On March 29, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to overrule the agency’s scientists and allow the continued use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
Last year, 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 to reverse the EPA’s previous findings on chlorpyrifos – coming less than two months after Pruitt took over the agency – raised questions about whether he again received policy direction from an industry group.
In June 2017, EPA altered the so-called “framework rules” that govern how the agency will select chemicals to assess for safety and make its safety determinations under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The law had previously undergone a major update in 2016 – and the new rules released by EPA in June are significantly weaker and less health-protective than previous versions.
The changes closely align with requests made by industry groups and come after Nancy Beck, a former high-level employee of the American Chemistry Council, left her post to join the EPA.
President Trump nominated Michael Dourson to be the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the EPA. Dourson previously headed a laboratory that performed and reviewed chemical safety studies on behalf of the chemical industry, and this appointment raises many questions about whether or not Dourson will use his new position to benefit his old clients. This appointment aligns with Pruitt’s continuing shift toward prioritizing the interests of the chemical and energy industries over the safety of the American public.