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Daily News Blog

28
Oct

Captured by Extremist Pro-Pesticide Agenda, A Broken EPA Reregisters Several Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2020) This month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized decisions allowing continued use of a range of highly toxic pesticides, including the herbicide paraquat, and the synthetic pyrethroid class of insecticides. The move has been met with stinging criticism from the health and environmental community, but the decisions come as no surprise. Continued allowance of hazardous pesticides is a result of a weak law, lax regulations, and an administration that has consistently refused to follow even deficient protections.

“The EPA’s pesticide office has sunk to a despicable new low in allowing farmworkers, small children and the environment to be sacrificial pawns in the profit schemes of its friends in the pesticide industry,” said Nathan Donley, PhD, senior scientist at Center for Biological Diversity. “In rushing to reapprove these deadly chemicals, it’s ignored its own scientists and independent researchers, refused to protect human health and the environment, and shown itself to be the panting lapdog of a morally bankrupt industry.”

EPA reregistered paraquat despite overwhelming evidence that the chemical cannot be used without ‘unreasonable adverse effects on the environment’ — the lackluster standard in federal pesticide law to which the agency is required to regulate a chemical. EPA admits, “one small sip [of paraquat] can be fatal, and there is no antidote.” While many rightfully point to the EU has having higher standards than U.S. pesticide laws, paraquat is not only banned in the EU (since 2007), it is also being phased out in countries with arguably weaker legal requirements than the US, like Brazil and China.

There is strong evidence linking the use of paraquat to the development of Parkinson’s disease. Research finds that cumulative exposures over one’s life increases risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and other factors such as genetics or exposure to other chemicals further elevate the threat. “The data is overwhelming” said Samuel M. Goldman, MD, an epidemiologist in the San Francisco Veterans Affairs health system to the New York Times. “I’m not a farmer, I don’t need to kill weeds, but I have to believe there are less dangerous options out there.” A 2016 New York Times exposé found, millions of pounds of paraquat are still being imported into the U.S. from other countries, sprayed on nearly 15 million acres of U.S. cropland.

In making its decision, EPA ignored a letter from Beyond Pesticides and over 50 other public health, environmental, environmental justice, and farmworker groups, including the Michael J Fox Foundation. Ostensibly, the agency conducted an epidemiological literature review, but the exercise was futile, as EPA simply made broad statements dismissing the science as insufficient.

The agency took the same approach in its work to reapprove synthetic pyrethroids, checking off another box on the pesticide industry’s wish list. Synthetic pyrethroids are highly toxic to pollinators and other insects, and have been repeatedly linked by peer-reviewed studies to neurological issues, such as learning disabilities in children. But EPA stripped away important protections for children, reducing a ‘safety factor’ (accepted exposure rates) from 3x to 1x. Eliminating this safety factor means that EPA thinks children, despite their increased susceptibility to these chemicals, should be exposed to the same amount of synthetic pyrethroids as a grown adult male.

This is an instance where EPA eschewed even the weak legal requirements of federal pesticide law in favor of industry. In 2017, agrichemical industry umbrella group Croplife America submitted comments to EPA urging it use a bogus health model developed by an industry group in order to determine the children’s safety factor. EPA dutifully employed that model, while at the same time dismissing, as it did with paraquat, independent epidemiological literature showing harm.

In addition to paraquat and the synthetic pyrethroids, the agency also registered the highly toxic, water contaminating fumigant 1,3-Dichloropropene, reducing its cancer rating from a “likely” carcinogen to one that shows “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.” Methoyml, a hazardous insecticide found to threaten endangered species, and part of a Bayer plant chemical explosion in the late 2000s, was also reregistered for continue use. And there is breaking news that EPA is likely to continue dicamba’s allowance on GE crops despite a successful lawsuit voiding registration for that use.

While Beyond Pesticides continues to support efforts to ban individual chemicals, as Representative Velazquez’s Ban Paraquat Act would do, these efforts will not stop the firehose of toxic decisions made under the current administration. It is critical that the next administration work towards systemic change in our pesticide regulatory process. Beyond Pesticides encourages all U.S. residents to vote for the candidate that will best protect American’s public health, and the environment upon which we all depend. After you vote – don’t let up – it will take a concerted effort by concerned residents to purge the pesticide industry from the halls of EPA, restore science to its rightful place, and on top of that, change the system to improve protections. It’s a tall order – but one that’s possible and provides hope for a better tomorrow.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity, EPA (Paraquat, synthetic pyrethroids, 1,3-Dichloropropene, Methomyl)

 

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