The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, and made one of his first formal actions as the nation’s top environmental official this past Wednesday. About a decade ago, two environmental groups asked the agency to ban all uses of an insecticide called clorphyrifos.
After being banned in 200 for household use, it’s still used today on about 40,000 farms on crops ranging from almonds to apples. Based off of research conducted at Columbia University, the E.P.A. has concluded that exposure to chlorpyrifos potentially causes learning and memory declines, particularly among farm workers and young children who are exposed to the chemical through drinking water and other sources.
Dow chemical however, argues that the science demonstrating that the chemical is harmful is inconclusive. Mr. Pruitt insists that the agency needs to study the science more in order to understand whether or not the correlation is in fact causation.
The move was immediately condemned by environmental groups, claiming that the Trump administration cares more about major corporations than the health and safety of families nationwide. To further this point, Jim Jones, who ran the chemical safety unit at the E.P.A. for five years spending more than 20 years working there, says that “[t]hey are ignoring the science that is pretty solid.” This rejection is considered a “final agency action” suggesting that the matter would not likely be revisited until 2022, the next time the E.P.A. is formally acquired to re-evaluate the safety of the pesticide.
The agency is now under fire by environmental groups who intend to return back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to ask judges to order the agency to ban the use of this pesticide.
See Eric Lipton, E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide, N.Y. Times (Mar. 29, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/us/politics/epa-insecticide-chlorpyrifos.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fscience&action=click&contentCollection=science®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront.