Monday, 21 January, 2019

EPA reverses course on safety of pesticide used on crops

Nellie Chapman | 10 April, 2017, 01:24

Because Pruitt has rejected the proposed ban, Chlorpyrifos will continued to be used on commercial farms across the country until 2024, when the EPA is required to review the safety of the pesticide again. "By reversing the previous administration's steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making - rather than predetermined results", the former Oklahoma attorney general was quoted as saying in the agency's press release.

USA farms use more than 6 million pounds of the chemical each year - about 25 percent of it in California.

The US Department of Agriculture and Dow Agrosciences, which sells chlorpyrifos, praised Pruitt's ruling, while others attacked it as another anti-science move from the Trump administration. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) would change membership requirements for the EPA's Science Advisory Board to include more industry voices, expanding financial and conflict of interest disclosure requirements and giving the public the chance to more readily comment on the board's actions.

Patti Goldman, from the environmental group Earth Justice, calls the decision "unconscionable", and says that her group will fight it in court. Still, as of late a year ago, EPA staff maintained that the chemical should be prohibited.

The EPA earlier did an assessment showing dietary and drinking water risks for the current uses of chlorpyrifos, but opted to review the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos as part of the ongoing registration review and complete its assessment by the statutory deadline of October 1, 2022. But only in recent years did the agency seek to ban its use in agriculture, after growing scientific evidence that prenatal exposure can pose risks to fetal brain and nervous system development. Given the fact that "infants and children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults", giving chlorpyrifos the go-ahead spells huge risks for babies in utero.

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to significantly limit the science that the Environmental Protection Agency can use when creating regulations, leaving some critics concerned that the agency will not be able to issue important safeguards on public health and the environment.

The EPA banned home use of chlorpyrifos in 2000 and placed "no-spray" buffer zones around sensitive sites, such as schools, in 2012. Environmental and health originations claim the pesticide could be risky. Since 2007, EPA has convened three independent scientific review panels (2008, 2012, 2016)-at each one, experts affirmed the evidence of harm to children at levels lower than allowed by EPA and raised concerns that current exposures could therefore put children at risk.

About 5 million to 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos, manufactured by DowAgroSciences, are used annually on crops nationwide.