After nine years of fiddling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered to decide by October 31 whether it ban use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin that causes brain damage, a federal appeals court ordered Monday.
In response to an unambiguous order from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June telling the EPA to specify a date for issuing its final ruling, the agency “has still not stated with certainty when it intends to take formal action to grant or deny” the petition for a ban by two environmental groups.
“Although filibustering may be a venerable tradition in the United States Senate, it is frowned upon in administrative agencies tasked with protecting human heath,” the court said. “Pesticide Action Network North American and the Natural Resources Defense Council have been waiting for years” for the EPA to respond to their administrative petition.
“We order EPA to issue a full and final response to the petition no later than October 31, 2015,” Judge Margaret McKeown wrote.
Chlorpyrifos, introduced by Dow Chemical Co. in 1965, has numerous trade names, including Dursban and Lorsban. It is an organophosphate of white crystals, with a rotten egg smell. It is used to control termites, mosquitoes and roundworms. It is considered toxic to humans including increased rates of lung cancer.
The two groups petitioned nine years ago for the EPA to ban the pesticide’s use on agricultural fields citing potential brain damage to children and poisoning of field workers exposed to the chemical.
In 2014, the EPA acknowledged peer-reviewed science showed chlorpyrifos causes brain damage in children, including reduced IQ, delayed development and loss of working memory.
The EPA banned the residential use of the chemical in 2000.
But in the years since, the EPA has dithered rather than responding yes or no to a petition to ban all uses of the chemical.
Issuing the deadline order “is necessary to end this cycle of incomplete responses, missed deadlines and unreasonable delay,” McKeown said.
Case: Pesticide Action Network v. USEPA, No. 14-72794