State Attorney Generals Move to Force EPA To Regulate Chlorpyrifos

(TFC)— Officials from five states are currently mobilizing against EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) head Scott Pruitt’s ordered delays in banning a controversial pesticide. The collective of state Attorney Generals aims to forestall deregulated use of chlorpyrifos, linked to brain damage in children.

The uproar catalyzed after seemingly universal dismay over Pruitt’s push forward of chlorpyrifos. Many were disturbed by a recent chlorpyrifos spraying which quickly sickened nearby farmers. One of those individuals, sources report, was ultimately hospitalized following the spray. Chlorpyrifos has seen wide use on crops like soybeans and corn, as well as on golf courses, since the 60s.

Chlorpyrifos was found to be of genuine neurotoxic concern in a 2001 study, particularly when used near homes. Like many pesticides, it targets neurological, or reproductive functions of target pests. However, it’s a potent toxin and works on more than just bugs. Despite its history of use, even EPA’s own website notes certain risks.


“Chlorpyrifos can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans at high enough doses; that is, it can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at very high exposures (e.g., accidents or major spills), respiratory paralysis and death.

Occupational exposure to chlorpyrifos is of concern to the Agency. The current chlorpyrifos labels require workers handling and applying chlorpyrifos to wear additional personal protective equipment (chemical resistant gloves, coveralls, respirators), and restricting entry into treated fields for 24 hours up to five days.”– EPA website


The damage may go beyond this, however, as numerous outlets are highlighting. Past studies have shown chlorpyrifos presents a particular danger to pregnant women, and fetuses. According to the Center For Food Safety, tests have shown the pesticide may influence lower IQ, cause poor cognitive development, and other psychological issues.

It’s for these reasons Pruitt’s regulation delays has provoked the government response it has. According to Truth Out, a group of state Attorney Generals issued a formal challenge against Pruitt’s controversial order. Attorney Generals from New York, Vermont, Maine, California, Washington, Maryland, and Massachusetts base this move on EPA’s stated role to ensure public safety. By pushing forward chlorpyrifos, the collective unanimously proclaims the agency is failing in this regard.

They’re even arguing Pruitt’s order to delay bans violates federal food safety laws. EPA’s own researchers, in fact, have issued various warnings over the use of chlorpyrifos in recent weeks.


Image Source: jetsandzeppelins, Flickr, Creative Commons
Pesticide spraying

As LA Times reports, a panel of EPA scientists found chlorpyrifos residue levels on crops exceeded safety regulations. Dangers were also noted for workers handling the poison, even in shipping or loading docks. Other studies conducted in California suggested chlorpyrifos exposure may influence localized autism spectrum disorder rates. Another study, done on chlorpyrifos’ volatility, can no longer be found on EPA’s website.

Why exactly the page is broken is anyone’s guess. However, it would fit an ongoing pattern of purging information from EPA’s website since Trump took office. To date, these actions have focused on climate change information and programs initiated by the Obama Administration.

Trump’s appointment of a former pesticide lobbyist to a high position in EPA’s pesticide regulatory wing last month also fits neatly into the trend. By all accounts, EPA’s interior is being terraformed to suit the needs of the pesticide, and oil industry.

Which is why initiatives like the attorney general’s’ chlorpyrifos challenge are so interesting. It represents a move away from depending on federal agencies, and towards utilizing state organizations to their fullest. Similarly, it further spotlights the deep fissures separating various aspects of government. In an age of constant infighting over Trump’s election, connections to Russia, etc, pushback by government officials shouldn’t be taken lightly.