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Levin writes: "The US government has rejected a proposed ban on a toxic pesticide linked to brain damage in children, dismissing a growing body of research on the health hazards of a widely used agricultural chemical."

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. (photo: Getty)
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. (photo: Getty)

Trump Administration Won't Ban Pesticide Tied to Childhood Brain Damage

By Sam Levin, Guardian UK

19 July 19

Evironmental Protection Agency rejects proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, despite growing evidence of its toxicity

he US government has rejected a proposed ban on a toxic pesticide linked to brain damage in children, dismissing a growing body of research on the health hazards of a widely used agricultural chemical.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a ruling on Thursday that it supported farmers’ continued use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that growers have long sprayed on almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes, walnuts and other major crops in America. The decision, outlined in a response to a petition from environmental and public health groups, said “critical questions remained regarding the significance of the data” on neurological impacts on children.

The Trump administration’s endorsement of the pesticide comes years after the EPA under Obama moved to restrict use of the chemical, as scientists raised alarms. Trump’s EPA denied the conclusions of the agency’s own experts, and earlier this year, California defied the White House and announced its own state-level ban on the chemical.

“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 harms children’s brains,” Patti Goldman, an attorney with Earthjustice, said in a statement, adding it was a “tragedy that this administration sides with corporations instead of children’s health”.

Studies over the years have raised a number of concerns about chlorpyrifos, which was found to be dangerous enough to humans that the US government banned it from residential use in 2000. Its extensive use in the agricultural industry, however, continued, even after researchers found that pregnant women who lived near farms that sprayed it had increased risks of having a child with autism.

Research also showed low to moderate levels of exposure were tied to memory problems and lower IQs, and chlorpyrifos has been linked to reduced breathing capacity. California regulators cited a recent review by a state panel on toxic air contaminants, which found the effects in children could occur at lower levels than previously understood. The ban in California, which grows a majority of the nation’s fruits and nuts, could take up to two years to implement.

The EPA’s decision this week follows a drawn-out court battle led by a coalition of groups that have long fought to block the chemical. A federal court had previously said there was “no justification” for the EPA to maintain support for chlorpyrifos “in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children”.

Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health, said chlorpyrifos was a unique case, given that the research was abundant and no longer ambiguous.

“What we have with chlorpyrifos is multiple academic research projects that have shown that actual children who actually live in California are being harmed by this chemical,” she said on Thursday. “It’s pretty rare that you have that kind of evidence for any toxic chemical.”

She noted that impacts such as lower IQ affect children “for the rest of their lives”, adding: “Every day the EPA says we don’t have enough science is more children being exposed and bearing this burden.”

Corteva Agriscience, the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, has continued to insist that spraying the product is safe, and praised the EPA’s determination on Thursday.

A spokesman, Gregg Schmidt, said in a statement that the company would support continued review of the product and was open to potential restrictions in the future.

“We are committed to working with the Agency as it seeks to make an accurate assessment and, if necessary, reduce potential exposures, while also ensuring that growers for whom chlorpyrifos is a critical tool can continue to use the product safely.”

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