WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has requested all documents related to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to go against the scientific recommendation of his own agency and refuse to ban a widely used pesticide that’s been linked to learning disabilities in children.
In a Friday letter to Pruitt, Carper, a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said he is “troubled” by the agency chief’s order to allow chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide that’s been used since the 1960s, to remain on the market for agricultural use. Pruitt “did not present any new scientific or legal analysis” to justify the decision, Carper noted.
“The previous finding to ban chlorpyrifos was based on extensive data, models and research developed by industry, government and academic scientists,” Carper wrote. “Absent such justification, this decision to lift the proposed ban could undermine the trust the public has in the agency to keep its food, water and air safe.”
In November 2015, under the Obama administration, the EPA proposed to permanently ban the use of the chemical on food crops, citing potential risks to human health. The move stemmed from a 2007 petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America.
In announcing his reversal, Pruitt said the proposed ban relied largely on studies “whose application is novel and uncertain.” He claimed that his decision was about “returning to using sound science in decision-making — rather than predetermined results.”
Critics quickly condemned Pruitt and President Donald Trump, accusing them of valuing corporate profits over public health. And environmental groups, including NRDC and Earthjustice, promised to fight the EPA in court.
Chlorpyrifos, also known by its trade name Lorsban, is used in nearly 100 countries on more than 50 different crops, including corn, soybeans, cranberries and broccoli. It was largely banned for at-home use in the U.S. in 2000, but continues to be widely used on thousands of American farms.
Dow Chemical Co., the chemical’s producer, says it “remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.” However, even low-dose exposure to organophosphates, particularly in the womb, has been found to harm brain development in children, leading to higher risk of disorders like autism.
The Washington Post reported Friday that a new EPA plan calls for laying off 25 percent of the federal agency’s staff and eliminating dozens of programs, including pesticide safety.
Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, is a longtime critic of the EPA who denies the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. A recent email dump revealed his close relationship with the oil, gas and utility companies he’s now tasked with regulating.
Carper has asked the agency to provide him with copies of all documents and communications related to Pruitt’s decision on chlorpyrifos by April 28.
You can read Carper’s full letter here.