Skip to Navigation Skip to Main Content

Dow Chemical tries to get risk study results ignored

Profile image for Michael Biesecker
Michael Biesecker, Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Dow Chemical is pushing a Trump administration that's open to scrapping regulations to ignore the findings of federal scientists who point to a family of widely used pesticides as harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.

Lawyers representing Dow, whose CEO is a close adviser to President Donald Trump, and two other manufacturers of organophosphates sent letters last week to the heads of three of Trump's Cabinet agencies.

The companies asked them "to set aside" the results of government studies the companies contend are fundamentally flawed.

Dow Chemical wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump's inaugural festivities, and its chairman and CEO, Andrew Liveris, heads a White House manufacturing working group.

The industry's request comes after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced last month he was reversing an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children's brains.

Pruitt declined to answer questions from reporters Wednesday as he toured a polluted Superfund site in Indiana. Agency spokesman J.P. Freire later told AP that Pruitt won't "prejudge" any potential rule-making decisions as "we are trying to restore regulatory sanity to EPA's work."

The letters to Cabinet heads, dated April 13, were obtained by The Associated Press. As with the recent human studies of chlorpyrifos, Dow hired its own scientists who produced a lengthy rebuttal to the government studies.

Over the past four years, federal scientists have compiled an official record running more than 10,000 pages indicating the three pesticides under review -- chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion -- pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied. Regulators at the three federal agencies, which share responsibilities for enforcing the Endangered Species Act, are close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.

The office of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Natural Marine Fisheries Service, did not respond to emailed questions.

A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, referred questions back to EPA.

The EPA's recent biological evaluation of chlorpyrifos found the pesticide is "likely to adversely affect" 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants accessed as part of its study, including critically endangered or threatened species of frogs, fish, birds and mammals. Similar results were shown for malathion and diazinon.

Rachelle Schikorra, the director of public affairs for Dow Chemical, said any suggestion that the company's $1 million donation to Trump's inaugural committee was intended to help influence regulatory decisions is "completely off the mark."

"Dow maintains and is committed to the highest standard of ethical conduct in all such activity," Schikorra said.