LIHUE — Dow Chemical is asking members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet agencies to “set aside” results of federal studies that say three pesticides may pose a risk to the health of endangered species and humans.
The company claims the studies are fundamentally flawed, but Kauai activists for pesticide regulation are calling the act a step in the wrong direction.
Both parties are using elements of science to underscore their opposing viewpoints.
The request was sent to the heads of the Natural Marine Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency in early April via letters written by lawyers from Dow AgroSciences, Adma and FMC Corp. The three companies sell the chemicals in question: chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion.
“In its preparation of biological evaluations of chlorpyrifos and the other compounds under the Endangered Species Act, EPA did not apply its own standards of data quality, nor did it follow its own procedures. As a result, Dow and other companies submitted concerns and scientific requests through various proper channels,” Dow Chemical said in a statement sent to TGI.
The EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt told the Associated Press that he won’t “prejudge” any potential rule-making decisions as “we are trying to restore regulatory sanity to EPA’s work.”
The letters cited a lack of transparency for evaluation and reproduction of results, the inclusion of candidate species that aren’t protected by the Endangered Species Act, and evaluation of data did not follow EPA’s own study quality criteria.
The companies questioned the assumption that the product may be applied anywhere in the United States, without considering application patterns and timing, locations of use, and presence of critical habitats and listed species.
The letters also claim the studies contain unrealistically high and sometimes physically impossible estimates in the assessment of exposure.
Opponents to pesticide use say the companies are “just attacking whatever can affect their bottom line.”
“We have a right to our health and to a clean environment where are families can thrive without fear of how they will be affected by the poisons used by companies like DOW,” said Joanna Wheeler of GMO Free Kauai. “Throughout the world, this company has a record of breaking the law and having no regard for human health.”
The origin of the three chemicals is a big concern for Wheeler. The pesticides in question are organophosphates, which are derived from World War II nerve poisons.
“These are poisons, deadly neurotoxins that affect neurodevelopment, lower children’s IQ by several points and are linked to a variety of deadly cancers like Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Wheeler said.
Dow says chlorpyrifos is supported by more than 4,000 studies examining the chemical in terms of health, safety and the environment.
“It is approved not only for use in the U.S., but nearly 100 countries,” Dow said in their statement.
Chlorpyrifos was banned for use in Europe in 2008. In the U.S., the chemical was banned for home use in 2000, banned for use on tomatoes by the EPA and restricted for use on apples and grapes. In 2002, the EPA limited the use of chlorpyrifos on citrus and tree nuts. In 2012, the EPA created no-spray buffer zones around public places like recreational areas and homes.
“Chlorpyrifos is banned in many countries and we have found it drifting in classrooms, beehives and bedrooms,” said Jeri Di Pietro of Hawaii SEED. “This criminal behavior of poisoning the planet and choosing profit over people must end.”
She suggests following the precautionary principle instead, which is an approach to risk management that requires proponents of an activity to prove its safety in the absence of a scientific consensus.
Chlorpyrifos has been involved in several incidents on Kauai; it made its way into Waimea Canyon Middle School in 2013, sickening children. It also was the chemical that sent 10 Syngenta field workers to the hospital in January.
“If DowAgroScience, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer were truly good neighbors they would immediately and voluntarily stop using chlorpyrifos, a known neurotoxin, on the corn fields of west Kauai,”said Gary Hooser, who helped champion Kauai’s attempt to regulate pesticide use on Kauai through Bill 2491.
Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer, declined to comment on the request to set aside the results of the pesticide studies because “it is a national issue, focused on one company,” according to an HCIA spokesman.
The request to set aside results from the studies comes just weeks after Pruitt denied a petition to ban chlorpyrifos and after Dow Chemical wrote a $1 million check to “help underwrite Trump’s inaugural festivities,” according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.