Eight Attorneys General Call on EPA to Redo ‘Deeply Flawed’ Risk Assessment of Widely Used Pesticide
EPA’s downgrade of 1,3-Dichloropropene’s cancer risk rating is unsupported by scientific evidence and departs from decades of regulatory practice.
April 7, 2020
Washington, D.C. — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a coalition of eight attorneys general in submitting comments yesterday urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise its draft human health risk assessment for 1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D) — commonly known by the brand name Telone — before the agency moves forward with reregistration of the pesticide. The draft risk assessment is part of a reevaluation of the pesticide’s impacts on public health and the environment that the EPA is required to conduct every 15 years under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
In their comments, the AGs challenge the EPA’s downgrade of 1,3-D’s cancer risk rating from “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” to “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential,” warning that the finding “dangerously ignores science and downplays the risks individuals face when they are exposed to 1,3-D,” possibly in violation of FIFRA. The AGs emphasize that since at least the mid-1980s, the EPA and other regulators have consistently found that 1,3-D is a likely human carcinogen, and the EPA’s draft risk assessment “turns all of this previous science on its head.” The downgraded rating would mean that the EPA is longer required to quantify the cancer risk associated with exposure to 1,3-D, and may essentially ignore cancer risk when setting restrictions on use of the pesticide.
“The harsh reality is certain communities experience a disproportionate share of environmental pollution — and the resulting health risks,” said AG Becerra. “The Trump Administration’s willful disregard for science is putting these communities in even greater danger. California’s agricultural workers are already exposing themselves to increased health risks as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and should not be unnecessarily exposed to this dangerous pesticide. We demand that the Trump Administration look at the decades of hard science that shows that there will be human costs if the EPA goes forward with deregulation.”
The AGs highlighted three key flaws in the EPA’s draft risk assessment:
- It improperly excludes entire categories of evidence that the EPA and other regulators had previously found relevant, including independent and peer reviewed studies;
- It fails to present evidence to justify some of its most important conclusions, particularly the agency’s “extraordinary decision to exclude from consideration every single test result demonstrating that 1,3-D acts as a mutagen” (an agent that causes a genetic mutation);
- It credits an unsupported theory promoted by 1,3-D’s manufacturer that downplays the pesticide’s cancer risk.
1,3-D is a fumigant insecticide that is applied to soil before crops are planted. More than 33 million pounds of 1,3-D were applied on farms between 2013 and 2017, making it one of the nation’s most-used pesticides. Short term health impacts of 1,3-D exposure include coughing, throat and lung irritation, and difficulty breathing; long-term exposure is associated with an elevated cancer risk.
In their comments, the AGs note that farmworkers and neighboring communities are disproportionately exposed to 1,3-D due to the pesticide’s rapid dispersal in the air after application on farmland. The AGs cite monitoring studies that revealed major spikes of the pesticide in two agricultural communities in California — areas that also face high rates of other kinds of pollution as well as significant socioeconomic challenges — and emphasized that the EPA “has a particular responsibility” to such communities “to faithfully follow the science and accurately describe the cancer risks of 1,3-D exposure.”
The attorneys general of Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, D.C. joined California in submitting the comments.
About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center:
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan academic center at NYU School of Law. The Center is dedicated to working towards a healthy and safe environment, guided by inclusive and equitable principles. The Center studies and supports the work of state attorneys general (AGs) in defending, enforcing, and promoting strong laws and policies in the areas of climate, environmental justice, environmental protection, and clean energy.