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Organophosphate pesticide acephate poses health risks

Exposure from drinking water alone raises concerns, US EPA says

by Britt E. Erickson
September 7, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 30


The chemical structure of acephate.

Exposure to the organophosphate insecticide acephate and its degradate methamidophos in drinking water poses health risks, the US Environmental Protection agency concludes in a revised human health risk assessment, released Aug. 30. The risks are even greater when exposures from food and residential uses are considered, the agency says.

Acephate is one of 18 organophosphate pesticides under review by the EPA for potential health risks as part of a routine process that occurs every 15 years. Like other organophosphates, acephate inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, an action that leads to acute neurotoxic effects. But unlike some organophosphates, it does not appear to be a developmental neurotoxicant and therefore poses no additional risks to pregnant people and children, the EPA says.

As part of the review process, the EPA is assessing the benefits of acephate and possible alternatives to the chemical. The agency plans to contact manufacturers of the pesticide to discuss ways to mitigate the human health risks identified in the revised assessment, as well as ecological risks identified in 2017.

The US Department of Agriculture weighed in earlier this year on the importance and benefits of acephate to control pests on crops and in nonagricultural applications, the EPA says. The agency expects to propose an interim decision next year on whether acephate can remain on the US market.


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