Organophosphates are the basis of many nerve agents, which includes insecticides and herbicides, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency lists them as being very highly acutely toxic to bees, wildlife, and humans. Chlorpyrifos is a crystalline organophosphate, introduced in 1965 by Dow Chemical, and has been known by many tradenames including Dursban and Lorsban.
Chlorpyrifos is toxic to humans, after all it is a nerve agent, and exposure has been linked to neurological effects including persistent developmental disorders and autoimmune disorders. Exposure during pregnancy is known to retard the mental development of children.
Chlorpyrifos had been one of the most heavily used residential insecticides in the U.S. before most domestic use was banned in 2001. But, in agriculture it remains, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “one of the most widely used organophosphate insecticides”. It was used to control insect infestations of homes and commercial buildings in Europe until it was banned from sale in 2008.
Despite the bans, and the evident danger of chlorpyrifos use, India found itself barring Dow from commercial activity for 5 years, in 2010, after finding Dow guilty of bribing Indian officials to licence its sale.
In fact, Dow Chemical makes most of the products containing chlorpyrifos and has consistently disputed scientific evidence that it harms children. But a US government report made it clear that the Environmental Protection Agency now accepts that the pesticide is unsafe. Yet when the EPA’s report was published indicating that the agency was finally taking action on chlorpyrifos, there was little rejoicing among the scientists and environmental advocates, because two days earlier, Donald Trump had won the presidential election.
Although the new risk assessment was the missing puzzle piece necessary to get chlorpyrifos out of the food chain and water supply, the law requires a 60-day comment period before such a decision can be finalized. Trump was inaugurated on the 20th January, just three days after the comment period closed, but the final deadline to incorporate the comments on the report is March 31, 2017, giving the new administration almost two months to derail the long-awaited regulation.
Trebles all round for Dow Chemical CEO, Andrew Liveris the new Trump-appointed head of the American Manufacturing Council
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