The Pest Free Food Supply Act (H.R.1496) is an industry-backed bill that protects pesticide profits over children's health. Dow AgroSciences, one of the nation’s largest pesticide makers, along with various food companies, have persuaded several members of Congress to endorse a bill that directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse a proposed phaseout of sulfuryl fluoride, a highly toxic food fumigant and potent greenhouse gas. If passed, the bill would make the United States one of only two western nations to allow sulfuryl fluoride on food, increase the number of American children ingesting unsafe levels of fluoride, and create a food poisoning risk for consumers who purchase food that contains permissible levels of the fumigant.
The act, sponsored by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) and 14 others, seeks to prevent the proposed phaseout of sulfuryl fluoride from taking effect. The phaseout, which EPA proposed in January 2011, was prompted by a joint petition from the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Beyond Pesticides.
In seeking to prevent the phaseout from taking effect, the bill’s sponsors have adopted Dow’s widely discredited talking points on the safety and necessity of sulfuryl fluoride fumigation. The public should know:
• Of the few western nations that allow food facilities to be fumigated with sulfuryl fluoride only the U.S. and Australia allow fumigation to occur while food is still on the premises.
• EPA based the proposed phaseout on its finding that many children are currently being overexposed to fluoride, and that there is no safe room for additional fluoride exposures. Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the EPA cannot approve a pesticide if people are currently receiving too much of the pesticide chemical (in this case, fluoride) from other sources.
• Despite claims that sulfuryl fluoride produces a “tiny” increase in fluoride exposure, the maximum permissible levels in some fumigated foods are high enough to produce acute toxic reactions, such as nausea, vomiting, and headache. A child eating a single portion of pancakes made with flour fumigated at the maximum permissible level (125 ppm F) would ingest enough fluoride to be at risk for flu-like symptoms. The risk is worse for powdered eggs, which are permitted to contain toothpaste-strength levels (900 ppm F). The FDA mandates that fluoride toothpastes warn users to immediately contact a poison control center if they accidentally swallow the paste. Unlike toothpaste, dried eggs are meant to be swallowed.
• Fluoride is neurotoxic. Over 30 published studies have reported an association between fluoride and reduced IQ in children, Dow’s own animal studies show that the brain is the main target for sulfuryl fluoride’s effects, and fumigation workers who use sulfuryl fluoride have been found to suffer impaired cognitive function.
• Sulfuryl fluoride is a potent greenhouse gas. Because of this, the Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Health, Defenders of Wildlife, and Center for Biological Diversity oppose Dow’s efforts to expand sulfuryl fluoride production.
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