EPA Releases Draft Strategy to Better Protect Endangered Species from Herbicide Use
Recently EPA released a Draft Herbicide Framework Document that describes how the agency plans to incorporate protections for endangered species into pesticide registrations and re-registrations. EPA has recently been directed by the courts to make rapid changes to how it implements the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the old approach, EPA has completed fewer than 5% of all the ESA actions required by law. As a result of this court action EPA is proposing an entirely new approach to incorporating endangered species into how it registers and re-registers pesticides.
Instead of looking closely at each pesticide’s overlap with each endangered species and critical habitat, EPA is creating broad mitigation plans that can be applied to areas with protected species. Maine is home to the critical habitats for two endangered species, the Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) and the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar). These critical habitats cover a large portion of the state, see Figure 1. Growers in the ranges of protected species and habitats would be required to use additional mitigation measures selected from a pick list on the label to comply.
(Figure 1. Map of Maine taken from US Fish and Wildlife Service page showing the Critical Habitats in Maine. Red areas indicate the designated locations of critical habitats for Canada Lynx and Atlantic Salmon)
EPA Warns of Health Risks from Herbicide DCPA
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has flagged serious health risks associated with the herbicide dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate (DCPA). An assessment reveals that workers and individuals exposed to DCPA face potential harm, particularly fetuses of pregnant women. The EPA is considering canceling DCPA registrations due to these risks, but the process could take several years.
DCPA is used to control weeds in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, including crops like cole crops, onions, and other vegetables. As part of its periodic review, the EPA examined studies on DCPA’s effects. The pesticide’s registrant, AMVAC, submitted numerous studies during the previous review, but the EPA deemed them insufficient. Specifically, a crucial study on thyroid toxicity was missing. In 2022, the EPA finally received this data, confirming significant fetal thyroid effects. Surprisingly, even low doses of DCPA caused adverse effects in the fetuses of pregnant rats. This raised concerns about human fetal health when exposed to DCPA.
The risk assessment revealed risks to workers, especially pregnant women applying DCPA. Exposures up to 1,500 times the safe level were modeled from current uses. Fetuses of individuals involved in post-application tasks and those living near treated areas were also at risk. Even turf golf courses and athletic fields treated with DCPA posed concerns.
Alongside the assessment, the EPA released a companion document summarizing the thyroid toxicity data. Based on the severity of the risks identified, the EPA is evaluating potential mitigation strategies. Public input will be considered, but if no feasible solutions arise, the EPA may cancel all DCPA registrations. The DCPA comment period lasts 30 days and can be accessed at www.regulations.gov (docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0374).
Recent Enforcement Actions
There have been a number of instances this season where use of an unregistered pesticide has been identified. All pesticides are required to be registered for use by the State of Maine, including products that are categorized as exempt (25b) by EPA. It is a violation of State pesticide law to use or distribute pesticides that are not registered. You can verify product registration on the BPC website at https://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/index.shtml
Commercial pesticide applications being made at the incorrect property continues to be an issue. It is inherent that spray contracting firms have a positive property identification system in place. It is the responsibility of the commercial master applicator to ensure that their company’s applicators have the training and tools to positively identify the application site and avoid unauthorized pesticide applications.
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