E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide

Mar 30, 2017

By Eric Lipton

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, moved late on Wednesday to reject the scientific conclusion of the agency’s own chemical safety experts who under the Obama administration recommended that one of the nation’s most widely used insecticides be permanently banned at farms nationwide because of the harm it potentially causes children and farm workers.

The ruling by Mr. Pruitt, in one of his first formal actions as the nation’s top environmental official, rejected a petition filed a decade ago by two environmental groups that had asked that the agency ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. The chemical was banned in 2000 for use in most household settings, but still today is used at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples.

Late last year, and based in part on research conducted at Columbia University, E.P.A. scientists concluded that exposure to the chemical that has been in use since 1965 was potentially causing significant health consequences. They included learning and memory declines, particularly among farm workers and young children who may be exposed through drinking water and other sources.

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19 comments on “E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide

  • @OP – Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, moved late on Wednesday to reject the scientific conclusion of the agency’s own chemical safety experts who under the Obama administration recommended that one of the nation’s most widely used insecticides be permanently banned at farms nationwide because of the harm it potentially causes children and farm workers.

    This approach is nothing new!
    Ruthless multi-national corporations have been using banned chemicals which damage the health of workers (and ecosystems) in the third world for decades!
    They can keep costs even lower by not bothering with training protective clothing for workers!

    In corrupt impoverished regimes, which are “free” from those “job-killing” safety and environmental regulations, there are plenty of desperate workers – kept ignorant of the risks – to replace those disabled or killed by using toxic materials.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1987360

    J Toxicol Environ Health. 1991 Jan;32(1):11-31. Pesticides and the Third World.

    Many developing countries are importing industrial processes that make use of toxic chemicals. By the same token, pesticides, which are toxic by design, are also used increasingly in agriculture and in public health programs to control pests and vector-borne diseases. Recent estimates suggest that pesticides account for more than 20,000 fatalities yearly, and that most of these will have occurred in developing countries. This may actually be a gross underreporting.
    Although organophosphate and carbamate insecticides are still responsible for many of those poisoning cases, herbicides such as paraquat are also increasingly being implicated in fatal poisoning cases. Newer pesticides such as the synthetic derivatives of pyrethrin, which were believed to be relatively safe to humans, now appear to be implicated in some serious cases of intoxication.
    Community-based pest control using locally available botanical pesticides could have severe consequences unless the toxicity of these compounds is carefully assessed relative to nontarget organisms.
    A high proportion of pesticide intoxications appear to be due to lack of knowledge, unsafe attitudes, and dangerous practices. The technology available to small farmers for pesticide application is often inappropriate: faulty sprayers, lack of protective equipment adapted to tropical conditions, nonexistent first-aid provisions.
    Agricultural extension is often not oriented to the transfer of information relative to the dangers inherent in the use of pesticides.
    The lack of information at all levels may be one of the most important causative factors of chemical intoxication in developing countries.

    Those darned unrestrained scientific researchers, keep telling the people about the dangers they are being exposed to, in the interests of corporate profits!!! 🙂



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  • 2
    maria melo says:

    Well, well I´ve watched a tv documentary and aknowledged that just for a bottle of Vodka some men were made volunteers to the most dangerous tasks, isolating Chernobyl radioactive waste (I just thought that scientists would be the first ones to volunteer once they sometimes defend “nuclear energy” production as safe. (radiation that was in France atmosphere at the time, but was not on the news).
    I guess that´s a foolish thing to say “politicians did it” (not science, nor scientists; “science has nothing to do with it/ethics”).



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  • maria melo #3
    Apr 2, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Politicians made it!

    karlgrossman.blogspot.pt/2011/11/update-on-planned-launch-of-plutonium

    @link – There is concern about the 12 tons of chemical fuel onboard the Phobos-Grunt impacting the Earth. A similar problem with the Mars rover, which NASA calls Curiosity, in falling back to Earth with its 10.6 pounds of plutonium would present a far, far more serious danger.

    The chances of a tank of inflammable chemical rocket fuel impacting Earth from Earth orbit after becoming white hot on re-entry, is effectively nil!

    While there are actual risks from the space use of a Plutonium powered [Radioisotope thermoelectric generator](Radioisotope thermoelectric generator), this author really does not know what he is talking about!

    Nor is the use of an RITEG on the Mars Rover in any way novel!

