EPA Proposes Chlorpyrifos Safety Steps

EPA Proposes Safety Measures for Insecticide Chlorpyrifos

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The EPA has proposed several steps to improve safety when it comes to handling chlorpyrifos. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo by Tom Dodge)

OMAHA (DTN) -- EPA announced a proposal on Friday to improve the safety of using the insecticide chlorpyrifos. The proposal follows a draft risk assessment the agency released in September.

The EPA is proposing labeling amendments to limit applications associated with drinking water risks as well as requiring additional personal protection equipment and application restrictions to address handler risks.

The agency is also proposing spray drift mitigation in addition to use limitations and application restrictions to reduce exposure for off-target organisms.

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, the EPA will accept public comments for 60 days on the draft risk assessment and the additional proposal, according to a news release from the agency.

That assessment identified dietary risks in adults and children, as well as risks to professional handlers of the chemical. The EPA's draft assessment also identified potential adverse effects to mammals, birds, fish, and terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.

EPA also is considering input from the September 2020 scientific advisory panel, which is set to release its report sometime this month.

Corteva announced in February 2020 that it was phasing out production of chlorpyrifos. The company cited falling demand for the product in the United States as the primary reason for the decision, but the chemical also has faced criticism and litigation over its health risks for decades.

EPA said in its risk assessment that with "limited remaining residential uses of chlorpyrifos, EPA found no risks of concern, including to children's health, when products are used according to the label instructions."

Chlorpyrifos is the main ingredient in what was Dow AgroSciences' -- now Corteva Agriscience's -- Lorsban insecticide. Corteva is a spinoff agricultural company from parent company DowDuPont, formed when Dow and DuPont merged in 2017.

First registered in 1965, chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used in a broad range of crops, including corn, alfalfa, sugar beets, cotton, wheat, soybeans and peanuts. Chlorpyrifos targets a range of insects, such as aphids, armyworms, cutworms, bean leaf beetle, rootworm, spider mites, lygus, stink bugs and midges.

It has been available under several brand names, including Lorsban and Cobalt. Between 2012 and 2014, then-registrant Dow AgroSciences estimated to EPA that an average of 640,000 pounds were applied to an average of almost 800,000 corn acres per year.

In that same time period, the company reported that chlorpyrifos was the leading ingredient used to control wheat midge in wheat and that 600,000 pounds were used on roughly 1.6 million wheat acres per year, as well as an average of 105,000 pounds on 350,000 cotton acres per year.

EPA vowed to continue its re-registration of chlorpyrifos, ensuring that generic formulations of the chemical will remain legal to use in the years to come.

The agency recently has defended the chemical against legal challenges based on concerns about the neurodevelopmental effects it can have on people, particularly infants. In recent years, some states and countries have initiated bans on chlorpyrifos, such as Hawaii, California, New York, the UK and the EU.

In 2015, EPA proposed revoking all food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos in response to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America, which would effectively end use of the chemical. But that decision was reversed in 2017 by Scott Pruitt, former administrator of the EPA.

Facing litigation and court orders over the move, EPA finalized its decision in July 2019 not to ban the insecticide. The decision was made as part of a court order issued on April 19, 2019, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

Read the latest proposal here: https://www.epa.gov/….

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley