A group of Democratic senators on Monday introduced legislation to ban the insecticide chlorpyrifos, nearly four months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would not ban the chemical.
Chlorpyrifos is the main ingredient in Lorsban, Dow AgroSciences' organophosphate insecticide targeting pests such as soybean aphids, spider mites and corn rootworm.
The bill called the "Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act," would amend the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that oversees food safety and prohibits all chlorpyrifos use in food.
The bill would direct the EPA to partner with the National Research Council to "assess the neurodevelopmental effects and other low-dose impacts that exposure to organophosphate pesticides has on agricultural workers and children," according to a news release from a number of environmental groups announcing the bill.
In addition the bill would require the agency to educate the public about the history of chlorpyrifos.
Democratic Sens. Tom Udall, N.M., Kirsten Gillibrand, N.Y., Cory Booker, N.J., Richard Blumenthal, Conn., Kamala Harris, Calif., Dick Durbin, Ill., Ben Cardin, Md. and Edward J. Markey, Mass., introduced the bill.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in March the agency's denial of a petition from environmental groups to ban the pesticide outright.
EPA said in a news release at the time, "the public record lays out serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps in the proposal. Reliable data, overwhelming in both quantity and quality, contradicts the reliance on, and misapplication of, studies to establish the end points and conclusions used to rationalize the proposal."
The road to the proposed chlorpyrifos ban began when the Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition in 2007 to force EPA to take action on chlorpyrifos, based on concerns over drinking water. In June 2015, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling pressuring EPA to make a decision by Oct. 31, 2015, on whether or not it would establish food tolerances for the insecticide. EPA stated it did not have the data needed to do so and instead would pursue a ban.
Last summer, EPA asked the court for a six-month extension to take final action.
In a final order issued Aug. 12, 2016, the court ruled against the request by EPA and ordered the agency to take action by March 31, 2017.
Corn accounts for chlorpyrifos' largest agriculture market as far as total pounds used because, overall, there are more corn acres than soybean acres, according to EPA. However, in recent years, use of chlorpyrifos has expanded in soybeans and has been on the decline in corn.
Environmental groups have wanted a chlorpyrifos ban claiming it is linked to long-term damage to children's developing brains and nervous systems even at low levels of exposure during pregnancy and early childhood.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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