Issue: Retaining the Food Uses for the Fumigant Sulfuryl Fluoride


Sulfuryl fluoride or SF is a fumigant (gas) used to treat various different commodities and other food, including cocoa, rice, dried fruits, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as mills and food processing facilities for a wide array of insects and rodents.

EPA has long touted the use of SF as a replacement for methyl bromide, another widely used fumigant that was identified as an ozone depleting chemical in the 1990s and is being phased out globally. Less than a decade ago EPA presented the manufacturer of SF with a 2002 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award for bringing it to market. In January of 2011, however, EPA issued a proposed order revoking the product’s food uses.

According to EPA, the Agency has no choice but to withdraw SF’s food uses because of the threat of activist group litigation. Specifically, EPA proposed the action – not because of concern about SF – but because certain drinking water systems contain high levels of naturally occurring fluoride, and those levels pose an increased risk of dental fluorosis in children. (SF is actually the smallest contributor to total fluoride exposure, described by EPA as a tiny fraction of that exposure.) While EPA admits its proposal will have no meaningful public health benefit, it will leave the pest management and food production sectors without a broad spectrum fumigant and with few viable, cost effective tools to manage pests.

EPA chose to fill up virtually the entire “risk cup” in the required Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) risk assessment for SF with naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water systems. Naturally occurring fluoride is a not a pesticidal substance and doesn’t meet FFDCA’s definition of “pesticide chemical residue,” so it is extremely puzzling that EPA felt compelled to include naturally occurring fluoride in the risk assessment. EPA already regulates levels of fluoride in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Furthermore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers fluoridation of drinking water as “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Ironically, EPA itself questioned the course the Agency has followed for sulfuryl fluoride when it wrote in a 2002 assessment for a pesticide that also had pharmaceutical uses that “EPA would be concerned about relying on an interpretation of FFDCA sec. 408 that could compel regulatory actions which would have no impact on the major source of exposure, and where the source of such exposure is fully regulated and approved under a public health standard.”

Position: NPMA respectfully urges Members of Congress to sponsor/support legislation either excluding naturally occurring fluoride from EPA’s Sec. 408 aggregate exposure assessment, preventing EPA from using funds for such an assessment or directing EPA to withdraw the proposed order revoking SF’s food uses.

Suggested Sulfuryl Fluoride Legislative Language

Permanent Legislative Language
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shall exclude naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water from the aggregate exposure assessment required under section 408 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for tolerances associated with the fumigant sulfuryl fluoride.
Congressional Directive
The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall withdraw the proposed order published in the January 19, 2011 Federal Register (76 FR 3422) pertaining to the pesticide sulfuryl fluoride.
Appropriations Language
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to consider naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water as part of the aggregate exposure assessment required under section 408 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for tolerances associated with the fumigant sulfuryl fluoride.