PANUPS: Chlordane/Heptachlor

                         P A N U P S
                   Pesticide Action Network 
                        North America
                       Updates Service

May 23, 1997

Velsicol Ceases Production of Chlordane and Heptachlor

The Velsicol Chemical Corporation announced last week that it 
is permanently ceasing production of the organochlorine 
insecticides chlordane and heptachlor at its manufacturing 
facility in Memphis, Tennessee, and that it will not make its 
proprietary technology available to any other company for 
manufacture. The company estimates that it will sell out its 
remaining stocks before the end of 1997. Velsicol is the 
world's sole producer of these pesticides. 

With one exception, chlordane and heptachlor have been 
prohibited for all uses in the U.S. since 1987 (heptachlor is 
used to kill fire ants in cable boxes). However, Velsicol has 
continued to produce the pesticides for export. U.S. customs 
data show that at least 4,472,000 pounds of chlordane and 
5,696,000 pounds of heptachlor were exported from the U.S. 
between 1991 and 1994 (these numbers may far understate the 
true quantities, since approximately 75% of pesticide exports 
go unnamed in customs records).

According to Velsicol, both pesticides are used primarily for 
termite control in wooden structures and as soil insecticides 
in tropical regions worldwide. The company stated that over 
the last few years the products have been used for major road 
building projects in Africa, for "protection of residential 
structures," in Northeastern Australia and Asia and for crop 
protection in South America.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies 
chlordane and heptachlor as "probable human carcinogens." 
They have also been linked with endocrine disruption, and 
they can persist in the environment for decades. One or both 
of these chemicals are banned or severely restricted in at 
least 70 countries. 

In addition, chlordane and heptachlor are included on a list 
of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that have been 
identified by the United Nations Environment Programme for 
possible international phaseouts on their production and use. 
POPs are subject to long-range global transport and are 
highly persistent, semi-volatile, highly toxic and liable to 
bioaccumulate. Both pesticides are currently included under 
the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, an international 
program designed to notify governments about (and give them 
an opportunity to prevent) certain hazardous pesticide 
imports. PIC is currently voluntary, but governments are 
negotiating to make the procedure a legally binding 
instrument (the third International Negotiating Meeting on 
PIC will meet in Geneva, May 26-30, 1997).

In addition to problems stemming from use of these 
pesticides, the company's production practices have resulted 
in their release into the air and water surrounding its 
manufacturing plant in Tennesee, and the company is 
responsible for creating three sites on EPA's Superfund 
National Priorities lists of waste sites federally mandated 
for clean up due to environmental contamination. Numerous 
individuals have filed suits against the company for the 
contamination of their homes from the insecticides, and 
Congress between 1990 and 1992 deliberated legislation to ban 
their export.

Despite widespread international recognition that chlordane 
and heptachlor pose serious health and environmental risks, 
Velsicol's president and CEO, Arthur Sigel, said in the 
company's announcement, "we have always believed in the 
efficacy of these products, and the science that supports 
their continued use, but the economics no longer support 
continued manufacture." Sandra Marquardt, Program Director at 
Mothers & Others for a Liveable Planet and longtime advocate 
for a ban on the export of banned pesticides, stated that 
"Velsicol's production of these insidious insecticides has 
left us with a toxic legacy that will persist for decades to 
come. This decision should have been made decades ago." 

The decision is a victory for PAN's Dirty Dozen Campaign. 
Since 1985, the Dirty Dozen Campaign has sought to eliminate 
certain highly hazardous chemicals, including chlordane and 

Sources: "Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting 
Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans," Environmental Health 
Perspectives, Vol. 101, No. 5, October 1993; "Exporting 
Banned and Hazardous Pesticides, 1991 Statistics," 1992, 
Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education 
(FASE);"Exporting Risk," FASE Research Report, Spring 1996; 
Mothers & Others for a Liveable Planet (M&O) Press Release, 
May 15, 1997; Sandra Marquardt, M&O, personal communication, 
May 15, 1997; PANNA Dirty Dozen Chart 1995; PANNA Dirty Dozen 
Fact Sheets, 1990; Global Pesticide Campaigner (GPC), June 
1996; GPC, September 1996; Velsicol Press Release, May 15, 

Contact: PANNA

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