Energy & Environment

Six states sue EPA over pesticide tied to brain damage


Several states sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday over the agency’s decision to allow further use of a pesticide linked to brain damage.

California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland and Vermont argued in court documents that chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide, should be banned due to the dangers associated with it.

{mosads}Earthjustice filed a similar lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of groups advocating for environmentalists, farmworkers and people with learning disabilities.

“A chlorpyrifos ban is long overdue given the overwhelming evidence that says this pesticide harms brain development in children,” Tracy Gregoire, a project coordinator at the Learning Disabilities Association of America, said in a statement. “We are hopeful the courts will side with children who are now being exposed to irreparable, yet preventable harm.”

Chlorpyrifos, known on the market as Lorsban, is used on a wide variety of crops, including corn and cranberries. Farmers have called it the last line of defense against certain insects.

But it has also been linked to learning and memory issues and prolonged nerve and muscle stimulation.

The EPA banned chlorpyrifos for household use in 2001 over concerns it would cause brain damage in children.

EPA’s decision to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos came last month, the result of a court-ordered deadline to regulate the pesticide prompted by a lawsuit previously filed by Earthjustice.

EPA would not comment on the lawsuit but said those challenging the use of chlorpyrifos did not have enough data to demonstrate the product is not safe. The EPA said it would continue to review the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2022.

“Registration review is a comprehensive, scientific and transparent process that will further evaluate the potential effects of chlorpyrifos. EPA has also been engaged in discussions with the chlorpyrifos registrants that could result in further use limitations,” the agency said in a statement to The Hill.

States argue that timeline is far too long.

“Parents shouldn’t have to question whether everyday fruits and vegetables will poison their children,” California Attorney General Becerra said in a statement. “The EPA is egregiously sacrificing our children’s health by refusing to make a determination on this dangerous pesticide.”

A month after former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt began leading the department, the agency rejected an Obama-era recommendation from agency scientists to ban the pesticide.

In the absence of EPA action, some states have moved to regulate chlorpyrifos on their own. Hawaii last year banned its use, and California and New York are considering a similar move.

California, the nation’s top agricultural state, said it was obligated to take action due to research showing chlorpyrifos hinders brain development in children.

Farmers and other groups have urged the EPA to keep chlorpyrifos available.

“Without the ability to use chlorpyrifos, entire production fields could be lost,” the American Seed Trade Association wrote in a letter to the agency in 2017.

But many farmworkers say they have been injured by prolonged exposure to the pesticide.

“A nerve agent pesticide that poisons workers and damages children’s developing brain has no place near our fruits and vegetables,” Ramon Ramirez, president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, a Latino farmworker group based in Oregon, said in a statement Tuesday. “We look forward to seeing the courts do what EPA refuses to do, protect workers and children with a chlorpyrifos ban.”

Updated at 5:21 p.m.

Tags California chlorpyrifos Earthjustice Environmental Protection Agency farmers learning disabilities Maryland Massachusetts New York Pesticides Scott Pruitt Vermont Washington

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