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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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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