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EPA Proposes Phaseout of Fluoride-Based Pesticide

U.S. EPA today proposed to start gradually banning a pesticide often used on cocoa beans and dried fruits that degrades to fluoride, a move closely linked to the Obama administration's decision last week to curb the maximum levels of fluoride in drinking water out of concern for children's health.

EPA's bid to wind down legal use of sulfuryl fluoride, citing the health risk to children posed by aggregate fluoride exposure, marks a long-awaited victory by the three public-health groups that first asked the agency to rein in the pesticide more than five years ago.

One of the three advocacy organizations, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said the sulfuryl fluoride phaseout appears to be EPA's first official granting of any pesticide restriction petition filed by green advocates.

The Department of Health and Human Services and EPA announced Friday that fluoride, long considered a beneficial tap-water additive that helps prevent cavities, should be restricted to 0.7 milligrams per liter, or the low end of previous legal ranges (E&ENews PM, Jan. 7).

In its proposed prohibition on sulfuryl fluoride, EPA acknowledged that the pesticide's residues on food are "responsible for a tiny fraction of aggregate fluoride exposure" but deemed that children's total contact with fluoride in the environment -- through drinking water as well as toothpaste -- posed an excess risk of tooth and bone damage.  

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