The implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) that became law in August 1996 will occur during a 10-year period. By August 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must reassess more than 9,700 existing pesticide tolerances (maximum residue limits for foods). Priority is being given to pesticides that appear to pose the greatest risks to human health.
Under this legislation, all pesticide exposures from food, drinking water, and home and garden use must be considered when determining allowable levels of pesticide residues in food. In reassessing tolerances, the EPA must conclude with "reasonable certainty" that "no harm" will come to infants and children or other sensitive individuals exposed to pesticides. In establishing pesticide tolerances, the EPA considers the toxicity of each pesticide, how much is applied and how often, and how much residue remains in or on a commodity. A wide margin of safety ensures residues remaining in foods are many times lower than the amounts that could actually cause adverse health effects.
The first group of pesticides that the EPA is reviewing includes the organophosphate, carbamate, and organochlorine chemical classes. These pesticides seem to pose the greatest risk to human health and because protection of infants and children is a high priority under FQPA, organophosphate tolerances will receive priority review.
Presently, the EPA has released preliminary risk assessments for 16 of the organophosphate pesticides. These assessments may be refined in the future if additional health and environmental effects data become available. Risk assessments are currently underway for additional organophosphates. To receive copies of preliminary risk assessments and related documents, call the Office of Pesticide Programs Pesticide Docket at (703) 305-5805 or write U.S. EPA Records Integrity Branch, 401 M Street SW (7502C), Washington, D.C. 20460. For up-to-date information about FQPA and other pesticide issues check out the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs website at https://www.epa.gov/pesticides
This article originally appeared in the December 11, 1998 issue, p. 133.