The Dow Chemical Company, a manufacturer of plastics, chemicals, and agricultural products, has asked the Trump administration to ignore studies from federal scientists about the environmental risks posed by organophosphates, a major class of pesticides. Critics note that Dow recently donated $1 million to help Trump's inauguration ceremony.
Lawyers representing Dow and two other manufacturers of organophosphates sent letters last week to three members of Trump's Cabinet imploring them "to set aside" research indicating that the pesticides are harmful to 1,800 endangered and critically threatened animal species. Dow claims that these findings are flawed and has asked the administration to scrap proposed environmental regulations. Dow hired its own scientists to rebut government studies.
Dow made its request after Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced last month he was reversing efforts from the previous administration to bar the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even minor exposure could hinder the development of children's brains, particularly in the regions "associated with functions like attention, decision-making, language, impulse control and working memory." Dow has sold chlorpyrifos for spraying on citrus fruits, apples, cherries and other crops since the 1960s; Dow sells about 5 million pounds of the pesticide domestically each year.
Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times to halt or modify pollution regulations while Attorney General of Oklahoma, declined to answer questions from reporters. An EPA spokesman told The Associated Press that Pruitt will not "prejudge" any decisions regarding environmental regulations as "we are trying to restore regulatory sanity to EPA's work."
"We have had no meetings with Dow on this topic and we are reviewing petitions as they come in, giving careful consideration to sound science and good policymaking," said J.P. Freire, EPA's Associate Administrator for Public Affairs. "The administrator is committed to listening to stakeholders affected by EPA's regulations, while also reviewing past decisions."
An official record compiled by government scientists over the last four years runs more than 10,000 pages and indicates that three pesticides under review––chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion––are a danger to nearly every endangered species they have studied. Regulators at the Departments of Commerce and the Interior, in conjunction with the EPA, share responsibilities for enforcing the Endangered Species Act and will soon issue findings expected to result in new limits on how and where organophosphates, which were originally developed as chemical warfare agents by Nazi Germany, can be used.
Brett Hartl, a government scientist, has openly expressed his concerns about the impact organophosphates could have on human health. "Endangered species are the canary in the coal mine," he told reporters, noting that many of these endangered species live in lakes and streams which serve as sources for human drinking water.
"You can't just take an endangered fish out of the wild, take it to the lab and then expose it to enough pesticides until it dies to get that sort of data," Hartl said. "It's wrong morally, and it's illegal."
Dow soon issued a statement in response:
No pest control product has been more thoroughly evaluated, with more than 4,000 studies and reports examining chlorpyrifos in terms of health, safety and the environment. Chlorpyrifos is authorized for use not only in the U.S., but nearly 100 nations, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Japan. Dow AgroSciences remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety...
...Dow actively participates in policymaking and political processes, including political contributions to candidates, parties and causes, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws. Dow maintains and is committed to the highest standard of ethical conduct in all such activity.
Andrew Liveris, Dow's CEO, currently leads President Donald Trump's American Manufacturing Council.
Andrew Liveris. (Credit: Source.)