April 8, 2014
EPA responded last week to a 2009 petition filed by the activist groups United Farm Workers and the Pesticide Action Network titled “Pesticides in the Air—Kids at Risk: Petition to EPA to Protect Children from Pesticide Drift.” The petition alleged the agency failed to consider spray drift exposure to children in registration reviews required under FIFRA. EPA was ultimately ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, because the activists sued that the EPA was delaying. The EPA’s response to the petition was mixed. The agency agreed with one of the activists’ requests that pesticide drift and volatilization risk assessments be conducted for all pesticides. EPA stated in its response agreeing with this point that it “released the draft spray drift assessment methodology” earlier this year. This includes draft residential exposure guidance detailing the EPA’s approach for determining when assessments should be required and the methodology for estimating the risks incurred by indirect exposures to pesticide drift—for example, when children are playing on lawns that have been exposed to pesticides originally applied to nearby farms. NAAA is currently in the process of responding to this draft spray drift exposure methodology and is criticizing the agency for grossly overestimating the amount of drift that travels off target when applied by air. Comments on the methodology are due April 30 and NAAA will be providing a draft to its members to use to draft their own comments to the Agency.

The EPA did deny a number of other activist’s requests including a request to impose a requirement for interim buffers of up 300 feet for aerial on certain pesticides (organophosphates and carbamates). EPA defended its processes to measure toxicity and exposure together when determining the risk of individual pesticide products and believes that the processes it followed in its previous registration review for these pesticides meets an applicable statutory safety standard and interim buffers at this time are not warranted.

EPA’s response did not sit well with the petitioners, who suggested they might continue legal action to get the Agency to change its approach to protecting children from pesticide drift. “We are deeply disappointed with this complete non-response from EPA,” said Kristin Schafer, program and policy director for Pesticide Action Network (PAN). “The Agency is completely disregarding the urgency of the risks these pesticides are posing, every day, to children’s health.” NAAA will continue to follow this issue.

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