EPA Accused Of Ignoring 85 Research Studies Linking The Pesticide, Telone, To Cancer

EnvironmentHealth & Wellness

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an environmental protection organization of local, state, and national government natural resource and environmental professionals, submitted a complaint to the EPA’s Office of Inspector General last week, accusing the agency of fraudulently assessing the risk of the pesticide, Telone. 

PEER’s complaint accuses the agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs of omitting “known facts” and issuing false and misleading representations about the science on Telone, which contains the  active ingredient 1,3-Dichloropropene, or 1,3-D. 

Telone was created by Dow AgroSciences, which recently rebranded as Corteva Agriscience. 

TheIntercept.com reports that agency staff knowingly ignored studies showing that the pesticide causes cancer.

Is 1,3-D (Telone) Harmful To Humans? 

Telone is a highly-volatile gas that’s applied to soil before crops grow, in order to kill parasites and other pests. 

According to TheIntercept.com, the pesticide demonstrated “clear evidence” of carcinogenicity in rodents, which developed tumors in their lungs and bladders after being exposed to 1,3-D. The findings were conducted in 1985 by the National Toxicology Program.  That same year, the EPA classified the chemical as a probable human carcinogen. The agency would repeat that designation in 1996, 2000, and 2005. 

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state of California, and the National Toxicology Program have repeatedly found Telone to be a “likely human carcinogen.”

Several other studies over the years have shown 1,3-D to be associated with cancer. 

EPA Omits Studies From Telone Assessment 

However, the EPA’s recent draft assessment of Telone concluded the chemical possesses only “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.”

The PEER complaint says that the EPA reached this conclusion, in part, because it omitted 85 relevant research articles in their assessment. That’s because EPA failed to include the full name of the chemical from the medical literature search parameters. For instance, the agency used the search terms “1,3-D” and “Telone” but not “1,3-Dichloropropene.” 

As a result, one research article not included in the EPA’s assessment is a 2015 peer-reviewed study that found the chemical induced DNA damage in liver cells in rats. According to PEER, this exclusion led the EPA to incorrectly conclude that Telone is not genotoxic.

Biased Studies On Telone

Not all studies suggest Telone is linked to cancer. For example, one study from 2016, published in The Science of the Total Environment concluded:

“The best available science supports 1,3-D’s threshold nature of hazard and the revised exposure assessment supports that current agricultural uses of 1,3-D are associated with reasonable certainty of no harm, i.e., estimated long-term exposures pose insignificant health risks to bystanders even when the non-threshold approach is assumed.”

However, at the time of the study’s publication, two of the co-authors of the study were affiliated with Dow Chemical, which has also been accused of influencing the EPA to ignore scientific evidence on another pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to neurological development issues in children. 

Describing the omission of the research by the EPA, PEER’s executive director, Tim Whitehouse, said in the complaint, “These are not honest mistakes and carry the earmarks of deliberate malfeasance.”

First Responders Developed Cancer Because of Telone But Evidence Was Ignored

Arguably, the most egregious study that the EPA did not include in the agency’s reassessment of Telone documented cases of lymphoma in first responders who cleaned up after a tank truck spilled the pesticide. 

TheIntercept.com reports that another study highlighted a case in which exposure of the pesticide in agricultural communities was linked to pancreatic cancer.

Attorneys General of several states also expressed concern that the agency failed to consider several studies. 

Is Telone Widely-Used?

In 2017, 40 million pounds of it were applied to crop soils, making 1,3-D one of the most widely-used pesticides in the U.S. In Europe, the pesticide started to be phased out in 2007. For the full report by The Intercept, click here.


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