By James V. Aidala, Heather F. Collins, M.S., and Barbara A. Christianson
On August 13, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it appointed two new members, Cheryl A. Murphy, Ph.D., Professor, Director of Center for PFAS Research, Michigan State University, and Veronica J. Berrocal, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Statistics, University of California, to serve on the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA SAP). The Chair and one other existing member also were reappointed. These appointments, effective July 30, 2021, were made by the EPA Administrator following nominations provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Members of the FIFRA SAP serve staggered terms of appointment, generally of three years. They possess expertise in scientific and technical fields relevant to human health and ecological risk assessment of pesticides. Members also have background and experiences that typically contribute to the diversity of scientific viewpoints on the Panel.
The FIFRA SAP serves as a primary scientific peer review mechanism of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs and is structured to provide independent scientific advice and recommendations to EPA on health and safety issues related to pesticides.
The FIFRA SAP is composed of the following scientists:
- Robert E. Chapin, Ph.D., Chair
- Affiliation: Former Senior Research Fellow (Retired), Pfizer Global Research and Development, Groton, Connecticut
- Expertise: In vitro predictive toxicology; pre-conception reproductive toxicology
- Education: Ph.D., Pharmacology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; B.A., Biology, Earlham College
- Veronica, J. Berrocal, Ph.D., Member
- Affiliation: Associate Professor, Department of Statistics, University of California, Irvine, California
- Expertise: Statistics; spatial and spatio-temporal statistics; statistical methods for environmental exposure assessment; spatial and environmental epidemiology
- Education: Ph.D. Statistics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington; M.Sc. Statistics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; Laurea in Mathematics, Universita’ “La Sapienza,” Roma, Italy; and Degree of Etudes Approfondis (DEA) en Mathematiques, Universite’ “Joseph Fourier,” now part of Universite’ Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France
- Jeffrey R. Bloomquist, Ph.D., Member
- Affiliation: Professor of Entomology, Entomology and Nematology Department, Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
- Expertise: Chemistry, human and insect neurophysiology, neurochemistry, insecticide toxicology, mode of action, and resistance; including studies of comparative neurotoxicology and environmental Parkinsonism
- Education: Ph.D. Entomology, University of California, Riverside, California; M.S. Entomology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi; B.S. Entomology, Purdue University, Indiana; and Postdoctoral appointment in Insecticide Toxicology, Cornell University, New York
- Gaylia Jean Harry, Ph.D., Member
- Affiliation: Group Leader, Neurotoxicology Laboratory, National Toxicology Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NTP/NIEHS), Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
- Expertise: Mode of action of environmental agents on the nervous system with focused interest on the developing nervous system, neurotoxicology, neuropathology, behavioral assessments, neuroinflammation, and developmental processes using in vivo and in vitro models
- Education: Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University; M.S. Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University; and B.S. Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
- Cheryl A. Murphy, Ph.D., Member
- Affiliation: Professor, Director of Center for PFAS Research, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
- Expertise: Ecological Toxicology, Adverse Outcome Pathways, Fish Physiology, Behavior
- Education: Ph.D. Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; M.S. Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta; and BSc (Honors) Marine Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia
- Rebecca L Smith, D.V.M., Ph.D., Member
- Affiliation: Assistant Professor, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
- Expertise: Epidemiologic research on longitudinal data analysis and mathematical modeling of diseases for purposes of prediction and control, with a focus on One Health
- Education: Ph.D. Epidemiology, Cornell University; M.S. Biosecurity and Risk Analysis, Kansas State University. D.V.M. Cornell University; B.A. Biology, Gustavus Adolphus College
- Clifford P. Weisel, Ph.D., Member
- Affiliation: Professor, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey
- Expertise: Exposures to chemical agents; multi-route exposures to environmental contaminants; the association between exposure and adverse health effects; utilization of sensors for continuous exposure measurement; and development and application of biomarkers of exposure
- Education: Ph.D. Chemical Oceanography, University of Rhode Island; M.S. Analytical Chemical, University of Rhode Island; and B.S. Chemistry, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Additional biographical details on the current members is available here.
The FIFRA SAP has been an important element of EPA’s pesticide program scientific review procedures. The pesticide program has been able to use the FIFRA SAP as an outside review element to add credibility to its key scientific policies over the decades since it was created as part of the FIFRA legislative amendments in the 1970s. (In fact, the FIFRA SAP was created before the EPA-wide Science Advisory Board (SAB).) Also important is the statutory provision, added as part of the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996, to establish a Science Review Board made up of 60 scientists “who shall be available to the Scientific Advisory Panel to assist in reviews conducted by the Panel.” Together, the goal is to have a range of scientific discipline expertise available to offer outside peer review of the wide range of science questions that confront EPA when evaluating pesticide registration issues.
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.
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 Jason E. Johnston
On August 13, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing a four-day meeting of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) will be held November 19-22, 2019. The meeting location will be announced in the future on the FIFRA SAP website. The title of the SAP meeting is “Approaches for Quantitative Use of Surface Water Monitoring Data in Pesticide Drinking Water Assessments.” Pesticide registrants have long advocated for the opportunity to use monitoring data in drinking water assessments in place of estimates generated using current modeling approaches. It is expected that EPA will present work that the Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFED) has completed to permit use of surface water monitoring data.
