Three environmental groups are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revoke their approval of sulfuryl fluoride as a pesticide fumigant on food.
EPA approved sulfuryl fluoride as an alternative food fumigant to ozone-depleting methyl bromide. The groups say additional fluoride levels in food will be harmful to the health of all Americans because fluoride is persistent and bio-accumulates in the human body.
Dow AgroSciences campaigned long and hard to get EPA’s go-ahead to use sulfuryl fluoride. EPA gave Dow what they wanted in January 2004, and in so doing, approved the highest levels of fluoride in America’s food basket in US history.
A December 16, 2005 submission to EPA by Fluoride Action Network (FAN), the Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides, sets the basis for EPA to revoke the use of sulfuryl fluoride. For this to happen, EPA has to grant an evidentiary hearing. EPA requested the groups to refine the issues for a hearing. The December submission is in response to EPA’s request. If the hearing is granted, it will be the first time a pesticide tolerance has its day in court.
When EPA approved the first-time use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food pesticide in January 2004 (on raw foods) and in July 2005 (on ALL processed foods), they approved two tolerances for residues on food: fluoride and sulfuryl fluoride. These are the tolerances the groups are seeking to revoke.
FAN has been involved in every stage of this process, which began in June 2001, because sulfuryl fluoride will be the major source of fluoride in raw and processed food.
The December 16 submission summarizes the issues and concerns of the three groups:
• Too many Americans, especially children, are currently receiving too much fluoride – even by EPA’s own standards. There is, therefore, no safe room for additional exposures. Fluoride is persistent and bioaccumulates in the human body
• EPA set an allowable dosage of fluoride for infants that is five times higher than for adults. This is unprecedented in EPA’s history and disregards EPA’s mandate, under the Food Quality Protection Act, to be more protective of a child’s exposure to pesticides, not less.
• In approving Dow’s request, EPA ignored all research published after 1985, choosing to rely instead on an antiquated 20-year-old standard which considers it safe for 40% of children to develop moderate to severe dental fluorosis (a brown and black staining of teeth, with pitting and erosion of enamel).
• In all the sulfuryl fluoride animal studies performed by DOW, the major target organ was the brain. Of particular concern was the finding of holes in the brain. However EPA approved the tolerances without any developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) study. And the DNT study that EPA has asked Dow to perform is irrelevant to food exposure.
• New research indicating that low levels of fluoride can damage the brain, the bones, the kidneys, and other tissues, is currently being reviewed by the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC is expected to release its report (The Toxicologic Risk of Fluoride in Drinking Water) early in 2006. EPA rushed approval to give Dow what it wanted, without waiting for the NRC report.
The submission is available at
For further information contact:
Fluoride Action Network Pesticide Project