Chemical makers want risk studies discarded
Assessments of harm to 1,800 species flawed, manufacturers assert
WASHINGTON — Dow Chemical is pushing the Trump administration to ignore the findings of federal scientists who point to a family of widely used pesticides as harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.
Lawyers representing Dow, whose CEO is a close adviser to President Donald Trump, and two other manufacturers of organophosphates sent letters last week to the heads of three of Trump’s Cabinet agencies. The companies asked them “to set aside” the results of government studies the companies contend are fundamentally flawed.
Dow Chemical wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump’s inaugural festivities, and its chairman and CEO, Andrew Liveris, heads a White House manufacturing working group. Trump has said he wants to scrap regulations that he says are a drag on the economy.
The industry’s request comes after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced last month he was reversing an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children’s brains.
Pruitt declined to answer questions from reporters Wednesday as he toured a polluted Superfund site in Indiana.
The letters to Cabinet heads, dated April 13, were obtained by The Associated Press. As with the recent human studies of chlorpyrifos, Dow hired its own scientists, who produced a lengthy rebuttal to the government studies.
Over the past four years, federal scientists have compiled an official record running more than 10,000 pages indicating that the three pesticides under review — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied. Regulators at the three federal agencies, which share respon sibilities for enforcing the Endangered Species Act, are close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.
The EPA’s recent biological evaluation of chlorpyrifos found the pesticide is “likely to adversely affect” 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants accessed as part of its study, including critically endangered or threatened species of frogs, fish, birds and mammals. Similar results were shown for malathion and diazinon.
In a statement, the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos said its lawyers asked for the EPA’s biological assessment to be withdrawn because its “scientific basis was not reliable.”
FMC Corp., which sells malathion, said withdrawal of the EPA studies would allow the necessary time for the “best available” scientific data to be compiled.
Environmental advocates said Wednesday that criticism of the government’s scientists was unfounded. The methods used to conduct EPA’s biological evaluations were developed by the National Academy of Sciences.
Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Dow’s experts were trying to hold EPA scientists to an unrealistic standard of data collection.
“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.”
A crop-duster sprays a field near Headland, Ala. Dow Chemical and two other manufacturers have sent letters to members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet urging them to set aside government studies on the risks posed by pesticides.
After signing an executive order in February, President Donald Trump gave the pen he used to Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical chairman and CEO and a Trump adviser.