The Federal Register Notice also requests nominations for ad hoc reviewers with particular expertise related to the particular issues to be addressed by this panel. Nominations are to be submitted on or before September 12, 2019.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
EPA’s Federal Register notice announcing the meeting states that the meeting will be augmented with additional experts to provide independent scientific advice on the proposed guidelines. Preceding the in-person meeting, there will be a public half-day preparatory virtual meeting to consider the scope and clarity of the draft charge questions for this peer review. The in-person meeting on June 11-14, 2019, will be held at the EPA Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Building), 2777 South Crystal Drive in Arlington, Virginia. The meeting will also be available via webcast.
EPA’s original Product Performance Test Guidelines, OPPTS 810.3300, Treatments to Control Pests of Humans and Pets were published in March 1998. EPA’s Charge Questions state that “[t]o increase clarity and consistency in efficacy testing and to include current scientific standards, the agency is revising this product performance guideline.” Further, the proposed guidelines apply to products “in any topically applied formulation, such as a spray, spot-on, collar, shampoo, or dust, if intended to be directly applied to pets for a pesticidal purpose such as to kill, repel, or control ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and biting flies”; do not apply “to those products exempt from FIFRA Registration under 40 CFR 152.25, products applied to humans or livestock, or product performance testing described in other agency guidelines”; and, in addition to guidance for testing efficacy against fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and biting flies, the proposed guideline “also includes testing methods for evaluating efficacy under simulated environmental conditions.”
EPA believes the current Draft Guidelines represent the state of the science with regard to efficacy testing for these products; but is still seeking advice and recommendations from the FIFRA SAP on scientific issues related to the Draft Guidelines. EPA states that it is committed to reducing the use of animals in testing but, at this time, no reliable non-animal alternatives are available to avoid the use of animals for efficacy testing of fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and biting flies. EPA is soliciting comment from the FIFRA SAP on approaches that may, in the future, support the replacement or reduction of animal use in efficacy testing of ectoparasitic pests on pets.
Information on attending the meeting in person and via webcast can be found on the FIFRA SAP website. EPA is requesting that written comments on the documents undergoing peer review be submitted to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0161 by May 17, 2019, to provide the FIFRA SAP the time necessary to consider and review the written comments.
By James V. Aidala and Margaret R. Graham
On September 28, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was accepting public nominations of scientific experts to be considered for ad hoc participation on the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) through membership on the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) Science Review Board (SRB). 83 Fed. Reg. 49091. EPA states that “all nominees will be considered for ad hoc participation providing independent scientific advice to the EPA on health and safety issues related to pesticides” and requests that any individuals nominated have expertise in one or more of the following areas: biochemistry; chemistry; epidemiology; human health risk assessment; pathology; physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling; aquatic modeling; pharmacology; ecological risk assessment; environmental exposure and fate; environmental toxicology; occupational, consumer, and general exposure assessment; toxicology; dose response modeling; environmental engineering; statistics; water quality monitoring; hydrologist; Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist; computational toxicology; entomology; veterinary entomology; medical entomology, insect ecology, allergenicity, research veterinarian; inhalation toxicology; volatile organics; endocrinology, alternative testing methods, high throughput testing approaches, adverse outcome pathways, cross species extrapolation, and systematic review. The Designated Federal Officer’s to whom nominations should be provided is listed in the Federal Register notice. Nominations are due by November 13, 2018.
FPQA added this SRB to the previous authorization for the SAP to recognize the expanding universe of scientific questions which often underlie issues surrounding pesticide registration. The FQPA amendment simply adds that “60 scientists who shall be available to the SAP” without specifying any particular disciplines or skills which might be useful to assist with the deliberations and review by the SAP. This was intended to continually allow EPA to adapt to changing or evolving scientific questions without constantly tinkering with the membership of the SAP itself. At the same time, it allows these ad hoc members to be recognized for their contributions and to be compensated in the same manner as SAP members.
By Lara A. Hall, MS, RQAP-GLP and Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On September 13, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued three supporting documents for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting regarding the “Continuing Development of Alternative High-Throughput Screens to Determine Endocrine Disruption, Focusing on Androgen Receptor, Steroidogenesis, and Thyroid Pathways.” This FIFRA SAP meeting will be held on November 28-30, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST) at the EPA Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Bldg.), 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202.
The supporting documents include:
Written comments will be accepted on or before October 16, 2017. Comments may be submitted online via Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0214-0001, mail, or hand delivery.
Updated details regarding other comment periods for the FIFRA SAP are provided below:
A listing of ad hoc panel members, including their biographical sketches, was posted online on August 22, 2017. The public comment period for the proposed panel members closed on September 7, 2017.
The original Federal Register notice announcing the meeting was published on June 6, 2017.
