On March 29th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to overturn an Obama-era suggestion to ban a pesticide known as chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to nerve damage in children. Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, signed an order allowing farmers to use the substance. Chlorpyrifos is used to treat several kinds of crops, including soybeans, corn, apples, wheat, citrus and tree nuts.
In 2015, the Obama administration announced that they would employ a “zero tolerance” policy for companies who allow residue from chlorpyrifos to get on food. This policy essentially ended the use of the chemical. The Obama administration’s decision came as a response to pressure from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court pressured the administration because of several lawsuits by the Pesticide Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council who had petitioned the EPA in 2007 to stop farmers from using the chemical.
Mr. Pruitt and Corporations
According to The Washington Post, Pruitt’s decision was a direct response to the agricultural and chemical industries who complained that the Obama administration didn’t complete its review of the scientific evidence pertaining to the effects of Chlorpyrifos. Just as in the past, Pruitt placed the needs of businesses over the needs of victims. He had this to say, “We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos.”
Pruitt also argued that the Obama administration failed to pay attention to “sound science,” following suit with Dow AgroSciences who manufactures the chemical. In a statement, the company said it “remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products, as directed, offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.”
Kristin Schafer, policy director at Pesticide Action Network, said the EPA gave in to corporate pressure. She added, “The new administration’s agency ignored their own findings that all exposures to chlorpyrifos on foods, in drinking water, and from pesticide drift into schools, homes and playgrounds are unsafe.”
Last week, the Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the EPA. Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney representing the groups, said “President Trump and his EPA flouted court orders and EPA’s scientific findings that chlorpyrifos puts children, farmworkers, their families and many others at risk.” These groups have been trying to ban the substance since 2000 when they first petitioned the EPA. Why are they so insistent? Because science shows that the chemical is dangerous.
Sound Science (not funded by corporations)
To find sound science proving the harmful nature of Chlorpyrifos, one need only read a letter from Environmental Health Scientists and Healthcare Professionals sent to the EPA in January, urging the agency to ban the chemical. The letter, signed by about 50 doctors, had this to say, “With each year of delay in cancelling food tolerances and agricultural and other uses of chlorpyrifos, more children are unnecessarily at elevated risk for problems in learning, social skills, motor function, and other developmental domains.”
The EPA’s appeal to “sound science” might sound strange to some, considering a court recently revealed documents suggesting possible collusion between Monsanto and the EPA. With this in mind, four US Representatives from the House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent a letter to Representative Greg Walden, the committee’s chair, asking him to investigate Pruitt’s decision. In the letter, they proposed a hearing that would raise questions about Dow’s involvement in the EPA’s decision to allow the use of chlorpyrifos.
Once again, the Trump administration has decided to heed corporate interests, while putting lives at risk. And in this case, children’s lives are at stake.