Earlier this month, the EPA extended their “annual fit test delay” amendment to September 30, 2021. If you don’t have time to sift through and try to understand the “government-ese” language in the EPA’s official memo, read on for a simplified summary.
On June 1, 2020, the EPA issued a statement that gave agricultural employers and pesticide handlers guidance regarding pandemic-related respiratory protection shortages and reduced capability to complete respirator fit testing.
Part of that statement included an “annual fit test delay” amendment that originally expired in 2020. But now, due to the continued challenges of COVID-19, the EPA extended the amendment to September 30, 2021. However, the remainder of the June 2020 memorandum remains valid and unrevised.
Neither the options in the June 2020 memorandum nor the recent amendment provide a waiver of regulations or label requirements.
For example, fit testing requirements, including the initial fit testing of a respirator, medical evaluations, and respirator training cannot be delayed or skipped.
Handler employers and handlers are expected to comply with all applicable pesticide product label and Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) requirements, and only consider the options presented in the June 2020 memorandum as a last resort.
Fit Test Delay Amendment Requirements
Compliant options include:
Using alternative NIOSH-approved respirators offering equivalent or greater respiratory protection than those required on the pesticide label
Hiring commercial applicator services with enough respirators and respiratory protection capabilities
Opting to use agricultural pesticide products that do not require respirators
Delaying pesticide applications until another compliant option is available
If the above options are are no longer possible, the EPA’s guidance provides additional options with strict terms, conditions, and requirements to minimize potential incremental risks to workers including the:
Reuse and extended use of disposable N95 filter facepiece respirator
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they are seeking public comments on a new biological analysis from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding malathion, a common insecticide used to control mosquitoes and a variety of other insects. Read on to learn more about the FWS’s findings and where to comment - without all the convoluted government language!
Possible Dangers of Malathion
Back in 2017, the EPA released a biological evaluation (BE) for malathion, which found that it was “likely to adversely affect” over 2,000 threatened and endangered species and their designated critical habitats. Because of this finding, the EPA has continued to work with the FWS to ensure the registration and continued use of malathion won’t jeopardize the continued existence of these species or their habitats.
In their newly released draft biological opinion, the FWS’s findings dropped dramatically compared to 2017, saying that 78 listed species could be jeopardized, and 23 critical habitats “could be adversely modified” by the use of malathion.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently determined that the insecticide malathion is likely a danger to many species and local habitats.
The FWS justified this lower number in their Executive Summary, stating “since the time the BE was submitted, there have been a number of species status changes, including reclassifications and delistings for listed species, and listing decisions for proposed and candidate species. We removed listed species that were in the BE from this consultation that have been delisted, along with proposed or candidate species for which listing was determined to be not warranted. We also added newly proposed and listed species and proposed and designated critical habitats that were not addressed in the BE.”
Comments Needed On Potential Action
Along with their findings, the FWS provided several categories for potential actions. These actions are split up into two categories:
Reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) - actions that could be taken to prevent harm to the species or adverse modification of critical habitat.
Reasonable and prudent measures (RPMs) - actions that can be taken to minimize the potential harm that could result from the use of this pesticide to listed species.
Before a biological opinion is finalized, FWS will work with EPA and the registrants to develop technologically and economically feasible RPAs/RPMs tailored to the needs of the species and critical habitats.
At this stage, the EPA is asking input on the RPAs and potential RPMs from pesticide users and registrants. The public comment period will be open for 60 days and closes on June 19, 2021.
If you have opinions or suggestions, click here to share them with the EPA! And while we wait for further action, make sure you're following the latest safe handling standards by checking out our online mosquito control courses. Start by choosing your state to see what’s available!
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it’s requesting public comments for possible policy changes related to minimum risk pesticide exemptions. If you regularly use pesticides classified as “minimum risk” and are therefore not regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), read on to learn more about the potential changes and how to submit a comment!
The EPA’s ANPR
In an effort to improve and streamline the Minimum Risk Pesticide Program (and other exemptions codified under regulation 40 CFR 152.25), the EPA has released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) with this mouthful of a title: “Pesticides; Modification to the Minimum Risk Pesticide Listing Program and Other Exemptions under FIFRA Section 25(b).”
