This week, PAN joined a coalition of groups to sue the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — again — for refusing to ban the potent brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. This lawsuit, filed by attorneys from Earthjustice representing PAN and other allied organizations, demands that the pesticide be banned nationwide due to its harms to vulnerable populations like children and farmworkers.
Another blow from EPA
This lawsuit comes on the heels of the shocking decision by this EPA in July (in response to a court deadline) to continue to allow the use of chlorpyrifos in the production of food. The brazen disregard for the strong science that backs the case for a chlorpyrifos ban has further shaken what little faith people have retained in the EPA.
PAN has been capturing and documenting the ups and downs of the chlorpyrifos story for years, and it is infuriating that we have to continue to battle this pesticide that should have been banned decades ago. EPA’s own scientists have pointed out chlorpyrifos’ toxicity and harms to children. EPA was on the cusp of banning the chemical per a decision in 2016, but with the appointments of unqualified and inappropriate leaders within EPA that came with the new administration, this decision was reversed in 2017.
While the U.S. languishes on tackling chlorpyrifos comprehensively, there was encouraging news from the European Union (EU) that renewal of chlorpyrifos was unlikely after 2020. The European Commission will begin a process in September to ban the chemical widely used by vegetable and citrus farmers in Europe.
California, the clock is ticking
Frustrated by EPA’s inaction, eight states have taken on the task of tackling chlorpyrifos within their boundaries. California’s Governor Newsom announced in May this year that the state would start the process of canceling registration of chlorpyrifos. While a very encouraging step, communities across California are getting impatient with the delay in moving ahead with the process required to get this harmful chemical out of their fields and food and away from children, farmworkers, and families.
The first step in the cancellation process is preparing an accusation against the pesticide manufacturer — Dow Chemical, now renamed Corteva since its merger with DuPont. There has still been no public announcement about this accusation by the state, which has raised concerns among the agricultural communities who have faced the bulk of exposure and harm from the pesticide.
PAN strongly urges Cal EPA to take meaningful action to jump start the cancellation process, and respond to the demands of people living in agricultural areas with high chlorpyrifos use. Central Valley Organizer for Californians for Pesticide Reform Angel Garcia says:
"It is extremely distressing that despite ample solid scientific evidence about the harms of chlorpyrifos exposure for fetuses and children, and countless stories of farmworker communities in California suffering the brunt of this exposure, the state is not moving faster to start the cancellation process."
We’re coming at this issue from all angles. Suing EPA is a strong step, but the process is never quick and easy, so states like California need to take swift action in the meantime to protect their communities from exposure to chlorpyrifos — both from residues on fruits and vegetables, as well as exposure via drift in agricultural areas. Stay tuned for more news on California’s cancellation process and our lawsuit against the federal EPA and its inaction on this toxic insecticide.