NRDC wins victory to stop EPA and chemical industry from overturning restrictions on a toxic class of pesticides, the EBDCs

In a great victory for NRDC, public health and worker safety, yesterday the chemical industry capitulated today in their long-running effort to reverse a partial ban on a group of pesticides known as the Ethylene bisdithiocarbamates, or EBDCs for short, primarily used on potato crops.

EPA significantly restricted the use of these chemicals in the early 1990s because of cancer risks to children. But a coalition of chemical companies - including Dow, Dupont, and BASF - had petitioned EPA to reverse itself and allow broader application of the EBDCs.

The EBDCs are a class of fungicides that include mancozeb, maneb, and metiram. They are metabolized to ethylene thiourea (ETU), a chemical that is classified as a carcinogen by EPA based on evidence from rodent studies. It has its toxic effects on the thyroid, and thereby interferes with normal growth and development, and may induce thyroid tumors.

Last year, EPA agreed (a little too eagerly) to reverse itself in response to the industry's request. The NRDC legal team challenged their decision before an Administrative Law Judge, and aggressively opposed the industry's and EPA's combined efforts to narrow the proceeding and exclude key evidence of health risks. Over the course of the past year, the judge repeatedly ruled that NRDC should be allowed to present new evidence regarding the health risks posed by these pesticides, which EPA and the industry were attempting to block.

The judge ruled against EPA and the chemical industry 7 times in the last 12 months, until the industry finally decided to withdraw their claim and concede the case. The judge's rulings significantly increased the burden on the industry to show that their requested reversal was safe, and would have resulted in a lengthy and expensive evidentiary hearing. Rather than attempt to meet that burden, the chemical companies backed down.

This is especially important because of the precedent it establishes: any future attempts to overturn pesticide bans will be held to the stringent standard that we argued for and that the judge ruled must apply. This will make it much harder for chemical companies to demand -- and for EPA to agree to -- reversals of pesticide restrictions that are currently on the books.

Three cheers to the NRDC legal team, for their tireless efforts and great success!

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Health program

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