This ANPR invites the public to provide input on specific questions related to many aspects of the minimum risk program, from the petition process to exemption selection. I’ve taken this daunting policy document and did my best to simplify it so you can “jump around” and look at whatever questions relate to you and your work.
Here’s an overview of the current minimum risk petition process:
Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the public can petition the EPA to consider whether a new substance should be added to the list of active or inert ingredients eligible for the minimum risk pesticide exemption.
If the EPA decides to grant a petition, it publishes a proposed rule (also known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM) that the public can comment on.
The EPA then considers the comments received on the proposed rule, sometimes making revisions based on those comments, and issues a final rule.
Petition Process Questions
Now, with this ANPR, the EPA invites the public to comment on this petition process and how it relates to the Minimum Risk Pesticide Program by answering these questions:
Do you have any suggestions for improving the processes for initiating a review of a substance or for implementing a decision that a substance may be used or may no longer be used in a minimum risk pesticide process? Please explain how changes could increase efficiencies.
Given the identified minimum risk characteristics of these products and anticipated low impacts on communities, are current approaches effective for seeking input from the public and stakeholders, including State, Tribal, and territorial officials, scientists, labor unions, environmental advocates, and environmental justice organizations? Are there particular approaches that are more or less effective?
Evaluation of Minimum Risk Pesticide Ingredients
When determining whether or not to grant a minimum risk petition, the EPA applies the risk assessment factors described in the March 1996 Minimum Risk Exemption final rule, as well as additional factors currently relevant to pesticide risk assessment.
The risk factors from March 1996 include:
Whether the pesticidal substance is widely available to the general public for other uses
If it is a common food or constituent of a common food
If it has a nontoxic mode of action
If it is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe
If there is no information showing significant adverse effects
If its use pattern will result in significant exposure
If it is likely to be persistent in the environment.
Along with the risk factors listed above, the EPA also routinely considers the following additional factors:
Is likely to have carcinogenic or endocrine disruptor properties?
Is likely to cause human health developmental, reproductive, mutagenic, or neurotoxicity issues?
Is a known allergen or a known allergenic source or a potential allergen?
Is associated with developmental toxicity/adverse effects to mammals, birds, aquatic organisms, insects, plants?
Does it produce or could produce toxic degradates?
Does it have the potential to be contaminated with toxic or allergenic impurities?
Environmental justice and pollution prevention directives will continue to be a part of the regulatory planning process for the Minimum Risk Pesticide Listing Program, but the EPA wants public comments on these questions:
Considering the previous discussion, should the factors discussed above be considered in determining whether a substance should be exempted from FIFRA regulation via the minimum risk exemption?
How would these other factors be weighed in a minimum risk determination?
Are there other policies that the EPA should consider in determining whether a substance should be exempt from FIFRA regulation via the Minimum Risk Pesticide Listing Program? For example, should the EPA consider additional environmental justice and pollution prevention policies?
When considering products that are a “minimum risk” to public health and the environment, should the product also be considered to be of low impact to all communities, including low-income and minority populations? Please explain why or why not.
Exempted Classes of Pesticides
In some cases, the EPA has exempted minimum risks products with pesticidal properties and uses separately from the list of minimum risk pesticide ingredients. One example includes unrefined natural products that lack a specific formulation but serve a specific application, such as pheromone traps.
In the context of this ANPR, the EPA is looking for comments on an unrefined natural product which currently lacks a specific formulation: peat.
Peat is an accumulation of partially decomposed organic material found in peatlands or bogs. It can be used as fuel, in gardening, and in certain types of septic filtration systems. While the use of peat in septic systems may be intended for a pesticidal (antimicrobial) purpose, it has been suggested that registration of such uses may not be necessary to carry out the purposes of FIFRA.
The EPA would like comments on the following questions on the current classes of pesticide exemptions found in 40 CFR 152.25 or on other aspects of the Minimum Risk Pesticides Listing Program.
The EPA broadly requests comment on the utility, clarity, functioning, and implementation of the provisions in 40 CFR 152.25.
Are there other pesticidal substances or systems, like peat as mentioned above, that EPA should consider adding as a new class at 40 CFR 152.25 for exemption from registration under FIFRA? How do these other pesticidal substances or systems meet the existing factors?
What other factors should EPA consider in determining whether a category or class of products should be exempted from FIFRA regulation? Please explain how these other factors should be weighed in a determination.
