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EPA Acts to Reduce Children’s Exposures to Two Older, Widely Used Pesticides

Release Date: 08/02/99
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For Release: Monday, August 2, 1999

EPA Acts to Reduce Children’s Exposures to Two Older, Widely Used Pesticides

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today cancellation agreements and risk reduction strategies to increase protections for American families and their children from risks posed by two of the oldest, most widely used chemical compounds that remain in use as pesticides today. EPA is eliminating specific uses of methyl parathion, and significantly lowering allowable residues for azinphos methyl on a wide variety of produce, including several fruits and vegetables regularly eaten by children.
EPA today also laid out a rigorous 18-month schedule for completing its review of all the “organophosphates,” a group of 39 older, common pesticides, which include methyl parathion and azinphos methyl. In addition to the organophosphates, the Agency has targeted several other older, widely used pesticides for priority review within the next year and a half, including the pesticides atrazine, aldicarb and carbofuran, among others.

“Our nation enjoys the safest, most abundant food supply in the world,” said EPA Administrator Carol Browner. “I want to emphasize that for children and adults alike, the benefits of a diet that includes fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks of pesticides.

“Nonetheless, as our scientific understanding of the health risks and environmental effects of pesticides improves, it is becoming increasingly clear that foods can be made even safer, especially for children. Our actions today will protect children from the adverse effects of exposure to pesticides commonly used on foods. The Agency also is on schedule to meet all deadlines for ensuring safer pesticide use under the new Food Quality Protection Act.”

EPA’s actions are being taken after an extensive scientific review of the risks posed by these chemicals. EPA has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the agricultural community to ensure that our decisions will not disrupt the growing and marketing plans of farmers. As adjustments are made to reduce pesticide risk, EPA and USDA also are working together to ensure that farmers will have alternative pest management tools and substitutes.

The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which was passed unanimously by Congress under the leadership of the Clinton Administration and based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, provides the public, especially children, with unprecedented protection from the risks of pesticide exposure. Under the Act, which the President signed in 1996, EPA is to apply, for the first time, a comprehensive set of new, more protective health-based standards. These standards incorporate the most current scientific knowledge available on pesticide risks, and include an additional 10-fold safety factor to address the special risks of children’s exposures to pesticides.

The reductions EPA is making today will address the unique risks children face when exposed to pesticides. For example, it is known that some pesticides pose a greater risk to infants and children because their bodies and internal organs are still developing, which makes them much more susceptible to the effects of pesticides. Children also ingest greater quantities of food and drink relative to their body weight, as compared to adults, which increases their exposure to pesticides.

Based on its concerns, EPA is today eliminating the continued use of methyl parathion –one of the more potent organophosphates – on apples, peaches, pears, grapes, nectarines, cherries, plums, carrots, certain peas, certain beans, and tomatoes, among other fruits and vegetables. For azinphos methyl, also considered to be a pesticide of concern, the Agency is reducing application rates and requiring practices that will result in significant reductions in allowable residues on apples, pears and peaches.

The major manufacturers to enter into these agreements are, for methyl parathion, Cheminova Inc., Wayne, N.J., and Elf Atochem North America Inc., Philadelphia, Pa. For azinphos methyl, the two primary manufacturers are Bayer Corp., Kansas City, Mo., and Makhteshim-Agan, Beer-Sheva, Israel.

In addition to significantly reducing the use of methyl parathion and azinphos methyl on foods popular among children, EPA has taken a number of additional measures to reduce pesticide risks, as called for by FQPA, including:

— completion of a review of one-third of all allowable pesticide residue levels on food by the August 3 deadline, as called for by FQPA;

— requiring hundreds of new studies on neurological and developmental effects of pesticides that will enhance EPA’s ability to evaluate pesticides more protectively than ever before;

— new requirements that will provide farm workers with significantly greater protections;

— registration of 47 new, safer pesticides that can serve as lower-risk alternatives to more toxic pesticides, such as the organophosphates;

— EPA is also challenging manufacturers of pesticides to come forward with voluntary risk reduction measures similar to the requirements announced today.

By the end of next year, EPA is scheduled to complete its reassessment of the organophosphates and several other older, more commonly used pesticides, and to meet the FQPA’s food safety goals. A schedule outlining the review of the organophosphates, and a progress report on FQPA is available at:

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