Agreement reached with E.P.A. on phosphine usage

by Emily Wilson
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A tentative agreement has been reached between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the fumigant manufacturing industry over new rules regulating phosphine use.

In February, the E.P.A. agreed in writing to accept a counterproposal put forth by a coalition of phosphine manufacturers and users — primarily grain handlers and millers — to allow the continued use of phosphine in grain handling. In the earlier agreement, a proposed rule requiring pre-notification of residents and businesses within a 500-foot and 700-foot radius was dropped. Left unresolved in February, though, was E.P.A.'s proposal for a reduction in the maximum permissible exposure limit of phosphine to 0.01 parts per million from 0.3 p.p.m.

The latest agreement dropped the reduced permissible exposure limit. "If that p.e.l. had been cut as proposed by the E.P.A., nothing else would have mattered," said James A. Bair, vice-president, North American Millers' Association. "There is no equipment that can detect to that level of accuracy. If you can't ensure you are in compliance with all federal rules, then it would not be prudent to use it. It would have been an effective ban."