“The chance to prevent brain damage in children was a low bar for most of Scott Pruitt’s predecessors, but it apparently just wasn’t persuasive enough for an administrator who isn’t sure if banning lead from gasoline was a good idea…
“Instead, in one of his first major decisions as head of the EPA, like a toddler running toward his parents, Pruitt leaped into the warm and waiting arms of the pesticide industry.”
Though deadly to human health, wildlife and to the environment, chlorpyrifos has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States for decades. A neurotoxic pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic and associated with extreme neurodevelopmental harm in children and prenatal exposure has been found to cause lower birth weight, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development. Direct exposure, by inhalation, skin contact or ingestion, as happens to both farm workers and residents living in proximity to agricultural areas, and to others even further away, causes convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and, in some cases, death. As to the “others” referenced, they can and do include anyone who consumes agricultural products that contain a residue of chlorpyrifos, as well as people whose drinking water has been contaminated with the pesticide and people breathing air exposed to a toxic spray of wind-blown chlorpyrifos. (“What You Should Know – Chlorpyrifos The toxic pesticide now harming our children and environment”)
Due to its overwhelming and overpowering risk of harm, residential use of chlorpyrifos was outlawed by the EPA almost two decades ago, but its widespread commercial use continues.
Recent studies have shown that a minimal degree of prenatal exposure causes permanent harm and an EPA human health risk
assessment released in November, 2016 found that there are NO safe levels of chlorpyrifos exposure. The study found that all food exposures exceed safe levels, with children ages 1–2 exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos that are 140 times what EPA deems safe, that there is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water, that pesticide drift reaches unsafe levels at 300 feet from the field’s edge, that chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools, homes, and communities in agricultural areas, that all workers who mix and apply chlorpyrifos are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide even with maximum personal protective equipment and engineering controls, and that while field workers are as a rule allowed to re-enter fields within one to five days after chlorpyrifos spraying, unsafe exposures continue on average 18 days after applications.
Further, farmworkers and others living in agricultural communities, particularly children, are disproportionately affected by chlorpyrifos, as besides food exposures, they are more likely to have contaminated drinking water, and they are exposed on all sides by drift exposures at schools, daycare, on playgrounds, at work, and in their homes.
Chlorpyrifos is used on a wide variety of crops including apples, oranges, strawberries, corn, soybeans, wheat, citrus and other foods. Do to its widespread use across the agricultural industry, in fact over half of all apples and broccoli sold in the U.S. are sprayed with chlorpyrifos. USDA’s Pesticide Data Program found chlorpyrifos residue on citrus and melons even after being washed and peeled.
In 2007, the Pesticide Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition with the EPA seeking a total ban on the use of chlorpyrifos.
After years of study and review, the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama was set to issue a total ban on the
pesticide Chlorpyrifos. In one of his first major acts as Administrator of the EPA under the new administration, Scott Pruitt rejected the ban, okaying the continued, pervasive use of the pesticide across America’s farmlands, and continuing and increasing the risk of exposure to hundreds of millions of men, women and children, including the unborn, and also including tens of thousands of farm workers.
In an order issued March 29, 2017, Pruitt officially rejected the ban with his order permitting the continued pervasive use of the pesticide. While Pruitt is clearly anti-regulation and was put in his current position due to his lifelong battle against the EPA, fighting any and all regulations that might hinder the profit-making ability of any business, in this instance he had a little help.
While at one time any direct contact with Dow Chemical on the issue of banning Chlorpyrifos was denied by the EPA, including an April statement from EPA spokesman J.P. Freire who was quoted as saying that “we have had no meetings with Dow on this topic”, that proved to be a lie.
Following a Freedom of Information Act response from the EPA, the LA Times reported on June 30, 2017 that on March 9, 20 days prior to issuing his order, Pruitt held a secret one-half hour meeting at a Houston, TX hotel with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris. Pruitt’s EPA has refused to disclose any details about the meeting, but Liveris and Dow have long had close relations with members of the current administration. In fact, Dow helped enrich the coffers of the current president by donating a cool $1 Million to the inauguration fund, a fund which has been widely reported to have received far in excess of $100 Million while the actual cost of the inauguration was much less that one-half of the amount collected.
Among scientific and medical organizations urging the ban of chlorpyrifos has been The American Academy of Pediatrics which represents more than 66,000 pediatricians and pediatric surgeons has said that it is “deeply alarmed” by Pruitt’s decision to allow the
pesticide’s continued use. In their letter to Pruitt, it was stated that “The risk to infant and children’s health and development is unambiguous.”
While the harm to humans is of the utmost importance, it cannot be discounted that chlorpyrifos is a serious threat to the environment and has been shown to also be harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.
The continued use of chlorpyrifos is a danger of unknown proportions that puts every US resident at risk. The rejection of a ban on the use of chlorpyrifos in the commercial agriculture industry is an unconscionable act perpetrated by an unqualified, prejudiced administrator whose only concern is the profit that giant corporations can continue to make, including profits of major presidential donors like Dow, the health and welfare of the public be damned.