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article imageEPA seeks to ban hazardous pesticide used as nerve agent

By Karen Graham     Nov 2, 2015 in Environment
A pesticide used on citrus fruits, almonds and other crops would be banned in the U.S. under a proposal announced Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA's proposed "zero-tolerance" policy for foodborne residues from the pesticide chlorpyrifos, or Dursban, would effectively end its application on over a dozen edible food crops such as tree nuts, soybeans, corn, wheat, apples and citrus.
The LA Times reports the federal agency said it is no longer confident that the combined exposure from the pesticide in food and water was safe for the public.
It took some pushing, particularly by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals back in August this year, when in a ruling, the EPA was gently taken to task for the "egregious" delay in reviewing the safety of chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to nervous system damage in humans.
On Friday, the EPA issued this statement, according to the LA Times: "Based on EPA’s current analysis, there do not appear to be risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos in food, but, when those exposures are combined with estimated exposure from drinking water in certain watersheds, EPA cannot conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure meets the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) safety standard."
The EPA said the court order to take action on the pesticide by October 31 interrupted its scientific review, leaving "certain science issues ... unresolved." But this raises the question of just how long a scientific review is supposed to take.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate pesticide. The pesticide was introduced in 1965 by Dow Chemical. These pesticides work as a nerve agent, acting on an enzyme in the body called acetylcholinesterase. The EPA lists organophosphates as being highly acutely toxic to bees, wildlife, and humans. On Sept. 30, 2015, the EPA released its preliminary risk assessments for seven organophosphates, dimethoate, dicrotophos,* chlorpyrifos-methyl, tribufos, terbufos, profenofos, and ethoprop.
In the assessment, EPA scientists retained the FQPA 10X safety factor because of uncertainty in the human dose-response relationship for neurodevelopmental effects. FQPA refers to the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. The FQPA requires that the EPA in making its “reasonable certainty of no harm” finding, that in “the case of threshold effects,… an additional tenfold margin of safety…shall be applied for infants and children to take into account potential pre- and postnatal toxicity.
Over six million pounds of chlorpyrifos are used on American farms every year, 25 percent of it in California. The EPA banned home use of chlorpyrifos in 2000 and placed "no-spray" buffer zones around sensitive sites, such as schools, in 2012. From 2001 through 2011, 136 people reported being exposed and sickened by the pesticide, in 35 separate incidents in California.
A pesticide is being used on citrus fruits.
A pesticide is being used on citrus fruits.
Photo by USDA
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