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U.S. court backs EPA’s delay of chlorpyrifos ban

Decision is a victory for the Trump Administration

by Britt E. Erickson
July 20, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 30

Credit: Shutterstock
Chlorpyrifos is considered critical for use against ants in California’s citrus industry.
oranges growing on a tree in California.
Credit: Shutterstock
Chlorpyrifos is considered critical for use against ants in California’s citrus industry.

A federal appeals court has let stand the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s controversial decision to allow continued use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is linked to neurotoxic effects.

The July 18 decision is a win for the Trump Administration, which has put off finalizing an Obama EPA proposal to ban chlorpyrifos on food crops.

In 2016, EPA said that combined exposure to chlorpyrifos through food and drinking water in the U.S. is expected to exceed the agency’s safety standard. At the time, EPA cited concerns about neurotoxicity from exposure to the organophosphate insecticide.

The agency now claims “the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved.” EPA says it will continue evaluating the risks of chlorpyrifos until 2022.

In the case, environmental groups asserted that EPA’s March denial of their petition to ban the pesticide broke federal law. The agency has made “no new safety findings” and no “final determination as to whether chlorpyrifos food tolerances must be revoked,” they argued.

The court said it could focus only on the timing of EPA’s response to the petition, not the substance of that response, determining that the agency’s actions were legal. The environmental groups’ next step is to file objections with EPA about the petition’s denial, the court said.

The environmental groups, along with some state attorneys general, have already filed that formal request with EPA, asking the agency to reconsider the proposed chlorpyrifos ban. The agency has not responded. The groups are also involved in another court case related to the merits of EPA’s decision to delay the planned ban.

“EPA scientists have said for more than two years that this pesticide is unsafe, particularly to children. Any delay in banning this toxic chemical is a tragedy for families and farmworkers,” says Patti Goldman, managing attorney for Earthjustice, one of the environmental groups involved in the suits.

Dow AgroSciences, which makes chlorpyrifos, maintains that use of the pesticide offers “wide margins of protection for human health and safety.” The company claims that the chemical is used in about 100 countries to protect more than 50 crops.



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