CU praises EPA decision on Chlorpyrifos

June 8, 2000

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202/462-6262
Consumers Union Washington, DC Office

CONSUMERS UNION PRAISES EPA DECISION ON CHLORPYRIFOS

New Measures Will Make Foods/Homes/Schools Safer, Especially For Children,
But More Needs To Be Done

WASHINGTON – Consumers Union applauded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to eliminate virtually all uses of the pesticide chlorpyrifos that lead to exposures for children. Under the restrictions expected to be announced by EPA today, chlorpyrifos will no longer be allowed in most over-the-counter bug sprays and lawn and garden products. Professional pest control operators will also be prohibited from using it. EPA is not requiring that products containing chlorpyrifos now on the shelf be recalled, and it is allowing a five year phase in of the ban on its use as a termiticide in newly constructed homes.

Agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos will also be restricted. Growers will not be allowed to use it after apple trees and grape vines bloom – months before harvest and long enough to allow residues to dissipate. EPA has also added a full 10-fold safety factor in its definition of the dose that is reasonably certain to be safe for children. In addition, to deal with the problem of high residues in certain food imports, the EPA is also lowering the tolerances on two key kids foods – apples and grapes – and eliminating the tolerance for tomatoes.

"This is a particularly risky pesticide," said Adam Goldberg, a policy analyst with Consumers Union. "There are plenty of safe, effective alternatives available. So EPA made the right call getting it out of homes and schools. Today’s decision should also make some of the foods that kids eat safer. However, we would have preferred it if chlorpyrifos products were taken off the shelf immediately, and if other restrictions were not phased in over such a long period of time."

EPA’s decision was made under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). The FQPA, which Congress passed unanimously in 1996, requires EPA to review all pesticide exposure limits to make sure they are safe for young children. Where EPA has inadequate data to be reasonably certain current use of a pesticide is safe, the FQPA requires the addition of an extra 10-fold safety factor in setting permissible exposure limits. Review of the more than 9,000 pesticide tolerances on the books is ongoing, and the law gives EPA until 2006 to complete the task. EPA must not only review each individual pesticide use, but must examine the effects of exposure to more than one pesticide at a time, as well as exposures from multiple sources.

"While we are happy with EPA’s decision today, this isn’t the end of the road, it’s just the beginning," Goldberg added. "EPA needs to take strong action on all of the organophosphates, and has to address the cumulative risks of all these pesticides acting in concert. It’s our hope that the positive action announced today indicates a firm resolve within EPA to meet the mandate of the FQPA. We intend to press EPA to make sure it continues to do the right thing with each of the pesticides it has to examine."

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, a member of a class of chemicals originally developed during World War II specifically to attack the nervous system. Chlopryrifos poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and in extreme cases seizures, paralysis, coma, and even death. It is the most widely used insecticide in the United States, with between 15 and 24 million pounds applied each year.

Manufactured by Dow AgroSciences, Inc., chlorpyrifos is used under the trade name Lorsban on crops, including many foods kids eat a lot of, such as apples, peaches, pears, grapes, oranges and tomatoes. Its non-agricultural formulation, known as Dursban, can be found in a variety of household insecticide products, lawn and garden products, and dog and cat flea collars. It is widely used in homes, schools, hospitals, day-care centers and other buildings. Many of those facilities are sprayed on a calendar basis, whether there are bugs present or not.

Children, who pound for pound eat more food, drink more water, and breathe more air than adults, while at the same time consuming far fewer types of foods, are especially susceptible to the effects of chlorpyrifos and other pesticides. That’s why the National Academy of Sciences recommended that Congress pass legislation to provide greater protection to children.

Consumers Union has analyzed five years’ worth of data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program (a report on the findings of that analysis can be found at http://www.ecologic-ipm.com/PDP/Update_Childrens_Foods.pdf). That analysis shows that about 20 pesticides, each used on a handful of foods kids eat a lot of, collectively account for over 95 percent of the dietary risk. Eliminating just 100 uses of those pesticides – out of over 9,000 registered pesticide uses – including several chlorpyrifos uses – would eliminate the lion’s share of the risk.

"The FQPA was perhaps the most important health initiative of the 1990s," Goldberg added. "Chlorpyrifos is a poster child for why we needed this new law and we are pleased that EPA’s decision will make everyone, particularly children, safer. We look forward to EPA action on other high risk pesticides."

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Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumers. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers.

The update report can be accessed on CU’s FQPA website at
http://www.ecologic-ipm.com/PDP/Update_Childrens_Foods.pdf

Do You Know What You’re Eating? can be accessed at
http://www.ecologic-ipm.com/Do_You_Know.pdf

 

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Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumers. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers.