For Immediate Release: June 6, 2017
Pressure builds as new legal actions pair with more than 145,000 public comments urging Administrator Pruitt to ban chlorpyrifos
Washington, DC – A coalition of community, farmworker and environmental health groups join seven states today in announcing aggressive legal measures demanding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt complete the planned withdrawal of the widely used, brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos.
“If the Trump Administration won’t follow the law — and put our children’s well-being first — we will fight back,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
In official response to Pruitt’s order, seven states — New York, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland and Vermont — urged EPA to avoid further delay and ban the neurotoxicant. In their conclusion, the states note, “EPA’s order is unlawful and conflicts with two notices of proposed rulemaking stating that the agency could not find the tolerances safe.”
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and a dozen partner organizations that represent agricultural communities filed a separate administrative appeal directly with EPA demanding immediate action on chlorpryifos, as well as a concurrent appeal to the ninth circuit court requesting they require EPA to act promptly.
In addition, a half-dozen organizations submitted over 145,000 public comments by yesterday’s deadline, signaling widespread outrage over Administrator Pruitt’s decision in March to reverse the planned withdrawal of the widely-used insecticide.
“EPA’s stunning reversal on chlorpyrifos, in the face of overpowering scientific evidence of harm to children, is both irresponsible and illegal,” said PAN’s Executive Director, Kristin Schafer. “Today tens of thousands of people are calling on Mr. Pruitt to put the health of children and workers above Dow Chemical’s bottom line.”
Even at low levels of exposure, chlorpyrifos has been shown to harm human health, and is known to be particularly damaging to children’s developing brains. Pruitt’s controversial decision to keep this chemical on the market ignores a clear body of science, including the findings and recommendations of his agency’s own scientists.
EPA was poised to withdraw chlorpyrifos from agricultural use in the face of mounting evidence that exposure in the womb and early childhood can derail brain development, leading to developmental delays, lowered IQ and increased risk of ADHD and autism. A health assessment in the fall of 2016 by EPA scientists — prompted by a lawsuit filed in 2007 by PAN and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) — found that infants were exposed to the chemical at 140 times levels that could be considered safe. EPA already banned chlorpyrifos for indoor use in 2001.
“It is long past time to permanently ban all uses of chlorpyrifos,” said Erik Nicholson, National Vice President of United Farm Workers (UFW). “We are extremely disappointed in EPA for not upholding the law and focusing on the well-being of workers and their children who live in areas surrounded by pesticides. Instead, the agency is caving in to corporate interests. We, along with thousands of our supporters, urge EPA to reverse their frightening decision and ban this toxic pesticide.”
Chlorpyrifos is used on a wide variety of crops, including row crops like corn and soy and many fruits and vegetables. In May, dozens of farmworkers fell ill and were evacuated from a central California cabbage field when chlorpyrifos and other pesticides drifted from a nearby orchard.
Today’s lawsuits were filed by attorneys at Earthjustice, on behalf of PAN and the League of United Latin American Citizens, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), United Farm Workers, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, GreenLatinos, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Hispanic Medical Association, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Learning Disability Association of America and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
PAN, UFW, Earthjustice, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group collected over 145,000 petition signatures to deliver to the public docket before it closed on June 5.
At Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America, we work to create a just, thriving food system. For too long, pesticide and biotech corporations have dictated how we grow food, placing the health and economic burdens of pesticide use on farmers, farmworkers and rural communities. PAN works with those on the frontlines to tackle the pesticide problem — and reclaim the future of food and farming.
Founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers of America is the nation’s first successful and largest farm workers union currently active in 10 states.
Photo: Russ Allison Loar | Flickr