Chlorpyrifos: EPA fails, lawmakers step up | Pesticide Action Network
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Chlorpyrifos: EPA fails, lawmakers step up

Kristin Schafer's picture
Spraying pesticides on farm

Once again, this Administration is proving they value pesticide industry profits more than children’s health. This is not heated rhetoric, it’s a clear-eyed observation.

In February, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appealed a court decision ordering them to protect children and farmworkers from the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. They argue that the science is “unsettled,” and want to keep this product on the market until at least 2022 — per the request of Dow Chemical (now Corteva).

New laws, instead

Of course our lawyers are ready to fight back (again — see below), but the appeal means yet more delay as kids and workers continue to be exposed. This is wrong.

 Since EPA is refusing to do its job, we’re organizing. Late last week, a “ban chlorpyrifos” bill dropped in California, another was filed yesterday in Oregon, and a bill is already in motion in Maryland. All these proposed laws build on the historic ban the “Protect our Keiki” coalition won in Hawaiʻi last year.

At the national level, Rep. Nydia Vazquez (D-NY) reintroduced her bill for a national chlorpyrifos ban in early January. She has 64 co-sponsors to date, with Representatives from both sides of the aisle signing on.

It makes sense that there’s bipartisan support for this bill. Getting a known brain-harming pesticide off the market to protect children, farmworkers and rural families is not a partisan issue. Urge your Representative to support HR230 too.

The ban that wasn’t

The fact is, none of these laws should be necessary.

In March 2017, EPA was poised to withdraw all uses of chlorpyrifos in food production per the recommendation of the agency’s own scientists. The review had been set in motion by our 2007 lawsuit, which — after years of delay from EPA — resulted in a court-ordered deadline to act.

Since our initial suit, the science linking low-dose chlorpyrifos exposures with learning disabilities, autism and ADHD has only gotten stronger. In their 2016 review, for example, EPA scientists found that infants were exposed to levels in their food that are 140 times what’s considered “safe.”

Yet after closed-door meetings with the maker of chlorpyrifos (yes, that’s Dow Chemical, now Corteva), then-Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency was scrapping the planned ban. We’re quite sure this had nothing at all to do with the million dollar donation Dow executives had made to the president’s inaugural committee (a committee which is now, of course, under investigation).

Case study in corporate influence

In the current chaotic political landscape, reversing the planned ban of one pesticide may seem a small thing. But the chlorpyrifos story is much bigger than this single chemical.

Yes, the health of children, farmworkers and rural families across the country will be better protected when this chemical is off the market. But the chlorpyrifos case also puts a spotlight on a core question about our democratic institutions: Who are our public agencies working for?

We think they should be working for all of us, to protect the public good. Instead, they appear to be working for corporations to protect their bottom lines. Of course now that Dow has merged with DuPont, it’s busy rebranding itself as Corteva. And Bayer is hoping everyone forgets Monsanto ever existed — but that’s another story.

For now, please join us in pressing Congress to pass a law to ban chlorpyrifos, since this EPA won’t.

Kristin Schafer
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Kristin Schafer's picture

Kristin Schafer was PAN's Executive Director until early 2022. With training in international policy and social change strategies, Kristin was at PAN for over 25 years. Before taking on the Executive Director role in 2017, she was PAN's program and policy director. She was lead author on several PAN reports, with a particular emphasis on children's health. She continues to serve on the Policy Committee of the Children's Environmental Health Network. Follow @KristinAtPAN