American Oversight and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) today launched a joint investigation into the March 29 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rejected the findings of the agency's own experts as well as the broader scientific community, which had concluded that chlorpyrifos poses a risk of nervous system damage and birth defects in children.
"As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt routinely coordinated with industry to roll back environmental safeguards, now he's doing the same thing at the EPA," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. "This time, it's at the expense of our children. Americans have a right to know who influenced the EPA to suddenly reverse course and put pesticide industry profits ahead of children's health."
American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests Tuesday with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), seeking copies of communications between agency officials, pesticide manufacturers and outside groups that have advocated for the continued use of chlorpyrifos. Specifically, the FOIA requests ask for communications with Croplife, Dow Chemical, DowAgrosciences and think tanks including the Heritage Foundation.
The EPA and USDA have 20 business days to respond to the requests. Absent that, American Oversight will sue to obtain the records.
Last year, EPA scientists concluded that chlorpyrifos poses serious health risks, including problems with learning and memory for children. According to the New York Times, chlorpyrifos was banned from most household uses nearly two decades ago, but it is still used today "at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples."
EWG has spent more than two decades focused on the impacts of pesticides on children's health and was instrumental in the passage of the landmark 1996 Food Quality Protection Act that required the EPA to implement health-based standards for all pesticides used in food, with special safeguards for infants and babies.
"Public health experts, pediatricians and EPA scientists all agree that chlorpyrifos is unsafe for children at any level," said EWG Senior VP for Government Affairs Scott Faber.
"That overwhelming and uniform agreement among experts should have been all the information Administrator Pruitt needed to protect kids from this notorious neurotoxin. Yet, he decided instead to side with Croplife, Dow and the rest of chemical agriculture and allow chlorpyrifos to remain in use," Faber continued.
"Mr. Pruitt must provide taxpayers with all of the documents, details and communications between EPA, USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and the pesticide industry in order to shed light on how and why the decision was made to continue exposing kids to a pesticide that, even at very low levels, can cause brain damage."
Ahead of Pruitt's action on chlorpyrifos, EWG, along with Just Label It and Food Revolution Network, received more than 80,000 signatures to a petition calling on Pruitt to ban the neurotoxic crop chemical and continue the EPA's longstanding efforts to protect people from exposure to dangerous organophosphate pesticides.