Dow's Toxicant Causes EPA Some Legal Headaches

spraying pesticide

It probably won't come as much of a shock to you when we say that we're no big fans of Dow Chemical here at TreeHugger. In fact, quite the opposite. Aside from having compiled arguably one of the worst environmental records in recent history, Dow recently earned the distinction of being named the 11th top air polluting corporation in the U.S. So we weren't too surprised to hear that a lawsuit had been filed over the harmful health effects of one of its pesticides — chlorpyrifos.

Instead of suing the company directly, however, the coalition of unions and NGOs said it will sue the EPA for approving the use of chlorpyrifos. The pesticide — which is sold under several different brand names — is now widely used for agricultural purposes though it once served as a potent neurotoxin in chemical bombs during World War II. The lawsuit alleges the EPA didn't adequately evaluate the health consequences — which the coalition says includes nausea, dizziness and, in some rare cases, death — of the pesticide when it re-approved its use for farming in 2001.Though Dow Chemical claims the suit is "without merit," arguing that it has been on the market for 4 decades and approved for sale in 100 countries "based on detailed scientific evaluations by regulators charged with the protection of human health," it wasn't exactly candid about the fact that its so-called "detailed scientific evaluations" were just tests conducted on cash-strapped, semi-informed college-age volunteers.

Besides, if the pesticide was already banned for use in residential areas because of its noxious health effects — under the tenure of EPA head Stephen Johnson (a former tobacco industry scientist) no less — wouldn't it also make sense to restrict its use in farms which depend heavily on manual labor?

UPDATE: A reader noted that the use of "toxin" in the title was incorrect; "toxin" refers to a naturally or biologically-produced poison so we changed the term to "toxicant" to reflect the fact that chlorpyrifos is an industrially-produced chemical.

Also, the same author noted that the "cancer cluster" study we linked to from Wired's post didn't show a direct correlation between the use of chlorpyrifos and cancer so we removed the reference.

Via ::Associated Press: EPA May Be Sued Over Popular Pesticide (newspaper), ::Wired Science: Dow: Our Unethical Tests Show That Nerve Poison is Safe (blog), ::green LA girl: Top polluter Dow Chemical sponsors clean water run (blog)

See also: ::Big Sky Documentary Film Festival -- Bhopal: The Search for Justice, ::Beware The Environmental Wedgie, ::Serious Chemical Contamination Leaves School District in Chaos

Tags: EPA | San Francisco

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