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Daily News Blog

15
Nov

EPA Revises Process, But Maintains Proposal to Stop Use of Neurotoxic Chlorpyrifos in Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2016) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its assessment of the toxic organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, keeping in place a decision made last year to revoke food residue tolerances and effectively eliminate its use in agriculture. The agency indicated the change was necessary after a Scientific Advisory Panel convened by the agency suggested additional data to support its decision. This change opens up a 60-day public comment period, but EPA has said that it will make a final decision no later than March 31, 2017.

“The revised analyses indicate that expected residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA),” EPA noted in its announcement.  “In addition, the majority of estimated drinking water exposures from currently registered uses, including water exposures from non-food uses, continue to exceed safe levels even taking into acRye golfcount more refined drinking water exposures. “ To explain the decision to the public, EPA has put together a FAQ page on its website.

EPA’s proposal to revoke chlorpyrifos’ food tolerances stems from a petition and lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North American nearly ten years ago. The lawsuit called on the agency to ban all uses of the insecticide in light of scientific evidence and public comments on its cumulative risk assessment for organophosphate insecticides.

Prior to the lawsuit, the agency had taken some actions to mitigate risks associated with the chemical, but these were widely seen as insufficient. In 2012, EPA imposed “no-spray” buffer zones around public spaces, including recreational areas, schools, and homes to reduce bystander exposure risks. Even if the agency removes this chemical from agriculture, it is critical for the public to know that there will still be allowed uses of this chemical, which public health and environmental advocates say need to be eliminated as well.

Chlorpyrifos will still be permitted to be used on golf courses, as a termiticide, and for public health mosquito control. Although EPA’s current reasoning for removing food tolerances is human health concerns, a recent review by EPA, mandated under a separate court order, finds risks to 97% of endangered species from the chemical’s use.

Chlorpyrifos  is highly  neurotoxic. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, which means that it can bind irreversibly to acetylcholine esterase (AchE), an essential enzyme for normal nerve impulse transmission, inactivating the enzyme. Studies have documented that exposure to even low levels of organophosphates like chlorpyrifos during pregnancy can impair learning, and lead lower IQs in children. A 2015 study by New York University for the European Commission attributed exposure to organophosphate insecticides like chlorpyrifos for over 13 million lost IQ points each year in the EU, with 70-100% confidence in its analysis. It follows that dangers associated with chlorpyrifos exposure are extensive and consistent.

Despite shortcomings in the applicability of the action to other use areas for this toxic chemical, it is important that the public show support for the decision through public comment. Industry, including the chemical’s major manufacturer Dow Agrosciences, is hoping to continue to delay the agencies decision, and working to reverse EPA’s intent to revoke food tolerances. The public comment period for chlorpyrifos will open soon, and will be available by entering docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0653 into the search bar at www.regulations.gov. We strongly encourage concerned consumers to provide a unique public comment expressing their support for the agency’s decision in light of the chemical’s dangers to human health.

In order to truly effect change, Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. That is why organic, with its requirement of a detailed organic system plan, and measures to foster and improve soil health represent the future of agricultural production in the U.S. and abroad.  Even at its worst, this approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, and advances  a viable, scalable path forward for growing food. For more information about the effects of pesticide exposure on human health see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced-Disease Database (PIDD). And for information on why organic agriculture is the right alternative, see our Organic program webpage.

Source: EPA

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

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