Scott Pruitt Won't Ban This Insecticide

by Joseph D. Lyons
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Under President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency took steps to ban an insecticide that is linked to health problems for children and farm workers. The chemical has been used for years, but was banned in 2000 for use in the home. Turns out, that wasn't enough. Agriculture uses continue through today, and the chemical, chlorpyrifos, is sprayed on a number of crops like apples, cherries, and almonds, and research from Columbia University suggests that's not OK.

But forget science — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided the EPA won't ban the insecticide after all.

Yes, that's the same Pruitt who wants to dismantle the EPA, and yet has been placed in charge of it by President Trump. He spent his time as Oklahoma's attorney general suing the agency for its attempts at fighting climate change. But it appears that's not the only science he is opposed to.

He ignored the Columbia research in making this decision. The findings showed that it can be found in the brains of children approaching puberty and that changes persist if they were exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb. Dow Chemical, the maker of the insecticide, disputes the findings, as do farmers that use it.

Pruitt sided with the chemical company. He released a statement explaining his decision:

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.

That's the exact opposite stance taken by the EPA scientists. The New York Times reported that the agency employees recommended that it be banned in late 2016. Jim Jones, who ran the chemical safety division at the EPA for five years until January (as part of a 20-year career at the agency), said he disagrees with the decision. "They are ignoring the science that is pretty solid," Jones told the Times.

Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook explained in a strong statement how he feels about Pruitt's first big act at the EPA:

The chance to prevent brain damage in children was a low bar for most of Scott Pruitt’s predecessors, but it apparently just wasn’t persuasive enough for an administrator who isn’t sure if banning lead from gasoline was a good idea. Instead, in one of his first major decisions as head of the EPA, like a toddler running toward his parents, Pruitt leaped into the warm and waiting arms of the pesticide industry.

Meanwhile, Dow and farmers groups released statements praising the decision; they say it will keep the food supply safe.