Grant of Exception and Conditions for Use: A Notice to the Cut-Rose Industry
December 18, 1996
To the Cut-Rose Community:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pursuant to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) found in 40 CFR 170.112(e), is granting a two-year exception, with specific conditions, which will allow workers to hand harvest pesticide-treated roses before restricted entry intervals (REIs) have expired. This exception is effective December 18, 1996. The specific terms and conditions of this exception are provided in the attached, Conditions and Certification Statement. Two copies of the attachment are enclosed, one for the cut-rose establishment owner to retain, and one to be sent to: US EPA, Office of Pesticide Programs (7506C), Certification Worker Protection Branch, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460.
In June 1994, EPA granted a two-year exception, under specified conditions, to allow early entry to harvest greenhouse-grown cut roses. This exception expired on June 10, 1996. Roses, Inc., a rose-grower association, approached the Agency in the spring of 1996 and expressed a continuing need for an exception. Roses, Inc. stated that, without such an exception, the domestic cut-rose industry would not survive economically. After consulting with the rose industry and gathering sufficient information, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register on October 30, 1996. The notice acknowledged receipt of Roses, Inc.'s request, described terms proposed by the cut-rose industry, and provided a 30-day public comment period.
Based on written statements received from the rose industry, on information gained during public meetings and greenhouse tours, as well as on EPA's knowledge of rose production, EPA finds that the benefits of early entry over the next two years are substantial. The rose industry has provided sufficient information demonstrating that routine entry during an REI to harvest roses twice daily is still necessary and that prohibiting such entry could have a substantial economic impact on cut-rose growers. Depending on the product applied, the associated REI, and the time of year, growers could lose as much as 25-50% of their daily revenues on the days when pesticides are applied. EPA believes that the cut-rose industry cannot absorb this type of loss without significant economic repercussions. Additionally, since the exception is subject to conditions designed to mitigate risk to early-entry workers, EPA believes that early entry under the terms of the two-year exception will not pose unreasonable risks to rose harvesters.
In the WPS, EPA prohibited, in general, early entry for hand labor, such as harvesting because EPA concluded that entry during a restricted-entry interval to perform routine hand-labor tasks is rarely necessary, that personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers is not always practical because workers may remove it or use it incorrectly, and that the PPE itself may generate heat stress.
Although the Agency does not allow routine early entry even with PPE, the Agency understands that some crops or crop practices may be significantly affected by the prohibition of such early entry. Therefore, the Agency has an exception process that allows interested persons to demonstrate that an exception should be granted to early-entry restrictions. Under Section 170.112(e) of the WPS, EPA may establish exceptions to the provision prohibiting early entry to perform routine hand-labor tasks. The Agency grants or denies a request for an exception based on a risk-benefit analysis.
In this case, EPA believes that risks for rose harvesters will be mitigated by the limited time harvesters are allowed in the treated area, the use of PPE, the availability of decontamination supplies, and the provision of label-specific information to harvesters and basic pesticide safety information.
The following additional factors contributed to EPA's decision: (1) early entry PPE could be comfortably worn for three hours; (2) use of unattached absorbent glove liners make it much more likely that harvesters will wear the required chemical resistant gloves or liners underneath the optional leather gloves; (3) there are less than 200 greenhouse cut-rose growers, facilitating communication and compliance monitoring activity between the rose industry and EPA; (4) the scale of greenhouse operations and limited number of harvesters per greenhouse should allow employers to more easily ensure that workers wear the PPE; (5) cut-rose growers using this exception will be required to report any incidents which harvesters believe are the result of pesticide exposure occurring during early entry harvesting under the conditions of this exception; and (6) running water, and in many cases showers, for decontamination and heat-stress alleviation are more accessible in greenhouse operations than in field settings. EPA therefore believes that early entry with PPE would be feasible and provide adequate reduction of risks to rose harvesters.
However, to provide greater certainty about the potential risk to early-entry rose harvesters, EPA has provided funding to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to evaluate the effectiveness of PPE at mitigating residue exposure. EPA believes it is essential to examine the effectiveness of PPE to mitigate worker exposure and intends to consider the results of NIOSH research, as well as any additional data generated, in determining if access to this exception is prudent for the full two years as well as in responding to future exception requests. It is EPA's expectation that the rose industry will pursue data demonstrating the effectiveness of risk reduction measures, such as PPE, in addition to the EPA-funded NIOSH research.
While the rose industry has begun to explore alternatives to early entry, such as adjusting spray schedules, trying engineering controls and other safe alternatives, EPA believes a more systematic approach is necessary to make progress toward eliminating the need for an exception. EPA also believes that certain alternative practices have promise for eventually reducing or eliminating the need for early entry for rose harvesting in greenhouses. Again, it is EPA's expectation that the cut-rose industry will pursue data and research on such alternatives, and pilot test those alternatives which appear to be most promising.
EPA is interested in working with the rose industry to identify specific research efforts, to identify competitive grant funds which may be available to support such research, to discuss protocols and time frames for initiating and completing studies, and to incorporate practices at the individual grower establishment. Sara Ager in the Certification and Occupational Safety Branch will continue to be the lead Agency contact for the rose industry. The Agency is interested in meeting with the rose industry to discuss implementation of the exception, to review any findings from the NIOSH risk investigations, and to review the industry's progress in reducing the need for early entry and this exception.
Use of this exception for the full two-year period is conditioned on the following requirements. First, cut-rose growers must read and send a completed Conditions and Certification Statement to US EPA before using this exception. Second, cut-rose growers must fully comply with the early-entry requirements of this exception. Third, there can be no findings of unacceptable levels of risk, from NIOSH's investigations, from other risk studies, or from incident reporting and investigation. If the Agency receives information which indicates the health risks posed by early entry to areas treated with a specific pesticide registered for use on cut roses are unacceptable, it reserves the right to not allow specific chemicals to be used in conjunction with this exception. EPA reserves the right to withdraw this exception at any time, in accordance with Section 170.112(e)(6), Withdrawing an exception.
Recognizing the imminent need for this decision during this holiday production time, EPA is communicating the terms of the exception initially in this letter and will publish this decision in the Federal Register Notice within the next two months. The Federal Register Notice will be the final official decision document and will supersede this letter. Please be aware, that EPA is considering a requirement that the rose industry expend a specific minimum amount of funds within a specific time frame on the risk mitigation and alternative practices research described in this letter. The purpose of such a requirement would be to assure that collectively, the rose industry can better demonstrate its progress in moving away from the need for an exception and to evaluate the continuing need, should it exist, for an exception and the associated risks and benefits. If you have questions regarding the information contained in this letter, please contact: Certification and Worker Protection Branch, Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. EPA (7506C), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20460-0001, Phone: 703 305-7666, Fax: 703 308-2962
Daniel M. Barolo
Director, Office of Pesticide Programs