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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On May 30, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit responded to two petitions for review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) conditional registration of a nanosilver pesticide product and vacated the conditional registration.  NRDC v. EPA, No. 15-72308.  The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as well as the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) filed petitions in 2015 asking the court to set aside EPA’s final order granting a conditional registration for a nanosilver-containing antimicrobial pesticide product named NSPW-L30SS (NSPW).  The court vacated the conditional registration because, according to the court, “EPA failed to support its finding that NSPW is in the public interest.” 

When EPA granted the conditional registration, EPA did so on the basis that NSPW had a lower application rate and a lower mobility rate when compared to conventional-silver pesticides, and thus had the potential to reduce environmental loading and risk caused by silver release.  Petitioners disputed these facts.  While the court found that substantial evidence supports EPA’s findings that NSPW has lower application and mobility rates, the court agreed that the third premise, that current users of conventional-silver pesticides will switch to NSPW and/or that NSPW will not be incorporated into new products, “impermissibly relies on unsubstantiated assumptions.”  According to the court, EPA cites no evidence in the record to support its assumption that current users of conventional-silver pesticides will switch to NSPW (“the substitution assumption”), but contends that it will occur as a “logical matter.”  The court states that the lack of evidence supporting the substitution assumption is problematic in light of EPA’s other unsupported assumption, that there will be no new products.  The court notes that EPA assumes current users of conventional-silver pesticides will switch to NSPW because of its benefits, but that these same benefits will not prompt manufacturers to incorporate NSPW into new products.  EPA could have proved these assumptions, but without evidence in the record to support the assumptions, the court states that it “cannot find that the EPA’s public-interest finding is supported by substantial evidence as required by [the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)].”  According to the court, the public interest finding is an “essential prerequisite to conditional registration,” and EPA failed to support that finding for NSPW with substantial evidence.  The court vacated the conditional registration in whole, and did not consider the remaining issues raised by petitioners. 

More information will be available in Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s memorandum Appellate Court Vacates Conditional Nanosilver Registration.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

 

On May 19, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it issued a conditional registration for a nanosilver-containing antimicrobial pesticide product named “NSPW-L30SS,” or “Nanosilva.”  This is the second nanosilver registration issued by EPA and reflects the Agency’s growing expertise in addressing, processing, and approving nanopesticide registration applications.  According to EPA, the product will be used as a non-food-contact preservative to protect plastics and textiles from odor- and stain-causing bacteria, fungi, mold, and mildew.  Items to be treated include household items, electronics, sports gear, hospital equipment, bathroom fixtures, and accessories. EPA based its decision “on its evaluation of the hazard of nanosilver after reviewing exposure data and other information on nanosilver from the applicant, as well as data from the scientific literature.”  EPA states that these data show that treated plastics and textiles release “exceedingly small amounts of silver.”  Based on this evaluation, EPA “determined that NSPW-L30SS will not cause unreasonable adverse effects on people, including children, or the environment and that it would be beneficial because it will introduce less silver into the environment than competing products.”  EPA notes that it is requiring the company “to generate additional data to refine the Agency’s exposure estimates.”  According to EPA, it will post a response to comments received on its 2013 proposed registration decision document, as well as the current decision document, in the rulemaking docket.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

Almost seven years ago, the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) filed a petition for rulemaking requesting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate products containing nanosilver as pesticides and for related other forms of relief. On March 19, 2015, EPA responded to the petition. In general, the response does not alter EPA’s legal position with regard to nanosilver and its regulation under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), or otherwise contribute any new interpretations of existing EPA pesticide registration or enforcement policy.

Briefly, the key decisions articulated in EPA’s response to the petition are:

* EPA will treat products containing nanosilver as pesticides under FIFRA if intended for pesticidal purposes, even in the absence of explicit pesticidal claims.

* EPA rejected ICTA’s claim that all products containing nanosilver are categorically pesticides and should be regulated as such.

* EPA will continue to apply its statutory and regulatory criteria as to what is a pesticide on a case-by-case basis. The determination “would be fact specific, typically based upon information on the use patterns intended, the claims or other advertising used to distribute or sell the ingredient or product, and any other information or knowledge made known to or known by the distributor or seller.”

* Importantly, EPA disagrees with ICTA’s claim that the treated article exemption should not apply to any nanosilver pesticide product because nanosilver specifically is not the registered pesticide active ingredient. According to EPA, application of the treated article exemption is available if a registered pesticide product is used, consistent with any terms and conditions of use of the registered product.

* EPA granted ICTA’s request to review the health and safety impacts from use of a nanosilver ingredient in a pesticide product based on nanosilver data for the portion released as nanosilver and based on macro-scaled silver for the portion released as silver ions, and agrees that FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C) is the appropriate authority for review of applications for registration of products containing nanosilver ingredients.

* EPA rejected ICTA’s claim that EPA must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to assess the environmental impacts of EPA’s decision regarding nanopesticides, citing EPA’s well-settled view that it is exempt from NEPA requirements under FIFRA under Merrell v. Thomas, 807 F.2d 776 (9th Cir. 1986).

* EPA denied ICTA’s request to use a particular enforcement strategy to address unregistered pesticides sold or distributed in the U.S., believing that EPA lacks a factual basis to conclude that all nanosilver products are pesticides and thus does not have the legal basis upon which to conclude that all products are illegally sold or distributed.
 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Timothy D. Backstrom

On December 16, 2014, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and its affiliate the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), along with a coalition of other non-governmental organizations, brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit concerns a May 1, 2008, petition by these organizations requesting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) take regulatory action concerning nanoscale silver (nanosilver) products, including classifying nanosilver as a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Since receiving the CFS/ICTA petition, EPA has taken a number of incremental steps to regulate nanosilver. After inviting comment concerning the petition, EPA referred scientific issues concerning risks from and exposure to nanosilver to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), announced that it would treat nanoscale pesticides (including nanosilver) as a separate pesticidal active ingredient, established new registration requirements for several specific nanosilver products, and initiated the registration review process for registered nanosilver products.

Notwithstanding these actions, EPA has not formally responded to the 2008 CFS/ICTA petition, and the petitioners have characterized the steps taken by EPA to date as “toothless.” Rather than contesting the suit, EPA may seek an agreement requiring EPA to respond formally to the petition by a specified date. Perhaps EPA will characterize the regulatory actions taken to date as a partial grant of the petition. On the other hand, many of the nearly 400 nanosilver products that CFS/ICTA claim EPA should regulate under FIFRA have no pesticidal claims or purpose or are being sold and distributed outside of the U.S. With respect to these products, EPA will likely respond that it has no authority to provide the relief sought by the petitioners.