    RITEGs have been used on numerous probes and satellites for decades!
    The Russians have also been using them to power remote lighthouses for many years.

    They are functionally very different to nuclear fission bombs, nuclear power-stations, or fusion-reactors.



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  • maria melo #2
    Apr 2, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Well, well I´ve watched a tv documentary and aknowledged that just for a bottle of Vodka some men were made volunteers to the most dangerous tasks, isolating Chernobyl radioactive waste

    From what I understand, fire crews and helicopter pilots were sent in smother the reaction, without being told of the risks they were facing. – Many of them died later from radiation burns.

    (I just thought that scientists would be the first ones to volunteer once they sometimes defend “nuclear energy” production as safe.

    There is little doubt that Chernobyl (like other nuclear “Accidents”) was cause by misdirection and mismanagement of the operations, rather than with flaws in the science.

    I guess that´s a foolish thing to say “politicians did it” (not science, nor scientists; “science has nothing to do with it/ethics”).

    No reputable scientists will tell you that plants operated by cowboy managers and politically directed underfunded budgets, “are safe”!
    That does not mean that they could not be safe, if properly funded, and properly managed, with safety shut-downs and back-up systems!

    (radiation that was in France atmosphere at the time, but was not on the news).

    The radiation cloud from the Chernobyl explosion, was certainly tracked across Europe, mapped, and reported in the news in the UK.
    I can’t speak for the French press, but it would be very unusual if the news had not spread across the channel from England!



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  • 7
    maria melo says:

    There is little doubt that Chernobyl (like other nuclear “Accidents”)
    was cause by misdirection and mismanagement of the operations, rather
    than with flaws in the science.

    What else? A similar argument, that to me does not seem any different from the one: “God is perfect, humans made it wrong”. So, what about calculating the risks of human error (as with fuel error calculation that led to the explotion of a Space Shuttle). What about Fukushima, an accident of Earth´s tectonics ? A human flaw, does it matter for the sake of the argument of REAL risk?
    Well reputable people that make science (scientists?) are not always trustable. I guess NASA changed and recognized the risk, the author of the article I linked to is himself a scientist I guess for what it matters (if it does, for ethics).



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  • maria melo #7
    Apr 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    There is little doubt that Chernobyl (like other nuclear “Accidents”)
    was cause by misdirection and mismanagement of the operations, rather than with flaws in the science.

    What else? A similar argument, that to me does not seem any different from the one: “God is perfect, humans made it wrong”.

    The above comment really bears no resemblance to that god-claim!

    So, what about calculating the risks of human error (as with fuel error calculation that led to the expçotion of a Space Shuttle).

    Neither of the shuttle disasters was caused by an error about fuel!

    The first shuttle disaster was caused by an administrator ignoring warnings from engineers and misleading NASA that “there was no evidence” to support their expert opinion warnings about seal failure at low temperatures! He did not tell NASA that there was no evidence because the the funding to carry out tests had been refused, and no testas had been carried out to confirm or refute the engineers warnings!

    The second shuttle disaster resulted from the administrative decisions not to test the effects from impacts from pieces of foam insulation which had been observed falling off during launches and impacting the vehicle, and the further failure not to authorise a spce walk to inspect the craft after impacts had been observed during that take-off!
    When the tests were carried out AFTER the disaster, the scale of the damage was obvious!

    What about Fukushima, a accident of Earths tectonics, a human flaw?

    If the company had had the simple safety feature of diesel back-up generators to operate the cooling system on the reactors it is unlikely the disaster would have happened.

    These were financial and administrative decisions, not scientific ones!

    Well reputable people that make science (scientists?) are not always trustable.

    The shuttle disasters happened because administrators DID NOT trust the expert advice of the scientists, and chose to prioritise financial, administrative, or political objectives over scientific ones, – NOT because the scientists or engineers, were untrustworthy”!



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  • 11
    maria melo says:

    Neither of the shuttle disasters was caused by an error about fuel!

    I am always as glad as I can be if I can trust scientists from an ethical point of view, in fact, that fuel error is at least reported in a science book I know (which one?) and was given as example of scietists recognizing their error in some “class of science” (by a colleague, that´s why I thought I could trust the information, why didn´t scientists reported it was not then?
    Anyway “shit happens”, scientists working in those projects could always dismiss themselves not to do want they don´t agree with (instead of blaming “superiors”).



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  • maria melo #11
    Apr 2, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Neither of the shuttle disasters was caused by an error about fuel!

