Attorney General Becerra Blasts the EPA for Endangering California's Agricultural Communities by Downgrading the Cancer Risk Assessment of Dangerous Pesticide
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of eight attorneys general, filed a comment letter blasting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised risk assessment of a widely used, cancer-causing pesticide. This new draft risk assessment downgrades 1,3-dichloropropene’s (1,3-D) cancer rating from “likely to be a carcinogen to humans” to “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.” The new rating directly contradicts decades of the EPA’s own research showing 1,3-D likely causes cancer. As a result of the downgraded rating, the EPA is no longer required to quantify the health risks associated with exposure, further endangering California’s at-risk agricultural communities. In the comment letter, the coalition urges the EPA to retain 1,3-D’s current rating and continue to measure the cancer health risk that results from exposure to the pesticide.
“The harsh reality is certain communities experience a disproportionate share of environmental pollution – and the resulting health risks,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Trump Administration’s willful disregard for science is putting these communities in even greater danger. 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. We demand that the Trump Administration look at the decades of hard science that shows that there will be human costs if the EPA goes forward with deregulation.”
1,3-D is commonly used as a pesticide in soil prior to planting. It is one of the most widely used non-organic pesticides in California, with more than 12.5 million pounds applied in 2017. When inhaled, it can cause coughing, throat and lung irritation, and difficulty breathing. Long term exposure to 1,3-D is associated with elevated cancer risks. A 2003 study found a strong correlation between exposure to 1,3-D and pancreatic cancer deaths in Fresno, Kern, and Tulare Counties. 1,3-D exposure disproportionately impacts disadvantaged agricultural communities that already suffer from significant environmental hardship.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation monitors ambient air concentrations of 1,3-D in several locations across the state and is currently working to reduce the risk of agricultural communities inhaling harmful amounts of the pesticide. However, if the revised risk assessment moves forward, the EPA may ignore cancer risks when setting restrictions on 1,3-D's use. EPA’s registration review decision could therefore substantially increase health risks in some of our most vulnerable communities.
EPA’s draft risk assessment turns decades of previous science on its head. In the comment letter, the coalition argues that the EPA improperly excludes entire categories of relevant evidence in order to downgrade the pesticide’s cancer risk rating. The coalition also expresses concern over EPA's reversal of its prior finding that 1,3-D can cause genetic mutations in cells – a mechanism by which it can cause cancer. Finally, the coalition explains that the EPA wrongly credits a flawed theory advanced by 1,3-D's manufacturer to ignore data supportive of a higher cancer risk rating.
In filing the comment letter, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.