On March 29, 2017, then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to overrule the agency’s scientists and allow the continued use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
In 2016, EPA scientists concluded that chlorpyrifos poses a risk of nervous system damage and birth defects in children. According to the New York Times, chlorpyrifos was banned from most household uses nearly two decades ago, but it is still used today “at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples.”
The decision — which came less than two months after Pruitt took over the agency — to reverse the EPA’s previous findings on chlorpyrifos raised questions about whether Pruitt received policy direction from an industry group.
In June 2017, the EPA altered the “framework rules” that govern how the agency selects chemicals to assess for safety and how it makes its safety determinations under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The law had undergone a major update in 2016, and the new rules released by EPA in June 2017 were significantly weaker and less health-protective than previous versions.
The changes closely aligned with requests made by industry groups and came after Nancy Beck, a high-level employee of the American Chemistry Council, left her ACC post to join the EPA.