Even if you study pesticides a lot, like we do, keeping tabs on pesticide science and regulation is difficult.
On August 9, we cheered a court win. A federal appeals court told the EPA to move forward with a ban on chlorpyrifos (sold under the trade name Lorsban), a neurotoxic pesticide that is used on dozens of foods, Christmas trees, and other crops. Serious human health issues have been traced to chlorpyrifos, including lower birth weight and reduced IQs for children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy, according to epidemiological studies. And fish scientists have concluded that chlorpyrifos jeopardizes the continued existence of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. (See our chlorpyrifos factsheet here).
EPA’s scientists had recommended that chlorpyrifos be banned, a recommendation that was dismissed by former head of EPA, Scott Pruitt, shortly after he took office.
A recent article in the New York Times helps illuminate why the science that resulted in the proposed ban, and even the court decision ordering the ban, may be threatened by a broader trend at EPA – a chemical industry-backed attempt to limit use of epidemiological studies in agency risk assessments.
Epidemiology is the science of figuring out what diseases affect people as a group. When diseases can be traced to a distinct cause afflicting people who have similar characteristics, such as occupation, we can remedy the problem by trying to eliminate the cause. Epidemiology has contributed to huge breakthroughs in medicine and public health over the last hundred years.
Now, pushed by industry lobbying, the EPA wants to limit the use of epidemiological studies, preferring instead its traditional methods of testing chemicals on lab rats. Ironically, EPA’s leaders are claiming that unless they see the identities of individuals followed in epidemiological studies, the data is suspect. Federal privacy regulations allow individual identities to be withheld in epidemiological studies. Despite this, EPA is ramping up public confusion by calling such data “secret science,” a tagline also used by tobacco companies in the 70s when the health and safety of their products were being closely examined.
Does this discrediting of sound science sound familiar?
NCAP is here to say that epidemiological studies comprise a legitimate, best available science. If you believe that the EPA should continue to weigh epidemiological studies in its risk assessments, please sign below. We will submit this petition to the EPA in September as it considers its proposed, so-called Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science regulation.