WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2015 – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed a total ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos for agricultural uses, saying it has been unable to make a safety finding as required under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) by a court-imposed Oct. 31 deadline.
The agency opened a 60-day comment period on its proposed rule and said it will make a final decision based on stakeholder comments, including from farmers who rely on chlorpyrifos-containing products to protect their crops from destructive insect pests.
EPA said that, based on its current analysis, “there do not appear to be risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos from food, but, when that exposure is combined with estimated exposure from drinking water in certain watersheds, EPA cannot conclude that the risk from the potential aggregate exposure meets the FFDCA safety standard.” The agency banned chlorpyrifos for residential use 15 years ago.
The agency noted that it was under an Oct. 31 deadline, set by a federal appeals court in August, to respond to allegations about the pesticide alleged in a 2007 activist petition. The groups that brought the original lawsuit – the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network – contend that chlorpyrifos causes brain damage to children and poisons field workers.
In a statement, Dow AgroSciences said it disagrees with EPA’s proposal “and remains confident that all U.S. tolerance issues relating to the continued use of chlorpyrifos can be readily resolved with a more refined analysis of data.”
The company stressed that EPA’s proposal is just that – a proposal – not a final regulatory action and that it has “no current impact on existing uses of the product.” It also noted that “as written,” EPA’s proposal would not affect the 2016 growing season.
“Dow AgroSciences is committed to addressing the needs of its U.S. customers for continued access to chlorpyrifos by providing EPA with high quality scientific and regulatory support on a timely basis, as needed to resolve this situation,” the company said.
Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney handling the court case, had a different take. “This is what we have been seeking for years,” she said in a statement on the group’s website. “At long last, the agency is signaling its intention to protect children, workers and their families by banning this hazardous pesticide. It is imperative that EPA move quickly to protect workers and children by finalizing this important rule.”
EPA says that its revised human health risk assessment from 2014 showed the potential for risks in small watersheds with high concentrations of farming where chlorpyrifos may be widely used. The assessment included a refined drinking water assessment for the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast, but not the entire country.
In its notice proposing to ban the pesticide, EPA says chlorpyrifos is currently used by about 40,000 U.S. farms on a wide variety of crops, such as corn and soybeans, and that some farms growing certain crops (for example, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and citrus) may be affected more than others by a ban. It added that cost effective alternatives are available to control many of the pests targeted by chlorpyrifos.
Non-agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos, including golf courses, turf, green houses, and on non-structural wood treatments such as utility poles and fence posts, are not affected by the proposed rule.
To see the prepublication copy of the EPA notice, click here.
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