Yesterday, a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to bar — within 60 days — a widely used pesticide that’s been associated with developmental disabilities and other health problems in children.
“The order by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came after a decade-long effort by environmental and public health groups to get the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, removed from the market. The product is used in more than 50 fruit, nut, cereal and vegetable crops including apples, almonds, oranges and broccoli, with more than 640,000 acres treated in California alone in 2016, the most recent year data is available.
In March 2017, just a month after he was confirmed as the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt rejected a petition by the health and environmental groups to ban the pesticide. He did so even though the agency’s own staff scientists had recommended that chlorpyrifos be removed from the market, based on health studies that had suggested it was harming children, particularly among farmworker families.” 1
Environmentalists and public health advocates, who have been trying to get chlorpyrifos removed from the market for ten years (it was previously banned from most commercial uses in households as an insecticide, but was still legally used to combat insects on farms), celebrated the ruling.
Marisa Ordonia, a lawyer at Earthjustice, the environmental group that handled the legal work on the lawsuit said, “Finally, decades of poisonous exposures and harm to children and farmworkers will end. E.P.A.’s shameful history of putting industry cronies before the people they are supposed to protect is over.”2 And the national vice president of United Farm Workers of America’s Erik Nicholson said, “The E.P.A. has put the women and men who harvest the food we eat every day in harm’s way too long by allowing the continued use of this dangerous neurotoxin. We commend the court for doing what E.P.A. should have done years ago. The people who feed us deserve a safe and healthy workplace.” 3
Mike talks to Stephanie Parent, Senior Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity about how Dow Chemical is putting pressure on the Trump Administration to ignore government studies on the dangers of certain pesticides.
In a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel gave the EPA two months to finalize the ban on the product, whose leading manufacturer is DowDuPont.
When asked how they planned to respond to the order, the agency “offered no clear response” beyond “E.P.A. is reviewing the decision. The Columbia center’s data underlying the court’s assumptions remains inaccessible and has hindered the agency’s ongoing process to fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science.”4
It’s possible that the EPA could ask the full Ninth Circuit to reconsider their ruling or appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. They could also move ahead with the ban. We shall see.
CropLife, the pesticide industry’s leading trade organization and DowDuPont both dispute that chlorpyrifos, when used properly, poses any health threat to farmworkers, their families or consumers eating fruits and vegetables that it’s been sprayed on, calling the chemical a “critical pest management tool used by growers around the world.”5
DowDuPont spokesman Gregg Schmidt said “regulatory bodies in 79 countries have looked at the science, carefully evaluated the product and its significant benefits, and continued to approve its use. We expect that all appellate options to challenge the majority’s decision will be considered. We will continue to support the growers who need this important product.”6