National Academy of Sciences Study: Feds Are Failing to Protect Endangered Species From Pesticides

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Jonathan Evans, (415) 436-9682 x 318

National Academy of Sciences Study: Feds Are Failing to Protect Endangered Species From Pesticides

WASHINGTON - A committee of the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council released a report today that outlines problems with the Environmental Protection Agency’s oversight of dangerous pesticides that are hurting endangered species across the country. The report comes when the EPA is decades behind in assessing the effects of hundreds of chemicals on endangered wildlife.

“This report should jump-start a major reform of the EPA’s deeply flawed approach to approving powerful pesticides,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency urgently needs to reform the pesticide review process and truly protect rare wildlife and people’s health.”

The report examines how the EPA and federal wildlife agencies — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service — assess the harmful impacts of pesticides on the nation’s endangered species, and how to better protect endangered species from harmful chemicals. It finds that the EPA has not relied on the best scientific information available; has not effectively coordinated with expert wildlife agencies; and has not adequately analyzed the sub-lethal, indirect and cumulative effects of pesticides. The report recommends methods for addressing these problems. 

“The EPA simply has to use our best science when it’s approving dangerous pesticides. It has to put common-sense restrictions on toxic substances in environmentally sensitive areas,” said Evans. “Our most endangered wildlife, as well as human health, is jeopardized by pesticides because the agency has continually ignored its duty to the American people and our wildlife by deferring to the chemical industry instead of listening to experts on wildlife about how to save endangered species from toxins.”

In 2011 the Center filed a landmark lawsuit to force the agency to consult on pesticide impacts to more than 200 endangered and threatened species, including the Florida panther, California condor, piping plover, black-footed ferret, arroyo toad, Indiana bat, bonytail chub and Alabama sturgeon. Documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and EPA, as well as peer-reviewed scientific studies, indicate these species are all harmed by the pesticides.

Today’s National Academy of Sciences report was prompted in part by the Center’s cases.

Background
More than a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the United States, and the EPA has registered more than 18,000 different pesticides for use. Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies, as well as documents from the Fish and Wildlife Service and EPA, have shown harm to numerous endangered species from the complex chemicals. There is evidence of widespread contamination of groundwater, drinking water and wildlife habitats throughout the country.

For decades the EPA has registered pesticides without input from expert federal agencies to evaluate harmful impacts to wildlife, failing to initiate formal consultations required under the Endangered Species Act. This failure prevents the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service from assessing the harmful impacts of pesticides that the EPA is registering or re-registering for public use, or providing expert input on how to better protect endangered species from pesticides. The consultation process can result in restrictions on some of the most harmful pesticide uses while identifying viable alternatives. For particularly harmful pesticides, the EPA or registrant may choose to take the product off the market.

Certain childhood cancers, birth defects, neurodevelopmental disorders and a host of other human-health harms linked to environmental chemical exposures are all on the rise. Farm work remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the country because of pesticide exposure, and rural communities still face higher rates of pesticide-related disease. Meanwhile species are dying off at more than 1,000 times the normal background rate, and pollinators and other indicator species susceptible to pesticides, such as amphibians, are suffering dramatic declines.

Litigation from the Center has forced the EPA to begin consultation with the two federal wildlife agencies on pesticides risks to some endangered species, including the California red-legged frog, San Joaquin kit fox and Bay checkerspot butterfly.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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