The permanent ban of chemical insecticides was rejected by Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday evening. Despite scientific conclusions of the agency’s own chemical safety experts, who recommended that the most widely used insecticide should be banned under the Obama administration, the ruling has disregarded the safety issues behind the use. Conclusions were previously made stating that the chemical can cause harm to both children and farm workers. The ruling was recently made by Pruitt in one of his first formal actions as the nation’s top environmental official, and in doing so, rejected a petition that was filed a decade ago by two environmental groups that had asked the agency to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. Although the chemical was banned in 2000 for use in most household settings, it is still widely used today at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of commonly consumed crops, ranging from almonds to apples.
Scientists have concluded that exposure to the chemical, which has been in use since 1965, was potentially causing significant health consequences to those around it, which included learning and memory declines, particularly among farm workers and young children who may be exposed through drinking water and other sources. Despite this research, Dow Chemical, who makes the product, together with other farm groups who commonly use it, have argued that there is not enough evidence to support the claims. Pruitt also agreed during an announcement issued Wednesday night, that the agency needed to study the science more. He said in his statement, “We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment. By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results.” This action was then supported by the United States Department of Agriculture, which works closely with the nation’s farmers.
Sheryl Kunickis, director of the U.S.D.A. Office of Pest Management Policy, said in a statement on Wednesday, “It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation.” However, Jim Jones, who ran the chemical safety unit at the E.P.A. for five years, and spent more than 20 years working there until he left the agency in January when President Trump took office, was disappointed by Pruitt’s actions. He stated, “They are ignoring the science that is pretty solid”, whilst also adding that he believed the ruling would put farm workers and exposed children at unnecessary risk. Reports have since claimed that due to Pruitt taking “final agency action”, the matter would not likely be revisited until 2022.
The ruling was also condemned by environmental groups, who claimed that the Trump administration were simply catering to the demands of major corporate players, including Dow Chemical. Patti Goldman, the managing attorney at Earthjustice, a San Francisco-based environmental group that serves as the legal team for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network of North America, which filed the petition in 2007 to ban the product, said, “We have a law that requires the E.P.A. to ban pesticides that it cannot determine are safe, and the E.P.A. has repeatedly said this pesticide is not safe.”