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Lawsuit Launched to Force Trump Administration to Curb Risks From Pesticide Malathion

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health and Californians for Pesticide Reform filed a formal notice of intent today to sue two federal agencies for failing to finalize measures to protect endangered wildlife and the environment from pesticides containing the chemical malathion.

The legal notice was spurred by the failure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service to complete legally required, common-sense steps to fully assess and limit the dangers of the highly toxic pesticides.

In January 2017 the EPA determined in a biological evaluation that 97 percent of federally protected species are likely harmed by malathion, which also has been found by the World Health Organization to be “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

But after Dow AgroSciences officials asked the EPA to suspend its assessment of the dangers of several pesticide ingredients, including malathion, the EPA and the Service indefinitely delayed efforts to complete the evaluation.

“It’s sickening to see the Trump administration put human health and endangered wildlife at risk to please Dow,” said Stephanie Parent, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This administration is not above the law. It has to take reasonable steps to limit these pesticides’ harms to people and the environment.”

As part of a legal settlement triggered by the EPA’s foot-dragging on assessing pesticides’ harms, government scientists were supposed to issue a final biological opinion by the end of 2017 identifying ways to safeguard endangered species from malathion.

But after the Trump administration took office, in April 2017 Dow AgroSciences asked the agencies to abandon four years of work on assessing the harms of several pesticides, including malathion. Seven months later the EPA and the Service indefinitely delayed efforts to complete the malathion assessment.

“Pesticide manufactures have infiltrated Scott Pruitt’s EPA to roll back environmental protections in favor of corporate profit,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “EPA’s decisions must be based on sound science, not corporate politics.”

Around 1 million pounds of malathion, a neurotoxin that is part of the dangerous class of organophosphate pesticides, are used each year. Along with being identified as a likely carcinogen by the WHO, it has been linked to cognitive delay and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Organophosphates were used as nerve agents in chemical warfare and have been linked to Gulf War syndrome, which causes fatigue, headaches, skin problems and breathing disorders.

“Organophosphates like malathion are some of the most dangerous pesticides still available on the market,” said Sarah Aird, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform. “It’s disgusting that that the Trump EPA is ignoring those well-documented harms.”

In January 2017 Dow was one of three companies that donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. Shortly thereafter the EPA shocked public-health advocates by abruptly scrapping a proposed ban on the organophosphate chlorpyrifos, which is known to cause brain damage in children.

Background

For decades the EPA refused to comply with its legal mandate to protect endangered species from the impacts of pesticides. But following a two-year review by the National Academy of Sciences, the federal government initiated a highly public and transparent process to analyze the impacts of the three insecticides, including malathion.

During this process Dow provided extensive comments urging the agencies to abandon the legally required effort. The Center for Biological Diversity recently sued the Trump administration to force officials to release details on Dow’s influence over the delay of government studies detailing the dangers of malathion.

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