EPA chief Scott Pruitt has decided not to ban a common pesticide, bucking the agency's own research that the compound posed a health risk to children and farm workers, the New York Times reports. Chlorpyrifos, or Lorsban, has been used for five decades on dozens of crops including broccoli and strawberries, the Washington Post reports. It was outlawed for indoor use in 2000, and the Obama administration proposed extending that ban to the 40,000 farms that rely on it. Citing research by Columbia University and others, EPA scientists determined that exposure to the pesticide through drinking water and other sources could lead to memory and learning problems. University of North Carolina researcher Stephanie Engel tells Mother Jones that babies and fetuses are particularly at risk, as well as adults who lack a gene for metabolizing the chemical.
In one of his first acts, Pruitt rejected those concerns, saying that the "public record lays out serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps in the proposal." He added that 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." Farm groups and Dow Chemical, which makes chlorpyrifos, contended there was no conclusive evidence that it was harmful to humans. But environmentalists, who were pushing for a ban in federal court, reacted with outrage. Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook charged that Pruitt "in one of his first major decisions as head of the EPA … leaped into the warm and waiting arms of the pesticide industry." (Carbon dioxide is not the main cause of global warming, Pruitt says.)