Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced late Wednesday that a widely used pesticide will remain available to farmers, despite agency scientists recommending previous year that it be ban due to neurotoxicity risks to farm workers and children.
In October 2015, the Obama Administration proposed to revoke all food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos, an active ingredient in insecticides. The proposal was a response to a petition from various environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.
U.S. farms use more than 5 million pounds of the chemical each year - about 25% of it in California.
"This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science", Sheryl Kunickis, pesticides director at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), said in a press statement.
He ignored the study from Colombia in making this decision.
For half a century, the chemical, also known as lorsban, has been used on dozens of crops including corn, strawberries and citrus. But the Trump administration has positioned itself as much friendlier to industry - appointing Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, for instance - and has often railed against regulations from the EPA.
In greenlighting the unsafe chemical, the EPA defied its own research-and acquiesced to Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, which has been lobbying the agency for years to allow the pesticide's continued use.
The EPA banned the spraying of chlorpyrifos indoors to get rid of household bugs more than a decade ago, NPR reported, but at that time it was thought use on farms posed little risk - a belief evidence the EPA recently assessed called into question. From the American Academy of Pediatrics: "Multiple epidemiological and toxicological studies indicate that children who have had an exposure to organophosphate pesticides such as chlorpyrifos in both urban and agricultural settings are at increased risk for abnormal neurodevelopment with persistent loss of intelligence and abnormalities of behavior". If Pruitt's decision stands, chlorpyrifos' safety won't likely be reviewed again until 2022, when the agency would complete it's standard 15-year review process. "EPA heeded the concerns laid out by stakeholders, state regulators, trading partners and even USDA in the public record".
"We have a law that requires the EPA to ban pesticides that it can not determine are safe, and the EPA has repeatedly said this pesticide is not safe", Patti Goldman, managing attorney at Earthjustice, told the New York Times.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt still doesn't agree with the vast majority of climate scientists who say humans are the primary cause of climate change.