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Brain Damaging Pesticide Scott Pruitt Left in Hands of Agribusiness Found in Hundreds of Food Samples

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For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, December 21, 2017

WASHINGTON –  The federal Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, recently released test results that found the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in more than 300 food samples.

The data comes from the FDA’s Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program that tests thousands of domestic and imported foods each year for pesticides, with a focus on the foods most likely to contain illegal pesticides. This most recent set of tests was conducted between Oct. 2014 and Sept. 2015, and detected chlorpyrifos, a notorious neurotoxic pesticide, on more than 50 different food crops.

As reported in a thorough piece by Carey Gillam, the FDA analyzed 5,572 human foods.  Because the violation rates of import samples are generally higher than for domestic samples, FDA tests more imported than domestic commodities (4,737 imported and 835 domestic samples).

The FDA testing include some less common types of produce that are not considered in the annual tests by the U.S. agriculture department that EWG uses as the basis of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. That is why EWG is concerned to see more frequent detections of chlorpyrifos on hot chili peppers, sweet bell peppers, limes, nopales (cactus) and rice, foods eaten daily or weekly by Mexican Americans, in addition to millions of other Americans.

Analysis published by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 determined that the average American ingests much more chlorpyrifos in their diet than what scientists consider safe. And this serves as a reminder that some people will have even more exposure because of the specific foods in their daily diet.

There is strong scientific evidence that the organophosphate pesticide can harm the developing brains of children at even low levels of exposure, including from foods.  In fact, scientists with EPA grew so concerned over the risks it posed to children, it determined the pesticide could not be used safely on food crops, and announced a full ban from use in agriculture.

The chrorpyrifos ban was scheduled to go into effect earlier this year, but in one of his first major actions as the new EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt blocked the ban at the request of the agribusiness and pesticide lobby. Pruitt announced the EPA would not complete its safety review until 2022, leaving in place permission for the chemical to be used on U.S. crops and legal on imports.

“Unfortunately for millions of parents and their young children, Scott Pruitt is the head of the EPA,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “If it were someone else it’s quite possible current and future generations of kids would have been spared from being exposed to chlorpyrifos and the neurological deficits it triggers.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, hardly an organization Mr. Pruitt could claim to be a member of the “environmental left” was so stunned by the decision to vacate the ban on chlorpyrifos, it called on the Administrator to reverse course on behalf of children’s health.

“EPA has consistently found that chlorpyrifos is not safe, particularly in regard to in-utero exposure and exposures to children….EPA has no new evidence indicating that chlorpyrifos exposures are safe. As a result, EPA has no basis to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos, and its insistence in doing so puts all children at risk.” 

“America’s children today and in the future deserve and demand no less.”