One of Britain's best-selling garden pesticides was banned yesterday, because tests on animals have shown it can seriously damage eyes. Sale and use of Roseclear, the country's top-selling fungicide and pesticide for roses, is now illegal. The Government and Roseclear's manufacturers are urging gardeners to wrap it up and hand it in.
The product, first made and marketed by ICI and cleared for use in 1982, has sold well because it is harmless to beneficial garden insects such as bees and aphid-eating ladybirds while protecting roses and other flowers from black spot and greenfly.
But the Government's Pesticides Safety Directorate began to become concerned in April last year, after the manufacturer submitted data on skin and eye irritation tests carried out on rabbits. These showed that, undiluted, Roseclear was an extreme skin irritant. The undiluted product was also found to cause severe damage to eyes when no remedial action was taken after applying it. When used in the garden it should be diluted 300-fold with water.
This fresh information, which the manufacturer Zeneca was legally obliged to provide to the directorate, prompted further requests for information and a review of Roseclear's approval for use by amateur gardeners.
People who have the product in their sheds and on their shelves are asked to ring a free telephone number. They will then be mailed packaging material and given the name of three places nearby where they can take their Roseclear. At the end of the year it will become illegal to even possess it. ''We urge people not to put it in dustbins or down drains and sinks,'' a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said.
Roseclear was handed to drugs and pesticides giant Zeneca when the group splitfrom ICI, and the marketing and distribution then moved on to Miracle Garden Products 18 months ago. Yesterday Zeneca, which still makes the ingredients, said it would take responsibility for the recall.
About 600,000 bottles of Roseclear are sold each year; there more than a million in sheds around the country. It is also sold in Ireland and South Africa, whose governments are being notified of the Ministry of Agriculture's decision.
The active ingredients in Roseclear, bupirimate, pirimicarb and triforine, are found in other Zeneca pesticides - Nimrod T and Rapid. But the ministry said there was no need to ban these brands. It also said the ban came about as a result of its policy of reviewing the safety of all approved pesticides.
Zeneca said Roseclear had been used about 40 million times since the product was launched, but it knew of only four cases when Roseclear had hurt people's eyes, and the damage had not been permanent.
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