(CN) – After suffering a significant setback in the courtroom, environmentalists dedicated to banning a pesticide linked to developmental impairment in children received good news Tuesday after a coalition of Democratic U.S. senators introduced a bill aimed at banning the chemical.
U.S. Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Kamala Harris of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts revealed the Protect Children, Farmers & Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act, a bill that would ban all uses of chlorpyrifos in the United States.
Chlorpyrifos is a widely used pesticide that recent studies have shown can impair neurological development in children and have adverse health effects on exposed adults.
“I’m joining Sen. Udall on bill to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to developmental issues in kids,” Blumenthal tweeted on Tuesday. “If Trump’s EPA won’t act, we will.”
Blumenthal’s reference is to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to deny a 2007 petition brought by the Pesticide Action Network and other environmental groups concerned about the public health implications of the pesticide.
Several studies show that even low doses of chlorpyrifos can have adverse impacts on infants’ cognitive and emotional development. Large doses can cause acute toxicity in exposed individuals, and studies demonstrate that agricultural workers with frequent exposure to the pesticide have developed serious lung ailments, including wheeze and cancer.
The EPA’s own scientists concluded in 2016 that the growing body of scientific studies meant that there are no acceptable tolerance levels for the chemical, which is in the same family of compounds as Sarin nerve gas.
Nevertheless, Trump’s EPA chief decided in March that the pesticide should not be banned.
“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,” EPA head Scott Pruitt said at the time.
The move prompted an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, which had previously ruled that the EPA had engaged in “egregious delay” in responding to the petition. However, the Ninth Circuit ruled against environmental groups this month, saying it would only rule on the timing and not the content of the decision in the context of the present case.
Environmentalists smarting from that defeat took heart in the Senate action on Tuesday.
“We applaud these senators for taking a stand for rural families and children across the country,” said Kristin Schafer, executive director of Pesticide Action Network. “The science is clear that this brain-harming pesticide is unsafe to use in any amount. Secretary Pruitt’s anti-science decision cannot stand.”
Pruitt came under scrutiny for the decision after it was revealed he met with Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris a week before his announcement. Dow Chemical makes chlorpyrifos.
Trump appointed Liveris to head the American Manufacturing Council.
Dow Chemical contributed $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, according to an article in USA Today. And Liveris was present when Trump signed an executive order on regulatory reform and was handed the pen used to sign the order after the ceremony was complete.
Chlorpyrifos was banned for residential use in the United States 17 years ago. In denying the petition for a complete ban, Pruitt said the agency would await more scientific data before making a ruling in 2020.
In March, after the EPA said it would not grant the environmental organization’s petition, Dow Chemical issued a statement.
“This is the right decision for farmers who, in about 100 countries, rely on the effectiveness of chlorpyrifos to protect more than 50 crops,” the company said.
Bonnie Wirtz, a Minnesota farmer whose son suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder he acquired when he was 14 months old, said her son’s sickness was due to chlorpyrifos drift.
“By leaving this chemical on the market we are gambling with the lives of children,” Wirtz said in a statement. “It is stealing their futures from them and increasing the amount of health care dollars they will need for treatment.”