Fluoride Action Network

Pesticides

The most comprehensive database for fluorinated pesticides, including the inorganic compounds Cryolite and Sulfuryl Fluoride, as well as hundreds of organo-fluorine compounds that may well prove to be as toxic, or more toxic, than the chlorinated pesticides they are replacing.

Sulfuryl Fluoride

ALERT: Industry-backed bill seeks to undo phaseout of sulfuryl fluoride

The use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant on post-harvest food was first approved by the US EPA Office of Pesticides in 2004. With this approval, EPA approved the highest levels of fluoride residues on food in its history – see the levels here.  According to EPA, sulfuryl fluoride breaks down rapidly to the fluoride anion in the human body and fluoride is the toxicological endpoint of concern.

FAN became involved in 2001 when Dow AgroSciences first petitioned US EPA for an Experimental Use Permit for sulfuryl fluoride on raisins and walnuts. FAN submitted comments and formal Objections and then in 2004 and 2005 EPA approved its use and high fluoride levels on all processed food, beans, grains, flour -and much more, including a fluoride residue of 900 ppm on dried eggs! FAN collaborated with two great groups, the Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides, and a masterful pro-bono lawyer (Perry E. Wallace, Esq.), to reverse EPA’s approval, through a series of substantive submissions to the US EPA.

Incredibly, after many years of hard work, in January 2011, EPA concluded that it agreed with “all” of our objections and published their proposal to phase-out sulfuryl fluoride. According to protocol, EPA simultaneously solicited public comments on the phase-out.  Since then Dow AgroSciences, the proprietary maker of sulfuryl fluoride, has done everything a powerful corporation can do to dissuade EPA from enacting the phase-out. EPA has yet to make it’s final decision.

6 things to know about Sulfuryl Fluoride

1. It is exceptionally toxic and workers who use it are at risk. One 1998 study compared the effects on fumigation workers who used either methyl bromide or sulfuryl fluoride. The study found that sulfuryl fluoride workers suffered “subclinical effects on the central nervous system” as well as observable “cognitive deficits.”

2. In all animals (rats, mice, rabbits, dogs) exposed to sulfuryl fluoride in Dow’s experiments, it was found to create severe and rare effects in the brain. Notably, it harmed the brain white matter and created vacuolation (holes) in several parts of the brain (cerebrum, white matter, thalmus/hypothalmus, etc.). Incredibly, effects on the bone were not studied.

3. We know that when sulfuryl fluoride is used, two different residues are left “in” or “on” the food. These residues are “fluoride” and “sulfuryl fluoride.” EPA has given legal tolerances for each. However, we know very little about the chemical “sulfuryl fluoride” itself, aside from the fact that it is horribly toxic and attacks the brain.

4. FAN was told that Dow AgroSciences campaigned hard to get US EPA to accept sulfuryl fluoride as the replacement fumigant for methyl bromide. Because methyl bromide is an ozone destroyer, western countries were obligated under the UN Montreal Agreement to end all uses. Only the US hasn’t complied with this mandate. FAN agrees that all uses of methyl bromide in the US must end immediately, but substituting it with sulfuryl fluoride is unwise for many reasons including the fact that it is a potent greenhouse gas. Of note: Dow is the producer of both fumigants!

5. In response to FAN’s Objections,  US EPA proposed to phase-out the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant in 2011 on the basis that children were overexposed to fluoride. The Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) states that “aggregate exposure levels of consumers (and major identifiable subgroups of consumers)” must be taken into account. We know that children are overexposed to fluoride because of the incredibly high levels of dental fluorosis reported by the Centers for Disease Control: 41% of children aged 12-15. Because of this and the several other objections we made, US EPA could not justify new sources of exposure. However, Dow AgroSciences and its chorus in industry and Congress, are opposed to any justification for a phase-out.

6. You can avoid exposure to the fluoride residues from the use of sulfuryl fluoride by buying  organic or growing your own.

At this time, EPA has extended public comments on the phase out of sulfuryl fluoride to July 30, 2012.

FAN Submissions to EPA

EPA Human Health Risk Assessments

OTHER RISK ASSESSMENTS

EPA NOTICES AND FINAL RULES IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER

Other EPA Comments

Dow’s Submissions

THOSE OPPOSED TO EPA’S PROPOSED PHASE-OUT

Other Submissions to EPA

Greenhouse Potential

Submission to EPA:

June 10, 2009 –Opposition to the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a soil fumigant,
We oppose issuing this permit. Sulfuryl fluoride is 4,780 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide over a 100 year time horizon…”  From: Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Pesticide Action Network, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Center for Environmental Health, Defenders of Wildlife

News articles:

July 2009, Dow Pitching New Pesticide That Doubles As an Extraordinarily Potent Greenhouse Gas, Center for Biological Diversity

March 2009, Sulfuryl fluoride: New greenhouse gas identified, MIT News

January 2009, Termite Insecticide Found To Be Potent Greenhouse GasScience Daily 

Published papers:

Zhao Z, Laine PL, Nicovich JM, Wine PH. 2010. Reactive and nonreactive quenching of O(1D) by the potent greenhouse gases SO2F2, NF3, and SF5CF3. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 13;107(15):6610-5. Full article.
Andersen MP, Blake DR, Rowland FS, Hurley MD, Wallington TJ. 2009. Atmospheric chemistry of sulfuryl fluoride: reaction with OH radicals, Cl atoms and O3, atmospheric lifetime, IR spectrum, and global warming potential. Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Feb 15;43(4):1067-70. Abstract.
Papadimitriou VC, Portmann RW, Fahey DW, Mühle J, Weiss RF, Burkholder JB. 2008. Experimental and theoretical study of the atmospheric chemistry and global warming potential of SO2F2. J Phys Chem A. 2008 Dec 11;112(49):12657-66. Abstract.
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