Chesapeake PSR

AG Frosh and groups challenge Pruitt chlorpyrifos decision

Toxics and HealthTimothy WhitehouseComment

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and AGs from five other states have filed a challenge to U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt's decision not to ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic pesticide used on over 50 crops, including corn, wheat, apples and broccoli, and is linked to adverse neurological effects, particularly in children and farmworkers.

To ensure the safety of the human food supply, EPA regulates the amount of each pesticide that may remain in and on foods. The March EPA decision not to ban chlorpyrifos – a Dow AgroSciences product – came despite agency employee recommendations in favor of a ban and scientific findings linking chlorpyrifos to human health harms.

In his first act as administrator, Pruitt reversed EPA’s position and denied a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) to ban chlorpyrifos on food crops, leaving in place the existing food tolerance levels for the pesticide.

EPA scientists urged a ban after finding that there are no safe tolerance levels for humans and that chlorpyrifos damages the nervous system. Chlorpyrifos is linked to cognitive and motor decline in children exposed through drinking water and memory decline in farmworkers. The neurotoxic insecticide suppresses enzymes that regulate nerve signals in the body and is associated with dizziness, nausea and lowered IQ scores. 

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote a letter to the EPA explaining the lasting neurodevelopmental consequences of chlorpyrifos exposure in children. The AAP urged EPA to reconsider their decision and conduct further studies, emphasizing the particular vulnerability that children have to chlorpyrifos as “their brains and nervous systems are still making connections and maturing.” 

Frosh joined attorneys general from California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and Vermont in filing the formal challenge to EPA – the first step toward a lawsuit – claiming the agency violated federal law by ignoring a science-based recommendation. Earthjustice and a dozen health, labor and civic rights groups also filed an administrative appeal calling on the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos.

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