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"The federal government's top fisheries experts say that three widely used pesticides — including the controversial insecticide chlorpyrifos — are jeopardizing the survival of many species of salmon, as well as orcas that feed on those salmon. It's a fresh attack on a chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency was ready to take off the market a year ago — until the Trump administration changed course. Chlorpyrifos is widely used by farmers to protect crops like strawberries, broccoli and citrus fruit from insect pests. In recent years, though, scientists have found evidence that exposure to chlorpyrifos residues can harm the developing brains of small children, even in the womb. Two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal that would have stopped farmers from using chlorpyrifos. The final decision, however, fell to the Trump administration, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to keep the chemical on the market while the agency continues to study its risks. This new report, however, examines another danger entirely — the risk that chlorpyrifos and two other pesticides, diazinon and malathion, are washing into streams and rivers and harming wildlife. The National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that continued use of the chemicals is likely to jeopardize the survival of endangered species of salmon, as well as orcas that eat the salmon. According to the report, use of chlorpyrifos is affecting 38 species of endangered salmon, and it's having negative effects on 37 areas that have been designated as "critical habitat" for endangered species. The report, called a "biological opinion," proposes an array of "reasonable and prudent" actions, short of taking the chemical off the market completely, that could reduce the risk that chlorpyrifos will get into streams and harm fish. They include prohibiting of spraying near streams, limiting aerial spraying, or requiring wide strips of permanent vegetation alongside streams. It will be up to the EPA, however, to put those restrictions in place...Dow Agrosciences, which sells chlorpyrifos, tried unsuccessfully last year to prevent the NMFS from issuing this opinion. A lawyer representing the company wrote a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, asking Ross to shut down the NMFS study of chlorpyrifos. (The NMFS is part of the Commerce Department.) Dow Agrosciences argued that the NMFS was carrying out its work in a "fundamentally flawed" way."

Posted January 11th, 2018
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