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

In September 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) plans to convene a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting to discuss New Approach Methodologies (NAM) for organophosphate (OP) pesticides.  EPA states that these NAMs could reduce reliance on default uncertainty factors for human health risk assessment and also reduce animal testing.

Under Administrator Wheeler’s directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing, EPA is developing NAMs based on in vitro techniques and computational approaches that will also provide the opportunity to incorporate information relevant to humans.  OPP states that it is evaluating use of “in vitro data for 16 organophosphate compounds to reduce potentially reliance on default risk assessment uncertainty factors in favor of more refined data-derived factors.”  Human health risk assessment for OP pesticides has recently been focused primarily on potential developmental neurotoxicity, and the Office of Research and Development (ORD) has been working to develop a NAM to evaluate developmental neurotoxicity.  Initial analyses of data derived from neuron cell models have been completed for specific OP pesticides as a case study and, when possible, compared to in vivo results (an in vitro to in vivo extrapolation).

This case study of a NAM for developmental neurotoxicity using OP pesticides will be presented to the FIFRA SAP at the September meeting for its consideration and advice.  EPA will request external review and public comment on this research before implementing NAMs in human health risk assessments.  Additional details, including dates, times and agenda, will be forthcoming at www.epa.gov/sap.

Commentary

EPA has for some time had a general policy that it will try to develop and to implement alternatives to in vivo animal testing.  These alternatives to animal testing are typically based on new in vitro assays and modeling methodologies.  It is interesting that OPP has selected an in vitro NAM to assess developmental neurotoxicity of OP pesticides as a case study, given the controversy surrounding EPA’s use of the default Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) uncertainty factor for all OP pesticides, which was based primarily on epidemiology data that EPA claimed may suggest a link between chlorpyrifos exposure and developmental neurotoxicity.  Prior to this determination, human health risk assessment for OP pesticides was generally based on expert judgments by EPA that neurotoxicity would not be expected below the established threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition, and that infants and children are not likely to be more sensitive to neurotoxic effects than adults.  OPP adopted the FQPA determination for all OP pesticides even though it could not determine or propose a mechanism for the presumed developmental neurotoxicity of chlorpyrifos below the threshold for AChE inhibition, or evaluate whether other OP pesticides might share a similar mechanism.  Since the 2015 release of the Literature Review, additional epidemiology studies have become available and a number of concerns regarding the reliability of the epidemiology data have been raised.  EPA has also expressed concerns with the availability and reliability of the epidemiology studies.  These developments bring into question the accuracy and reliability of the Literature Review.

In its announcement, OPP states that the new NAM is intended “to reduce potentially reliance on default risk assessment uncertainty factors,” although it does not state which uncertainty factors may be supplanted or modified.  Standard uncertainty factors which may be implicated include the factor for extrapolating from animal data to human effects (“interspecies variation”), the factor for human variability (“intraspecies variation”), and the default uncertainty factor for potential increased sensitivity of infants and children (“FQPA uncertainty factor”).  The issues may spark additional controversy.  Additionally, even if OPP and the FIFRA SAP conclude that the proposed NAM for developmental neurotoxicity is a viable approach to human health risk assessment for OP pesticides, there are likely to be many related policy issues.  For example, it is unclear whether OPP would be sufficiently confident in the reliability of such an assay to propose cancellation or suspension of affected pesticide products based on a resultant human health risk assessment.


 

By Lara A. Hall, MS, RQAP-GLP and Barbara A. Christianson

On December 17, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host its first annual conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss alternative test methods and strategies to reduce animal testing.  EPA states that its conference “will bring together some of the leading voices in environmental and health research to discuss efforts to reduce testing on mammals.”  The conference will focus on the New Approach Methods (NAM), which include “any technologies, methodologies, approaches or combinations thereof that can be used to provide information on chemical hazard and potential human exposure that can avoid or significantly reduce the use of testing on animals,” and will have U.S. and international scientific experts present information on advancements in the field.  On-site participants attending the conference will have an opportunity to exchange information about scientific advancements in the NAMs field to develop a better understanding of the state of the science, discuss approaches for developing scientific confidence in using alternatives, and summarize existing studies characterizing the uncertainties in results from animal testing.

This conference is part of Administrator Wheeler’s “Directive to Prioritize Efforts to Reduce Animal Testing,” issued on September 10, 2019, which outlines EPA’s pursuit to aggressively reduce animal testing.  In his directive, Administrator Wheeler calls for EPA to reduce its requests for, and funding of, mammalian studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate all mammalian study requests and funding by 2035.  Any mammalian studies requested or funded by EPA after 2035 will require Administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.  The directive also supports scientific advancements that allow scientists to predict potential hazards for risk assessments without using traditional animal testing methods.

Information on how to register to participate in the conference by webinar is available here.


