At the request of Dow Chemical and two other pesticide manufacturers, the Trump administration is poised to ignore federal scientists’ findings about the risks of three pesticides.
That is politics as usual.
Manufacturers want to be able to continue selling the chemicals – diazinon, malathion and chlorpyrifos. Republicans, including Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, want less government interference in private industry and have little love for the Endangered Species Act.
That philosophy, though, presents two significant problems.
First, humans are hardly immune from the negative effects of chemicals. Pruitt recently reversed an Obama-era effort to ban the use of chlorpyrifos after studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children’s brains.
Maybe that risk is valid; maybe it’s not. Scientific studies are the only way to find out, and those studies must be objective. The chemical industry has a financial stake. Who, then, is responsible for determining, objectively, whether chlorpyrifos really is dangerous? The federal government should act on behalf of constituents.
The second issue again is political: According to the Associated Press, regulators at three federal agencies are close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on use of the pesticides.
Meanwhile, Dow’s CEO is a close advisor to the president and Dow contributed $1 million for inaugural parties. Can Americans expect the president to weigh science more heavily than an advantageous relationship? Not likely.
Yet, sound science is valid regardless of whether it is accepted. Pretending that a chemical cannot possibly be dangerous does not, in reality, make the danger go away. It just keeps the profits flowing.
The American people deserve to know whether chemical pesticides are dangerous. It is certainly logical that chemicals designed to kill unwanted species may endanger others as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can be completely and instantly banned; food production, for example, also is a consideration.
The solution to this problem is not going to be easy or neat, but it should not involve ignoring science.
“Studying the issue” should mean scientifically analyzing evidence, not figuring out how a decision might affect campaign contributions. Science is a tool, and this administration should embrace its use, not politicize and dismiss it. Americans should demand that.