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EPA Seeks to Narrow Restrictions on Class of Pesticides

Nov. 13, 2019, 12:09 AM

The EPA is seeking to narrow spraying buffer zones and roll back other measures designed to protect people and the environment from pesticides that have been linked to neurological disorders.

The agency on Nov. 12 posted the proposed changes to the Federal Register involving 23 pyrethroids, a class of man-made insecticides similar to the naturally occurring chemical pyrethrum, which is present in chrysanthemum flowers. The chemicals are used on fruits and vegetables as well as in bug sprays and pet shampoos.

Based on a draft risk assessments that was completed during the Obama adminstration, EPA had been considering a number of protective measures including a 66-foot-wide vegetative filter strip between fields sprayed with the pesticides and bodies of water, as well as a 10 mile-per-hour wind-speed cutoff for spraying.

The new proposal would include only a 10- to 25-foot-wide buffer and a wind-speed cutoff of 15 mph.

Formalizes Announcement

The posting also formalizes an August announcement that EPA would end the previous threefold safety factor for human health risk assessments for pyrethroid pesticides. Safety factors generally require manufacturers to lower the label application rate of a pesticide by three to 10 times to safeguard the health of children.

In comments posted to Federal Register, a number of agricultural groups said growers were already subject to a number of environmental and label restrictions at the state level.

“The agricultural industry quite literally cannot afford to lose another product, leaving their crop and livelihood vulnerable to pest infestation,” said Jodi Raley, director of regulatory affairs for the Western Agricultural Processors Association.

But Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, criticized the move.

“Ignoring independent science in favor of whatever pesticide companies want is par for the Trump course,” Donley said.

Replacement for Older Pesticides

The use of pyrethroids increased in 1990s as replacements for older pesticides, such as diazinon and chlorpyrifos that were barred from household products because of health concerns.

In addition to hundreds of over-the-counter products, pyrethroids are used on a number of food crops, as well as for mosquito control initiatives. They are sold under the brand names Scourge (Bayer Environmental Science) and Anvil (Clarke Mosquito Control).

In recent years, pyrethroid pesticides have been come under increased scrutiny following scientific research that has linked them to neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autism.

The EPA is accepting comments on the proposal through Jan. 20, 2020.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Allington in Washington at aallington@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com