University of Maryland Extension

Paraquat Dichloride Training

 A new certified applicator training module for paraquat dichloride (also known as paraquat) is now available. The training was developed by paraquat manufacturers as part of EPA’s 2016 risk mitigation requirements and approved by EPA.  

Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. for the control of weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and is also used as a defoliant on crops such as cotton prior to harvest. Paraquat is a restricted use pesticide for use only by a certified applicator. The restriction applies to mixing, loading, and applying paraquat, as well as other pesticide handling activities. Since 2000, 17 deaths have been caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. Many of these deaths resulted from people illegally transferring the pesticide to beverage containers and the victim later mistaking it for a drink. A single sip can be fatal. In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, since 2000, three more deaths and many severe injuries have been caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with it. 

To help prevent these tragedies, certified applicators must now take paraquat-specific training before use, to emphasize that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers. The training also covers paraquat toxicity, new label requirements and restrictions, consequences of misuse, and other important information. 

 The requirement for training is only one of several actions EPA has taken to prevent poisonings, including making label changes, restricting the use of all paraquat products to certified applicators only, and requiring closed-system packaging for all non-bulk (less than 120 gallon) end use product containers of paraquat.

View the paraquat:

Training module and list of FAQs, Summary of mitigation measures, Mitigation decision and other supporting documents at under docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855.

  • 1. Why are there additional training requirements to use paraquat? Since 2000, there have been 17 deaths – three involving children – caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. These cases have resulted from the pesticide being illegally transferred to beverage containers and later mistaken for a drink and consumed. A single sip can be fatal. In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, since 2000 there have been three deaths and many severe injuries caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the herbicide. To prevent these tragedies, EPA is requiring this special training for certified applicators who use paraquat. One of the purposes of the paraquat training is to reinforce that paraquat must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers. 

    • 2. Who is required to take this training? Any person who intends to use paraquat must be a certified applicator and is required to take the training. “Use” includes pre-application activities involving mixing and loading the pesticide; applying the pesticide; and other pesticide-related activities, including, but not limited to, transporting or storing opened pesticide containers, cleaning equipment, and disposing of excess pesticides, spray mix, equipment wash waters, pesticide containers, and other paraquat-containing materials. 

    •  3. Who is permitted to use paraquat? The use of paraquat, which is a restricted use pesticide, is restricted to certified pesticide applicators only; noncertified persons working under the supervision of a certified applicator are prohibited from using paraquat, including mixing, loading, applying the pesticide, and other pesticide-related activities. 

    •  4. What are the training requirements for paraquat products? To use paraquat products, you must be a certified applicator. In addition, paraquat-specific training is required by new paraquat labels and must be completed prior to using products with the new labeling. All paraquat labels are expected to include a link to the training by Fall 2019. The training provides important information about paraquat’s toxicity, new label requirements and restrictions, and the consequences of misuse. The training must be retaken every three years. Although this training is a paraquat label requirement, a state may choose to approve it for continuing education. For state-specific requirements, contact your state lead pesticide agency. To find the contact information for your state lead pesticide agency, see the National Pesticide Information Center’s webpage on state pesticide regulatory agencies.  

    •  5. How does the paraquat training module differ from the certified applicator training requirements? Pesticide applicators become certified by proving they are competent to apply or supervise the use of restricted use pesticides (RUPs), generally by examination. Many states approve courses that certified applicators can take to maintain their certification. The examinations and training courses pertain to a category or type of pesticide application (e.g., agricultural plant pest control, seed 

    • treatment, structural pest control). Conversely, the paraquat training module emphasizes the importance of handling paraquat safely because of its extreme toxicity. The training highlights product-specific restrictions, including that paraquat products bearing the new labeling can be handled by certified applicators only (i.e., paraquat can no longer be handled by those working under the supervision of a certified applicator). For more information related to the pesticide applicator certification, visit: How to Get Certified as a Pesticide Applicator. 

    •  6. One of the label requirements is to maintain a record of the completed training. How will certified applicators show proof that they completed the required training? Once the certified applicator successfully completes the training, a certificate will be automatically generated. Per the new labeling, applicators are required to retain certificates of training completion. In addition, paraquat registrants have arranged for the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC) to retain certification records should the user, state regulators, or enforcement personnel need access. 

    •  7. Who is responsible if a certified applicator overlooks a label requirement, even if the paraquatspecific training covered that point? The intent of the training is to provide the user with the best possible understanding of paraquat product safety issues. Ultimately, it is the user’s responsibility to handle the product in strict accordance with the product labeling. 

    •  8. Are state personnel required to conduct the paraquat-specific training? No, state employees are not required to conduct this training. The training is available online for paraquat users to take at their convenience at:  

    •  9. Are states or other entities permitted to develop alternate paraquat training materials? States or other entities may develop alternate training materials that comply with the 2016 mitigation decision. All paraquat handler training materials must be approved by EPA. For a discussion of the requirements for the training materials, refer to the 2016 Paraquat Dichloride Human Health Mitigation Decision. 


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