Innovations in agricultural chemicals have revolutionized and enhanced food production, but with progress come new challenges. Agricultural chemicals can have widespread impacts on ecosystems and human health, and marginalized communities -- children and farmworkers in particular -- can be especially vulnerable. Manufacturers, regulatory agencies, public health experts, and nonprofit organizations are working to address these challenges head-on by developing new products and devising robust protective measures.
Recent changes in federal regulations include the Worker Protection Standards under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which expand the requirements for protecting agricultural workers from pesticide exposure. The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) presents "Pesticides, Farmworkers, Industry, and Environmental Justice," a webinar exploring the issues addressed in the new regulations and the implementation of these new obligations. James V. Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), will moderate this discussion.
By Jason E. Johnston
On September 4, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs’ Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFED) announced that the next Environmental Modeling Public Meeting (EMPM) will be held on October 16, 2019. The EMPM is a semi-annual public forum for EPA, pesticide registrants, and other stakeholders to discuss current issues related to modeling pesticide fate, transport, and exposure for risk assessments in a regulatory context.
In a press release to the public, EPA indicates that the topics covered at the October meeting will include sources of usage data (relating to the actual application of pesticides, in terms of the quantity applied or units treated); spatial applications of usage data; model parameterization; extrapolation of usage data to fill in gaps; temporal variability of usage; and updates on ongoing topics. Presentations concerning the incorporation of pesticide usage data into environmental exposure and ecological risk assessments will also be included.
Registration is required. Requests to participate in the meeting must be received on or before September 23, 2019, as noted in the Federal Register notice.
By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala
On April 8, 2019, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced 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.
The draft profile includes a chapter on glyphosate’s potential for human exposure, which states the following in the overview:
- “Glyphosate has not been identified in any of the 1,832 hazardous waste sites that have been proposed for inclusion on the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)] National Priorities List (NPL) (ATSDR 2015). However, the number of sites evaluated for glyphosate is not known.”
- “Occupational and residential exposure is a result of glyphosate’s use in agricultural, nonagricultural, industrial, and residential settings. The highest potential for dermal, inhalation, and ocular exposure is expected for pesticide applicators, farm workers, and home gardeners who use herbicides containing glyphosate.”
- “The general population is exposed to glyphosate via ingestion of crops, plants, and foods with residues of this chemical. Residential exposure may occur via inhalation, dermal contact, and/or ocular contact during mixing or application of consumer products containing glyphosate or by coming into contact with crops, soils, or water to which glyphosate-containing products have been applied.”
- “Occupational exposure to glyphosate may occur via inhalation, dermal contact, and/or ocular contact during manufacture, transport, mixing, loading, application, and disposal processes. Accidental oral exposure may occur via unintentional ingestion. Dermal contact appears to be the major route of exposure to glyphosate for individuals involved in its application.”
- “Glyphosate mainly enters the environment as a direct result of its herbicidal use. Fate of this chemical in the environment includes degradation, transport, and partitioning processes, which are governed by its physicochemical properties and by abiotic or biotic degradation under certain environmental conditions. Glyphosate is a nonvolatile, highly polar, non-residual herbicide that has low potential for environmental persistence and is unlikely to bioaccumulate.”
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. Meanwhile, EPA continues its work on the registration review of the herbicide. 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. After the public comment period for the draft human health and ecological risk assessments ended in April 2018, EPA officials have stated they hope to complete the registration review sometime this year.
By Lisa R. Burchi
An ad hoc committee of the National Research Council (NRC) released a report, Review of California's Risk-Assessment Process for Pesticides, following its scientific and technical evaluation of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) risk assessment process for pesticides.
The NRC committee review, which commenced in October 2013, examined documents provided by the California EPA’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) regarding the processes it uses for hazard identification, exposure assessment, dose-response analysis, and risk characterization. The Report discusses the following issues:
■ Setting Priorities Among Pesticides: The NRC committee generally supported DPR’s process under which pesticides are reviewed as candidates for risk assessment, but made recommendations for DPR to: (1) update and provide more details regarding its documentation of the priority setting process; (2) provide more explicit documentation and support for how pesticides are categorized into groups of high, medium, and low priority; and (3) develop a more objective and structured approach for ranking high-priority pesticides.
■ Risk Assessment Methods and Practices: The NRC committee reviewed DPR’s risk assessment guidance documents as well as three recently completed risk assessments for chloropicrin, carbaryl, and methyl iodide. The NRC committee found DPR’s documents to be comprehensive but questioned “whether the extensive effort needed to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment independently of EPA is justified in light of DPR’s resources.” The Committee recommended that DPR: (1) determine whether an independent and comprehensive evaluation of pesticides is required in every case where a risk assessment is performed; (2) incorporate problem formulation and other relevant elements recommended in the 2009 NRC report Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment into its risk assessment process; and (3) update its guidance documents “regularly and perhaps develop additional reference materials to reflect the most current risk-assessment practices.”
■ California Data to Inform Priority-Setting and Risk Assessment: The NRC committee found DPR’s practice of supplementing its exposure assessments with California-specific information to be “among the most valuable contribution to DPR’s risk-assessment process.” The committee suggests expanding DPR’s current Pesticide Use Reporting (PUR) program to include all licensed pesticide applicators and, if resources allow, “PUR data should be reviewed in relation to air-monitoring data and pesticide-illness surveillance data to determine whether any patterns are evident and to judge the accuracy of exposure assumptions or models.” The committee also had recommendations to improve the reporting of pesticide-related illnesses, including, for example, improving the training of physicians and searching electronic health records.