A coalition of health and labor organizations sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal last month to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide tied to brain damage in children.
“Trump’s EPA might want to dismiss the science and the law to protect corporate profit, but we are confident the courts won’t stand for this.”
—Dr. Elena Rios, National Hispanic Medical Association
Represented by nonprofit environmental legal firm Earthjustice, the 11 groups filed a petition for review (pdf) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, challenging EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s July decision to reject the call from environmental groups for a ban on the pesticide.
Critics accused both Wheeler and the federal agency of prioritizing corporate profits of public health—a sentiment that was echoed Wednesday by the groups behind the case.
“The scientific evidence has been clear for years. Chlorpyrifos is toxic to farmworkers and linked to irreversible neurodevelopmental harms in children,” Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, said in a statement. “Trump’s EPA might want to dismiss the science and the law to protect corporate profit, but we are confident the courts won’t stand for this.”
In 2000, the EPA ended household use of chlorpyrifos over safety concerns but allowed farmers to keep using it on crops, from brussels sprouts and broccoli to cauliflower, cherries, and corn. For more than a decade, environmental groups have been fighting for a full federal ban. Wheeler’s July announcement—which critics say contradicts assessments from his agency’s scientists—came after a federal court, in April, ordered the administration to quickly make a decision.
“Trump’s EPA has yet again failed farmworkers and children when it refused to ban chlorpyrifos despite all the science that called for the opposite,” Iris Figueroa, staff attorney at Farmworker Justice. “We hope the courts will take the lead and amend this grave mistake. Farmworkers, families, and developing children must be safe from chlorpyrifos and most importantly, from preventable illness.”
Earthjustice filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of the Pesticide Action Network North America, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), United Farm Workers, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Hispanic Medical Association, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos, Learning Disability Association of America, League of United Latin American Citizens, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
Kristin Schafer, executive director of Pesticide Action Network—one of the plaintiffs in the original 2007 court case demanding a ban—said Wednesday that “it’s absurd that we have to ask the court to force EPA to do its job.”
“Scientists have known for years that chlorpyrifos puts the health of farmworkers and children in danger. Instead of acting on this evidence, EPA has chosen to ignore it—putting Dow Chemical’s profits before public health,” added Schafer, referencing the pesticide’s primary manufacturer.
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