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Azinphos-Methyl Phase-out

Current as of November 2012

Azinphos-methyl (AZM) is an organophosphate (OP) pesticide that poses health risks to farm workers, pesticide applicators, and aquatic ecosystems. Because of these risk concerns, EPA is phasing out and cancelling the remaining crop uses. Effective alternatives are now available to growers for use on apples and other crops. The AZM phase-out represents a significant increase in protections for agricultural workers and the environment.

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AZM Final Risk-Benefit Analysis

On August 29, 2012, after considering comments from growers and other stakeholders, EPA completed a final risk-benefit analysis for the remaining uses of AZM. The agency decided to maintain the September 30, 2012, effective date for cancellation of the remaining uses of AZM, on apples, blueberries, sweet and tart cherries, parsley, and pears. (See OPP Update and more on EPA’s final risk-benefit analysis).

Due to unusual weather conditions in 2012 that prevented certain crops from developing, many growers were left with unused stocks of AZM. EPA modified the cancellation order to allow growers to use only existing stocks of AZM in their possession for another year, through September 30, 2013. All the required mitigation measures now reflected on AZM labeling will remain in effect during this use. Distribution or sale of AZM after September 30, 2012, remains prohibited. This decision will not result in greater use of AZM than originally anticipated, and provides a safer alternative to disposal arrangements.

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AZM Phase-out Decision

First registered in 1959, AZM has been used to control insect pests on a wide variety of agricultural crops and on ornamentals, tobacco, and trees. In the late 1990s, EPA began reevaluating AZM with the full involvement of a wide range of stakeholders. In 2001, certain uses were immediately canceled or phased out over a four-year period because of concerns regarding worker health and negative ecological impacts.

On November 16, 2006, EPA announced a final decision to phase out the remaining ten AZM uses in three phases, with the last uses ending September 30, 2012. EPA's February 20, 2008, product cancellation order confirmed and finalized that decision. This phase-out helped facilitate the transition to safer alternatives, and includes mitigation measures such as reduced application rates and buffer zones around water bodies and occupied dwellings.

The timetable for the phase-out, as modified by the Agency’s August 29, 2012 decision, is as follows:

As of September 30, 2008, use of AZM on the following crops was prohibited:

As of October 30, 2009, AZM use on the following crops was prohibited:

After September 30, 2012, distribution and sale of AZM will be prohibited.

After September 30, 2013, use of existing stocks of AZM on the last remaining crops will be prohibited:

All other uses of AZM have been voluntarily cancelled by the manufacturer.

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Mitigation Measures during Phase-out

During the AZM phase-out, several risk mitigation measures are being implemented or strengthened, including:

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Transition to Alternatives

The Agency expects growers of the crop uses of AZM being phased out to successfully transition to the available safer alternative pesticides. To facilitate this transition, growers, registrants and other stakeholders met periodically during the phase-out to discuss transition issues including the availability of alternatives, as well as newer pesticides in the pipeline to replace AZM. Co-sponsored by EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), an AZM Transition Issues Workgroup met under the auspices of EPA's Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee.

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Risks of Concern

AZM poses risks to agricultural workers, water quality, and aquatic ecosystems. There are no residential uses and no dietary risks of concern. Since there are no dietary risk concerns for AZM, no tolerances are affected by this action.

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Reasons for a Six-Year Phase-out for Some AZM Uses, and Final Risk-Benefit Decision

In the 2006 AZM phase-out decision, EPA determined that there were high worker and ecological risks that warranted cancellation. In light of high near-term benefits to growers, the agency decided to allow a 6-year phase-out of AZM, provided certain risk mitigation provisions were implemented during the phase-out period to reduce risks to workers and the environment. EPA concluded that high near-term benefits existed because many key alternatives to AZM lacked maximum residue limits (MRLs) that would have allowed export of treated crops to certain important export markets. EPA also determined that growers needed time to transition to effective strategies for applying the alternatives. Even with mitigation, EPA determined that AZM risks were above the agency’s levels-of-concern for workers and non-target wildlife. In the longer term, these risks called for cancellation of the remaining uses of AZM given that benefits, while still significant, were likely to decline over the phase-out period as MRLs were established for many newer alternatives.

In assessing AZM’s risks and benefits in 2012, EPA reviewed new information received since the 2006 decision to determine whether anything had changed from the previous risk-benefit analysis. During the six-year phase-out, EPA received no new information that would significantly change our worker and ecological risk concerns, even with the mitigation required by the 2006 decision. As explained in EPA’s June 2012 crop-by-crop analysis document, the benefits picture is not meaningfully different from that predicted in 2006. As EPA predicted, the 6-year phase-out allowed for the establishment of MRLs in key export markets for many efficacious alternatives. While the absence of AZM would still result in increased net costs to growers because of the higher price of alternative insecticides, these increased costs are largely similar to those predicted by EPA in reaching the phase-out decision in 2006. EPA reviewed comments received on the crop-by-crop assessment and does not believe the comments support a change of the agency’s analysis. EPA concluded that the risk-benefit picture in 2012 is consistent with the agency’s November 2006 decision that supported the phase-out of all AZM uses.

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AZM Decision Documents

The final AZM decision documents and supporting materials are available electronically at Regulations.gov in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0061 and docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0365. See also the azinphos-methyl page in Chemical Search.

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