ROCKVILLE — In response to a decision not banning a popular pesticide, six states, including Maryland, have sued the Environmental Protection Agency, hoping to get it banned.
Maryland has joined California, New York, Washington, Massachusetts and Vermont in suing the Trump administration’s decision on the pesticide.
In July, the EPA announced it would not ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide commonly used on popular produce crops. While some farmers want the pesticide to remain available, environmental activists have cited research that shows the chemical to be toxic.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh called the chemical “dangerous,” warning the EPA’s decision could harm children.
“Chlorpyrifos is dangerous to kids. EPA continues to allow the industry to feed children this poison,” Frosh said. “Our coalition is determined to get this toxic chemical off the menu.”
Chlorpyrifos, also known by its brand name, Lorsban, has been banned for home use but has remained legal for commercial farming purposes. As part of its ongoing review of the pesticide, the EPA concluded that the science declaring that chlorpyrifos caused negative neurodevelopmental on children was “unresolved,” and that the agency would continue to review the chemical.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, alleges that the EPA’s ruling violates the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, saying the pesticide has been proven harmful to children. The lawsuit is the continuation of a long EPA review process.
In July, the EPA decided to allow the pesticide, after a court-ordered review of the toxin that was prompted by a lawsuit from Earthjustice.
An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit by six states, saying the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Currently, chlorpyrifos is part of a program of pesticides received by the EPA every 15 years. In October 2022, the EPA will have to make another assessment of the safety of the pesticide; however, a spokesperson for the EPA said the agency most likely will make a decision long before then.
“Registration review is a comprehensive, scientific and transparent process that will further evaluate the potential effects of chlorpyrifos,” said EPA spokesperson Michael Abboud. “EPA has also been engaged in discussions with the chlorpyrifos registrants, which could result in further use limitations affecting the outcome of EPA’s assessment.”
While some environmental activists point to studies indicating the harm of the pesticide, lobbyists representing agricultural businesses and farmers have argued that a pesticide is a necessary tool for protecting crops.
“Without the ability to use chlorpyrifos, entire production fields could be lost,” wrote Andrew LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association in a 2017 letter to the EPA. “Due to the high value of the vegetable seed, this would cause significant economic damage.”
However, previous EPA studies have concluded that human exposure to the chemical can have negative health consequences. Also, advocates for banning the pesticide have pointed to studies that indicate that infants born to mothers exposed to the chemical while pregnant have shown signs of cognitive and developmental disabilities.
First developed by Dow Chemical Company in 1966, chlorpyrifos is often used as an insecticide by farmers to protect their corn, broccoli and fruit and nut tree crops.
Maryland Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin have co-sponsored legislation in the Senate to ban chlorpyrifos.
“Chlorpyrifos has no place in our food or our water, including the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. It is dangerous for farm workers and poisonous to birds and other wildlife, as well as highly toxic to aquatic organisms like fish, crabs, and oysters,” Cardin said.
During the Trump Administration era, these multi-state lawsuits against the federal government have become quite common. In July, Maryland, along with 10 other states, sued the EPA over what Frosh called a failure to regulate asbestos.