(Photo: Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse)
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, opposed scientists on Wednesday to rejected the scientific conclusion from the experts: that chlorpyrifos – a harmful insecticide—should be banned from being used on farms across the nation.
Chlorpyrifos was banned in almost all households at the turn of the millennia but is still used on tens of thousands of farms. At the end of last year, scientists concluded that chlorpyrifos was potentially causing memory decline and other significant health consequences as a result of exposure in workers and children. Although they revised their initial study after raised questions about the finality of the results, the research panel still concluded that the chemical should be banned.
Due to observed negative effects on farmworkers and on children, EPA scientists recommended a permanent ban under the Obama administration. Pruitt claims that the agency needs to study the science more, referring to the recommendation as “predetermined results.”
Pruitt has greenlighted a pesticide that his own agency recommended to ban. Unless he decides to bring up the question once more, it will almost certainly not be reviewed until the next time the EPA is formally required to re-evaluate the safety of the pesticide, in six years.
The Trump Era has been marked with appointments that seem contradictory to the position: Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban development after he has no experience in either area and recently scoffed at the idea of heading a government agency and Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, after she has never worked in nor had a child in public education.
Scott Pruitt is no exception. He spent years opposing the EPA, and while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, he attempted to sue the agency for its efforts to regulate smog, mercury, and other forms of pollution. Then he was appointed to be the head of EPA. In many ways, his decision not to ban insecticide is no surprise.
Pruitt’s decision is to be part of a larger movement in the new administration. Recently, Trump began an order to roll back Obama administration rules related to coal-burning power plants and climate change. The anger of many environmental actions groups at both this small-scale decision and the large situation is brimming. The decision will likely not be revisited until 2022, as Pruitt took what is called “final agency action” on the issue.
Groups have accused Trump of valuing corporate opinion over the earth and environment, like Dow Chemical, which sells the product and claims that the science is inconclusive, despite scientist like Jim Jones saying that “They are ignoring the science that is pretty solid.” Jones has worked at the EPA for more than two decades.
Public anger is understandable from a broad scale environmentalist perspective; after all, Pruitt doesn’t believe humans are a primary cause of climate change, a belief which contradicts the EPA’s official scientific findings on their website. His attempt to sow scientific doubt where little exists – stating that continuous review and analysis is needed – alarmed scientists across the nation and the globe.
Marirose Bernal Staff Reporter