WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos within 60 days. The court’s ruling is being seen as a major victory for environmentalists and public health activists, who have been fighting to ban the agro-chemical for well over a decade, and comes a few months after Hawaii passed the country’s first state-wide ban of the substance.
The chemical, which numerous studies have shown causes significant damage to the nervous systems of children and infants, was banned for household use by the EPA in 2000, but the regulatory agency has largely resisted banning its use in agriculture. Yet efforts to ban the chemical had seemed to pay off when the EPA under the Obama administration proposed banning the substance for agricultural use in 2015. However, the ban’s implementation was delayed and then blocked by President Trump’s former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt last March.
The court justified its decision by citing the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which requires the EPA to ban pesticides used on food if exposure to the chemical is found to cause any harm to human health. Given that the EPA’s own research — including studies performed as recently as 2016 — linked chlorpyrifos to developmental and neurological disorders, especially in children and infants, the court found that the EPA’s failure to enforce a total ban of the chemical was in violation of the law.
Furthermore, beyond its nefarious effects on human health, chlorpyrifos has also been shown to cause major damage to wildlife and aquatic ecosystems.
“There was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in the 2-1 opinion in the case, officially titled League of United Latin American Citizens v. Andrew Wheeler. Rakoff also slammed the agency’s “utter failure” to address the objections that followed Pruitt’s decision to block a total ban on chlorpyrifos last year.
A rare and hard-fought victory over “closed-door deals”
Pruitt’s decision to block chlorpyrifos last March was especially controversial given that it came only three weeks after Pruitt had met with Andrew Liveris, the CEO of the agrochemical giant Dow Chemical. Dow Chemical developed chlorpyrifos in the 1960s and has continued to be one of the top manufacturers of the chemical, which it sells under the brand name Lorsban. Unsurprisingly, Dow has heavily lobbied the EPA against a potential ban of chlorpyrifos.
Sindy Benavides, chief executive officer at the League of United Latin American Citizens — the group that sued the EPA to force it to enact the ban — said in a statement that the court’s decision was a rare and hard-fought victory over the deals often made between the EPA and major chemical corporations behind closed doors at the expense of public health.
«For years corporations like Dow were able to hijack our government to put profit before people,” Benavides wrote. “But today the court sided with reason. Children and farmworkers have the right to live and work without risk of poisonings.»
Top Photo | Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. A federal appeals court has ruled that the Trump administration endangered public health by keeping a top-selling pesticide chlorpyrifos on the market, despite extensive scientific evidence that even tiny levels of exposure could harm babies’ brains. Andrew Harnik | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.