Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week announced it has re-evaluated the current science on fluoride and is taking steps to begin a phased-down withdrawal of the pesticide sulfuryl fluoride on food, a pesticide that breaks down into fluoride and is commonly used in food storage and processing facilities. EPA is proposing to phase out the uses on food over a three-year period.
Sulfuryl fluoride is currently registered for the control of insect pests in stored grains, dried fruits, tree nuts, coffee and cocoa beans, and for use in food-handling and -processing facilities. Although sulfuryl fluoride residues in food contribute only a very small portion of total exposure to fluoride, when combined with other fluoride exposure pathways, including drinking water and toothpaste, EPA has concluded that the tolerance (legal residue limits on food) no longer meets the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and the tolerances for sulfuryl fluoride should be withdrawn.
Sulfuryl fluoride is an important replacement for several post-harvest uses of the stratospheric ozone-depleting pesticide, methyl bromide. Methyl bromide has been phased-out in developed countries under the Montreal Protocol, and many industries that previously relied on methyl bromide to control insect pests in stored and processed food commodities and in food-processing and -handling facilities now depend on sulfuryl fluoride. Since sulfuryl fluoride is an important alternative to the ozone depleting pesticide methyl bromide, EPA is proposing to phase out uses of sulfuryl fluoride over a period of three years. EPA will work with users of sulfuryl fluoride to identify potential alternatives.
EPA said it will continue to work collaboratively with other government agencies to address fluoride comprehensively in a way that ensures the public’s health while minimizing the risk of overexposure.
EPA is also responding to an ongoing administrative proceeding involving the Fluoride Action Network, the Environmental Working Group, and Beyond Pesticides. These groups filed objections challenging EPA’s action to establish the tolerances.
EPA will be accepting comments on the proposed decision, assessment and benefits assessment for 90 days.
For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/sulfuryl-fluoride/.