Environmental regulators under the Trump administration ignored the advice of their own scientists when it declared the pesticide chlorpyrifos does not pose a health risk for children, according to an investigative report.
On September 22, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its draft risk assessment (PDF) for chlorpyrifos, which was required as part of a July 2019 denial of a petition to ban the pesticide.
One of the key findings in the draft assessment indicated that the EPA believes chlorpyrifos are no risk to children’s health when used as intended.
“With the limited remaining residential uses of chlorpyrifos EPA found no risks of concern, including to children’s health, when products are used according to the label instructions,” the EPA noted in a press release.
However, in a report published this week by the New York Times, those findings directly contradict the conclusions of agency’s own scientists five years ago, who determined exposure to the pesticide can stunt children’s brain development.
The report indicates the agency excluded several epidemiological studies, including a prominent study by Columbia University researchers who linked exposure during pregnancy to developmental disorders in toddlers.
A press release by the environmental activist group, EarthJustice warned that the agency is fudging the data to keep the pesticide on the market.
“The EPA is ignoring decades of science by leading universities and in doing so, it’s neglecting its duty to protect children from pesticides,” Patti Goldman, Earthjustice managing attorney, said in the press release. “Ignoring the demonstrated harm to children doesn’t make chlorpyrifos safe, it just shows a commitment to keep a toxic pesticide in the market and in our food at all cost.”
Chlorpyrifos Health Concerns
Manufactured by Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos was first put into use in 1965. Use of the product in in household settings was banned in 2001, due to the health risks. However, it is still used on more than 40,000 farms nationally for 50 different types of crops, including grapes and almonds. It has been sold under a variety of brand names, including Dursban and Lorsban, as well as Scout, Empire, Eradex, and Warhawk.
In a study published in 2014, chlorpyrifos was added to a list of 11 chemicals identified as developmental neurotoxins, with widespread damaging affects to developing brains and reducing intelligence. Researchers indicated chlorpyrifos, along with other chemicals, may cause neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.
In July 2019, the EPA made a controversial decision to allow chlorpyrifos to stay on the market in the United States, despite numerous objections and studies linking the pesticide to serious health risks. Since then, several states have either filed complaints against the EPA over the decision, or say they plan to do so.
California has already moved to ban the pesticide, with restrictions on chlorpyrifos already in effect since January 2019.
The EPA indicates it will begin taking public comment on the draft assessment for 60 days once it issues its Proposed Interim Decision next month. No details on how to comment have yet been posted in the press release or in the draft assessment.