Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala

On May 6, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was releasing its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision (PID) for glyphosate acid and its various salt forms.  84 Fed. Reg. 19782.  In the PID, EPA states that it “did not identify any human health risks from exposure to any use of glyphosate” but did identify “potential risk to mammals and birds” within the application area or areas near the application area and “potential risk to terrestrial and aquatic plants from off-site spray drift, consistent with glyphosate’s use as a herbicide.”  Even with these potential risks, the PID states that “EPA concludes that the benefits outweigh the potential ecological risks when glyphosate is used according to label directions” and proposes certain risk mitigation strategies, including:

  • “To reduce off-site spray drift to non-target organisms, the EPA is proposing certain spray drift management measures” with specific spray drift mitigation language to be included on all glyphosate product labels for products applied by liquid spray application;
  • “To preserve glyphosate as a viable tool for growers and combat weed resistance, the EPA is … proposing that herbicide resistance management language be added to all glyphosate labels” and to require measures “for the pesticide registrants to provide growers and users with detailed information and recommendations to slow the development and spread of herbicide resistant weeds”;
  • Inclusion on labels of a non-target organism advisory statement to alert users of potential impact to non-target organisms; and
  • “EPA is also proposing certain labeling clean-up/consistency efforts to bring all glyphosate labels up to modern standards.”

EPA states that these measures were discussed with glyphosate registrants, who do not oppose the proposed risk mitigation measures outlined in the PID.

The public can submit comments on EPA’s proposed decision at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361.  Public comments are due by July 5, 2019.  In addition to the PID, EPA is also posting to the glyphosate docket EPA’s response to comments on glyphosate’s usage and benefits (dated April 18, 2019), EPA’s response to comments on the human health risk assessment (dated April 23, 2018), and EPA’s response to comments on the preliminary ecological risk assessment (dated November 21, 2018). 

This PID was issued shortly after the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s announcement on April 8, 2019, of the opening of a docket on the draft toxicological profile for glyphosate.  84 Fed. Reg. 13922.  ATSDR seeks comments and additional information or reports on studies about the health effects of glyphosate for review and potential inclusion in the profile.  Comments are due by July 8, 2019.

Commentary

EPA’s PID and related documents, along with ATSDR’s draft profile and the peer review which will follow, can be expected to become part of the larger debate about the potential risks of glyphosate.  In 2017, EPA evaluated the carcinogenic risk of glyphosate, and released its draft human health and ecological risk assessments.  See our December 19, 2017, blog item "EPA Releases Draft Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments for Glyphosate for Public Comment" for more information. 

EPA’s PID is interesting not only for the conclusions EPA reached following its review of data submitted by registrants in response to a data call-in (DCI) and following the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel’s (SAP) meeting to consider and review scientific issues related to EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate, but for the issues that remain to be addressed.  Notably, EPA states that it has not considered the petition filed on September 27, 2018, to reduce glyphosate’s tolerance because the petition was filed after the comment period for the human health and ecological risk assessments closed.  Instead, EPA plans to post the petition in the glyphosate docket and address the petition concurrently with the development of the Interim Registration Review Decision.

In addition, EPA has not in the PID or related documents addressed issues regarding its Endangered Species Act (ESA) assessment or its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) activities.  EPA states it intends to complete an assessment of risk to ESA-listed species prior to completing its final registration review decision for glyphosate, and that it also will make an EDSP determination under Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) Section 408(p) before completing its registration review.  EPA also notes that it continues to evaluate risks to pollinators, and that if it determines “that additional pollinator exposure and effects data are necessary to help make a final registration review decision for glyphosate, then the EPA will issue a DCI to obtain these data.”  Although there are significant areas that remain to be resolved, EPA issued the PID “so that it can (1) move forward with aspects of the registration review case that are complete and (2) implement interim risk mitigation.”

