EPA refuses to ban pesticide tied to children's health problems


Farmers can keep spraying fruits and vegetables with a pesticide shown to harm a child's brain even at low levels of exposure, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency said today.

The EPA concluded there wasn't sufficient evidence of the negative neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos - a pesticide used in farming - to justify a ban requested by environmental groups and a collection of states. Studies led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) itself have found that families exposed to chlorpyrifos in agricultural communities or apartment buildings had children with lower birth weights and reduced IQs, among other developmental issues.

With the EPA facing a court-ordered deadline to make a decision on the insecticide it chose to reaffirm its decision in 2017 not to ban the unsafe chemical.

In April, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the EPA must decide by mid-July whether to reverse the Trump administration's overturn of a scheduled ban on chlorpyrifos.

The pesticide is made by Corteva Agriscience, formerly part of DowDuPont.

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In a statement, the EPA said it was separately speeding up a regular agency review of the pesticide's continued use, and expected a decision on that well ahead of a 2022 deadline.

"EPA has determined that their objections must be denied because the data available are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners' burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe". The pesticide has been used nationally on dozens of food crops. "It is a tragedy that this administration sides with corporations instead of children's health". And though the announcement came as no surprise to the scientists and health professionals who have been following the issue, it cemented for many a deep sense of foreboding about what the future holds when science is scorned for the sake of placating a corporate profit agenda.

"The EPA's decision, which represented a win for industry, drew swift condemnation from groups that have pushed for years to remove the pesticide from the market", Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin write for The Washington Post.

The Obama administration's EPA had banned the use of chlorpyrifos in 2015 after it decided it could not be certain whether exposure to the chemical in food and water would be harmful. What's more, in 2000 the EPA call for a halt to the majority of home uses for the chemical because it endangers children.

Farmers apply chlorpyrifos to more than 50 crops, including apples, almonds, and broccoli, and to control pests such as mosquitos. Last year, Hawaii became the first state to prohibit its use, and NY and California have followed suit. That review "could result in further use limitations affecting the outcome of EPA's assessment", its statement said. That was " the promise of DuPont" at the 1964 New York World's Fair. In 2001, EPA banned indoor uses of chlorpyrifos, and since then, has been assessing and re-assessing the health risks that it poses to humans. The organization vows to continue its fight to get chlorpyrifos banned.