Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 6, 2016

Contact: Stephanie Parent, (971) 717-6404,

Lawsuit Launched Over New Pesticide's Danger to Salmon, Other Wildlife

EPA Continues to Ignore Science and Approve New Toxic Pesticides

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a formal notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency today for approving cuprous iodide, a new antimicrobial pesticide that is highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates. The pesticide is applied during the manufacture of clothing, bedding and other products. When washed, these products will leach copper into waterways.

Cuprous iodide poses a particular danger to salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Studies have shown that even a small increase in copper levels can impair salmon feeding, migration, spawning and ability to avoid predators.

Despite the threat to salmon and other endangered species, the EPA approved the pesticide for use without consulting with expert wildlife agencies as required by the Act.

“There are decades of studies showing that copper is one of the most toxic elements for salmon and other aquatic wildlife — and yet the EPA approved this dangerous new pesticide anyway,” said Stephanie Parent, senior attorney at the Center. “This approval is part of a troubling pattern of the EPA greenlighting pesticides without bothering to fully understand how they might hurt people or wildlife. That has to change.”

On Oct. 6, 2015, the EPA granted broad approval for use of cuprous iodide formulated into an antimicrobial pesticide applied to a wide range of products, including apparel, bedding, carpets, furniture and personal hygiene products. Copper will leach from these materials into rivers, streams and other waterways. Already more than 600 waterways nationwide do not meet copper water quality standards and are listed as “impaired.”

Studies show that coho salmon with limited copper exposure cannot detect predators, an impairment that can be lethal.

“In approving this toxic pesticide without considering its effects on salmon, the EPA appears to be oblivious to the decades of work and billions of dollars that have been put into recovering salmon,” said Parent.

It isn’t just salmon that are threatened. Copper from this pesticide will hurt many waterways that host other endangered species such as freshwater mussels. More than 70 percent of North America’s 302 mussel species — which rely on clean water — are extinct or imperiled.

“The trend is to eliminate copper pollution, like phasing out copper in vehicle brake pads, but the EPA is heading in the opposite direction by approving cuprous iodide,” said Parent.

The Center will ask the court to order the EPA to consult with federal wildlife biologists on cuprous iodide’s effects on endangered species and to put in place interim protections necessary to protect wildlife until the consultation is complete.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back