone around non-residential occupied structures, a 750 foot warning area for areas that will be exposed to phosphine, and limiting maximum exposure limits to one tenth of current limits. The EPA can move to put some or all of these back on track for passage, or it could implement less drastic changes such as improving label warnings and instructions for use. Given the highly toxic nature of these substances and the recent needless loss of life, it seems prudent that the agency work to implement the 1998 proposals.

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