The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there are no risks to humans from exposure to the common insecticide chlorpyrifos from food, but the agency has nonetheless asked for public comment on a proposal to revoke all food residue tolerances for the insecticide, which is mostly used on fruits, vegetable and nut crops. The proposed ban will not affect the 2016 growing season. Chlorpyrifos_406x250EPA acted by an Oct. 31 deadline imposed by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the agency to respond to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America over chlorpyrifos in drinking water. EPA wanted to conduct more analysis, but the San Francisco-based appeals court said that the agency either had to deny the petition, start the revocation process, or go with a final revocation rule. EPA kicked off the 60-day public comment period to revoke the insecticide’s use not because of the risk to food but over concern that its use in certain watersheds could pose a risk from “potential aggregate exposure.” And because the agency was unable to make a safety finding based on “the science as it stands currently,” it did not deny the petition from the environmental groups. “EPA is not issuing a final revocation rule because we have not proposed it and have not completed our refined drinking water assessment, leaving certain science issues unresolved,” the agency said in a statement. “Therefore, as we are informing the court, we have proposed to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances based on the science as it stands. Issuing a proposed revocation provides an opportunity for public input prior to any final decision.” Members of the public have been invited to comment until the end of the year on both a completed hazard assessment and the completed drinking water analysis prior to EPA issuing a final rule. The agency is currently performing additional analysis related to its hazard assessment in order to make certain that any final decision protects infants and children. Once completed, if warranted, the analysis would inform a final tolerance revocation rule. The petition filed by the environmental groups sought a a national ban on chlorpyrifos. California fruit and vegetable growers are among the largest users of the insecticide, which is not permitted for home use and requires no-spray and buffer zones around sensitive areas, such as schools. Alternatives to chlorpyrifos are more costly and less effective, according to growers. There are reports that the insecticide, introduced in 1965 by Dow Chemical Company, has sickened farmworkers, and there are concerns that residues of chlorpyrifos found in waterways threaten the health of fish.

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