    I am always as glad as I can be if I can trust scientists from an ethical point of view, in fact, that fuel error is at least reported in a science book

    In that case you should be looking at what sources are quoted in that “so called science book”!
    I read the official accident investigation reports on the loss of both space shuttles, and fuel was not a cause of either accident!
    (Although a leaking frozen rubber seal allowing a flame from a solid rocket engine to burn through the metal wall of a fuel tank, was the cause in the first one of them.)

    I know (which one?) and was given as example of scientists recognizing their error in some “class of science” (by a colleague, that´s why I thought I could trust the information, why didn´t scientists reported it was not then?

    That would be the same reason they did not report it was not mice chewing holes, or not monkeys fiddling with the mechanisms – because it had nothing to do with the accidents – someone just made it up, if they said either shuttle loss was caused by rocket fuel!

    Anyway “shit happens”, scientists working in those projects could always dismiss themselves not to do want they don´t agree with (instead of blaming “superiors”).

    That is a total misconception. It is very simple to understand!
    The independent accident investigation reports (including experimental tests which should have been done earlier, producing definitive evidence), clearly identified the causes of the accidents and who was responsible for the various failures, so it is not a matter of some scientists blaming others to avoid responsibility or arbitrary matters of opinion!



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  • 13
    maria melo says:

    The shuttle disasters happened because administrators DID NOT trust
    the expert advice of the scientists, and chose to prioritise
    financial, administrative, or political objectives over scientific
    ones, – NOT because the scientists or engineers, were untrustworthy”!

    so it is not a matter of some scientists blaming others to avoid
    responsibility or arbitrary matters of opinion!

    “(…) scientists working in those projects could always dismiss themselves not to do what they don´t agree with (instead of blaming “superiors”)”

    I guess my point is still unanswered.



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  • maria melo #2
    Apr 2, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Well, well I´ve watched a tv documentary and aknowledged that just for a bottle of Vodka some men were made volunteers to the most dangerous tasks, isolating Chernobyl radioactive waste.

    It is very unlikely that cleaning up a state nuclear accident would be directed by research scientists. Scientists may advise, but the decisions and directions would be made and given by politicians and administrators.
    >

    I guess that´s a foolish thing to say “politicians did it” (not science, nor scientists; “science has nothing to do with it/ethics”).

    It is pretty certain, that the shutting down of Chernobyl was organised by administrators directed by managers, of fire-crews and the helicopter fleet, which dumped sand on the melting reactor.

    This TV programme (documentary?) as you explain it seems very tenuously connected to “scientists”!
    The people involved in dealing with nuclear accidents were most likely to be emergency service crews or from the military; – both of which have command structures and political oversight!



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  • @OP – The chemical was banned in 2000 for use in most household settings, but still today is used at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples.

    Late last year, and based in part on research conducted at Columbia University, E.P.A. scientists concluded that exposure to the chemical that has been in use since 1965 was potentially causing significant health consequences. They included learning and memory declines, particularly among farm workers and young children who may be exposed through drinking water and other sources.

    So the evidence is pretty clear and conclusive!

    @OP- **Scott Pruitt*, {non-scientists – political appointee} the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, moved late on Wednesday to reject the scientific conclusion of the agency’s own chemical safety experts

    maria melo #2 Apr 2, 2017 at 10:06 am – I guess that´s a foolish thing to say “politicians did it” (not science, nor scientists; “science has nothing to do with it/ethics”).

    So, as shown in the OP and in my previous comments and contrary to your suggestions, disasters (as in the examples you quote) are frequently caused by politicians and managers over-ruling scientific advice, and perversely acting against the expert scientific opinion for the purposes of political ideologies, unrealistic cost-cutting, commercial profit, or egotistical stupidity!



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  • @OP – Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, moved late on Wednesday to reject the scientific conclusion of the agency’s own chemical safety experts who under the Obama administration recommended that one of the nation’s most widely used insecticides be permanently banned at farms nationwide because of the harm it potentially causes children and farm workers.

    This is a classic example of the effects of appointing bigoted political stooges to head specialist departments!

    Scott Pruitt’s thinking is easy to understand!

    “I have all these commercial interests keeping me in a job, and (being pig-ignorant of the subject) I have absolutely no idea about the science, the safety, the economics, or alternatives to using their products, THEREFORE denial and business as usual, is the obvious (and only) option I can see through my uneducated blinkers of bigoted ignorance!”



