January 29, 1998

Overexposed || Organophosphate Insecticides in Children's Food: FQPA Mandates Extra Protection for Kids

The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) requires EPA to act to protect infant and child health, even in the absence of total scientific certainty regarding the toxicity or exposure of pesticides to the fetus, infant or young child. This is a dramatic reversal of previous statutory requirements where EPA had no mandate, and arguably could not act to protect the public health, even child health, in the absence of complete data on the risk from a pesticide. Now the law is clear. In the absence of complete and reliable data on pre- and postnatal toxicity and exposure to a pesticide, the EPA must err on the side of child safety and apply an additional ten-fold margin of safety to food tolerances for the pesticide (FQPA section 408(b)(2)(C)(ii)(II)).

Contrary to the clear requirements of the law, the EPA has devised and implemented an official policy in response to FQPA that disregards the requirement for a ten-fold safety factor (SAP 1997, EWG 1998, Cushman 1997). This policy plainly undermines protection of the nation's children from pesticides. If the new ten-fold safety factor were applied to all organophosphate insecticides found in food, we estimate that nearly 3.6 million children age 5 and under would be exposed to levels of these pesticides in food that would exceed the new standard.