For Immediate Release - June 07, 2017

AG Healey Challenges Trump Administration Over Failure to Protect the Public From Toxic Pesticide

AG Coalition Charges EPA with Violating Federal Law by Allowing the Use of a Toxic Pesticide That Causes Harm to Children’s Neurological Development

BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today announced that she has joined six other attorneys general in filing a challenge against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to abandon an important proposed ban on the use of a toxic pesticide which is widely used on food consumed by infants, young children, and pregnant women.

Joining in the filing are the attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York, California, Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Vermont. The filing says that the EPA failed to make a key safety finding needed to continue to allow levels of chlorpyrifos to remain on food.

“This is yet another outrageous and wrongheaded decision by Administrator Pruitt that harms public health. By failing to take appropriate action to ensure that foods are not dangerously contaminated with this toxic pesticide, the EPA is putting the health of the public – particularly our most vulnerable infants, children and pregnant women – at risk,” said AG Healey. “We demand that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt vacate this order immediately to ensure that our residents are not eating food that is tainted with this highly unsafe product.”

Chlorpyrifos is a very common insecticide in the United States and is used on numerous food crops, including apples, strawberries, bananas, pears, peaches, nectarines, and cherries. Residues of the pesticide have repeatedly been found in baby foods and juices. Chlorpyrifos acts by inhibiting an enzyme that is key to the proper development and functioning of the central nervous system and brain. Studies have shown that children born to mothers who were exposed to the toxic pesticide during their pregnancy exhibited cognitive and motor development delays in the first three years, and structural changes in the brain, lower working memory and IQ scores at age 7, and movement disorders (including arm tremors) at age 11.

EPA’s own scientists twice have been unable to identify a safe level for the pesticide on food. In November 2015 and again in November 2016, EPA issued notices of proposed rulemaking to revoke all tolerances and prohibit food from having chlorpyrifos pesticide residue food. However, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt disregarded those proposed regulations and decades of accumulated scientific evidence and – citing “uncertainty” in chlorpyrifos’ toxicity – denied an administrative petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America to revoke the current tolerances for chlorpyrifos on food. By its order, EPA effectively left the current tolerances in place indefinitely. 

In their challenge, the attorneys general argue that Administrator Pruitt’s order violates the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because it lacks the safety finding that would be required for EPA to be authorized to maintain the current tolerances. The AGs’ challenge requests that the EPA vacate its recent order and that EPA issue a final order within 60 days granting the request and establishing a final regulation revoking tolerances for chlorpyrifos on food.