‘Dow Chemical Wants Farmers to Keep Using a Pesticide Linked to Autism and ADHD.’

‘Dow Chemical Want Farmers to Keep Using a Pesticide Linked to Autism and ADHD.’

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic pesticide widely used in U.S. agriculture (Dow’s chlorpyrifos trade names include: Dursban, Lorsban, Lock-On Insecticide, Cobalt). Generally sprayed on crops, it’s used to kill a variety of agricultural pests. It has a slightly skunky odour, similar to rotten eggs, and can be harmful if it is touched, inhaled, or eaten. Chlorpyrifos was used to control insect infestations of homes and commercial buildings in Europe until it was banned from sale in 2008 and it was one of the most widely used residential insecticides in the US before being banned from most domestic use in 2001. But in US agriculture it remains one of the most widely used organophosphate insecticides.

Major studies from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the University of California-Davis, and Columbia University have found strong evidence that low doses of chlorpyrifos inhibits childrens’ brain development, including when exposure occurs in the womb, with effects ranging from lower IQ to higher rates of autism. On November 10, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report laying out the dangers of chlorpyrifos. The “Chlorpyrifos Revised Human Health Risk Assessment,”, laid out the evidence that the pesticide can cause intelligence deficits and attention, memory, and motor problems in children.

Dow originally patented chlorpyrifos, and still makes most of the products containing it, but has consistently disputed scientific evidence that the chemical harms children. But the government report made it clear that the EPA accepted the independent science showing that it is unsafe. The ‘pre-publication copy’ of the report stated that “residues of chlorpyrifos on most individual food crops exceed the ‘reasonable certainty of no harm’ safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” It stated that levels in both drinking water and non-drinking water were estimated to exceed safety standards and a ban on chlorpyrifos was sought. CLICK

The EPA might have seemed to be the agency with the authority to see chlorpyrifos banned from all use but dark forces would appear to be at work as, two days before the EPA report was published, Donald Trump was elected president of the USA. US law required a 60 day comment period on the report, before any decisions could be taken, with the comment period closing three days before Trump’s inauguration. After that, there was a final deadline of 31 March to incorporate comments on the report, which allowed the new Republican administration almost two months to influence the outcome.

On the 9th December, 2016, President-elect Trump appointed Andrew Liveris, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dow Chemical, to head the US Manufacturing Council, a private sector group that advises the U.S. secretary of commerce. In Liveris’ appointment speech he said: “You’re paving the way with your administration, with your policies, to make it easier to do business in this country… Not a red-tape country but a red-carpet country for American businesses.”  CLICK

In February, 2017, it was revealed that Dow Chemical along with Pfizer, and Bank of America were among the largest donors to Trump’s inaugural committee giving $1 million each to help fund the balls, receptions, parade and other events celebrating Trump’s January 20 swearing-in.(1)

Trump’s pick to lead the EPA was former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Pruitt is a lawyer who rejects the scientific consensus on climate change and has described himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”(2) He has little track record in assessing the health risks posed by chemicals but he does accord with Trump’s general hostility to regulation. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Pruitt would not name a single EPA regulation he supports and even refused to confirm that he’d finalize the EPA’s proposed ban on asbestos. (3)

In March 2017, Kristin Schafer, policy director for the Pesticide Action Network, said: “It would be highly unusual for the EPA to backtrack on a decision to ban a chemical after so strongly signalling that it would.” (PAN is one of the advocacy groups that sued the EPA way back in 2007 over its previous lack of action on chlorpyrifos.) But she added that “all bets are off with this administration.”

On 29 March, 2017 Pruitt signed an order denying the EPA’s proposal to ban chlorpyrifos. In a written statement, he said: “We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment… By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making– rather than predetermined results.”

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council said in a statement: “The Trump administration is putting the needs of chemical corporations before children’s health,”

 

FURTHER READING

Dow Agro Sciences India blacklisted after being found guilty bribing Indian officials to register Dursban (chlorpyrifos): CLICK

More about chlorpyrifos: CLICK

Mother Jones- Trump’s EPA Just Greenlighted a Pesticide Known to Damage Kids’ Brains: CLICK

The Intercept- Dow Chemical Wants Farmers to Keep Using a Pesticide Linked to Autism and ADHD: CLICK

Chlorpyrifos product trade names registered for use in California 2015: CLICK

(1) USA Today, Feb 17, 2017: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/17/corporations-gave-millions-donald-trump-inauguration/98056554/

(2) Washington Post, December 9, 2016: “Trump names Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general suing EPA on climate change, to head the EPA”. The Washington Post. p. A1. Retrieved December 9, 2016.

(3) Environmental Working Group, 31 January, 2017: http://www.ewg.org/planet-trump/2017/01/epa-nominee-pruitt-refused-promise-asbestos-ban

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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