On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts.
Chlorpyrifos is sprayed on crops like almonds, citrus fruits, apples, and cherries. Chlorpyrifos use on farms and fields in close proximately to pregnant women has been linked to autism and lower IQs in children.
The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.
A spokesperson for the EPA has stated that the two did not talk about chlorpyrifos, but the meeting was eyebrow-raising especially given the timing and considering that Dow has not been a stranger to the current Administration or Washington politics. In February, President Trump handed Dow CEO Liveris the pen used to sign an executive order creating task forces to roll back government regulations. And in 2016, Dow spent more than $13.6 million on lobbying.
Chlorpyrifos has been banned for residential use for over a decade, but similar regulations have not been made in the agriculture industry. This problem is especially of concern in the Central Valley of California, a large agricultural area in the U.S. In Tulare County, CA, over 1 million pounds of chlorpyrifos was applied in a five-year period. Many local residents and farm workers have reported incidents of children suffering painful skin irritations, learning problems, attention deficit disorders, and respiratory ailments. And just earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged EPA Administrator Pruitt to take chlorpyrifos off the market.
Administrator Pruitt should reverse his actions in the name of public health. In the meantime, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation should do what the Environmental Protection Agency failed to do, ban the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos.