A report released last week by our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity has some sobering findings.
In short, in 2017 and 2018 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved more than 100 pesticide products containing ingredients widely considered to be the most dangerous still in use, including some that have been banned in multiple countries or targeted for phaseout in the U.S.
Approvals for all
The analysis, entitled Toxic Hangover: How the EPA Is Approving New Products With Dangerous Pesticides It Committed to Phasing Out, was conducted by the Center’s Senior Scientist Nathan Donley. Donley acquired records of pesticide products approved in the two year period between January 2017 and December 2018; these documents were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, showing that 94% of new pesticide product applications were approved by EPA.
So while EPA has publicly pledged to incentivize the the replacement of older, more dangerous pesticides through the Reduced Risk Program, the agency is rubber-stamping almost every application for a new pesticide product that comes across their desk. The kicker? Of the 6% of applications that were denied, not a single one was because the product was too dangerous. The only denials were procedural in nature.
The ugly numbers
Included in the approvals are 17 new products containing the endocrine disruptor atrazine, which is banned across much of Europe, 15 new products containing neurotoxic organophosphates including chlorpyrifos, and 69 products containing a “known” or “likely” carcinogen.
Six new products were approved containing paraquat, which is so lethal that one spoonful can kill an adult, and 91 products were approved containing restricted-use pesticides, which are so dangerous they can only be applied by a professional.
This complete disregard for environmental and community health is abhorrent coming from an agency tasked with maintaining safety and protection. Donley shared:
“When the EPA is approving 94% of applications that come across its desk, including for some of the planet’s most dangerous pesticides, it’s obvious the safety review process is completely broken.”
A sorry excuse
EPA’s aforementioned Reduced Risk Program is supposed to incentivize companies to seek approval for lower-risk, new pesticides. The program has specifically prioritized efforts to find alternatives to organophosphates, methyl bromide, and atrazine. But as this analysis shows, EPA is acting in complete disregard of that goal, and is instead approving new pesticides that contain these harmful chemicals.
The agency claims the reason it is fast tracking approvals of new products is to replace the dangerous older products — but the formulations EPA is approving contain the exact same older ingredients. Here’s PAN’s Executive Director, Kristin Schafer:
“Yet again, this administration is showing us exactly who they are working for — and it’s not communities, farmers or the public. Approving new products made with old, dangerous chemicals doesn’t benefit anyone but the giant pesticide corporations."