EPA Not Banning Pesticide Linked To Health Problems In Children

Federico Mansilla
Julio 22, 2019

Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide used mostly on fruit and other produce. The scientific evidence warranted a ban from agricultural use just as the chemical was banned from household use almost two decades ago because of the known dangers, the agency found.

For more than a decade, farmworker, consumer, and environmental advocates have lobbied EPA to prohibit use of the insecticide, which is sprayed on a wide range of common crops, including corn, soy, and various fruits. Last summer, a federal court ordered the EPA to review the petition, and after a review of that decision, the agency was given 90 days in April to make a determination, culminating in Thursday's decision.

The agency denied the petition by a dozen environmental groups, led by Earthjustice, to ban the pesticide.

Local Action Naturally, petitioners took the move as a blow, saying that the administration's EPA is actually breaking the law and purposely neglecting scientific evidence showing that the chemical is harmful to children. The EPA banned the indoor use of chlorpyrifos, produced by Corteva, an agricultural chemical company formerly part of DowDuPont, that goes by the brand names Dursban and Lorsban in 2000 but allowed it to be used on agricultural products. But after the 2016 election Dow Chemical, which manufactures chlorpyrifos, set forth on an aggressive campaign to pressure the incoming Trump administration to block that decision. Those groups cast the decision as another example of the Trump administration siding with industry. "It is a tragedy that this administration sides with corporations instead of children's health".

"The science on chlorpyrifos is clear and unambiguous", says Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced legislation to ban the pesticide nationwide, in an interview with The New York Times.

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"To me, this starts the clock on the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops in the U.S.", says Kevin Minoli, a former senior EPA attorney, in an interview with the Associate Press.

California health officials said in May that their decision came amid growing evidence that the pesticide "causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations at lower levels of exposure than previously understood". According to the agency, the data presented against it was not valid, reliable, or complete to show that it is not safe. Last year, Hawaii became the first state to prohibit its use, and NY and California have followed suit.

"The economic and human health impacts are substantial and real", Dr Leonardo Trasande, who directs the division of environmental pediatrics within the department of pediatrics at New York University's Langone Health, told me.

Chlorpyrifos has been used for a half century on a wide array of crops and in virtually every corner of the country. The agency is required by law to preiodically review chemicals. Soon after, Pruitt ignored his agency's own scientists and aborted the scheduled ban.

Farmworker Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping migrant and seasonal workers improve their health and occupational safety, says farmworkers face greater risks of becoming poisoned or affected by pesticides because they work where the chemicals are at their greatest concentrations and strengths.

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