More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On November 19, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Stakeholder Forum will take place on December 4, 2018, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. (EST) and on December 5, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST) at the Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place, in Washington, D.C.  The RCC brings together senior regulatory officials, industry, and other members of the public from both sides of the U.S.-Canada border to promote economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation through the elimination of unnecessary regulatory differences between the U.S. and Canada.  Canadian and U.S. regulators will provide progress reports on existing regulatory cooperation efforts and solicit public input on new opportunities for regulatory cooperation. 

During the forum, EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) will lead a breakout session that will include updates on the successes of the 2016 work plan and cooperation between the two agencies pertaining to pesticide registration.  The U.S. and Canadian agencies are working together to:

  • Collaborate on a bilateral pesticide re-evaluation for three neonicotinoid pesticides (i.e., imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin) employing a new pollinator risk assessment framework;
  • Develop best practices for coordinated work planning for the re-evaluation of registered pesticides;
  • Develop new and/or alternative approaches to testing and assessment, including reducing the need for animal testing wherever possible;
  • Align pesticide residue trial requirements by prospectively determining the number of residue field trials required for joint registrations; and
  • Jointly develop information technology solutions that facilitate the submission of applications to either regulatory authority.

Additionally, both offices hope to hear feedback from stakeholders to help inform a new three-year pesticide programs work plan for 2019-2021.  

Specific times for this and other breakout sessions, as well as more detail, will be made available online.  The Stakeholder Forum is open to the public, with advance registration.  Space is limited and registrations will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis.  Registration is available online.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On August 9, 2018, the majority of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an opinion in the latest chlorpyrifos case (League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) v. Wheeler, No. 17-71636) granting the petition for review of a 2017 order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that denied an administrative petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos; vacating the 2017 order; and remanding the matter back to EPA with explicit directions to EPA to “revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.”  A separate dissent stated that the court should have dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.  Please see our blog item “EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos” for more information on EPA’s denial of the petition in 2017.

EPA argued in its brief that the court lacks jurisdiction to review the 2017 order denying the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos because Section 408(g)(2)(C) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires EPA to rule on administrative objections to its denial of the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos before judicial review is available under FFDCA Section 408(h)(1).The majority opinion rejected this argument, stating that FFDCA Section 408(h)(1) “does not ‘clearly state’ that obtaining a section (g)(2)(C) order in response to administrative objections is a jurisdictional requirement.” Rather than a jurisdictional limitation, the majority construed the objections process in FFDCA as a non-jurisdictional “claims-processing rule.”In contrast, the dissenting judge agreed with EPA’s argument that the court lacks jurisdiction to review this matter until after EPA responds to the objections to the 2017 order.

After concluding that the objections process is not jurisdictional in character, the majority next considered whether the petitioners should nonetheless be required to exhaust their administrative remedies by waiting until EPA responds to their objections before obtaining judicial review.Although FFDCA Section 408(g)(2)(C) requires EPA to rule on the objections “as soon as practicable,” EPA had taken no action for 13 months after the objections were filed.The majority concluded that the exhaustion requirement should be waived “in light of the strong individual interests against requiring exhaustion and weak institutional interests in favor of it.”

EPA did not specifically address the substantive merits of the 2017 order in its brief, and the majority found that EPA has consequently “forfeited any merits-based argument.”The 2017 order was issued in the context of an administrative record in which EPA has repeatedly determined that the FFDCA standard for maintenance of chlorpyrifos tolerances (“a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide”) could not be met because of the risk of neurodevelopmental effects. The standard for registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) incorporates this same FFDCA standard. Although the 2017 order stated that “the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects is unresolved,” it did nothing to alter these prior EPA determinations. The majority noted that EPA’s assertion that “significant uncertainty” remains regarding the health effects of chlorpyrifos being directly at odds with the “reasonably certainty” standard and “therefore mandates revoking the tolerance under [FFDCA Section 408(b)(2)(A)(i)].” The majority concluded that the possibility that future evidence may contradict EPA’s current determinations cannot justify continued inaction, and that the failure of EPA to proceed with the revocation of the tolerances and the cancellation of the registrations for chlorpyrifos “has now placed the agency in direct contravention of the FFDCA and FIFRA.”

