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
- July 2012. Comments on Proposed Rule to Withdraw Sulfuryl Fluoride Tolerances
- July 2011. Comments on Proposed Order Granting Objections to Tolerances and Denying Request for a Stay
- March 2011. Response to Request by Dow AgroSciences for Administrative Hearing
- November 2010. Third Demand Letter Relative to Objections to Final Rules for Sulfuryl Fluoride
- August 2010. Second Demand Letter Relative to Objections to Final Rules for Sulfuryl Fluoride
- April 2010. First Demand Letter Relative to Objections to Final Rules for Sulfuryl Fluoride
- August 2009. Response on Registration Review of Sulfuryl fluoride
- February 2009. 18 IQ Studies Submitted to the Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0174-0102
- January 2007. Memorandum: Legal Standard for Grant of Hearings on Objections FFDCA, Section 408
- November 2006. Consolidated Objections
- June 2006. Petition to Stay Tolerances
- July 2006. Federal Register: Sulfuryl Fluoride; Request for Stay of Tolerances
- August 2006. New York State Attorney General’s Enviornmental Protection Bureau support of Petition to Stay Tolerances
- December 2005: Issues for an Evidentiary Hearing Concerning Sulfuryl Fluoride Tolerances.
- September 2005. Third Objections and Request in the matter of EPA’s approval of a second set of tolerances for sulfuryl fluoride.
- March 2004. Second Objection & Request for Hearing in the matter of EPA’s first-time approval of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant.
- April 2002. First Objection & Request for Hearing.
- March 2002. Comments on DowAgroSciences’ petition to establish tolerances for raw and processed foods.
- September 2001. Comments on Proposed Pesticide Temporary Tolerances requested by Dow AgroSciences. As part of this submission FAN sent EPA a copy of Jennifer Luke’s PhD thesis, The Effect of Fluoride on the Physiology of the Pineal Gland (1997).
EPA Human Health Risk Assessments
- January 7, 2011. Revised Human Health Risk Assessment for Fluoride to Incorporate New Hazard and Exposure Information.
- June 17, 2009. Addendum to the Human Health Assessment Scoping Document in Support of Registration Review.
- January 18, 2006. Final Human Health Risk Assessment for Sulfuryl Fluoride and Fluoride Anion.
- June 2, 2005. Draft Human Health Risk Assessment for Sulfuryl Fluoride and Fluoride Anion.
- January 20, 2004. Human Health Risk Assessment for Sulfuryl Fluoride and Fluoride Anion.
OTHER RISK ASSESSMENTS
- 2012. European Food Safety Authority. Reasoned Opinon: Modification of the existing MRLs for sulfuryl fluoride and fluoride ion in chestnut.
- 2010. European Food Safety Authority. Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance sulfuryl fluoride.
- June 2009. US EPA. Problem Formulation for the Environmental Fate, Ecological Risk, Endangered Species, and Drinking Water Assessments in Support of the Registration Review of Sulfuryl Fluoride.
- July 2006. California EPA. Sulfuryl Fluoride (Vikane®) – Volume 1. Health Risk Assessment.
- May 2006. California EPA. Sulfuryl Fluoride (Vikane®) – Volume 2. Exposure Assessment.
- July 2006. California EPA. Sulfuryl Fluoride (Vikane®) – Volume 3. Environmental Fate.
- October 2003. US EPA. Sulfuryl Fluoride – Second Report of the Hazard Identification
Assessment Review Committee.
- August 1996. US EPA. Cryolite – Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED).
EPA NOTICES AND FINAL RULES IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER
- May 1, 2012. Second Request for Comment on Proposed Order Granting Objections to Tolerances.
- January 19, 2011. Proposed Order Granting Objections to Tolerances and Denying Request for a Stay.
- June 24, 2009. Registration Review for Sulfuryl Fluoride; Docket Opened for Review and Comment.
- June 10, 2009: Experimental Use Permit to use sulfuryl fluoride as a soil fumigant; Comment Request.
- July 5, 2006. Solicitation of public comments on FAN et al’s request for a stay of tolerances.
- July 15, 2005. Final Rule on approval of excessively high fluoride tolerances on all processed foods, etc.
- March 4, 2005. Dow petitions OPP for tolerances for over 600 raw and post-harvest food commodities.
- January 23, 2004. Final Rule for first-time approval of food tolerances for sulfuryl fluoride.
- March 27, 2002. EPA approves Dow’s request for an Experimental Use Permit for Walnuts and Raisins.
- February 15, 2002. Dow’s petition for tolerances for a great number of “raw food” commodities.
- February 7, 2002. Final Rule for Temporary Pesticide Tolerances for Walnuts (12 ppm) and Raisins (30 ppm).
- September 5, 2001. Proposed temporary tolerances for inorganic fluoride in or on walnuts (12 ppm) and raisins (30 ppm).
- June 15, 2001. Dow’s requests fluoride tolerances on walnuts (12 ppm) and an exemption from the requirement of a tolerance for fluoride in or on raisins.
Other EPA Comments
- July 5, 2011. Response to Proposed Order Granting Objections to Tolerances and Denying Request for a Stay. (EPA Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0174-0228)
- February 2011. Letter from Dow’s attorneys requesting an Administrative Hearing.
- November 2008. ADME Review Combined : Scientific Basis for Removal of the EPA’s 10X Database Uncertainty Factor. (Note: According to Wikipedia, ADME is an acronym in pharmacokinetics and pharmacology for absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion, and describes the disposition of a pharmaceutical compound within an organism.)
- December 2007. ProFume Exposure Refinement.
THOSE OPPOSED TO EPA’S PROPOSED PHASE-OUT
- June 2011. National Resource Defense Council.
Other Submissions to EPA
- April 2011. Submission to EPA on the proposed Rule from Kathleen M. Thiessen, PhD, on behalf of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT)
- July 2006. Request from EPA’s union to “rescind the approval of sulfuryl fluoride
- April 2011. Submission to EPA on the proposed Rule from Bill Osmunson DDS, MPH, President, Washington Action for Safe Water
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
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 Gas, Science Daily