SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A group of environmental organizations asked a Ninth Circuit panel to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban a pesticide they say is highly hazardous to human health, particularly to children.
The Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council want the panel to force the EPA to revoke the registration of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which the groups say harms childhood development.
“It’s outrageous the EPA continues to disregard the science, the law and the court order,” Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice managing attorney handling the case, said in an interview.
The case stems from 2007, when the coalition first petitioned the EPA to explore banning the pesticide, which is widely used in agricultural areas in Iowa, California and throughout the Midwest.
In December 2015, a Ninth Circuit panel ordered the EPA to respond to the petition, calling the delay “egregious” and setting a deadline of March 31, 2017, to reply.
On March 29, President Donald Trump’s appointee for the EPA, Scott Pruitt, said the agency would deny the petition.
“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,” Pruitt said.
He added the EPA needs more time to conclusively establish whether chlorpyrifos is hazardous to human health.
But Goldman said the EPA’s own scientific assessment, released late last year, found “expected residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the safety standard” under federal law.
The conclusion was based in part on another study conducted by researchers at Columbia University that showed the pesticide was a neurotoxin and created significant changes in the brain chemistry of young children.
Armed with this information, the environmental coalition asks the appellate panel to order the EPA to ban the substance in accordance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
“EPA is refusing to take this chemical off the market – but it is not rescinding its own scientists’ finding that this pesticide is toxic to children,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids.”
Chlorpyrifos was banned for indoor and residential use in 2001, but continues to be used on a wide range of crops, most often in orchards.
Chlorpyrifos is manufactured by Dow Chemical, whose CEO Andrew Liveris is an ally of the Trump administration. He called it “the most pro-business administration since the Founding Fathers.”
Liveris was handed a pen by Trump after he signed an executive order on Feb. 24 that peeled back several regulations, and was named the head of the National Manufacturing Council in January.
Kristin Schafer, policy director for Pesticide Action Network, said Trump’s EPA and its alliance with Dow and industry in general represents a “dereliction of duty” that drives her group to the courts.
“If it takes a court order for EPA to stand up to pressure from Dow’s lobbyists and do right by children and their families, then so be it,” she said.
An EPA representative declined to comment. An email sent to Dow Chemical seeking comment was not returned by press time.