Commentary

The court’s direct instruction requiring EPA to proceed promptly with revocation of all tolerances and cancellations of all registrations for chlorpyrifos represents an unusually aggressive judicial intervention in the administrative process.Nevertheless, this outcome must be viewed in the context of an eleven year history beginning with an administrative petition that requested the same relief, followed by a writ of mandamus in 2015 from the same court requiring EPA to make a prompt decision on the petition.Although substantial controversy remains concerning the correct interpretation of epidemiology studies with chlorpyrifos, it appears that the court believes that EPA has not taken any action that would support a change in EPA’s prior conclusion that these studies constitute evidence of potential neurodevelopmental effects in children at chlorpyrifos exposure levels below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. Had EPA’s 2017 denial of the administrative petition been accompanied by an amended risk assessment for chlorpyrifos which articulated a changed conclusion, the court may have been less likely to substitute its judgment for that of EPA.The court seemed to find that because the scientific assessments in the current administrative record could not support the “reasonable certainty” standard in the FFDCA, the conclusion it reached on the merits was unavoidable.

Please see our blog item “Oral Argument Held in Case Challenging EPA’s Denial of Petition to Revoke Chlorpyrifos Tolerances” for information on the oral argument that took place on July 9, 2018, and the briefing in this case.  Further information on the case proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom, James V. Aidala, and Lisa M. Campbell

On December 18, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is releasing for public comment the draft human health and ecological risk assessments for glyphosate.  EPA’s Draft Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments for Glyphosate website states that the “draft risk assessments and supporting documents will be available in glyphosate’s registration review docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361 on www.regulations.gov in early 2018,” and that EPA will “open a 60-day public comment period for the draft risk assessments, evaluate the comments received, and consider any potential risk management options for this herbicide.”  Many of the assessment documents, including the draft human health risk assessment, are already available on EPA’s website, but not yet posted in the docket.

The EPA announcement includes the following summary of EPA’s determinations:

  • The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.  The Agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label.  The Agency’s scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey.
  • EPA’s human health review evaluated dietary, residential/non-occupational, aggregate, and occupational exposures. Additionally, the Agency performed an in-depth review of the glyphosate cancer database, including data from epidemiological, animal carcinogenicity, and genotoxicity studies.
  • The ecological risk assessment indicates that there is potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants.  EPA used the most current risk assessment methods, including an evaluation of the potential effects of glyphosate exposure on animals and plants. 

EPA states the proposed interim registration review decision for glyphosate is scheduled to be published in 2019.

Commentary

This latest EPA announcement is consistent with other determinations concerning glyphosate made by EPA in recent years, including statements made during the Obama Administration.  EPA presented its analysis of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) in December 2016.  EPA has consistently taken the position that the human health risks from glyphosate are low, and that food and water residues of glyphosate easily satisfy the requirement that they be “safe” for human consumption. 

Critics of glyphosate use often focus on the widespread adoption of glyphosate-resistant bioengineered crops. If these genetically modified organism (GMO) crops were not specifically designed for use in conjunction with glyphosate, there would likely be much less discussion about the safety of the herbicide.

Because EPA’s announcement includes a statement that “there is potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants,” critics of glyphosate and the associated GMO crops will likely continue to press for restrictions based on the ecological effects of glyphosate.  Moreover, there is also likely to be continued controversy concerning the human health effects of glyphosate.  Notwithstanding the human health safety findings in this EPA assessment and the other assessments cited in EPA’s statement, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as “probably” carcinogenic to humans.  It is thus probable that the controversy concerning glyphosate and the associated GMO crops will continue unabated.

More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog under key word glyphosate.


 

By Heather F. Collins

On August 28, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first of three feature and functionality updates to the Pesticide Submission Portal (PSP) expected this year.  The portal is a web-based application allowing registrants to submit pesticide application packages to EPA electronically.  The PSP application is accessed through EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) Network which requires user registration. 

