The US Environmental Protection Agency has given the green light for 13 pyrethroid insecticides to remain on the US market, with a few new restrictions. The EPA is reevaluating a total of 23 pyrethroids and pyrethrins for risks to human health and the environment. The agency plans to complete assessments for the remaining 10 within the next 2 years.
Pyrethroids are synthetic analogs of pyrethrins, insecticides derived from chrysanthemum flowers. They are less acutely toxic to people, mammals, and birds than organophosphate pesticides, but are associated with neurological disorders in humans and are harmful to pollinators and fish.
To address human health risks, the EPA is requiring certain label changes for some products containing the pyrethroids bifenthrin, cyfluthrin and β-cyfluthrin, and prallethrin. The agency is also requiring measures that reduce runoff and spray drift for all pyrethroids and pyrethrins to mitigate ecological risks.
Environmental groups say the measures don’t go far enough. “We should be banning many of these dangerous pesticides,” Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, says in a statement. “Instead the EPA has actually loosened its own prior restrictions for some of them, imperiling farmworkers and children and our crashing pollinator populations.”
In 2019, the agency increased the amount of pyrethroid exposure considered safe for children threefold, which resulted in lower risk estimates for many pyrethroids. The EPA relied on industry-led studies and a model developed by pesticide manufacturers to justify the change.