Nature

EPA Denies Claims That Chlorpyrifos Pesticide Affects Brain Development

The EPA made a recent statement denying the adverse effects of pesticide chlorpyrifos on children’s brain development. This new pronouncement directly contradicts federal researchers’ scientific conclusions five years ago, who stated that the chemical stunts brain development.

Chlorpyrifos is present in grapes, almonds, soybeans, and other crops. The new statement is excellent news and is a significant win for the manufacturers of the pesticide and the agro-chemical industry.

Last Tuesday, the EPA said that research findings of neuro-developmental damage are still inconclusive, despite years of scientific studies. According to the government agency, it does not have access to the raw data of the tasks that it considers unresolved, essentially concluding that these study results do not have the final word despite being supported by peer reviews.

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The Regulation Restricts Study-Based Policymaking

The EPA is still in the process of drafting a regulation that will officially ban such researches from influencing decision- and policymaking. Nevertheless, its latest assessment seems to show that it has already started applying the regulation.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s senior health director Erik Olson, the EPA has completely turned its back on its commitment to protecting children from this extremely toxic pesticide. Even if the EPA’s scientists have already made recommendations to have it banned, he says politics has overridden science.

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Interim Ruling

According to EPA spokesperson James Hewitt, the EPA couldn’t verify the findings of a Columbia epidemiological study that correlated prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure to toddler developmental disorders.

The agency says it will come to an interim decision regarding the regulation of chlorpyrifos next month. However, according to environmental activist groups, the EPA’s statement is another one of its actions to ease restrictions on toxic chemical use.

It already recently inhibited itself from regulating the water contaminant perchlorate associated with fetal brain damage. It also did not ban asbestos, against the recommendations of its scientists.

The Fight to Ban Chlorpyrifos

Since 2015, the US government declared that it would ban the chemical if the EPA studies demonstrated its potential to produce illness and cause brain damage in children.

In 2017, then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the decision. In July of last year, the agency rejected a petition for banning the pesticide by public health and environmental groups, saying that it is not convinced with the study data’s significance showing brain damage in children.

Furthermore, the EPA criticized the government’s move to ban chlorpyrifos using epidemiological studies as a basis instead of direct animal testing.

Labor and environmental organizations sued the EPA to force a ban. EPA argued that it is only disputing the safety level of chlorpyrifos, and doubts the Columbia University study data, which prevents it from adequately evaluating the study.

According to lawyers supporting a ban, the researchers from Columbia University are willing to present their raw data to EPA officials. So far, many states have already banned the chemical in varying degrees. These include New York, Hawaii, and California.

Ceasing Chlorpyrifos Production

According to Corteva, the largest chlorpyrifos manufacturer globally, it will cease its production by the end of 2020. Still, company spokesman Gregg Schmidt said that Corteva stands by its product’s safety and value. For now, the EPA seems adamant in allowing chlorpyrifos to remain on the market.

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