EPA Scientists Say This Pesticide Damages Kids' Brains, but the EPA Won't Ban It

June 28th 2017

Scientific research shows that a popular pesticide may damage children’s developing brains, but EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt doesn’t seem to care.

A new report from the Associated Press reveals that Pruitt made the decision to roll back an Obama-era plan to ban the pesticide after meeting with the CEO of Dow Chemical, the company that makes it. Pruitt’s schedule confirms that he met with CEO Andrew Liveris for half an hour just 20 days before making the decision.

The EPA denies that Liveris and Pruitt discussed the pesticide when they met.

A previous review from the EPA concluded that Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide, which is commonly sprayed on produce, can interfere with the neurological development of infants and fetuses, even when ingested in the smallest amounts. Traces of the chemical may also be found in drinking water sources, and under President Barack Obama the agency proposed banning it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Working Group voiced their concerns about the pesticide in a letter to Pruitt.

“The risk to infant and children’s health and development is unambiguous,” said the organizations in their letter. “We are deeply alarmed by EPA’s decision not to finalize the proposed rule to end chlorpyrifos uses on food—a decision that was premised on the need for further study on the effects of chlorpyrifos on children before finalizing a rule.”

The EPA has denied accusations that corporate pressure dictated Pruitt’s decision.

“Despite several years of study, EPA has concluded that the science addressing chlorpyrifos remains unresolved,” EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman said, according to the AP. “We will make a decision based on the science, not on real — or perceived — pressure from companies or environmental activists.”

As the AP report notes, however, Dow contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration festivities, and the company’s CEO heads Trump’s manufacturing jobs initiative and has had multiple closed-door meeting with the president, according to CNBC.

"We will make a decision based on the science, not on real - or perceived - pressure from companies or environmental activists."

Lawyers from Dow have also asked the EPA to ignore research concluding that another family of Dow pesticides may be harmful to roughly 1,800 threatened and endangered species, according to an April AP Report.  

Efforts to ban chlorpyrifos first emerged as a petition from the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council, with the EPA proposing a permanent ban of the chemical’s use on edible crops in November 2015.

Following Pruitt’s decision, Earthjustice, representing the original petition holders, asked a panel of federal appeal judges to overturn the decision based on existing scientific research.

“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 National Resources Defense Council, in a press release. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids. The health of our children must come before chemical corporations.”

Without the ban, the pesticide is not scheduled for another safety review until 2025.

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