DuPont Co. was ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Thursday to stop selling and recall its Imprelis herbicide, following thousands of complaints that the treatment kills trees.
The order came after the EPA in June began getting reports from state agencies of damage to evergreens linked to Imprelis, which was meant to control weeds in recreational areas such as golf courses and commercial properties such as sod farms, as well as on residential properties.
According to the agency, DuPont has submitted more than 7,000 reports of damage or death to such trees as Norway spruce and white pine, as well as test data confirming a link between Imprelis and tree damage.
“It was only a matter of time, given the extent of the problem,” said Bert Cregg, an associate professor in Michigan State University’s horticulture and forestry departments. “As it stands, landscapers are caught because they paid thousands of dollars for the product that they haven’t gotten back, while customers demand that they replace trees that were damaged.”
The EPA said it had approved Imprelis for use last August. Several lawsuits over Imprelis have been filed against DuPont, which had marketed the herbicide to professional landscapers and pest control experts.
In a statement, the Wilmington, Delaware-based company noted that on Aug. 4 it voluntarily suspended Imprelis sales and announced plans for customer refunds.
It also said it is reviewing its scientific data and label directions and sharing the results with the EPA, and will take all necessary steps to satisfy customers.
DuPont has not broken out sales for Imprelis. Its agriculture business, which includes herbicides, typically accounts for nearly one-third of net sales, which totaled $31.51 billion in 2010.
The company has said Imprelis went through more than 400 trials prior to sale, and had been approved for use in all U.S. states except California and New York.
According to the EPA, Imprelis was sold in 4.5-ounce, one-gallon and two-gallon containers. The agency is still investigating whether tree damage was caused by misuse, inadequate warnings, absorption of the herbicide through tree roots, environmental factors or other factors.
In late afternoon trading, DuPont shares were up $2.66, or 6 percent, at $47.08 on the New York Stock Exchange. DuPont is a component of the Dow Jones industrial average.
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Richard Chang)
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