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Daily News Blog

06
Aug

Dismissing independent Peer-Reviewed Science, EPA Allows Dramatic Increase in Children’s Exposure to Toxic Pesticides Pushed by Industry

(Beyond Pesticides, August 6, 2019) In a move that challenges the preponderance of independent peer-reviewed scientific findings on children’s health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently stripped away protections that limit children’s exposure to class of chemicals associated with childhood cancer, autism, and other learning disorders. The result of the agency’s actions will dramatically increase the use of synthetic pyrethroids, insecticides found in indoor and outdoor bug sprays, bug bombs, and often used on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. EPA, under the leadership of former fossil fuel lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, is embracing the positions of the pesticide industry while ignoring independent science and health and environmental groups.

In 2017, the agrichemical industry trade group, Croplife America, submitted comments to EPA during its review of synthetic pyrethroids. The organization urged EPA to rely on a health model developed by a different industry group, known as the Council for the Advancement of Pyrethroid Human Risk Assessment (CAPHRA), in determining the “safety factor” to apply to children. “Safety factors” for children are required under a 1996 law, the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), unless there is compelling evidence indicating the additional margin of safety is unnecessary. These factors generally require manufacturers to lower label application rates of a pesticide active ingredient by 3 to 10 times in order to safeguard the health of developing infants, toddlers, and children.

EPA’s decision to lower the safety factor on synthetic pyrethroids from 3x to 1x for children under 6 years of age will permit children’s exposure rates to these widely used chemicals to triple.

In the lead up to this decision, other nongovernmental organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments urging the agency to retain higher safety factors on synthetic pyrethroids in order to adequately protect children’s health. In reviewing the epidemiological literature on the health impact of this chemical class, EPA looked at hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, but only incorporated two into its determination. The vast majority of studies reviewed by EPA were considered low quality by the agency’s subjective criteria, and effectively ignored.

Instead, the agency prioritized methodology put forth by CAPHRA and encouraged by Croplife. Under the CAPHRA model, pyrethroids were estimated to be metabolized by children at the same rate as adults. Children are more vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure than adults, given that they take in more chemical relative to body weight, and have organs systems whose development is disrupted.

But the data show significant risks to children from exposure to pyrethroid insecticides. A range of studies have found associations between pyrethroid exposure and learning and behavioral disorders. Research published last month found that pregnant mothers with higher concentrations of pyrethroids in their urine were more likely to have children who develop ADHD symptoms. This is directly in line with a 2015 study from Rutgers University. Pesticides in the pyrethroid class have also been linked to externalizing and internalizing disorders, elevated scores on behavioral and emotional conduct tests, and lower scores on cognitive motor development tests.

A 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of California Davis determined that living near a field where pyrethroids were applied during a woman’s third trimester corresponded with an 87% increased risk of having a child with autism. EPA ranked this study of low quality, indicating the study’s methodological approach had “not been fully validated” and that it lacked the ability to distinguish between pyrethroids specifically and pesticide use in general. As with other instances, the finding of an effect in the absence of certainty led EPA to defer to industry interests rather than precaution.

Research has also implicated pyrethroids in the development of leukemia in infants after maternal exposure to the pesticides during pregnancy. Conducted by Brazilian researchers in 2012, the study found children are twice as likely to develop the rare cancer if their mothers were exposed three months before conception, when compared to mothers who reported no exposures. A mother’s exposure at any time to the synthetic pyrethroid permethrin, classified as a likely carcinogen by EPA, also raised the cancer risk for infants. EPA found this study to be of moderate quality, with the agency indicating that recall bias was an important limitation and that, “mothers of the children with leukemia may differentially recall past pesticide exposure, relative to mothers of the children without leukemia.” EPA provided no proof that this was a widespread trend in epidemiological reporting.

EPA found every reason to reject peer-reviewed science in favor of a determination that expanded uses of highly toxic pyrethroid insecticides. In the face of EPA inaction, it is up to residents and local communities to implement needed protections. Never use synthetic pyrethroids, particularly dangerous and ineffective bug bombs, in or around one’s home. Instead, look to ManageSafe to prevent pest problems before they start, and address them with the softest approach possible if they do. At the community level, work toward policies that eliminate not only synthetic pyrethroids but the broad range of toxic EPA-registered pesticides on the market, in favor of organic practices. Take action by pledging to fight for community pesticide reform today.

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

Source: EPA, Center for Biological Diversity press release

 

 

 

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