EPA Reverses Position on Chlorpyrifos

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced he is denying a 9-year-old petition from environmental groups that requested that the Agency ban all uses of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Pruitt’s order reverses a November 2015 proposal by the Obama EPA to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances based in part on uncertainty surrounding the potential for chlorpyrifos to cause neurodevelopmental effects.

“Despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved, and further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos,” the EPA now states.

Court order

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that is sprayed on a variety of crops, including apples, oranges, strawberries, and other foods. The chlorpyrifos petition was submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network of North America. After years of nonresponse from the EPA, the petitioners went to court. In August 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered the EPA to complete a final petition response — either deny it or grant it — by March 31, 2017.

Registration review continues

Even though it denied the petition, the EPA says it will continue to study the impact of chlorpyrifos on human health as part of the substance’s regular registration review. By law that review must be completed by October 1, 2022.

“We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment,” said Pruitt. “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.”

More litigation promised

“EPA’s refusal to ban this dangerous pesticide is unconscionable,” said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice managing attorney handling the case. “EPA is defying its legal obligation to protect children from unsafe pesticides. We will be going back and asking the court to order EPA to take action now, rather than in 5 more years.”

In response to EPA’s order, Dow AgroSciences, one of the companies that manufactures chlorpyrifos, said it remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.

“This is the right decision for farmers who, in about 100 countries, rely on the effectiveness of chlorpyrifos to protect more than 50 crops,” said Dow AgroSciences. “We will continue to cooperate with EPA under the established regulatory process in its scientific review of this vital crop protection solution.”

EPA’s order is here.

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