This new PSP, version 1.4, release expands the feature to allow users to submit voluntary data related to specific registration review cases.  Users can submit study citations, data matrices (Form 8570-35), cover letters and studies (protocols, study profiles, supplemental study data) using the new "Voluntary Submission" link on the PSP home page.  This new release also allows users to resubmit previously submitted 90-day responses. Once a 90-day response or data submission has been successfully transmitted to the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), users may now modify responses to data requirements, cite additional studies, upload additional documents, and change how the product registration is supported.  EPA states:  “This action is another step in a phased approach that will ultimately lead to EPA’s ability to accept all pesticide applications electronically, a move that will help modernize the pesticide registration process, increase operational efficiencies and reduce paper waste.”  EPA indicates that in addition to these changes, this update introduces enhancements and bug fixes.

EPA also released the OPP Pesticide Submission Portal (PSP) User Guide Version 1.4 which provides detailed instructions on how to use the PSP application and guidance on how to prepare a package for electronic submission.

Applicants using PSP need not submit multiple electronic copies of any pieces of their applications; EPA states that the requirement to submit multiple copies of data in Pesticide Registration Notice 2011-3 is applicable only to paper submissions.  Pesticide registrants who previously submitted information via paper, CD, or DVD may instead use the portal and forego the courier costs of sending to EPA.

More information about the Electronic Submissions of Pesticide Applications is available on EPA’s website.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala

On July 18, 2017, a panel of three judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an order denying petitioners’ Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (Petitioners) Motion for Further Mandamus in the chlorpyrifos proceedings.  In that motion, Petitioners asked the court to grant further mandamus relief, asserting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of Petitioners’ petition to revoke all food tolerances and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations was inadequate because it contained “no new safety findings” and no “final determination as to whether chlorpyifos food tolerances must be revoked.”  More information on the motion is available in our blog item Petitioners File Motion for Further Mandamus Relief in Response to EPA’s Order Denying Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos.

In its order, the panel held that since the prior mandamus proceedings “addressed the timing, not the substance, of EPA’s response,” EPA had “complied with the panel’s previous orders by issuing a ‘final response to the petition.’”  The mandamus motion thus was “premature, and its substantive objections to the EPA’s denial must first be made through the administrative process mandated by statute.”

The demand imposed by the court earlier was to make a decision, and EPA met that deadline with its denial.  This is a significant win for industry, but is far from the end of this debate, which will continue in a number of different forums.  More information on the proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.

 


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Jason E. Johnston, M.S., and James V. Aidala

On May 25, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of ecological risk assessments for four neonicotinoid active ingredients for public comment as well as the Registration Review Update for Four Neonicotinoid Insecticides (Update).  82 Fed. Reg. 24113.  The ecological risk assessments are:

EPA states that public comments “could address, among other things, the Agency’s risk assessment methodology and assumptions applied to its draft risk assessments, such as its methodology for estimating colony-level risk to bees from exposure to bee bread.”  Comments on the three ecological risk assessments are due by July 24, 2017

The main focus of the Update document is EPA’s efforts to harmonize the risk assessment and management of the four neonicotinoids during registration review.  EPA has identified additional pollinator exposure data and pollinator toxicity data needs; registrants have committed to producing the needed data, and most of the data will be submitted in 2017.  EPA plans to produce final pollinator risk assessments for both agricultural and non-agricultural uses in 2018.  Release of non-pollinator risk assessments (i.e., aquatic organisms, terrestrial mammals, and birds) is planned for 2017.  Human health risk assessments are also scheduled to be issued in 2017.  EPA has stated that mitigating risk from the uses of all neonicotinoids may be considered for all four compounds at the same time to ensure consistent risk management and to prevent unnecessary shifts in usage between the compounds without a reduction in risk.  EPA intends to release final pollinator assessments and proposed interim decisions for registration review for all four neonicotinoids in 2018.

Commentary

From the EPA website, the following general statement summarizes what EPA has found so far:

  • The assessments for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, similar to the preliminary pollinator assessment for imidacloprid showed:  most approved uses do not pose significant risks to bee colonies.  However, spray applications to a few crops, such as cucumbers, berries, and cotton, may pose risks to bees that come in direct contact with residue.

