Revolt Against Bush Administration Pesticide Policy
(Beyond Pesticides, May 31, 2006) “Our top public scientists are morally and professionally compromised by the Bush administration’s partnership with the chemical industry,” is how Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) summed up the difficulty faced by scientists in his organization as it deals with the administration on pesticide regulation. In a major, yet increasingly commonplace move, thousands of EPA scientists have publicly objected to “imminent” and rushed agency approval of powerful, dangerous and controversial pesticides that have proven harmful side effects in humans. The scientists allege that EPA is ignoring evidence that suggests the “pesticides damage developing nervous systems of fetuses, infants and children.”
According to PEER, EPA is in a rush to meet a self imposed August 3, 2006 deadline for issuing final tolerance approval for 20 organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. In a letter dated May 24, 2006, leaders of three federal and state unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the Engineers and Scientists of California, which together represent over 9,000 scientists, risk managers and other specialists, sent a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson to either adopt the maximum exposure protections possible for the agents or remove them from the market. Their request has to date received no answer.
Organophosphates are derived from World War II nerve agents and many are banned in England, Sweden and Denmark. In the 1990’s, EPA’s regulation of the pesticide was criticized by the National Academies of Science, and the Clinton administration took steps to phase-out many organophosphates. The Bush administration reversed course on recent organophosphate registration decisions, and its approach has been faulted by EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panel and Office of the Inspector General. The scientists charge that the agency’s “risk assessments cannot state with confidence the degree to which any exposure of a fetus, infant, or child to a pesticide will or will not adversely affect their neurological development.”
The scientists also
1. their colleagues in EPA’s pesticides program feel besieged by political pressure exerted by Agency officials perceived to be closely aligned with the pesticide industry and former EPA officials who now represent the pesticide and agricultural community;
2. in EPA’s rush to meet the August, 20 deadline, many steps in the risk assessment and risk management processes have been abbreviated or eliminated, in violation of principles of scientific integrity and objectivity; and,
3. there is a prevailing “belief among managers in EPA’s pesticides and toxics programs that regulatory discussions should only be made after reaching full consensus with the regulated pesticide and chemical industries.”
In spite of the prevailing scientific uncertainty and controversy, as well as letters such as the one from PEER, EPA announced it is approving the highly toxic organophosphate dichlorvos, or DDVP, for household use in pet flea collars and no-pest strips.
“The fact that this letter had to be sent at all is an utter disgrace, but, even more disgraceful, is the likelihood that this warning will be disregarded by an agency that is supposed to be protecting public health and the environment,” laments Mr. Ruch.
TAKE ACTION: You can take action on this matter by writing a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. The link will take you to a "Take Action" site on this issue, put up by the United Farm Workers