When considering whether a category or class of products are a “minimum risk” to public health and the environment, should the category or class of products also be considered as being of low impact to all communities, including low-income and minority populations? Are there other factors that the Agency should consider?
After the public comment period ends on Jul 7, 2021, the EPA will review all the responses and determine whether or not to propose any additions or modifications to the Minimum Risk Pesticide Listing Program.
If the EPA decides to move forward with changes to the program, the next step would be to identify, develop, and evaluate specific options for amending the current regulations then issue a proposed rule for another round of public review and comment gathering.
Last week, to address ecological risks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released interim decisions (ID) for three Pyridines and Pyrimidines herbicides: clopyralid, dithiopyr, and triclopyr. Picloram, another similar herbicide, currently has a proposed interim decision (PID).
If you don’t feel like reading the entire report, read on to view a summarized (and simplified) description of what these decisions mean for applicators.
New Decisions Bring Updated Label Language & Restrictions
Pyridines and Pyrimidines are a class of herbicides used to control broadleaf weeds, woody brush, and aquatic plants in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings. Agricultural use sites include grains, fruits, vegetables and other crops. Non-agricultural use sites include turf, industrial areas, and roadsides.
The EPA is still working to address compost contamination concerns connected to these herbicides. In the meantime, they are requiring the following measures while the IDs and PIDs are under registration review:
Clopyralid and Picloram:
Prohibit the transport of treated plant matter and manure from animals that recently grazed in treated areas for off site composting for a period of time until residues have adequately declined.
A clean-out period of at least 3 days for animals fed with treated plant materials.
Removal of use on residential turf language from all labels (clopyralid only).
For pasture and turf sites: applicators must notify landowners/operators of compost restrictions. Applicators must keep records of the notification for two years.
Updated compost pictogram on pesticide labels showing users when not to compost materials.
Registrants to participate in a stewardship program and provide educational outreach for those affected by herbicide residues in compost.
Triclopyr and Fluroxypyr:
Prohibit the use of treated plant materials or manure from animals that have grazed or consumed forage from treated areas for composting until 30 days after application.
A clean-out period of at least 3 days for animals fed with treated plant materials.The IDs for the three herbicides mentioned above finalize enforceable mitigation measures to address spray drift risks as well as potential residues in compost.
The compost mitigation measures also include updated label language that focuses on:
Clopyralid and Triclopyr
Reducing compost contamination by prohibiting off-site composting of treated plant matter and manure from grazing animals until residues have adequately declined
Requiring pasture and turf applicators to notify the property owners/operators of the compost prohibition, and for the applicator to keep a record of this notification for two years
Requiring registrants to participate in a stewardship program and provide educational outreach for those affected by herbicide residues in compost
Removal of residential use on turf language from all labels
Picloram Public Comments
The PID for picloram, which proposes mitigation similar to the mitigation measures in the clopyralid ID, is currently open for public comment. Interim registration review decisions impose risk mitigation measures necessary to protect the environment pending additional assessments including an endangered species assessment. After reviewing and considering the public comments received on the proposed interim decision for picloram, the EPA will proceed with the registration review process and issue the picloram ID.
Potential Environmental & Human Health Risks
The EPA only lists negative ecological effects as a result of Pyridines and Pyrimidines herbicides on their website. They say the ecological risks are primarily non-target terrestrial plants through spray drift and runoff. Certain herbicides in the pyridine/pyrimidine class can persist in treated plant materials, and when treated materials are recycled into compost, can cause harm to plants in gardens and ornamental plots where the compost is applied. Pathways into compost include residues in treated turf clippings, hay from treated pastures, and manure from animals that have grazed in treated areas.
According to OHA, continued exposure to drinking water that has a level of picloram above the legal limit of 500 parts per billion can cause diarrhea, weight loss, liver damage, and damage to the central nervous system.
If you have data or experience that agrees with OHA, be sure to submit your public comment on picloram here. And if you currently use any of the other three herbicides mentioned earlier, be sure to review and follow the new EPA guidelines.
Over the past few months, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) advocacy group has discovered that multiple publicly available herbicides and insecticides contain Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a group of manmade chemicals linked to various health issues.
What does all of this mean for applicators that have used these contaminated products and who might have been exposed to PFAS? Read on to get a breakdown of all of the discoveries, test findings, and possible consequences.
