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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on chlorpyrifos insecticides is being called a "Big Victory" by public health and environmental advocates.

Archived HHRA News Posts
  • Spraying Pesticides HHRA Answers DPR’s Call for Comments on Its “Roadmap” for Transforming Pest Management

    In a January 26, 2023 press release, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released a provocative report entitled “Sustainable Pest Management: A Roadmap for California.” The Roadmap report sets “ambitious goals and actions to accelerate California’s systemwide transition to sustainable pest management and eliminate prioritized high-risk pesticides by 2050.” Also by 2050, the Roadmap report envisions that “Sustainable pest management has been adopted as the de facto pest management system in California.” The report captures the ideas and input of a diverse stakeholder group that met over two years to help DPR, Cal-EPA, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture develop a comprehensive plan sufficient to transform agriculture in the State from often heavily-pesticide dependent management systems to systems grounded in pest-prevention, biological control, and reduced-risk biopesticides. The Roadmap identifies and addresses most of the factors shaping pest management systems in the State and calls for dozens of new research, education, training, and regulatory initiatives. In order to guide the implementation process, DPR requested comments from the public that were due March 13, 2023. In crafting HHRA’s comments, Chuck Benbrook and Mark Lipson drew on their decades of experience tracking and advising DPR on pesticide use and regulatory issues.

  • HHRA Paper Analyzes Pesticide Dietary Risk in Individual Samples of Foods

    One of the main sources of pesticide exposure is through  the diet. It is critically important to understand pesticide residues in foods and how dietary risks have changed over time. Over the last 20 years HHRA’s Executive Director Charles Benbrook has developed an analytical database that quantifies the relative risk posed by residues in the diet. Known as the Dietary Risk Index (DRI), this  system was created to help researchers compare risk levels across foods and pesticides, track changes in dietary risk over time, and assess the impact of where food is grown on residues and risk levels, as well as how production systems influence residues and risks (conventional versus organic). The DRI combines the results of United States and United Kingdom pesticide residue testing programs with data on food serving sizes and each pesticide’s chronic Reference Dose or Acceptable Daily Intake. Chronic DRI values are a ratio: the amount of residue in a serving of food relative to the maximum amount allowed by regulators. DRI values are a ratio: the amount of residue in a serving of food relative to the maximum amount allowed by regulators. Data generated by the DRI helps guide HHRA’s policy and public health by highlighting which food-pesticide combinations account for the most worrisome risks in the food supply. The DRI system initially reported aggregate values for a given food/pesticide combination. These values are derived from multiple individual samples of a food collected by regulatory agencies.  For these DRI values, each individual number represents many servings of a given food. In 2022, HHRA added additional functionality the the DRI to report dietary risk in individual samples of a given food. The paper “Tracking pesticide residues and risk levels in individual samples—insights and applications,” which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe in July 2022, describes the methodology and data sources used to calculate these individual sample DRI values, and highlights some of the results and what they can tell us about residue levels in the global food supply. This is the first analytical system worldwide to provide this level of insight into residues in food. As the paper reports, “dietary risk levels are highly skewed. A large number of samples pose moderate, low, or very-low risks, and relatively few samples pose high or very-high risks.” Thus, regulators and researchers can use the DRI to pinpoint where pesticide dietary risks needs to be mitigated. Like all of HHRA’s peer-reviewed publications, this paper is open access and available free of charge. Click here to view the full text. Access DRI data here.

The Lowdown on the Landmark Chlorpyrifos Ruling

May 5th, 2021
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on chlorpyrifos insecticides is being called a "Big Victory" by public health and environmental advocates.

The organophosphate (OP) insecticide chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) has been one of the most heavily used soil insecticides in the Heartland for decades. Farmers use it to prevent worm larvae from attacking roots, and it remains a common residue in many fruits and vegetables, and especially in imported produce. Scientists and the EPA have been working to get it out of the food supply for over two decades because of the insecticide’s ability to disrupt fetal neurodevelopment when pregnant women are exposed.

The endgame for chlorpyrifos may be near. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals laid down on April 29, 2021 a strongly worded, detailed ruling on chlorpyrifos. The Court ordered the EPA to either revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances and ban its food uses, or issue the “reasonable certainty of no harm” safety finding called for in the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).

After 14 years of hearings, motions, and orders started by a lawsuit filed in 2007 by two environmental groups, the Court gave EPA only 60 days to take final action.

The EPA almost certainly will not be able to issue the now-mandatory FQPA finding, because “the science linking prenatal exposures to chlorpyrifos and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes is compelling and has been so since 2011,” according to HHRA’s Executive Director Dr. Charles Benbrook (Benbrook, 2021).

Benbrook has worked on chlorpyrifos use, risk assessment, and regulation for decades. Concern over prenatal exposures to chlorpyrifos was a primary reason the National Academy of Sciences called for major pesticide regulatory reform in its seminal 1993 report Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children.

Chlorpyrifos featured prominently in Congressional debate leading to passage of the FQPA in 1996. What to do about significant in-home and agricultural use of chlorpyrifos was the acid test for EPA in the implementation of the FQPA.

Chuck currently serves as an expert witness on behalf of plaintiffs and their children in litigation stemming from prenatal chlorpyrifos exposures in California.

The 9th Circuit Court order is not likely to be contested by EPA or the Department of Justice. As a result, EPA will restart a process begun in the fall of 2015 that will lead to the revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances, a step that will likely end all uses on food crops within about one year. This is considered “a major victory for public health—especially for children” by public health and environmental advocates (NRDC, 2021). But revoking tolerances in the US will not keep chlorpyrifos out of foods imported by the US.

To truly finish the job of getting this developmental neurotoxin out of food, the US Department of State and the EPA need to petition the Codex Alimentarius to revoke all international tolerances (called Maximum Residue Limits, or MRLs). This critical step will extend to farmers, the environment, and consumers worldwide added margins of safety and lessened risk of farmworker poisonings and fish kills.

We’ve rounded up a resources on this court decision, chlorpyrifos, and the FQPA. See the links below and follow us here at HHRA for updates on the chlorpyrifos endgame.

Resources on Chlorpyrifos

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