Proposal to Revoke Chlorpyrifos Food Residue Tolerances

EPA is proposing to revoke all food residue tolerances for the insecticide chlorpyrifos. At this time, EPA is unable to make a safety finding as required under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).

Based on EPA’s current analysis, there do not appear to be risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos from food, but, when that exposure is combined with estimated exposure from drinking water in certain watersheds, EPA cannot conclude that the risk from the potential aggregate exposure meets the FFDCA safety standard.  

Read the proposed tolerance revocation rule.

EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 60 days ending on January 5, 2016. To submit comments, go to docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0653 at www.regulations.gov. [Note: if the docket link does not take you to the chlorpyrifos documents, copy the docket information and enter it in the search box at regulations.gov. This issue occurs with some older browsers.]

On this page:
  1. Why is EPA proposing to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos?
  2. What uses of chlorpyrifos are affected by this proposed tolerance revocation?
  3. What are the specific concerns associated with drinking water?
  4. What are EPA’s next steps?
  5. How is chlorpyrifos used?

  1. Why is EPA proposing to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos?

    In June 2015 EPA indicated its intention to issue a proposed rule revoking tolerances by April 15, 2016, to address previously identified drinking water concerns and in response to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). This schedule would have allowed time for EPA to complete its additional analysis, taking into consideration the public comments received on its December 2014 human health risk assessment.

    On August 10, the 9th Circuit Court rejected EPA’s time line, instead ordering EPA by October 31, 2015, to: deny the petition, issue a proposed revocation, or issue a final revocation rule. EPA is not denying the petition because at this time we are unable to make a safety finding the based on the science as it stands. EPA is not issuing a final revocation rule because we have not proposed it and have not completed our refined drinking water assessment, and thus, certain science issues are still unresolved.

    Therefore, as we are informing the court, we are proposing 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. The court also required EPA to provide the timeline for a final rule should EPA issue a proposed revocation by October 31. EPA is notifying the court of the anticipated release of the final rule in December 2016.

    Based on EPA’s current analysis, there do not appear to be risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos in food, but, when those exposures are combined with estimated exposure from drinking water in certain watersheds, EPA cannot conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure meets the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) safety standard. EPA has determined that safe levels of chlorpyrifos may be exceeded in parts of the United States for people whose drinking water is derived from some small vulnerable watersheds where chlorpyrifos is heavily used. If the tolerances are revoked, EPA would cancel the associated food uses of chlorpyrifos.

    Within the next few months, the public will have an opportunity to comment on both a completed hazard determination and the completed drinking water analysis prior to EPA issuing a final rule. EPA is currently performing additional analysis related to its hazard determination in order to make certain that any final decision protects infants and children. Once completed, this hazard assessment, if warranted, would inform a final tolerance revocation rule.

    EPA is also continuing to work on its refined drinking water assessment for the entire country. In December 2014, EPA released a human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos. The 2014 assessment included a refined drinking water assessment for the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast, but not the entire country.

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  2. What uses of chlorpyrifos are affected by this proposed tolerance revocation?

    Because tolerances are the maximum residue of a pesticide that can be in or on food, this proposed rule revoking all chlorpyrifos tolerances means that if this approach is finalized, all agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos would cease. 

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  3. What are the specific concerns associated with drinking water?

    EPA’s 2014 revised human health risk assessment showed the potential for risks in small watersheds with high concentrations of farming where chlorpyrifos may be widely used. The 2014 assessment included a refined drinking water assessment for the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast, but not the entire country. EPA has determined that safe levels of chlorpyrifos may be exceeded for people whose drinking water is derived from certain vulnerable watersheds in parts of the United States. EPA is continuing to work on its refined regional drinking water assessment in order to identify those vulnerable watersheds. While EPA completes that work, anyone who has concerns about contaminants in their public drinking water system should check with their local water utility or state. Local authorities are not required by EPA to test for chlorpyrifos, since EPA has no federal drinking water regulation for chlorpyrifos. However, some local authorities do test for contaminants beyond federal drinking water regulations.

    Small watersheds are generally less than 40 square miles in size. The example watersheds presented in the risk assessment were located in two geographic regions, the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast. The specific details for these two examples are outlined further in the revised human health risk assessment. EPA is currently working to complete its drinking water assessment for the rest of the country. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the completed drinking water analysis prior to a final rule.

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  4. What are EPA’s next steps?

    EPA has issued a proposal to revoke all tolerances for the insecticide chlorpyrifos. Upon publication in the Federal Register, EPA will accept comments for 60 days on the proposed rule.

    Prior to a final rule, EPA plans to complete its refined drinking water analysis for the entire country as well as update its analysis of the chlorpyrifos hazard to determine whether its current regulatory approach sufficiently addresses the potential for adverse impacts on infants and children. In the next several months, the public will have an opportunity to comment on both a completed hazard determination and the completed drinking water analysis.

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  5. How is chlorpyrifos used?

    Chlorpyrifos is currently used on a wide variety of crops, such as corn and soybeans. According to USDA data there are approximately 1.2 million crop producing farms in the U.S. EPA estimates that more than 40,000 crop producing farms currently use chlorpyrifos to control a wide range of insect pests. Cost effective alternatives are available to control many of the pests targeted by chlorpyrifos. Some farms growing certain crops (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, citrus, etc.) may be affected more than others by the loss of the use of chlorpyrifos. If tolerances are revoked, EPA would have to cancel the registrations for associated food uses.

    Non-agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos, including golf courses, turf, green houses, and on non-structural wood treatments such as utility poles and fence posts, are not affected by this proposed rule. All residential uses except for roach bait stations in child resistant packaging and fire ant mound treatments were eliminated in June 2000.

    Learn more about chlorpyrifos.

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