EPA denies petition to ban pesticide used on crops

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Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced late Wednesday that a widely used pesticide will remain available to farmers, despite agency scientists recommending past year that it be ban due to neurotoxicity risks to farm workers and children. The crop protection industry is "encouraged by EPA's detailed rationale set forth in the denial order and supports EPA's commitment to a thorough registration review of chlorpyrifos".

A Environmental Protection Agency watchdog is reviewing whether Administrator Scott Pruitt violated agency policy when he questioned last month whether carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. They claim that chlorpyrifos is safely used on dozens of crops in the US and that there are no alternatives for many pests. It's been banned from household use for more than a decade, but it's still used by farmers on citrus trees, strawberries, broccoli, and cauliflower. Under the Obama administration, the EPA wanted to ban farm use.

Environmental groups say the "unconscionable" decision ignores overwhelming evidence that even small amounts of chlorpyrifos can damage parts of the brain.

Chlorpyrifos was first registered for use in the United States by Dow Chemical in 1965 to control leafage and ground insects. 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.

Environmental groups were quick to condemn the decision, however, as was Jim Jones, a 20-year EPA employee who, for a time, ran the chemical safety unit before leaving upon President Trump's election.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council has already pledged to fight the new action in court.

The EPA said then that its analysis didn't suggest risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos in food. 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. Residue of the chemical on food crops were among the concerns EPA scientists laid out in their 2016 assessment.

The EPA says the 2015 proposal "largely relied on certain epidemiological study outcomes, whose application is novel and uncertain, to reach its conclusions".

The Dow Chemical subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos quickly issued a statement praising Pruitt's decision. It overrides his own agency's research showing the pesticide chlorpyrifos posed a health risk to children and farm workers.