EPA Refuses to Ban Dangerous Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

As part of the Trump administration's current war to overthrow Obama-era environmental regulations, this week, newly appointed EPA Chief Scott Pruitt signed an order reversing a recommendation to ban a pesticide linked to nervous system damage in children. "You don't spill any of it". The chemical was banned in 2000 for use in most household settings but still today is used at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples. The residue may be found on produce in supermarkets. Research has since been conducted on its safety, and while at first, it was believed that residue on food was not enough to induce measurable nervous system dysfunction, studies conducted a year ago at Columbia University linked the agricultural use of the pesticide to "small but measurable differences in brain function", particularly in children and fetuses, explains NPR.

Pruitt's decision comes on a petition requesting that the agency ban the use of chlorpyrifos on all United States food crops. In 2007, Dow was notably banned from doing business in India for five years and fined by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for bribing Indian officials to fast-track permits for pesticides despite health concerns, including chlorpyrifos (which used the brand name "Dursban").

They found that exposure to chlorpyrifos caused small but measurable differences in brain function.

Is chlorpyrifos risky? The data seems to at least suggest it is. The study was part of a series done on mothers and their babies who were exposed to several chemicals and showed that chlorpyrifos was more unsafe than previously thought.

"One of the concerns we have as growers about the aggressive manner in which the EPA is pulling chemicals from the market is resistance" pests or plants could develop to remaining pesticides, he said. For one thing, the agency had to come up with an estimate of how much chlorpyrifos the women had been exposed to, based on levels of chlorpyrifos in their blood.

In 2015, the EPA proposed a ban on chlorpyrifos.

The law against pesticides doesn't mince words: it strictly prohibits chemicals that can not demonstrate "a reasonable certainty that no harm will result" to consumers or anyone else exposed to these pesticides.

Dow Agrosciences, the company that sells chlorpyrifos, insists that a ban is unjustified.

Lobbyists looking to keep the pesticide legal asked that the EPA reject its widely researched findings in favor of allowing chlorpyrifos use. Citing "a lot of scientific uncertainty about the risks of chlorpyrifos", the agency pushed off a final decision on the chemical's safety indefinitely.

"I'm waiting with bated breath for Friday, to see what they're going to go", Jones says.

The delay "shows that the agency is not ready to necessarily rule on or focus on the merits" of changing the rule, Yogin Kothari, a Washington representative at the Center for Science and Democracy, told Bloomberg BNA March 31.

  • Zachary Reyes