Two environmental groups filed suit against U.S. EPA yesterday in an attempt to force the agency into action on their 2007 petition seeking a ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos.
The court challenge by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) alleges that EPA has "unreasonably delayed" work on the anti-chlorpyrifos petition, which was opened for public comment soon after its filing but never subject to a final ruling.
Chlorpyrifos belongs to the organophosphate class of pesticides, often used in agriculture but prohibited for residential application in 2001. Inhalation of the chemical after its spraying can cause negative nervous-system reactions such as blurred vision, dizziness and muscle weakness, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
EPA moved earlier this year to limit chlorpyrifos use in Pacific Northwest states after the National Marine Fisheries Service deemed it one of three pesticides that could threaten endangered salmon species (Greenwire, May 5). But according to the lawsuit filed yesterday by legal counsels at Earthjustice, acting on behalf of the two other green groups, EPA representatives declined to give NRDC and PANNA a timeframe for action on the three-year-old petition that challenged the agency's previous risk assessment of chlorpyrifos.
"This failure to act is particularly unreasonable as chlorpyrifos' continued agricultural use exposes farmworkers, bystanders, consumers, and children to harm from this highly toxic pesticide," NRDC and PANNA state in the court filing.
An EPA spokesman said yesterday that the agency had yet to see a copy of the groups' lawsuit.
Pesticide manufacturers, for their part, dispute the claims of human health risk from chlorpyrifos when the product is used with precautions.
"The fact remains that when used for agricultural purposes and with the appropriate safety measures, EPA has considered worker risk factors to be minimal," Mary Emma Young, spokeswoman for the industry trade group CropLife America, said via e-mail.
CropLife America filed comments with EPA this week challenging the analysis that justified the agency's salmon decision as "scientifically flawed."
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