The Emmett Clinic submitted an amicus brief today in a 9th Circuit case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to ban agricultural uses of the organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos.  In 2016, EPA had proposed to remove all food tolerances for chlorpyrifos under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act—an action that would have prohibited all use of the pesticide on food crops.  This year, however, EPA reversed course and decided not to ban the pesticide, citing scientific uncertainty and its alleged inability to review the raw data from a key epidemiological study.  A group of states and a coalition of environmental and farmworkers’ organizations have challenged this reversal in court.  The Clinic, representing the American Academy of Pediatrics, Alliance of Nurses for Health Environments, American Public Health Association, Migrant Clinicians Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of PSR, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, submitted an amicus brief in support of these challenges.

The brief explains that a significant body of research from both epidemiological and animal studies has demonstrated that children are vulnerable to long-lasting neurological harm from exposure to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy, even at levels far below the current tolerances permitted by EPA.  In particular, the studies show that chlorpyrifos can alter the very structure of the brain, as well as leading to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioral problems.  In light of the large and robust research data demonstrating these harms, EPA cannot reasonably cite scientific uncertainty as a basis for failing to take action.

The brief also responds to EPA’s assertion that it cannot rely on a key epidemiological study because the agency does not have access to the raw data from that study.  As the brief explains, this assertion is contrary to scientific best practices, EPA’s statutory mandates, and case law.  It also ignores EPA’s prior factual determinations in this matter.

Read the brief here.

This brief builds on a previous one that the Clinic filed in an earlier round of litigation.  Ryan Petty (JD ’19) wrote that brief under the supervision of Deputy Director Shaun Goho.  Katherine Clements (JD ’21) revised, updated, and expanded the brief for the current case.