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that can be found in food packaging, commercial household products, some drinking water, and more. Of the many variants, PFOA and PFOS are the most commonly produced and are known as “forever chemicals” - meaning they don’t break down or leave a person's body over time.
The EPA recognizes that PFAS exposure can lead to “adverse health outcomes” such as low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer (PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (PFOS).
Mavrik Perimeter - a mosquito and tick control agent Zoecon.
Author’s Note: There are at least three other unnamed pesticides that showed PFAS levels during initial testing. PEER is still waiting for more result confirmations before putting their names out. These findings have not yet been evaluated or confirmed by the EPA.
The new findings listed above are part of PEER’s follow-up investigation after they discovered PFAS in a commonly used mosquito control insecticide, Anvil 10+10.
New testing from an environmental watchdog group shows PFAS are present in multiple pesticides. Claudine Hellmuth/E&E News (illustration); Freepik (mosquito); EPA (logo and text) ; Clarke Mosquito Control Products Inc. (Anvil bottle)
PEER’s initial test results revealed that it contained roughly 250 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFOA, and 260 – 500 ppt of HFPO-DA (hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid, a “GenX” replacement for PFOA). Massachusetts, parts of Florida, New York, and many other states have all used Anvil 10+10 in aerial spraying programs.
When PEER alerted Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) of its findings, MADEP independently tested nine samples of Anvil 10+10 from five different containers, and found eight different PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS.
“In Massachusetts, communities are struggling to remove PFAS from their drinking water supplies, while at the same time, we may be showering them with PFAS from the skies and roads,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, who arranged for the testing.
The EPA Steps In
In response to these findings, the EPA released the results of their own Anvil 10+10 investigation just last week. They discovered eight different PFAS compounds in the fluorinated (a chemical coating) high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers, with levels ranging from 20-50 parts per billion.
Despite these findings, the EPA has this to say concerning possible exposure:
“The PFAS detections...from the tested containers do not represent PFAS concentrations in the environment or human exposure to PFAS. While the EPA is early in its investigation, the agency will use all available regulatory and non-regulatory tools to determine the scope of this emerging issue and its potential impact on human health and the environment.”
PEER says this response, and the EPA’s general testing method, is not enough. Bennett says the EPA should be more proactive in warning the public about the possibility and implications of PFAS contamination in pesticides.
"We now have five different manufacturers that are selling PFAS-contaminated pesticides," Bennett said, noting PEER's latest findings. "This is a problem of epic proportions."
She’s also concerned that the EPA’s testing methods are too focused on PFAS coming from HDPE containers. PEER’s new tests (results listed above) revealed different PFAS compounds than were found in the Anvil 10+10 containers, raising questions about whether the chemicals could be getting into pesticides through other means.
Possible Contamination Causes
One theory Bennett proposed for explaining the contamination would be pesticide manufacturers listing PFAS chemicals as an “inert” ingredient, because there’s no requirement to disclose inert ingredients to consumers.
But there are pesticide manufacturers that dispute the claim. Megan Provost, president of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), which represents nonagricultural pesticide producers, said, “PFAS chemistry is not an active or inert ingredient in any pesticide formulation” made by members in her coalition. She instead blamed container manufacturers, saying “fluorinated packaging is used for some 20% to 30% of pesticide formulations to increase product and packaging integrity.”
What Now? States, Manufacturers Respond
Regardless of who’s to blame, pesticides have a growing PFAS problem. In response, Anvil 10+10 manufacturer Clarke Mosquito Control Products Inc. confirmed in January that they voluntarily ceased all sales and shipments of the pesticide.
Massachusetts, Maine, and New York have all introduced or proposed bills that either limit or completely ban the use of any pesticide that contains (or might contain) PFAS due to florinated HDPE containers.
The EPA said they are “actively working with the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and industry and trade organizations to raise awareness of this emerging issue and discuss expectations of product stewardship.”
According to a study by the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service, over 30% of pesticide labels fail to follow Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations and provide incorrect information about their toxicity to honey bees. The research, which was discovered by an unsuspecting young student, may be used by regulators to identify labels that need amending.
"I kind of stumbled onto this research project by accident," said Matthew Bucy, now a pesticide registration specialist at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
While working as an OSU undergraduate honors student, he read through hundreds of pesticide labels in order to update a data table. After studying 232 insecticide labels, Bucy discovered a clear pattern. About a third of the labels deviated from EPA recommendations, and many didn't list accurate details about their residual or acute toxicity.
