Three Cabinet heads were asked to "set aside" government study findings.

By Sy Mukherjee
April 20, 2017

Updated 5:40pm, 4/20: A statement from Dow Chemical has been added to this story.

Dow Chemical asked three high-ranking Trump administration officials to ignore government scientists’ own studies about the environmental risks posed by a major class of pesticides, according to the Associated Press.

The AP got its hands on letters that Dow sent to the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior (Wilbur Ross and Ryan Zinke, respectively) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt—a noted opponent of environmental regulations and climate change skeptic who’s already moved to scrap Obama-era restrictions on certain pesticides. Last month, Pruitt reversed his own agency’s proposal to ban chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to brain damage in children exposed to the pest-killer.

It was against this backdrop that Dow, along with two other pesticide manufacturers, asked Trump officials to disregard government research that indicates a group of commonly used agriculture pesticides are harmful to 1,800 endangered and critically threatened animal species. In response, Dow is claiming these findings are flawed and should be “set aside” by the White House when considering proposed environmental protection rules. (When a team of the company’s own scientists examined the matter, Dow said, they came back with different results.)

Meanwhile Brett Hartl, a government scientist, is worried about how these chemicals could impact human health. “Endangered species are the canary in the coal mine,” he told the AP, since many of them reside in lakes and streams that serve as sources for human drinking water.

In response to the story, Dow said:

“No pest control product has been more thoroughly evaluated, with more than 4,000 studies and reports examining chlorpyrifos in terms of health, safety and the environment. Chlorpyrifos is authorized for use not only in the U.S., but nearly 100 nations, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Japan. Dow AgroSciences remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety…

…Dow actively participates in policymaking and political processes, including political contributions to candidates, parties and causes, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws. Dow maintains and is committed to the highest standard of ethical conduct in all such activity.”

 

“We have had no meetings with Dow on this topic and we are reviewing petitions as they come in, giving careful consideration to sound science and good policymaking,” J.P. Freire, the EPA’s associate administrator for public affairs, told the outlet. “The administrator is committed to listening to stakeholders affected by EPA’s regulations, while also reviewing past decisions.”

Dow is currently in the midst of a $62 billion attempted merger with DuPont; the companies received a regulatory thumbs-up from the European Union after agreeing to make big divestitures and split into three separate publicly traded companies after the corporate marriage.

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