WASHINGTON, July 8, 2015 – In a status report for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA indicated it will consider further restrictions on a commonly used insecticide known as chlorpyrifos, which is used to protect a number of agricultural crops, including soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, citrus and peanuts.
Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned EPA in 2007 to suspend all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations. Since then, EPA has denied seven counts of the petition and noted that it couldn’t offer a final response to the petition because it was still completing its assessment of the insecticide.
More recently, the court required the agency to provide an update on how it intends to respond to the remainder of the petition.
EPA states in its response that it will publish a proposed rule by April 2016 to “revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances to address drinking water exposure concerns in small sensitive watersheds throughout the country.” However, the agency said it must still evaluate new scientific data submitted during a comment period that closed in April.
“In making its announcement, EPA is discussing a hypothetical outcome relating to a regulatory proposal that has not yet been made,” noted Garry Hamlin, a spokesman for Dow AgroSciences, which produces the Lorsban and Govern brands of the insecticide.
Chlorpyrifos was first registered as an insecticide in 1965 and the EPA re-registered it in 2006. It is applied to about 8.5 million crop acres in the U.S. every year.
Products containing chlorpyrifos have been on the market for more than 40 years and the chemical is registered in nearly 100 countries for use on more than 50 different crops against damage caused by a wide range of insect pests.
In its report, Hamlin said, EPA told the court that it would cancel all tolerances of the chemical this coming April, “unless the agency decided not to…based on how they saw things once they completed their chlorpyrifos assessment.”
Outdoor home and in-home uses are already restricted for the insecticide. And about a decade ago, EPA required that all use of chlorpyrifos products in the United States be discontinued on tomatoes, restricted on apples to pre-bloom applications and severely restricted on grapes.
In 2012, EPA further limited the use of chlorpyrifos by lowering pesticide application rates and creating “no-spray” buffer zones around public spaces to “increase protection for children and other bystanders.” The lower application rates and other spray drift mitigation measures “ensure that any chlorpyrifos exposure outside the application site will not reach harmful levels,” the agency said.
Patti Goldman, an Earthjustice attorney, said the group has been seeking to ban the chemical for use on food crops for years. “EPA’s own findings shows that chlorpyrifos causes brain damage to children and poisons workers and bystanders,” she said in a statement.
EPA’s December 2014 human health risk assessment showed some risks to workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos pesticide products. The agency also said that when used in large amounts in small watersheds in certain geographic areas, chlorpyrifos shows potential risks from drinking water. “There were no additional risks from chlorpyrifos in food or exposure to bystanders and workers from airborne chlorpyrifos,” the agency said.
Chlorpyrifos, along with atrazine and acetochlor, has been detected with increasing frequency in Minnesota's surface water, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
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