Group Claims EPA Wrongly Downgraded Pesticide’s Cancer Risk

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) argued on Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) downgraded the risk of cancer from use of “one of the nation’s most popular fumigants,” dichloropropene (1,3-D), which is produced by Dow Chemical under the brand Telone and ignored science showing that the pesticide does cause cancer. 

According to a press release from PEER, the EPA downgraded its classification in 2020 from “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” to “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.” Telone is reportedly used as a soil fumigant and a nematicide. PEER asked for an examination of the downgrade, along with the “composition of (the) EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee and the rigor of its procedures.” 

PEER sent a complaint regarding this downgrade to the EPA Office of Inspector General, in which the organization said that this downgrade constituted fraud and requested the office to review the actions. The letter alleged that the EPA excluded “relevant peer-reviewed science” and “ignored the genotoxicity of 1,3-D.  

According to the letter, downgrading the cancer warning labeling puts those who apply 1,3-D to farms and crops at risk, which is a significant number of people because the substance is one of the most used pesticides in the United States. PEER noted that Telone is the most commonly used brand for 1,3-D chemical pesticides, but there are others produced as well which would be affected by the alteration. 

In its complaint sent to the Inspector General, Peer explained that its allegations fall under the definition of fraud as defined by the Office of the Inspector General, because the EPA is purportedly providing a false representation intentionally for some benefit.  The advocacy organization specifically alleged that the EPA’s failure to consider studies and information regarding the carcinogenic nature of 1,3-D benefits Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures Telone. 

Additionally, PEER cited that eight Attorneys General also reached out to the EPA and urged it to revise the health risk assessment along. This group was led by California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra who said, “California’s agricultural workers are already exposing themselves to increased health risks as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and should not be unnecessarily exposed to this dangerous pesticide.” In the April 2020 press release, the Attorneys General further claimed that the changed designation would cause farmworkers and farmworking communities to be exposed to 1,3-D because of its dispersal in the air when it is applied, and that the correct cancer risks should be described.