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Daily News Blog

02
Oct

California To Limit Chlorpyrifos’ Food Production Use, Environmentalists Sue EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, October 2, 2014) California state pesticide regulators are looking to curtail the use of chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used insecticides on the market, due to concerns that it poses a threat to human health and the environment. At the same time, environmental groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the agency’s continued refusal to fully address a 2007 petition by the groups calling for a ban on the neurotoxic chemical. EPA in 2000 orchestrated a voluntary cancellation by DowAgroSciences of  most residential uses of chlorpyrifos (although uses with major exposure routes continue),  while virtually all agricultural uses remain in use, except tomatoes.

220px-Lite-Trac_Crop_SprayerThe California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency that regulates the sale and use of pesticides, announced last week that it is  proposing to make  ‘restrictive use’  all pesticide products containing the organophosphate  insecticide chlorpyrifos.  If the proposed regulation passes, this would mean that only trained and licensed professionals who have a permit from a local county agricultural commissioner (CAC) would be able to use these products. The CAC would also have the ability to place additional conditions on use via the permit.

“The proposed regulation is a very important step to further safeguard the people and environment of California,” said DPR director Brian Leahy. “Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used old organophosphate classes of pesticides. This key action is intended to reduce the widespread use of chlorpyrifos and help limit unintended exposures to the public.”

One to two million pounds of the pesticide have been applied each year in California since 2004 and is used on more than 60 different crops in the state, including alfalfa, walnuts, oranges, cotton, and grapes. The proposal would affect about 30 products used in agriculture.

Environmental groups are continuing to push for a nationwide ban of the chemical on crops. Last week, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued EPA to compel the agency to fully respond to a 2007 petition after a lengthy seven-year delay. The groups are asking the court to find that EPA has “unreasonably delayed fulfilling its legal obligations” and that the agency respond to the 2007 petition by issuing a final decision by the end of this year.

EPA’s continued refusal to respond in full to the petition has been problematic. In 2012, EPA implemented agricultural risk mitigation measures to protect children and bystanders from spray applications. Last year, EPA put out a preliminary volatilization assessment finding that vapor phase chlorpyrifos may be emitted from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, attend school, or otherwise spend time nearby. However, these partial responses to the petition are not enough to prevent chlorpyrifos exposure to children and other vulnerable populations.

“EPA’s failure to make a final decision on the 2007 Petition leaves children at risk of harm from chlorpyrifos exposure and leaves PANNA without legal remedies to challenge EPA’s ongoing failure to take necessary steps to protect children,” states the complaint.

By focusing on risk reduction strategies to come up with “acceptable,” but unnecessary, rates of illness across the population, EPA continues to underestimate the impact of the chemical’s continued widespread use in agriculture. Chlorpyrifos is a frequent water contaminant and a long range contaminant, exposing communities and contaminating pristine areas far from where it was applied. Residues in food and water continue to put public health at risk. Volatilization drift””the evaporation of the pesticide after application””is also part of the problem for chlorpyrifos. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for an enlightened policy approach to proposed or continued toxic chemical use, in an age where the adverse effects have been widely and increasingly documented, is to first ask whether there is a less toxic way of achieving the toxic chemical’s intended purpose. Simply, “Is there another practice that would make the substance unnecessary?” This approach does not preclude and should demand the prohibition of high hazard chemical use, those chemicals that are simply too dangerous.

The groups in this lawsuit want the agency to release its revised human health risk assessment on chlorpyrifos for public comment in December 2014, along with either a proposed revocation rule or a proposed denial of the petition.

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic insecticide that was banned from home use in the U.S. after EPA determined that cumulative exposure resulted in serious adverse health outcomes, especially for children. EPA has left virtually  all agricultural uses, with the exception of tomatoes,  on the market. Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic life, and certain species of algae. Chlorpyrifos poisoning affects the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system, and causes skin and eye irritation. There are also a wide range of adverse environmental effects linked to chlorpyrifos, including toxicity to: beneficial insects, freshwater fish, other aquatic organisms, bird, a variety of plants, soil organisms, and domestic animals. It has been shown to accumulate in fish and synergistically react with other chemicals.

Take Action! A 45-day comment period to allow public input on the proposed regulation in California ends on November 12, 2014. Comments may be submitted in person, in writing, or via email to [email protected]. To learn, read DPR’s Notice of Proposed Regulatory Action.

Sources: The Fresno Bee, Food Safety News

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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One Response to “California To Limit Chlorpyrifos’ Food Production Use, Environmentalists Sue EPA”

  1. 1
    Sarah E Eeles Says:

    Come on, folks. We DESERVE attention on this. It is indeed possible to be fed without such danger.

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