To some degree, it is reassuring that widespread adoption of the neonicotinoid products appears not to be an overwhelming or altogether unanticipated risk to pollinators.  For insecticides, that foliar spray applications could be harmful is not good news, as any direct contact of an insect (bees) and insecticides usually is not good for the health of the insect. 

Another point some may find reassuring is that EPA has not found seed treatment with neonicotinoid products to be of significant risk.  This is ironic to some degree, since one of the fundamental assumptions not long ago among many beekeepers was that the seed treatment products were a singular and significant cause of the increase in colony decline and loss. 

EPA’s description of the registration review status of these products also indicates that a great volume of additional data concerning possible pollinator risks is due to arrive over the next six to 18 months.  Obviously, the results of these additional studies will fundamentally inform the EPA risk assessment conclusions.  At the same time, one legacy of the Obama Administration in this space, the development of state Manage Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3), also will be impacted by what EPA discovers from this volume of soon-to-arrive data.

Until then, and until the new political leadership of the agency indicates any direction on pollinator issues, it is unclear whether the pollinator issue will remain one of the priority issues for program attention, or be folded into the general timeline and normal course or registration review over the next few years.  


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Margaret R. Graham

On April 27, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to Inspector General Arthur Elkins, Jr. at the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting the OIG to conduct an investigation into EPA’s March 29, 2017, order denying the September 2007 petition of the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for the pesticide chlorpyrifos.  The letter refers to the March 29, 2017, order as “Administrator Scott Pruitt’s order,” and asks OIG to address questions specifically targeting the rationale, communications, and consideration that Administrator Pruitt took prior to reaching the decision.   

The letter states that Administrator Pruitt's “hasty reversal of this decision … appears not to be based on EPA’s existing recent scientific findings about the risk, or any new information that contradicts the findings about the health and safety risks of chlorpyrifos.”  Further, the letter asserts that “it does not appear to be consistent with the law, which requires that pesticide products cannot be used unless ‘there is reasonable certainty that no harm will result from the aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue.’”

  1. How did Mr. Pruitt reach the decision he announced on March 29, 2017? What was the timeline leading up to this decision? With whom did he communicate within EPA, the White House, or elsewhere in the Administration? With which outside entities did he communicate? Specifically, did Mr. Pruitt have any communication with staff or representatives of Dow Chemical or any pesticide industry trade groups including CropLife America?
  2. What was the rationale for Mr. Pruitt's decision, and why did he reverse an agency decision that had been years in the making? How was this rationale developed? Was it based on any new information or evidence?
  3. Was Mr. Pruitt's decision consistent with the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act? Did he provide appropriate notice and comment and appropriately consider all relevant comments and information?
  4. Was Mr. Pruitt's decision consistent with the requirements of the FFDCA, which establishes a standard that, to maintain a pesticide tolerance, there must be "reasonable certainty that no harm will result from the aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical petitition to revoke tolerances.pdf residue"? Has the EPA met the "reasonable certainty [of] no harm" standard in the law? Why did Mr. Pruitt note that chlorpyrifos was "widely used" when he announced his decision? Was this "wid[e] use" a factor in Mr. Pruitt's decision, and, if so, was this appropriate under the law? What other factors were taken into consideration by Mr. Pruitt?
  5. Is the EPA accurately and transparently presenting information to the public with regard to previous EPA actions concerning chlorpyrifos? For example, the EPA website for chlorpyrifos on January 2, 2017 contained information indicating that EPA "proposed to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances," and contained a link with detailed information about the health risks and the reasons for the EPA action.  This reference to the proposed ban, and the link to the detailed EPA analysis are no longer available on the chlorpyrifos web page, and the link to the analysis (as of April 3, 201 7) now gives a "Page Not Found" error.

Commentary

This letter not surprisingly continues the debate over the appropriate regulatory status of chlorpyrifos.  Those disappointed by the recent EPA decision, apparently including Senator Warren and Representative Pallone, want to press EPA to explain in more detail not only the reasons for the decision not to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances at this time, but also the rationale EPA used to rebut what they believe to be the decision-making record that EPA had accumulated over the last two to three years.