This important meeting, and materials issued in connection with it, will have potentially significant consequences for registrants. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide additional updates as they become available. More information on EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) as well as the FIFRA SAP are available on our blog under key terms EDSP and FIFRA SAP.
By Lara A. Hall
On August 3, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice announcing revised comment period dates for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA SAP) meeting regarding the “Continuing Development of Alternative High-Throughput Screens to Determine Endocrine Disruption, Focusing on Androgen Receptor, Steroidogenesis, and Thyroid Pathways.” This SAP meeting will be held on November 28-30, 2017, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (EST) at the EPA Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Bldg.), 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202. Updated details regarding commenting periods are provided below:
- Supporting documents for the FIFRA SAP meeting will be posted online on or before September 1, 2017. Written comments will be accepted on or before October 16, 2017.
The original Federal Register notice announcing the meeting was published on June 6, 2017.
This important meeting, and materials issued in connection with it, will have potentially significant consequences for registrants and should be monitored closely.
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.
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, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Lisa R. Burchi
On August 12, 2016, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order denying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) request for an additional six months to decide whether to ban agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos. The court opted instead to afford EPA a three month extension, stating that “this is the final extension, and the court will not grant any further extensions."
EPA sought the six month extension on June 29, 2016, to allow time for EPA to complete two scientific analyses that may bear on EPA’s conclusions in the final rule, and to request further public comment before taking final action on a prior proposal to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances. The two analyses that EPA wanted to complete are: (1) a refined drinking water assessment that may allow EPA “to develop more tailored risk mitigation for some regions of the country,” and (2) an evaluation of the epidemiological data for chlorpyrifos to determine whether EPA should retain the point of departure based on acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition in the proposed rule.
The court concluded that EPA’s request for a six month extension “is not justified in light of EPA’s history in this matter as well as the court’s previous extensions.” The court stated that EPA’s request was "another variation on a theme 'of partial reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action' that has been repeated for the past nine years,” and that “nothing has changed that would justify EPA’s continued failure to respond to the pressing health concerns presented by chlorpyrifos."
The court ordered EPA to take final action on its proposal to revoke tolerances for chlorpyrifos by March 31, 2017. A further status report by EPA will be due in November 2016.
EPA’s updated analysis of the epidemiological data for chlorpyrifos will be a matter of considerable interest. After EPA issued a proposed rule utilizing a point of departure for chlorpyrifos based on AChE inhibition, EPA issued a blanket determination based on the epidemiological data for chlorpyrifos in which EPA decided to retain the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) safety factor for all organophosphate (OP) pesticides. This FQPA determination could cause EPA to conclude that the tolerances for chlorpyrifos must be revoked regardless of the outcome of the refined drinking water assessment.
EPA later proposed to use an alternative point of departure for chlorpyrifos based on biomonitoring data from one of the chlorpyrifos epidemiology studies, but the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) met on April 19-21, 2016, and recommended against this new approach. In its request for an extension, EPA stated that the FIFRA SAP might recommend a “hybrid approach” to adjusting the point of departure for AChE inhibition. The FIFRA SAP meeting minutes do not appear to include such a hybrid recommendation.
In a related development, EPA has reached an agreement with the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) regarding the release of raw data from one of the chlorpyrifos epidemiology studies. During the FIFRA SAP meeting, concerns were raised regarding use of the CCCEH study without access to the underlying raw data. In an April 19, 2016, letter to Dr. Linda P. Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, EPA requested that CCCEH provide access to the underlying data. In her response dated May 18, 2016, Dr. Fried offered to work with EPA “to determine if we can develop one or more data sets that can be properly de-identified, consistent with our obligation to protect the privacy of our research subjects, and that will also enable EPA to conduct its own analyses in order to address its transparency goals” or, in the alternative, offered to allow EPA staff to review the original data “in a secure data enclave onsite at Columbia.” In its June 27, 2016, response, EPA stated that the offer to allow EPA staff to review the underlying data at a secure site did not resolve issues concerning the transparency of EPA’s analysis. This correspondence is available in EPA Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850. While EPA maintained it is “unnecessary” for CCCEH and EPA to develop redacted data sets, EPA accepted CCCEH’s offer to develop such data sets.
EPA’s request for a six month extension was filed on June 29, 2016, two days after it accepted the offer by CCCEH to develop redacted data sets for the CCCEH epidemiology study. Moreover, the FIFRA SAP meeting minutes issued on July 20, 2016, do not appear to provide the guidance that EPA had expected concerning a potential “hybrid” approach to adjusting EPA’s proposed point of departure for AChE inhibition.
Given the lesser extension granted by the court, it is questionable whether EPA will have sufficient time to review adequately the redacted underlying data sets offered by CCCEH, or even to determine whether those redacted data sets are adequate for this review, and to make any determination based on such data before EPA issues a supplementary proposal based on the refined drinking water assessment and the updated epidemiology assessment. The court has stated that it will entertain no further extension requests, so EPA must complete its work expeditiously to allow time for comment before final action is due on March 31, 2017.
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.
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.