WASHINGTON, DC, February 21, 2005 (ENS):
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is illegally
negotiating and brokering regulatory agreements with
pesticide manufacturers that are friendly to the industry,
according a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense
The suit targets private deals the agency allegedly
made over the regulation of atrazine, a widely used
weed killer, and the highly toxic insecticide dichlorvos
"The EPA’s secret, backroom deals with pesticide
makers are clearly against the law, and they are a threat
to our health," said Aaron Colangelo, an attorney
Documents obtained by NRDC through the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) show that the EPA negotiated outcomes of
pesticide reviews and committed to taking specific actions
with industry, Colangelo said.
The suit, filed Thursday in federal court in Washington,
DC, alleges these negotiations violated agency rules
as well as federal laws that govern how regulations
of harmful chemicals are developed and reported to the
The EPA’s press office said the agency is currently
reviewing the specifics of the complaint and rejects
the broad allegations outlined by the NRDC in its complaint.
In a statement sent to reporters, an EPA spokesperson
said the agency’s evaluation of atrazine and DDVP
is "based on a thorough review of an extensive
body of the best available scientific data and studies
and independent peer review."
The agency’s approach "to decision-making
for older pesticides is widely considered to be a model
for transparency and openness," according to the
The lawsuit continues a long running legal battle NRDC
has waged with the federal agency over its pesticide
In 1983 NRDC sued the agency for similar widespread
violations committed under then EPA Administrator Ann
The EPA settled NRDC’s case in 1984 and agreed
to strict pesticide regulations that forbid secret meetings
and private dealmaking.
But the agency is not following those regulations,
said NRDC senior attorney Erik Olson said, and "apparently
is back to its old bad habits."
"These deals are bad for public health, bad for
the environment, and bad for democracy," Olson
This latest legal challenge comes from NRDC’s
particular concern over the agency’s oversight
of atrazine – one of the most widely used pesticides
in the United States. Atrazine’s main manufacturer
is the Swiss company Syngenta, based in Basel.
Atrazine is mainly applied to corn and soybean crops,
but is also used on sorghum, sugarcane, pineapple, turf
grass, and Christmas tree farms.
Some 70 million pounds of atrazine are applied annually
to fields, lawns and golf courses across the United
States and the EPA has found widespread atrazine contamination
in U.S. waterways.
Recent data indicates more than one million Americans
drink from water supplies contaminated with atrazine
at potentially harmful levels.
Studies of people exposed to atrazine indicate that
the chemical may be linked to a number of cancers, including
prostate cancer and nonHodgkin's lymphoma.
Animal lab studies also have linked it to certain cancers
and hormonal problems that could disrupt reproductive
and developmental processes - there is particular concern
that the chemical is seriously disrupting amphibian
hormone and reproductive systems.
In 2003, scientists at the University of California-Berkeley,
showed that atrazine exposure caused reproductive abnormalities
in frogs, and said, The "current data raise concern
about the effects of atrazine on amphibians in general
and the potential role of atrazine and other endocrine-disrupting
pesticides in amphibian declines."
The European Union recently banned atrazine because
of pervasive drinking water contamination, but in October
2003 the EPA decided to reregister atrazine without
holding manufacturers to any new restrictions.
The agreement announced by the EPA called on atrazine
manufacturers to monitor streams and drinking water
supplies for contamination.
The NRDC says internal agency documents obtained through
a FOIA lawsuit show that the EPA negotiated the industry-friendly
deal in private and without following the law.
EPA officials met secretly more than 40 times with
representatives from atrazine’s main manufacturer,
Syngenta, while the agency was evaluating the toxicity
of the pesticide, Olson said.
The EPA allowed industry to negotiate the terms of
the agreement, Olson said, and "essentially decided
to do nothing."
Syngenta will monitor less than four percent of streams
considered at greatest risk from atrazine contamination,
Olson told reporters, and the EPA has not committed
to making those results public.
The suit alleges similar private negotiations with
the chemical company Amvac over the status of the insecticide
DDVP is used in pest strips as well as crack and crevice
fillers within the home.
It is a highly toxic organophosphate similar to nerve
gas that causes permanent nervous system damage in young
test animals, and may cause related abnormalities in
exposed infants and children.
DDVP is classified by the World Health Organization
as a Class IB, "highly hazardous" chemical.
Dichlorvos is sold under many trade names including
Vapona®, Atgard®, Nuvan®, and Task®.
The EPA has also designated dichlorvos as a hazardous
substance and specific regulations regarding its disposal
are in effect.
According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances
and Disease Registry (ASTDR), the main uses of DDVP
are for insect control in food storage areas, greenhouses,
and barns, and for parasite control in livestock. It
is generally not used on outdoor crops. It is sometimes
used for insect control in workplaces and the home.
Veterinarians also use it to control parasites in pets.
The lawsuit alleges that the EPA is privately negotiating
with Amvac, DDVP’s manufacturer, to allow the
company to continue to sell the insecticide for many
home and agricultural uses.
DDVP evaporates easily into the air, which is why it
is usually used in enclosed areas, the ASTDR states.
Once in the air, it can react with water vapor and be
Experiments in greenhouses and food storage areas show
that 90 percent of the applied dichlorvos disappeared
in three to six hours. The products of this breakdown
are two chemicals called dimethyl phosphate and dichloroacetaldehyde.
The ASTDR says, "These chemicals are less harmful
than dichlorvos and are not believed to cause health
effects in people."