Opinion: EPA chooses chemical companies over children’s health

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The pesticide chlorpyrifos should have been banned back in 2017.  Epidemiological studies from the EPA in 2011 and 2016 have suggested that chlorpyrifos causes neurological damage in young children.

The studies were enough for the Obama administration to call for a ban on the use of chlorpyrifos nationwide on more than 50 crops including strawberries, broccoli, grapes, and citrus.  But before the ban was finalized in the Federal Register new tenants took up residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

This July the EPA did the stupid, saying it would allow chilorpyrifos usage to continue to as late as 2022 while it mulls whether there is anything to those pesky neurological brain damage claims.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler used warped and twisted logic in defending chilorpyrifos usage because prior EPA research was “not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable.”

Over at Corteva AgriScience, an agricultural chemical company spun off from the Dow DuPont merger, company officials tried to convince the public chilorpyrifos is safe by pointing to some 4,000 EPA studies and reports that have examined the pesticides' impact on health, safety, and  environment. 

(As an aside some genius over at Corteva thought it would be a great idea to feed chilorpyrifos to beagles to see what would happen.)

I suspect the public isn't buying Corteva's narrative. 

Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman said in a statement, “It is a tragedy that this administration sides with corporations instead of children’s health.”

And Pesticide Action Network executive director Kristin Schafer says, “This administration is putting children, workers and rural families across the country at continued risk for no good reason, and we will continue to press for a full federal ban of this dangerous chemical. This administration has made perfectly clear who they are working for.”

There is no doubt the EPA will soon find itself back in court trying to once again explain why usage of chilorpyrifos is hunky-dory.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in August 2018 already ruled chilorpyrifos unsafe and ordered EPA to revoke food tolerances and take the pesticide off the market.

But that ruling was vacated in February after EPA requested a rehearing which ultimately ordered EPA in a writ of  mandamus to issue within 90 days a full and fair decision on the petitioner's objections.

Essentially the court was signaling to EPA to get on with final action in the Federal Register to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances.

Well that didn't happen.  

I fully expect the justices over at the Ninth Circuit will leave little tolerance for EPA's decision to continue to allow Corteva to market chlorpyrifos.

About Dave Dickey

Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for the Midwest Center covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.