Under Obama, the EPA had plans to ban chlorpyrifos. But it’s making a comeback under the current administration, despite research showing the chemical’s dangers.
After years of speculation and delay, the Trump administration has announced that it won’t ban chlorpyrifos, a commonly-used pesticide linked to serious health problems in children.
The decision was announced Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency. In a statement, the EPA said there’s no “sufficiently valid, complete or reliable” evidence to support a blanket-ban on the chemical. That’s despite past research suggesting links between chlorpyrifos exposure and neurophysiological stunting.
In the meantime, the agency’s opted to monitor literature and safety reports through 2022.
According to The New York Times, the EPA’s decision marks another step toward the mass deregulation of potentially dangerous chemicals and pollutants. In April, the agency decided to “restrict” but not prohibit the sale and use of asbestos within the United States, even though that product’s injurious health effects are undeniable.
Not surprisingly, health activists and environmental justice organizations have criticized the Trump administration for taking a lackadaisical line on children’s safety.
“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harm’s children’s brains,” said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman. “[It’s] a tragedy that this administration sides with corporations instead of children’s health.”
Chlorpyrifos, writes The Guardian, has raise concerns for years. The government began issuing prohibitions on its use in and around homes as early as 2000. But the chemical continued to be used as a pesticide, even after researchers found “that pregnant women who lived near farms that sprayed it had increased risks of having a child with autism.”
There may also be a link between exposure and memory problems, lower IQs and reduced respiratory function.
California, citing a study by a state research panel, recently moved to ban the chemical. Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health, said the reason some states have passed laws in light of the EPA’s inaction is the overwhelming body of literature supporting claims of chlorpyrifos’ dangers.
“What we have with chlorpyrifos is multiple academic research projects that have shown that actual children who live in California are being harmed by this chemical,” Cox said. “It’s pretty rare that you have that kind of evidence for any toxic chemical.”
Industry executives have taken a slightly different approach, praising the EPA for enabling American agriculture and farm-work.
“The availability of pesticides like chlorpyrifos is relied upon by farmers to control a variety of insect pests and by public health officials who work to control deadly and debilitating pests like mosquitoes,” said CropLife America CEO Chris Novak.