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article imageEPA refuses to ban pesticide tied to childhood brain damage

By Karen Graham     Jul 20, 2019 in Health
The Environmental Protection Agency, citing a lack of scientific evidence, has decided against a ban of the widely-used pesticide chlorpyrifos, which critics say is associated with neurological problems in children.
The EPA announced its ruling on Thursday. saying the agency supported farmers’ continued use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that growers have long sprayed on almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes, walnuts and other major crops in America. The decision was in response to a petition from environmental and public health groups.
"EPA has determined that their objections must be denied because the data available are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners' burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe," the agency said in a statement Thursday.
The EPA banned the indoor use of chlorpyrifos, produced by Corteva, an agricultural chemical company formerly part of DowDuPont, that goes by the brand names Dursban and Lorsban in 2000 but allowed it to be used on agricultural products. That decision has been continually challenged through petitions since 2007.
A pesticide is being used on citrus fruits.
A pesticide is being used on citrus fruits.
Photo by USDA
"By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump's EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children's brains," said attorney Patti Goldman of Earthjustice, who represents the groups that took the issue to court.
Last summer, a federal court ordered the EPA to review the petition, and after a review of that decision, the agency was given 90 days in April to make a determination, finally culminating in Thursday's decision.
Questions over the safety of chlorpyrifos date back to the Obama administration, when questions were raised on the safety of the chemical. The EPA under Obama moved to restrict the use of the chemical, as scientists raised alarms. However, in March 2017, the ban was canceled. Former EPA head, Scott Pruitt said there just wasn't enough "solid evidence" to uphold the ban.
About 50 workers were exposed to the deadly pesticide while harvesting cabbage in  Bakersfield.
About 50 workers were exposed to the deadly pesticide while harvesting cabbage in Bakersfield.
Ksenija Putilin
In May 2017, Over 50 farmworkers in Bakersfield, California were exposed to the pesticide after it drifted from a nearby field. At least 12 of the farmworkers became ill, with one person passing out, requiring hospitalization. The pesticide allegedly responsible for the mass poisoning was tentatively identified as chlorpyrifos.
The Guardian points out that there have been studies over the years that back up petitioners claims of the pesticide causing health problems. including research that found pregnant women who lived near farms that sprayed it had increased risks of having a child with autism.
Pesticides are being banned in some countries
Pesticides are being banned in some countries
File photo: Peter Organisciak
Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health, said chlorpyrifos was a unique case, in that the evidence was abundant on how dangerous it was.
“What we have with chlorpyrifos is multiple academic research projects that have shown that actual children who actually live in California are being harmed by this chemical,” she said on Thursday. “It’s pretty rare that you have that kind of evidence for any toxic chemical.”
The EPA responded to news media saying: "it will continue an ongoing review of chlorpyrifos and make its next determination about the pesticide by 2022. That review could result in further use limitations affecting the outcome of EPA's assessment."
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