Dear James Robert,
FAN had a stunning victory yesterday. This was a wonderful answer to those who believe that the little guy never wins. In a 9:30am conference call with Jonathan Fleuchaus, the general counsel of EPA's Pesticides program and 7 other EPA pesticide staff members, we were told that EPA was granting ALL our objections to the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant. Mr. Fleuchas told us that it was was the first time in the history of EPA that such objections were granted. What this means is that EPA is going to end all uses of sulfuryl fluoride on food (ref 1).
When EPA approved the use of sulfuryl fluoride for the first time for use on food in 2004 it approved the highest levels of fluoride residues in and on food it in its history (previous residues had been approved for the use of cryolite). Then in 2005, it approved extremely high levels of fluoride in all processed food, with an incredible 900 part-per-million residue of fluoride in and on dried eggs (ref 2, 3)! In response to our Objection to this ridiculous unsafe level, EPA did quickly remove this tolerance, and it was the only quick response they gave us.
According to EPA, when sulfuryl fluoride is applied to food or enters the body it breaks down to the fluoride anion. It was the fluoride ion that dominated the EPA's risk assessment for this fumigant and also attracted the interest of FAN.
Yesterday's conference call was the last step before we were going to take EPA to court for failure to respond to our Objections. Our pro-bono lawyer had the papers ready. But to our stunned surprise, we learned we won.
The procedure that EPA plans to end the use of sulfuryl fluoride on food is to announce it in the Federal Register and then allow 90 days for public comment. We expect Dow AgroSciences, the proprietary producer of Profume - the name of its food fumigant - to mount some kind of objection, but in doing so they will have to demonstrate that children are not being overexposed to fluoride. This was the reason that EPA gave for granting our objections. EPA plans to phase out the majority of uses on food 90 days after it issues a Final Order and then three years to remove its use on all food commodities.
FAN was extremely fortunate to have gained the support of the Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides, two national groups that supported us at every turn in our Objections to EPA, and we are very thankful to him. We were also incredibly lucky to get the legal services of Perry Wallace, a professor of law at American University, who worked hard and did a great job
for us. This was the result of a request from the Environmental Working Group to the law firm of Zelle, Hofmann, Voelbel, Mason & Gette for pro-bono services to represent us in dealing with EPA on this issue.
It was the FAN team (Michael Connett, Chris Neurath, Paul & Ellen Connett) who spent hundreds of hours over 9 years on this issue.
The issue first arose in 2001 when Dow AgroSciences requested an Experimental Use Permit for sulfuryl fluoride as as first-time food fumigant on raisins and walnuts. FAN submitted comments to EPA in September 2001 on this. In 2002, EPA approved Dow's Experimental Use permit and that is when FAN submitted its first formal Objections and a Request for a Hearing. EPA responded to our Objections two years later when it granted Dow's request to use sulfuryl fluoride on several food commodities. At this time it said FAN's first Objections were moot because DOW never used the Experimental Use Permit! FAN, with Beyond Pesticides joining us, submitted substantive Objections a Request for a Hearing on the new tolerances. Then in 2005, EPA approved a massive number of tolerances on ALL processed food. We again submitted formal Objections and a Request for Hearing, with the Environmental Working Group joining us and Beyond Pesticides.
When the National Research Council of the National Academies published their report on fluoride in March 2006 they said that the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4 ppm of fluoride in drinking water was not protective of health. As EPA had based its risk assessments for sulfuryl fluoride solely on the safety of the MCL, we petitioned EPA in June 2006 to stay all the tolerances (ref 4). EPA then solicited public comments in the Federal Register on our request for a Stay, which produced an excellent response from the New York State Attorney General's Office who agreed with us (ref 5).
The most egregious actions of EPA during this entire time were the three health risk assessments it produced. These assessments were the basis that EPA used for the "safe" use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant and thus its approval. In brief, EPA's final risk assessment allowed for an infant's exposure to fluoride to be ten times higher than that of an adult! This is not only contrary to common sense, it is contrary to EPA's mandate in the Food Quality and Protection Act that was passed to provide special protections for babies and infants. A summary of the gross manipulations and inadequacies of the EPA's three risk assessments are summarized in the book The Case Against Fluoride co-authored by FAN director Paul Connett (see chapter 20, pp 209-210).
EPA requested us to consolidate our numerous objections on two occasions, and it is our November 2006 submission that gives the most succinct review (ref 6).
In the intervening years, we, and our lawyer, had to respond to several requests from EPA and we went through a mediation effort, set up and paid for by EPA. Although we entered the mediation process in good faith, it was a complete failure. But any ill-feelings this spinning of wheels generated have been swept away by the incredible events of yesterday. Now we can concentrate on getting the EPA water division to do an honest job on determining a new MCLG and in so doing end fluoridation once and for all.
NOTE: Cryolite is another pesticide of concern that EPA allows a residue of 7 ppm fluoride in and on several foods, including citrus fruits, berries, vegetables, and U.S. wine (see list in ref 7). The ways one can avoid this added fluoride exposure is to buy organic or grow your own.
Paul Connett, Director
Fluoride Action Network
1. EPA's announcement of January 10, 2011:
2. FAN issued a press release on Sept 21, 2005, that stated:
The groups noted that 900 ppm set for dried eggs is extremely close to the amount used in toothpaste (1,000 ppm), a level that is considered toxic if consumed in greater than pea sized portions. "How can the EPA consider 900 ppm in eggs safe, while the Food and Drug Administration directs parents to call poison control centers if their children consume more than a pea sized portion of toothpaste with fluoride at 1,000 ppm?" asked Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director of FAN. "Unlike toothpaste, eggs are meant to be eaten, not spit out."
3. List of all foods with fluoride pesticide residue tolerances at
4. Petition to Stay Tolerances, June 2006 -
5. Response from the NY State Attorney General's Office on stay -
6. November 2006 Consolidated Objections on sulfuryl fluoride submitted to EPA -
7. Cryolite is used on: Apricot, Blackberry, Blueberry, Boysenberry, Brocoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Cranberry, Cucumber, Dewberry, Eggplant, Citrus fruits, Grape, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Loganberry, Melon, Nectarine, Peach, Pepper, Plum (fresh prune), Pumpkin, Raspberry, Squash (winter & summer), Strawberry, Tomato, Youngberry. See also