(CN) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency faces increasing pressure to ban one of the most widely used pesticides, as attorney generals from seven states told the agency to follow its own scientific findings that the pest-killer has adverse effects on human health.
Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the coalition of seven states say the EPA’s recent denial of a 2007 petition requesting the agency to ban chlorpyrifos was unlawful. The states asked the agency to vacate the decision.
“The administrative record on which EPA relied showed the lack of safety associated with the continued use of chlorpyrifos on food because of its adverse neurodevelopmental effects, particularly in children,” Schneiderman wrote in the states’ objection.
Their objection comes two months after environmental organizations filed a separate but parallel effort in the Ninth Circuit to force the EPA to revoke the registration of chlorpyrifos.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network sued the EPA on April 5, making the same basic argument: The EPA has long delayed the revocation of the pesticide and its sudden decision not to do so, in concert with the incoming Trump administration, bucks its own science and is illegal.
Chlorpyrifos is used widely as a pesticide throughout the nation’s agricultural system. Trace amounts can appear in food consumed by pregnant women and young children, and a series of studies have shown the pesticide negatively impacts proper development and functioning of the central nervous system and brain.
The EPA’s own scientific assessment, released in late 2016, found “expected residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the safety standard” under federal law.
That conclusion was based in part on another study conducted by researchers at Columbia University which showed the pesticide is a neurotoxin and creates significant changes in the brain chemistry of young children.
Scientists have attempted to identify safe levels of the chemical – which would allow the pesticide to be registered – but have so far failed to do so, Schneiderman said.
“If the Trump administration won’t follow the law – and put our children’s well being first – we will fight back,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
Critics of the EPA’s recent decision often cite the apparent cozy relationship between President Donald Trump and Andrew Liveris, the CEO of chlorpyrifos manufacturer Dow Chemical.
Trump handed Liveris a pen after he signed an executive order on Feb. 24 that peeled back several regulations. The president also appointed Liveris as head of the National Manufacturing Council in January.
The EPA process had been bogged down before Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, a longtime strident critic of the EPA and its mission, to head the agency earlier this year.
Environmental organizations initially filed the petition to revoke the approval of chlorpyrifos in 2007.
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, 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.
However, environmental organizations and the seven states say the science is well established and Pruitt is simply bending to industry demands while putting the public health of citizens in jeopardy.
The coalition of attorney generals bases their legal argument on the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which they say does not give EPA latitude to leave certain tolerances in place without definitively proving their safety.
Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in the challenge are the attorneys general of California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington state and Vermont.