The explanation that the arrival of new leadership at EPA with the Administration led to a change in position is perhaps only part of the answer.  The change in Administration did not change the underlying statutory requirements governing EPA’s registration, reregistration, and tolerance decisions, and EPA relied on these requirements as the basis for its decision not to make a decision at this time, as discussed in EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos.

EPA’s response to any investigation initiated by this letter, as well as the OIG response, will be watched closely by all stakeholders.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala

On March 29, 2017, U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Pruitt signed an order denying the September 2007 petition of the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for the pesticide chlorpyrifos.  This is the latest EPA action in a long and contentious battle concerning chlorpyrifos tolerances and registrations, and is likely not the end of this story.

EPA’s decision denying the petition addresses each of the petition’s ten claims and the history of EPA’s review and responses to those claims.  Much attention will be paid to the order’s discussion of three of the claims, which the order states all relate to the same issue:  “whether the potential exists for chlorpyrifos to cause neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels below EPA’s existing regulatory standard (10% cholinesterase inhibition).”  The order states that because “Congress has provided that EPA must complete registration review by October 1, 2022,” and because EPA has “concluded that it will not complete the human health portion of the registration review or any associated tolerance revocation of chlorpyrifos without first attempting to come to a clearer scientific resolution” on the issues concerning potential neurodevelopmental effects in children, EPA is denying the claims, given the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ August 12, 2016, order that “made clear” that further extensions to the March 31, 2017, deadline for responding to the petition would not be granted.  EPA states that the “science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved,” and “further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos.”

The order will become effective as soon as it is published in the Federal Register.  More information on the prior proceedings concerning this matter is available on our blog under key phrase chlorpyrifos.

Commentary

This decision by EPA under the Trump Administration to deny the petition is not surprising, given the rhetoric of reducing regulatory burdens and the need to stop regulatory “overreach” by agencies like EPA which has been accused of making politically driven decisions.  EPA's press release captures this, quoting Administrator Pruitt stating (in part):  "By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making -- rather than predetermined results.”

EPA has, however, “kicked the can down the road” to some extent on the key science issue -- whether EPA appropriately evaluated epidemiology studies which reported that exposures to the pesticide had adverse neurological impacts on infants and children -- an issue that affects not only chlorpyrifos, but the other organophosphates (OP) that EPA has concluded are subject to a Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X factor based on these studies.  (See EPA’s September 15, 2015, Literature Review on Neurodevelopment Effects & FQPA Safety Factor Determination for the Organophosphate Pesticides.)    

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) members who reviewed EPA’s approach, based on these studies with regard to chlorpyrifos, generally had concerns with its proposed approach.  When EPA nonetheless issued its renewed call for revocation of the tolerances in November 2016, eight days after the Presidential election, it was seen by some as partly (if not fully) driven by a “political” calculus which ignored the lack of support of the FIFRA SAP. 

The November 2016 proposal was based on more than the epidemiology studies which have proven controversial.  At the same time, EPA’s arguments in the November notice relied on some of the earlier findings about  the studies and FIFRA SAP’s review to fashion a “hybrid” approach which, not surprisingly, supported EPA’s previous conclusions.

This has led to charges of “politics over science” on all fronts, but in responding to the court deadline for a final decision by March 31, 2017, EPA has now declared it does indeed need more time to resolve the science issues, and argues that the general registration review process, with the chlorpyrifos review scheduled for 2022, gives EPA more time than what the court imposed.  EPA has concluded that if a decision is needed now, the required burdens have not been met to change the current status of the pesticide.  The order states:

  • Following a review of comments on both the November 2015 proposal and the November 2016 notice of data availability, EPA has concluded that, despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos.  EPA has therefore concluded that it will not complete the human health portion of the registration review or any associated tolerance revocation of chlorpyrifos without first attempting to come to a clearer scientific resolution on those issues.

