EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Ignores the Science on Pesticides, Puts Children at Risk

March 30, 2017 | 2:54 pm
Photo: Wikimedia
Andrew Rosenberg
Former Contributor

The appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator in the Trump administration worried a lot of people like me because of his long history of attacking the work of the very agency he is now leading. It has only been a few weeks, but one pattern is emerging. Mr Pruitt will be misstating the scientific evidence while overstating the gaps in the work of the agency’s scientists as an excuse for inaction.

Pruitt refuses to regulate pesticides that impact child development

Yesterday, Mr. Pruitt denied a long-standing petition by public interest groups to restrict the use of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, a chemical whose health impacts include long-term, irreversible effects on children’s brain development.

Pruitt’s action overturns the decision made by the EPA last year to protect children from developmental delays caused by exposure—in food and in water—to residues of this commonly used pesticide. The analysis of risk to children by agency and academic scientists has been reviewed and re-reviewed and is supported by a wide range of scientists from academia and research institutions.

So what was Administrator Pruitt’s conclusion in one of his first official actions? He uses telling phrases in his press release:

EPA needs to provide “regulatory certainty,” which apparently means do nothing.

And the EPA must return to using “science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results.” Given that the science in this case was well reviewed and that the petition was under consideration for years, it seems the only result that was predetermined is that Pruitt would side with industry groups that have consistently resisted regulations to restrict the use of this pesticide.

The press release incorrectly asserts that there are serious scientific concerns and the studies on risks were misapplied. But that is not what the scientists said, so apparently Mr Pruitt is overruling the evidence in making his decision. Maybe “sound science” is Pruitt pseudo-science.

Play it again Scott

It was only a few weeks ago that Administrator Pruitt, speaking on the role of CO2 emissions in changing our climate. had this to say:

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet, we need to continue the debate we need to continue the review and analysis.”

Once again, Mr. Pruitt attempts to sow seeds of doubt on the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change, just like with pesticides. But as my colleague Brenda Ekwurzel points out, he is just wrong on the science.

Misstating the scientific evidence is just that, falsifying the facts. And it is not an excuse for inaction.

Mr. Pruitt, your job—by law—is to protect public health and safety. Please do it.