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 Council
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 (DDVP).
"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 with NRDC.
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
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 public.
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 statement.
The lawsuit continues a long running legal battle NRDC has waged
with the federal agency over its pesticide regulations.
In 1983 NRDC sued the agency for similar widespread violations
committed under then EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch.
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
"These deals are bad for public health, bad for the environment,
and bad for democracy," Olson said.
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
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
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
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.
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®,
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 broken down.
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."