EPA has determined it needs more time, however frustrating that may be, to sort out the science.  As such, it is allowing chlorpyrifos use to continue, but objections to EPA’s decision are expected by the petitioners who originally pushed for the tolerance revocations.  The effect on other OPs with regard to the application of the FQPA uncertainty factor is unclear, at best.  The science debate will rage on, with no clear timeline or process for how the ultimate resolution of these questions will be “final.”  This political and legal back-and-forth may become the new normal for the Trump Administration as it seeks to balance a more “business friendly” regulatory approach with the stringent requirements of the statutory duties of underlying authorizing legislation across all of EPA’s programs. 


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On July 20, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memorandum attaching minutes from the April 19-21, 2016, FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting, Transmittal of Meeting Minutes of the April 19-21, 2016 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP or Panel) Meeting Held to Consider and Review Scientific Issues Associated with “Chlorpyrifos: Analysis of Biomonitoring Data.”  This SAP was convened to advise EPA regarding the evaluation of biomonitoring chlorpyrifos data from epidemiology studies conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH).

The minutes indicate that the SAP has significant concerns with EPA’s proposal to use the biomonitoring chlorpyrifos data from the CCCEH epidemiology studies to establish a point of departure (PoD) for chlorpyrifos risk assessment.  The minutes state:  “Because many uncertainties cannot be clarified, the majority of the Panel does not have confidence that the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) cord blood data on chlorpyrifos concentrations can accurately be used in quantitative risk assessment to determine a Point of Departure (PoD).”  A major source of uncertainty cited by the FIFRA SAP is “the lack of verification and replication of the analytical chemistry results that reported very low levels of chlorpyrifos (pg/g),” because EPA had to impute a finite quantitative value to “a large fraction of cord blood samples included in the analyses presented with levels below [level of detection (LOD)].”  Moreover, some SAP members “thought the quality of the CCCEH data is hard to assess when raw analytical data have not been made available, and the study has not been reproduced.”

The SAP also, however, stated that “both epidemiology and toxicology studies suggest there is evidence for adverse health outcomes associated with chlorpyrifos exposures below levels that result in 10% red blood cell (RBC) acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition (i.e., toxicity at lower doses).”  Nevertheless, it agreed with EPA that “applying additional safety factors to the AChE PoDs to account for a possible noncholinergic mode of action (MOA) would be problematic because of challenges in justifying any particular value for such an adjustment.”

Of note, the SAP concluded that it would be appropriate to use a “10X intra-species extrapolation factor” in any analysis based on the cord blood data.  It also identified other sources of uncertainty that should be considered in such an analysis, including “the inability of single measures of chlorpyrifos concentration in blood to provide information regarding source, frequency, duration and magnitude of exposure, and how these exposures are linked to specific outcomes measured in the CCCEH study participants.”  Although EPA suggested in a Status Report filed in the chlorpyrifos litigation pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 29, 2016, that the FIFRA SAP might recommend a “hybrid approach” that EPA could use in lieu of a PoD based on AChE inhibition, thereby altering the prior EPA analysis for chlorpyrifos, the SAP minutes do not include a recommendation for such a hybrid methodology.

Commentary

Given the concerns expressed by the SAP regarding EPA’s proposal to derive a PoD from cord blood biomonitoring data collected in the CCCEH epidemiology studies, it may be unlikely that EPA will further pursue this specific approach.  It is less clear whether EPA will be inclined to propose any further adjustments to its existing risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, which utilizes a PoD based on animal AChE data, along with intra-species and inter-species uncertainty factors and an additional Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X factor.  EPA’s decision to retain the special FQPA factor in its risk assessment for chlorpyrifos will remain controversial, because it is based on an assessment of the value and significance of several epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos that many in the pesticide industry strongly dispute.  The discussion in the minutes of the uncertainties resulting from the refusal of the CCCEH investigators to provide underlying raw data may provide further support for arguments by industry that EPA should not predicate risk assessments on the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos before obtaining and reviewing these data.

More information on the FIFRA SAP and its surrounding legal issues is available in our blog item EPA Requests Six Month Extension of Deadline for Decision on Chlorpyrifos Tolerance Revocation, and more generally on our blog with keyword chlorpyrifos.


 
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