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EPA internal emails suggest science took back seat to political pressure in pesticide approval

From Johnathan Hettinger,
December 2023

These EPA managers are more concerned about getting chemicals and pesticides on the market than protecting the people who are exposed to them.

spraying pesticides

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a new approval for a pesticide that would be used on Florida oranges and grapefruits despite the fact that agency scientists have repeatedly found the chemical does not meet safety standards designed to protect children’s health, internal agency records show.

EPA emails suggest that persistent pressure from chemical industry lobbyists, politicians and political appointees led the agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) to change its position on aldicarb from one that favored public health to one that critics say instead favored the interests of a North Carolina-based company called AgLogic that is seeking to expand sales of the insecticide. The EPA communications were obtained by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and reviewed by The New Lede.

In one 2020 email, for example, an EPA regulatory specialist wrote to AgLogic that while the EPA was not yet able to make a safety finding, the agency has “spent time brainstorming possible solutions”. The emails also show that scientists within the agency felt they had to “defend” their concerns about aldicarb as top agency administrators and lawmakers made expanded approval of the chemical a priority.

“What this shows is just how difficult it is for the agency to say no,” said Nathan Donley, Environmental Health Science Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “They were going to reject it so many times, and [AgLogic] just said, ‘no, no no.’”


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