Energy & Environment

EPA head won’t ban controversial pesticide

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The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday decided against banning the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on fruits and vegetables.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision represents a course reversal from the Obama administration, which proposed the ban in 2015, based on its scientific findings of neurological harm from exposure to it.

“We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment,” Pruitt said in a late Wednesday statement.

{mosads}“By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making — rather than predetermined results,” he said.

Pruitt’s decision matches what Dow Chemical Co., which sells the pesticide under the brand name Lorsban, sought in a January letter to the agency. Dow accused the Obama EPA of short-circuiting its scientific review process for pesticides, including in areas like transparency and peer review.

Farmers use chlorpyrifos to kill insects and some plant pests on numerous crops, including some meant for human consumption. It has been in use since 1965, but most household uses were phased out in 2001.

Research in recent years has linked the pesticide to nervous system and brain problems, including lowered brain function in some children exposed to it before birth.

The EPA under Obama proposed in 2015 to ban chlorpyrifos’s use on food crops, responding to a petition and lawsuit from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other groups.

“With each year of delay in canceling 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,” a coalition wrote to the agency this year.

But Dow objected, as did agricultural interests.

“EPA’s proposal appears to be a retreat from its statutory obligation that, when evaluating pesticides for registration, it balances the risk of those active ingredients against their benefits to farmers specifically, and to the public generally, when they do not pose an unreasonable risk to health or the environment,” the American Farm Bureau Federation told the agency.

Groups that pushed for the ban slammed Pruitt’s decision

“The Trump administration is putting the needs of chemical corporations before children’s health,” NRDC senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman said in a statement.

“Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids,” she said. “We will hold EPA accountable to protecting the American people from industries that can do us grave harm. The health of our children depends on it.”

The NRDC could ask the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the court where it previously sued the EPA to force a decision, to review Pruitt’s final determination.

Tags chlorpyrifos Pesticides Scott Pruitt

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