Rose Kachadoorian, a pesticide specialist at the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), and formerly an adviser on Bucy's thesis committee, said the pesticides weren't misbranded or mislabeled intentionally; “they're just old.” “A lot of the language is what we call legacy language," said Kachadoorian.
Bucy's “accidental” discovery turned into a major research project that has continued well past his graduation. Kachadoorian, Bucy, and experts at the ODA formed a working group called The Oregon Bee Project to address the labeling problem. While they continue to hold workshops that try to educate pesticide applicators, they expect changing label language will take time.
Kachadoorian said her ultimate vision is to create a standardized labeling system for pesticides. “Look at FDA pharmaceutical labels, she said, they all have similar formatting.” “You know where to look on the label to find things like dosage and possible side effects. But pesticide labels look different across companies, making information harder to find.”
Bucy said his groundbreaking research as a student led to his job in pesticide work at ODA, where he hopes to continue helping the agricultural community.
"I read a few hundred labels. Why not read a few hundred — or thousand — more?" he said.
While you may never have to read hundreds of labels all at once, make sure you understand the ones you do need to read with our Reading the Pesticide Label: Beyond the Basics video course! You’ll find that course, and many others, included in our Oregon Pesticide Applicator Continuing Education Bundles - register now before the December 31st deadline!
Just last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to approve new five-year registrations for two “over-the-top” (OTT) dicamba products—XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology and Engenia Herbicide—and extended the registration for an additional OTT dicamba product, Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology. The extended registrations are only for use on dicamba-tolerant (DT) cotton and soybeans and will expire in 2025.
The decision is not free from controversy, however.
Despite the Circuit Court’s ruling, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler defended the decision."After reviewing substantial amounts of new information, conducting scientific assessments based on the best available science, and carefully considering input from stakeholders, we have reached a resolution that is good for our farmers and our environment,” Wheeler said.
Dicamba critics see the decision differently, with The Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America planning to pursue a legal challenge.
What the Decision Means for Applicators
The EPA’s 2020 registration features important control measures to manage off-site movement of dicamba, including:
Requiring an approved pH-buffering agent (also called a Volatility Reduction Agent or VRA) be tank mixed with OTT dicamba products prior to all applications to control volatility.
Requiring a downwind buffer of 240 feet and 310 feet in areas where listed species are located.
Prohibiting OTT application of dicamba on soybeans after June 30 and cotton after July 30.
Simplifying the label and use directions so that growers can more easily determine when and how to properly apply dicamba.
The EPA claims these control measures provide new flexibilities for growers and also address the concerns expressed in regard to the June Court of Appeals ruling.
What are your thoughts on the new dicamba control measures? Let us know on social media!
Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to register pesticide products containing a new active ingredient called tetraniliprole for sale and use in the US.
One of the “pesticide products” the EPA wants to register likely includes Bayer’s new and unnamed insecticide. According to Bayer, the tetraniliprole-based insecticide will be a 2-in-1 solution for both annual bluegrass weevil (ABW) and white grubs.
Bayer says that using tetraniliprole allows for season-long protection, immediate cessation of insect feeding following exposure, and consistent control of ABW and white grubs with just 1-2 applications per year.
Although the use of tetraniliprole goes beyond just ABW and white grubs. According to the EPA, if approved, tetraniliprole will be the first registered diamide insecticide available in the US that controls corn rootworm larvae in corn through soil application, and flea beetles in corn and potatoes. It would also be the first diamide offering control of wireworms in potatoes and similar crops, and control of cutworms in tobacco via soil application.
A study done by both the EPA and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency determined that tetraniliprole had no human health risk concerns.
Still, the EPA is proposing specific mitigations to address potential ecological risks, including:
A 50-foot spray buffer for aerial application
A 25-foot spray buffer for ground applications
Directions for use for treated seed to reduce exposure to treated seeds for large birds
A 25-foot vegetative filter strip to reduce runoff into surface water
If you have any thoughts or concerns regarding tetraniliprole, let the EPA know! They’re accepting public comments on this proposal via docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0233 at www.regulations.gov for 30 days, closing on Nov. 22, 2020.
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