The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Scott Pruitt has come under fire lately for not keeping to its mission to protect the environment. Well, activists have finally decided that enough is enough. After a controversial decision to lift an Obama-era ban on a dangerous pesticide, the EPA is finally being sued.
Environmental groups filed a complaint against the US government after their decision to lift a ban on a pesticide that is linked to brain damaged in children. The suit was filed against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The lawsuit by these two groups asks the EPA to continue to uphold the ban on this pesticide that was first put in place by the Obama administration. The government’s decision to lift the ban is the latest in a series of poor decisions that have nothing to do with sound science.
The appeal in San Francisco federal court will be the first official head-to-head match between Scott Pruitt, the EPA chief appointed by Trump, and environmental activists. Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, also joined the complaint against the EPA. They are asking the federal appeals court judges to order the EPA to permanently enforce the ban on the pesticide in question.
Paul Towers, organizing director and policy advocate with the Pesticide Action Network, is baffled as to why the ban is even being questioned. The ban on this dangerous pesticide was put in place due to research that actually came out of the EPA, the very organization that is now trying to lift it. And their science on the dangerous effects of the pesticide was very conclusive. Paul Towers explains his position, “Given the science, we thought it seemed practically impossible to not move forward with the ban. We know it can have a profound impact on children’s brain architecture and their lifelong learning.”
The Reversal on the Ban
Flying in the face of evidence published by his very agency, Scott Pruitt decided to reverse the ban on the dangerous pesticide. He made this decision just before a federal court deadline. If they make it through the deadline, the EPA will not have to look at and re-evaluate the health risks of this pesticide again until 2022. Pruitt explained his decision by saying, “We are returning to using sound science in decision making.” Unfortunately, the majority of the American public sees the EPA getting as far as possible from sound science.
The Pesticide in Question
The pesticide that the EPA is trying to un-ban is called chlorpyrifos. Researchers have concluded that chlorpyrifos is correlated with lower IQ, attention deficit disorders and developmental delays in children. Chlorpyrifos is commonly used on corn, strawberries, wheat, citrus, apples and a number of other crops. It is also used on golf courses, turf and in greenhouses.
The US government blocked chlorpyrifos for residential use in 2000 due to health concerns. Researchers have been pushing to get a full agricultural ban on the pesticide since then.
In November, the EPA released an assessment of chlorpyrifos and concluded that it carries dietary and drinking water risks. Chlorpyrifos was found to exceed safety standards on food crops, pose a threat to crop workers and put nearby schools and homes at risk. It was even found to have long-term brain impacts, like autism, on children if pregnant women were exposed to the toxic pesticide. If exposed, people could suffer from memory loss, delayed motor development and decreased cognitive functioning. Based on this research, the Obama administration proposed a complete ban on chlorpyrifos on food products.
Ira Hertz-Picciotto, an environmental health sciences professor at the University of California, compares chlorpyrifos to lead. He says, “They used the term ‘silent epidemic’ with lead, and I think that’s really what we’re talking about here. The longer this goes on, the more accumulated evidence there is. It’s not like there is other evidence coming in that detracts from the conclusion that this is not safe and it’s not healthy. It’s eating away at the development of vulnerable brains.”