Imprelis Harms Trees, DuPont Says

DuPont has admitted that its <"">Imprelis herbicide has damaged landscape trees in states around the country. The acknowledgement, which came in a statement DuPont issued this afternoon, follows the filing of several class action lawsuits seeking damages for Imprelis tree poisoning.

Imprelis has only been on the market since last October, and it is only sold to landscapers and professional gardeners. DuPont touted the herbicide as an environmentally-safe way to get rid of broadleaf weeds like dandelions, clover and wild violet.

Roughly around Memorial Day, property owners, landscapers and professional gardeners began complaining that some landscape trees – especially those with shallow roots, such as willows, poplars and conifers – were showing signs of stress, and in other instances outright dying, following application of Imprelis to surrounding lawns. An alert issued in June by the Penn State University Extension Service noted that trees appeared to be poisoned through the roots. “In some cases, injury does not progress much further than slight curling and browning of new growth; however, in other cases complete dieback is observed. In severe cases, the entire tree turns brown and begins to lose its needles,” the Penn State alert said. Around the same time, similar Imprelis alerts were issued by extension services in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

The reports of tree damage linked to Imprelis were disturbing enough to prompt an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has promised an “expedited review.” On June 17, DuPont sent a letter to turf managers stating it was investigating the Imprelis complaints, but the letter also stated that the poisoned trees could have been the fault of those applying Imprelis, or environmental factors. In the letter, DuPont advised turf management professionals to avoid spraying the product near Norway spruce or white pine, or in places where the product might drift toward such trees or run off toward their roots.

According to a report form, today’s statement from DuPont says that based on the company’s ongoing review, “we have observed tree injuries associated with Imprelis (R), primarily on Norway spruce and white pine trees.” The problems appear to be concentrated in Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Wisconsin, the statement said.

“We sincerely regret any damage to trees that Imprelis (R) may have caused. We take this seriously and are committed to customer satisfaction and responsible product stewardship,” the statement reads.

The company will continue to work with the EPA, state regulators and university extension specialists who are investigating Imprelis tree poisoning. DuPont also said it is taking steps to address the “issues and needs of our customers.” This includes the hiring of 20 arborists to evaluate damage claims with turf management pros; the posting a website; and the launch of a toll-free hotline that should be ready next week.

DuPont’s acknowledgement follows the filing of several Imprelis tree damage lawsuits, all of which are seeking class action status. These include one filed last week by an Ohio property owner in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division last week. Four other claims have been filed in Delaware federal court, including one brought by the Polo Fields Golf & Country Club LLC of Southfield, Michigan.

All of the Imprelis tree damage lawsuits seek, among other things, compensation to replace damaged trees and an injunction barring DuPont from selling Imprelis.

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