EPA Ordered to Act on Chlorpyrifos

Ernie NeffPesticides

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EPA

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on April 29 applauded a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make a required safety finding for chlorpyrifos residues detected on food.

Chlorpyrifos is a widely used agricultural pesticide approved for use on more than 80 food crops. The court decision orders the EPA to either modify the existing chlorpyrifos tolerances for residue on foods and publish findings that such modified tolerances are safe for humans, including for infants and children, within 60 days or revoke all tolerances for the pesticide. The court also ordered EPA to modify or cancel related food uses of chlorpyrifos under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

To allow a pesticide to be used on food crops, the EPA must comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which requires that the EPA establish or maintain tolerances for pesticides only if the EPA Administrator has determined that the tolerance is safe.

In November 2015, the EPA proposed a rule to revoke all residue levels of chlorpyrifos on food crops because of safety concerns. Specifically, the agency noted that the pesticide adversely affected the neurological development of children. However, in March 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ended the rulemaking process, and issued an order that left in effect the existing tolerances of chlorpyrifos without making the required safety finding.

The California Department of Justice, joining a multistate coalition, filed a lawsuit on Aug. 17, 2019, after the EPA rejected the state’s administrative petition objecting to the EPA’s decision not to revoke food tolerances for chlorpyrifos.

California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation has cancelled virtually all agricultural use of chlorpyrifos in the state effective Dec. 31, 2020, because of mounting evidence that chlorpyrifos is associated with serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations.

Source: State of California Attorney General

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