Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic pesticide that poses risks to brain development in fetuses and children. Nearly all residential uses of it were eliminated in 2000, but its continued use in agriculture posed unacceptable risks to farmworkers and their children. EPA had proposed eliminating agricultural chlorpyrifos use in 2015 — but then Scott Pruitt took over at EPA and abruptly reversed course. Pruitt made that decision weeks after meeting with the head of Dow Chemical, the largest chlorpyrifos manufacturer, and falsely claimed that the science on the pesticide’s neurodevelopmental effects was “unresolved.”
Earthjustice represented several environmental and labor organizations in a lawsuit against EPA over its failure to ban chlorpyrifos, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in their favor. The three-judge panel ordered the agency to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos within 60 days. The decision emphasizes that EPA cannot ignore scientific evidence:
… the panel held that there was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children. The panel further held that the EPA cannot refuse to act because of possible contradiction in the future by evidence.
This is a victory for public health and an example of checks and balances working as they should.