PRESS RELEASE

Fraud Charged in EPA Pesticide Risk Assessment

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For Immediate Release:  Thursday, February 25, 2021
Contact:  Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

Fraud Charged in EPA Pesticide Risk Assessment

Downgrade of Fumigant Cancer-Potential Due to Pervasive Misconduct

Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) improperly downgraded the cancer-causing classification of one of the nation’s most popular fumigants, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group charges that the mistakes by EPA management were so blatant as to constitute fraud.

In 2020, EPA revised its human health risk assessment of 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), a Dow Chemical soil fumigant and nematicide; the most common formulation goes by the brand name Telone.  EPA downgraded its prior cancer classification of 1,3-D from “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” to “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.” In its complaint to the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG), PEER points out that this finding of reduced risk was based upon –

  • An inaccurate literature search which excluded relevant studies, including one concluding that 1,3-D results in DNA damage;
  • Likelihood that EPA managers overrode key internal controls; and
  • Putting staff unprepared to address the unique technical aspects of 1,3-D on its Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC).

“This flawed finding puts both the public and applicators of the fumigant at needless risk,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney, noting that EPA’s action allows higher amounts of the chemical in the air, without being considered a risk to human health.  “These are not honest mistakes and carry the earmarks of deliberate malfeasance.”

PEER is not alone in raising these concerns.  A collation of eight Attorneys General urged EPA to revise its health risk assessment because it “dangerously ignores science and downplays the risks individuals face when they are exposed to 1,3-D.”  Similarly, California’s top eco-official also wrote to EPA condemning the “decision not to estimate plausible cancer risks.”

This controversy follows on the heels of a scathing National Academy of Sciences report faulting the agency chemical assessments for “failing at being comprehensive, workable, objective, and transparent.” Incoming EPA leadership has embraced the National Academies report.

“An investigation into this egregious example is needed to identify the responsible managers within EPA by name,” added Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that the National Academies report did not identify responsible managers. “Naming names is important for some sense of accountability, but is vital if EPA is to clean house in this industry-dominated process.”

In addition to probing the 1,3-D assessment downgrade, PEER is asking the OIG to examine the composition of EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee and the rigor of its procedures designed to ensure that this body relies upon the best available science in the future.

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Read the IG Complaint

View the letter from eight state Attorneys General 

See Cal/EPA letter to EPA 

Revisit scathing National Academies review of EPA chemical risk assessments