By Chris White
The Environmental Protection Agency called out academics for using hidden data to pressure the agency into banning a widely used pesticide.
The EPA has sought data sets from a study Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) conducted that the former President Barack Obama-era agency used to justify a proposed rule in November 2015 to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos, essentially banning the pesticide from use.
“Despite multiple requests, an EPA visit to Columbia, and a public commitment to ‘share all data gathered,’ CCCEH has not provided EPA with the data used,” the agency wrote on a webpage connected to its website, which includes a list of the times the EPA has requested the data set.
The agency’s Scientific Advisory Panel criticized the environmental health center’s handing of the matter as well. “Some Panel members thought the quality of the CCCEH data is hard to assess when raw analytical data have not been made available, and the study has not been reproduced,” the panel noted in 2016.
A panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled EPA had complied with a previous judicial order to respond to a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America in 2007.
The ruling was a major blow to environmentalists who have been trying for years to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, that farms across the country widely use to keep bugs from ruining food.
EPA denied the environmentalist petition in March to “revoke all food tolerances and cancel all registration” for chlorpyrifos. Dow Chemical, which manufacturers the chemical, applauded EPA’s ruling, as did the Department of Agriculture. EPA already restricts products containing chlorpyrifos for home and agricultural use.
U.S. farms use about 6 million pounds of chlorpyrifos each year. If nothing had changed legally, the EPA would no longer have allowed trace amounts of chlorpyrifos in food, effectively banning the pesticide in the country.
Chlorpyrifos is not the only chemical to come under scrutiny recently.
Republican Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas and Andy Biggs of Arizona sent letters to the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2017 asking the U.N.-affiliated agency to answer questions about reports they edited data showing glyphosate causes health risks.
Separate letters to the agency’s Director Chris Wild from both congressmen said they are “concerned about the scientific integrity” of cancer research agency’s “monograph” program that assesses whether various substances can cause cancer.
The agency’s 2015 study contains crucial edits made to bolster evidence that glyphosate could cause cancer in humans, reports show.
Smith and Biggs also express concerns that research methods are not transparent. They argued in a second letter that the agency’s assessment meetings, deliberations and drafts are not made public.