EPA Allows Pesticide Linked To Neurological Conditions In People

It has been a long and arduous journey for environmental groups and organizations advocating on behalf of farm workers in their attempt to ban chlorpyrifos. There have been countless legal proceedings between the EPA and organizations wanting the pesticide banned for over 10 years.

Case Background

A coalition of organizations that included the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) first filed their case with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a ban on chlorpyrifos in 2007. After their petition was rejected by EPA that same year, the Plaintiffs moved the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to order the EPA to ban the pesticide based on the agency’s findings that the pesticide is dangerous. That motion was rejected.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

In August 2018, the Petitioners received a ray of hope in their quest to ban chlorpyrifos. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case and then directed the EPA to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations of pesticide. The Court denied EPA’s argument that the court lacks jurisdiction to review the 2017 order denying the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos. The court granted the EPA’s request for a rehearing of the case before the Court’s full panel of judges and ordered the EPA to issue “a full and final decision on LULAC’s objections. On July 18, 2019, the EPA decided it would not ban chlorpyrifos.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals granted the EPA’s Motion to Dismiss the case on the grounds that EPA’s issuance of the Final Order mooted the petition for review.

Health Effects

Pesticides have been under fire lately for adverse health effects that many of them cause. In late 2018, DeWayne Johnson, a former groundskeeper of a school district in California, won a $289 million lawsuit against Monsanto. A jury ruled Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup caused Mr. Johnson’s terminal illness and that the company hid the product’s health hazards. Evidence has also been mounting concerning the dangers of Chlorpyrifos. A study conducted at Columbia University determined that children who were exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb led a to neurodevelopmental problems. These problems included increased risk of poorer reflexes, higher risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder problems. Also, the National Institute of Health considers it “toxic” to birds and “extremely toxic” to fish and other non-target insects, such as bees.

Changing Policies Within The Administration

Chlorpyrifos was introduced as an insecticide in 1965 by Dow Chemicals. After negotiations with six chlorpyrifos manufacturers in 2000, the pesticide was banned for use in homes, schools, and day care centers after scientific studies suggested a correlation between its usage and prenatal neurodevelopmental risks. It was nearly banned entirely by the EPA under the Obama administration.

In November 2015, the EPA proposed to ban it because it was unable to conclude that the risk of aggregate exposure met the safety standard. In 2016, using a different methodology in quantifying the risk posed by chlorpyrifos, the EPA concluded studies provide “sufficient evidence” that children experience neurodevelopmental adverse effects at low levels of exposure.

The Trump Administration reversed the decision in 2017. Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator argued the administration reached a decision by using “sound science in decision-making- rather than predetermined results.” The EPA argued that the Petitioners objections must be denied because the data regarding chlorpyrifos “are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners’ burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe.”

Chlorpyrifos Banned By Other Governments

Though the EPA and U.S. government has been hesitant to ban the pesticide, others have taken action. Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency had recently proposed cancelling all use of the Chlorpyrifos in June 2019. The European Union also has taken steps to eliminate it by submitting a draft rule to the World Trade Organization banning chlorpyrifos by February 2020. Some U.S. states have also jumped on the bandwagon. California, Hawaii, and New York have announced plans to phase out of the chemical or ban entirely. Senator of New Mexico, Tom Udall has sponsored the bill, Protect Children, Farmers, and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2019, banning the chemical nationally.

We Can Help

Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that was originally developed as an alternative to the pesticide DDT. Farmers use the insecticide on a wide variety of crops, such as alfalfa, almonds, cotton, grapes, and walnuts. If chlorpyrifos is ever banned, it will after more research and battles in court. There is significant support for and against it. While environmental and health advocates have tried to have the pesticide banned to no avail, the Office of Pest Management Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated chlorpyrifos is an important pest management tool.

If have you have concerns about environmental issues, contact Whitcomb Selinsky at (866) 476-4558 and find out how we can help.

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