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  • Pruitt was picked for a specific reason. Bannon, our President, wants to abolish any and all forms of control of corporate profit, and allow free reign to the so-called free market. This is pure greed. Pruitt is a pile of shit, a thoroughly demented, and emotionally and spiritually impoverished man; he is a free-market fundamentalist, and that is why he was picked. The Republicans voted him in. They are all greedy, and are serving the interest of mom and pop: the Corporation. The thinking here is not easy to understand except on a superficial level; on the contrary, it mystifies me. McCain, for example, is eighty. Why not just say no for once? He will leave this earth a sinner in the eyes of his non-existent God, as will the rest of them – including Pence. Why do they care about abortion and at the same time have no concern about the future of the species? Why do they want to deny universal health coverage? Why? Why? No, it’s not easy to understand people who are not like us. It appears almost as though we are dealing with a different species. I have thought a lot about Trump and Pence and Pruitt and the rest of them. I cannot come up with any explanation for such perverse and destructive behavior other than that it is the simple desire to engage in Evil. Such susceptibility to the basest of motives is not reducible to biology, and it is not merely about evolution, or memes, or anything like that. It is about choices that people make in freedom, based on one’s character, one’s innermost disposition. Pruitt probably knows more about climate science than I do, but he will not do what is right, will not….

    I am not convinced that Evil does not exist, as I said elsewhere. Evil may be defined as extreme selfishness. These are people with the power to do good and yet lack compassion, lack conscience, or any basic human feeling. I call that evil. This mysterious condition may also be characterized as an incurable psychic illness. The two are by no means mutually exclusive.



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  • Meanwhile environmental researchers are working at finding ways to make water supplies safer despite pollution from run-off .

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39504487

    First study finds neonic pesticides in US drinking water

    Small traces of the world’s most widely used insecticides have been detected in tap water for the first time.

    Samples taken by scientists in the US state of Iowa showed that levels of neonicotinoid chemicals remained constant despite treatment.

    However drinking water treated using a different method of filtration showed big reductions in neonic levels.

    Scientists say they cannot draw any conclusions relating to human health but argue that further study is needed.

    The use of neonicotinoids has increased rapidly since their introduction in the early 1990s.

    These systemic chemicals were seen as an advance because they are usually applied as a seed coating and are lethal to insects but not to other species.

    In the US, sales of seeds pre-treated with neonics tripled from 2004 to 2014.

    However concerns over their environmental impacts have also grown and they have been consistently associated with causing harm to bees. So great has the worry been, that there has been a moratorium on their use on flowering crops in the European Union since 2013.

    A study in 2015 from the US Geological Survey (USGS) found that neonics were widespread in water samples collected from 48 different rivers and streams in the US.

    This new study from the USGS and the University of Iowa, looked at tap water that was treated in two different filtration systems.

    Samples from the University of Iowa treatment plant barely removed any of the three main neonic chemicals, clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.

    Water taken from the Iowa city treatment facility removed 100%, 94% and 85% respectively, of these substances.

    “But at the same time there are concerns about what those low levels might do from an exposure standpoint.”

    In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates contaminants in water but as of now, neonics are not considered a threat.

    “At this point in time, these results don’t indicate any violation of the system, we are trying to bring these contaminants to light more than saying this is or isn’t a safe level,” Prof LeFevre told BBC News.

    One of the issues of concern is not the direct exposure of humans to neonics in water, but how the insecticides might be transformed by the filtration process into other substances that pose a greater threat.

    “Based on some of the literature that has been published, the nitro group has the potential to be removed in the filtration processes and that is the group that confers the selectivity to insects,” said lead author Kathryn Klarich from the University of Iowa.

    “If that were the case that could be a concern,” she told BBC News.

    However the study also presents evidence that the presence of neonics in drinking water can be essentially negated if activated carbon filtration systems are used.



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  • So as the science deniers refuse to deal with environmental contamination issues, the world is still coping with prevarication and tardy decisions on pollutants of the past, which should have been banned much earlier than they were!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39738582

    One of the UK’s last killer whales was contaminated with “shocking” levels of a toxic chemical, scientists say.

    The animal, called Lulu, was found dead on the Isle of Tiree in Scotland last year after becoming entangled in fishing lines.

    But tests now reveal her body contained among the highest levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, ever recorded.

    The chemicals were banned from the 1970s but are still in the environment.



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