Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt met privately with the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, before deciding to drop a ban on chlorpyrifos, a widely used but highly toxic pesticide that has been shown to harm children’s brains, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Pruitt reportedly met with Liveris for 30 minutes at a Houston hotel on March 9, according to records obtained by the AP.
Pruitt announced later that month that he would no longer pursue a ban on Dow’s use of chlorpyrifos.
On May 5, more than 50 farmworkers outside of Bakersfield, California, were exposed to a highly toxic pesticide that apparently drifted from a nearby field—at a high enough level that “twelve people reported symptoms of vomiting [and] nausea and one person fainted,” according to the television news station Kern Golden Empire. “An additional twelve workers did not show signs of any symptoms,” the station reported. “However more than half of the farm workers left before medical aide arrived.”
The pesticide attacks kids’ minds, giving them reduced IQ, memory loss and attention deficit disorder (You can read the major studies here, here, and here). Also it sickens workers, causing tremors and vomiting.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, exposure to the chemical through inhalation can cause initial symptoms like “tearing of the eyes, runny nose, increased saliva and sweat production, nausea, dizziness and headache,” followed by possible “muscle twitching, weakness or tremors, lack of coordination, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and pupil constriction with blurred or darkened vision.”
So why is it still on our food?
The parent company, Dow Chemical, has cultivated a cozy relationship with the Trump administration. And as the Center for Public Integrity notes, the company delivered $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee. Dow Chemical Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris attended a postelection Trump rally. Trump named Liveris chair of the American Manufacturing Council, vowing the chemical exec would “find ways to bring industry back to America.”
Drain the swamp? Think again…
An EPA spokeswoman told the AP that Pruitt and Liveris were “briefly introduced” at the conference, where both were speaking.
“They did not discuss chlorpyrifos,” the spokeswoman said. “During the same trip he also met with the Canadian minister of natural resources, and CEOs and executives from other companies attending the trade show.”
Pruitt also reportedly attended a larger group meeting with two other Dow executives.
The Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resource Defense Council both sued the EPA days after Pruitt’s decision. “President Trump and his EPA flouted court orders and EPA’s scientific findings that chlorpyrifos puts children, farmworkers, their families and many others at risk,” Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice managing attorney handling the case, said in a statement at the time.
“It is absolutely outrageous. The EPA has made findings for two and a half years, that this pesticide is unsafe, particularly unsafe for children,” said Goldman.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also called for the harmful pesticide to be banned, sending a letter to Pruitt on Tuesday saying they were “deeply alarmed” by his decision to allow the pesticide to continue to be used despite mounting scientific evidence, urging that the EPA rely on the “established science.”
“We are writing to express concern at the agency’s recent reversal on its proposal to revoke tolerances for chlorpyrifos. In particular, we are deeply alarmed that the EPA’s decision to allow the continued use of chlorpyrifos contradicts the agency’s own science and puts developing fetuses, infants, children, and pregnant women at risk,” the letter read.
“We urge EPA to rely on the established science and to take action to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos, as proposed in 2015. America’s children today and in the future deserve and demand no less.”