Attorney General Xavier Becerra Calls On EPA Administrator To Issue Safety Findings On Pesticide

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Chlorpyrifos Pesticide Used On Many Fruits Consumed By Infants And Children

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with the attorneys general of New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Maine, Maryland and Vermont, submitted legal objections yesterday to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt for his failure to follow the law and make the required safety finding for chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on more than 80 food crops. Many of these crops – like apples, strawberries, bananas, pears, peaches, nectarines and cherries – are consumed by infants and children. 

“This pesticide has been suspected of causing health problems for infants and children for many years,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California grows the best fruits in the country. But no parent should have to question if these healthy foods are unsafe for their children to consume. EPA Administrator Pruitt has to put the health of the American people ahead of profits for companies. Simply checking to determine the safety of food should be a no-brainer.”

In November 2015, the EPA under President Barack Obama’s leadership proposed a rule to revoke all residue levels of chlorpyrifos on food – called “tolerances” – because of safety concerns. Specifically, the EPA noted that chlorpyrifos adversely affected the neurodevelopmental development of children. However, in March 2017, EPA Administrator Pruitt abruptly reversed course, ended the rulemaking process, and issued an order that left in effect the existing tolerances of chlorpyrifos. This is an improper exercise of the Administrator’s authority. In order to leave pesticide tolerances in effect, the EPA must first make a required safety finding, and it has not done so for chlorpyrifos.

In the objections, the attorneys general write that the EPA’s decision to “leave in effect chlorpyrifos tolerances has resulted in the continued sale and consumption of food commodities in each of the States that contain chlorpyrifos residue not found to be safe.” They add that “action by the States to curtail human exposure would not be fully effective, given the national markets for foods. The States have a strong interest in assuring appropriate federal regulatory action, including a final decision by the Administrator about whether existing chlorpyrifos food tolerances are safe and may remain in effect.”

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