Court Allows EPA to Continue Delaying Toxic Pesticide Ban

Based purely on a procedural issue, an appeals court ruled today that the EPA can keep putting off a decision on banning chlorpyrifos.

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In late March, after U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt reversed an Obama-era recommendation to ban chlorpyrifos—a widely used, highly toxic pesticide found by the EPA itself to cause learning disabilities and developmental delays in children—NRDC and our partners sued. Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled—based on a procedural issue, not on the safety of the pesticide or the validity of the lawsuit—that the agency can continue delaying a decision to ban chlorpyrifos.

“This dangerous chemical has no place in our communities or on the food we feed our families,” says Erik Olson, director of NRDC’s Health program. “The EPA’s own science shows there are unsafe residues of the pesticide on common fruits and vegetables—including kid favorites, like apples and oranges.

Nearly two decades of scientific studies have documented the risks that chlorpyrifos poses to children and pregnant women. And a 2016 health assessment by the EPA itself showed that residues of the pesticide on fruits and vegetables led to exposures in children up to 140 times higher than the EPA’s safety limit.  

News reports in June revealed that Pruitt met privately with the CEO of Dow Chemical, the largest company that sells chlorpyrifos, before announcing it wouldn’t ban the chemical. The EPA denies any discussion of chlorpyrifos at this meeting but has not provided any notes or agenda to back up that claim. “The new EPA administration is handing out favors to its cronies in the chemical industry at the expense of children’s health,” Olson says.

Today’s decision is not the final word on this dangerous pesticide. In a further effort to pursue a ban on the chemical, NRDC and our partners, joined by seven states, filed an administrative appeal with the EPA on June 5, challenging the agency’s failure to finalize the ban on chlorpyrifos. That appeal is still pending. “We will continue to fight to keep all kids safe from this toxic chemical,” Olson says.

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