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Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris with President-elect Donald Trump at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dow Chemical Pushes Trump Administration to Scrap Pesticide Study

Dow Chemical, whose CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Donald Trump, is pressuring the administration to throw out a government risk study on several popular pesticides, the Associated Press reported.

The 10,000-page study found that the three pesticides under review—chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion—pose a risk to roughly 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. The evaluations were compiled by federal scientists over the last four years and were expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.

But lawyers representing Dow and two other makers of the organophosphates sent letters to the heads of three cabinet agencies last week, asking that the study be "set aside" and saying that the results are flawed.

"Our government's own scientists have already documented the grave danger these chemicals pose to people and endangered species," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unable to win on the facts, Dow is now adopting the same disgraceful tactics honed by the tobacco industry and the climate deniers to try to discredit science and scrap reasonable conservation measures that will protect our most endangered animals and plants."

Last month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt scrapped his own agency's proposal to ban chlorpyrifos—an insecticide that at small doses can harm children's brains and nervous systems—from use on food crops. The AP noted that chlorpyrifos originates from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany, and Dow sells about 5 million pounds of the chemical in the U.S. each year.

"Public health experts, pediatricians and EPA scientists all agree that chlorpyrifos is unsafe for children at any level," Environmental Working Group Senior VP for government affairs Scott Faber said after Pruitt announcement. "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."

The government scientists found that chlorpyrifos is "likely to adversely affect" 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants in its study. Diazinon and malathion, which the World Health Organization announced as probable carcinogens in 2015, were similarly found to threaten vulnerable species.

But lawyers for the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos called for the research to be withdrawn because its "scientific basis was not reliable."

Malathion maker FMC Corp. said the withdrawal of the study will allow the necessary time for the "best available" scientific data to be compiled. Diazinon maker Makhteshim Agan of North America Inc. did not comment.

Dow donated $1 million to the presidential inauguration and the company's CEO, Liveris, leads Trump's advisory council on manufacturing. In February, Liveris received the signing pen after the president signed the "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda," an executive order aimed at eliminating regulations that Trump claims are damaging to the U.S. economy, but some worry that the measure will roll back critical environmental protections.

Dow's director of public affairs Rachelle Schikorra told the AP that any suggestion that the company is trying to influence the new administration's regulatory decisions is "completely off the mark."

"Dow actively participates in policymaking and political processes, including political contributions to candidates, parties and causes, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws," Schikorra said.

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Photo credit: iStock

Groups Demand Pruitt's Records on EPA Decision to Reject Chlorpyrifos Ban

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.

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EPA Scraps Scheduled Ban of Widely Used Pesticide Known to Harm Kids’ Brains

In one of his first major decisions as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt sided with the pesticide lobby over scientists Wednesday in an eleventh-hour decision to abort the agency's proposal to ban chlorpyrifos—an insecticide that at small doses can harm children's brains and nervous systems—from use on food crops.

Pruitt and the Trump administration's decision ignored overwhelming evidence that even small amounts of chlorpyrifos can damage parts of the brain that control language, memory, behavior and emotion. Multiple independent studies have documented that exposure to chlorpyrifos impairs children's IQs and EPA scientists' assessments of those studies concluded that levels of the pesticide found on food and in drinking water are unsafe.

"The chance to prevent brain damage in children was a low bar for most of Scott Pruitt's predecessors, but it apparently just wasn't persuasive enough for an administrator who isn't sure if banning lead from gasoline was a good idea," said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook. "Instead, in one of his first major decisions as head of the EPA, like a toddler running toward his parents, Pruitt leaped into the warm and waiting arms of the pesticide industry."

In October 2015, the EPA proposed to revoke all uses of chlorpyrifos on food. Late last year, Croplife America—the main trade and lobbying group for the pesticide industry—petitioned the EPA to block the expected ban. In its appeal, Croplife argued that the EPA should disregard the findings of epidemiological studies documenting that the pesticide impaired American children's IQs and brain development.

The EPA's analysis of children's sensitivity to chlorpyrifos drew upon studies by Columbia University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2007 the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network petitioned the EPA to ban food uses of chlorpyrifos and they later sued the agency to compel a ruling on the petition. The EPA proposed the ban in October 2015 and was under court order to issue a final rule by the end of March.

"We're seeing what happens when President Trump gives an unqualified political hatchet man license to disregard reams of evidence from dedicated scientists," said Cook. "Under President Trump and Scott Pruitt, the EPA is fast becoming an agency in the business of safeguarding the profits of pesticide companies and the rest of the chemical industry, not human health."

In recent days, more than 80,000 people signed a petition from the Environmental Working Group, Just Label It and Food Revolution Network, calling on Pruitt to ban chlorpyrifos and continue the EPA's longstanding efforts to protect people from exposure to dangerous organophosphate pesticides.

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