 

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

On August 2, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced that it has decided to reduce the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) safety factor for infants and children for pyrethroids from its current value of 3X to a new value of 1X.  This decision is based on a July 1, 2019, OPP report entitled “USEPA Office of Pesticide Programs’ Re-evaluation of the FQPA Safety Factor for Pyrethroids: Updated Literature and CAPHRA Program Data Review.”  Risk assessments incorporating the new lower FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids will be utilized in developing proposed registration review decisions for these compounds, and EPA has stated it will be taking public comment on the OPP report reducing the FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids after EPA publishes a notice of availability for the proposed registration review decisions.

Pyrethroids are a group of insecticides that includes natural pyrethrins (found in chrysanthemums) and more than 30 synthetic compounds with similar structure and activity. EPA has determined that it is appropriate to establish one FQPA safety factor for all pyrethroid active ingredients because these compounds all have the same mode of action and similar patterns of toxicity.  Pyrethroid insecticides are widely used in and around residential structures, on pets, in treated clothing, for mosquito control, and in various agricultural applications.  EPA indicates that although pyrethroids have relatively low mammalian toxicity, EPA believes that the principal concern for human risk assessment is a potential to cause acute neurotoxic effects.

The FQPA safety factor is intended to account for “potential pre- and post-natal toxicity and completeness of data with respect to exposure and toxicity to infants and children.”  The FQPA safety factor is set by statute at a default value of 10X, but EPA may select a lower value for this safety factor if EPA determines based on “reliable data” that such a lower value will be safe for infants and children.  This determination necessarily depends on EPA’s assessment of the quality of the data that address the susceptibility to adverse effects of the pesticide of infants and children.  Based on current EPA guidance, OPP evaluates the need for the default FQPA safety factor of 10X in two components: a safety factor of about 3X assigned to pharmacodynamic (PD) differences and a safety factor of about 3X assigned to pharmacokinetic (PK) differences.  PD differences refer to the sequence of events at the molecular or cellular level leading to a toxic response to a substance, while PK differences refer to absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of the substance.

EPA previously evaluated the adequacy of the database concerning risks to infants and children posed by pyrethroid active ingredients in 2011.  At that time, EPA decided that there were sufficient data concerning the mechanism for potential neurotoxic effects of pyrethroids to allow EPA to reduce the factor for PD differences to 1X, but EPA retained the 3X factor for PK differences because EPA believed that the available pharmacokinetic data for pyrethroids was not sufficient for EPA to conclude that infants and children would not confront a greater risk of neurotoxic outcomes.  After EPA made the 2011 determinations, the Council for the Advancement of Pyrethroid Human Risk Assessment (CAPHRA) conducted a variety of additional research to address whether children are more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of pyrethroid exposure, and this research assessed both PD and PK differences.  CAPHRA submitted a peer-reviewed physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PbPk) model for pyrethroids to EPA in 2018.  After reviewing the new CAPHRA data and the current public literature for pyrethroids, EPA has now concluded that the factor for PD differences should be maintained at 1X, but the factor for PK differences should be reduced from 3X to 1X.  Collectively, these determinations mean that EPA has concluded that there are reliable data to support a determination that infants and children are not more susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of pyrethroids than adults, so there is no need to retain either the default FQPA safety factor of 10X or the previous FQPA safety factor used for pyrethroids of 3X.

Commentary

The adoption by EPA of a new FQPA safety factor of 1X for all pyrethroid active ingredients will likely facilitate retention of existing use patterns and use directions for a large number of pyrethroid insecticides that are commonly used in and around human residences and workplaces.

From a larger perspective, the process by which EPA evaluated and selected a proposed FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids may be seen as typical for most pesticides or classes of pesticides.  The selection of a FQPA safety factor for a particular pesticide usually is based on review of available animal data, including PD and PK data, to determine whether there is any basis for concluding that infants and children may be more susceptible to adverse effects of that pesticide than adults.  Where EPA decides that the animal data addressing this question are insufficient, affected registrants and other proponents of registration can consult with EPA concerning studies that will address the uncertainties.  Depending on the outcome of such studies, EPA may be able to conclude that there is a scientific basis for a partial or complete reduction of the default FQPA safety factor.

Compared to this typical evaluation process, the recent decision by EPA to retain the default FQPA safety factor for all organophosphate (OP) active ingredients, which was based on EPA’s interpretation of neurodevelopmental effects reported at low exposure levels (below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase inhibition) in epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos, may be seen as an aberration.  EPA’s decision to rely on epidemiology studies that may be susceptible to methodological biases, and the decision to utilize epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos to set the FQPA safety factors for all OP pesticides, have both been controversial.

EPA’s recent decision to retain the current tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos was based in significant part on EPA’s interpretation of a PbPk model for chlorpyrifos previously submitted by DowAgro (now Corteva), which mitigated to some degree EPA’s retention of the default FQPA safety factor for chlorpyrifos.  Corteva may submit further data addressing PD and PK differences for chlorpyrifos, and EPA has also stated that it intends to review some new animal studies for chlopyrifos, which purport to show neurodevelopmental effects at low exposure levels.  Perhaps these data will allow EPA to establish a point of departure (POD) for chlorpyrifos risk assessment without any need for a further excursion into the unfamiliar risk assessment territory represented by EPA’s use of epidemiology data for chlorpyrifos.