Lester Cohen—Getty Images for Environmental Media Awards
Opinion

Blythe Danner: How Scott Pruitt Is Putting Our Kids and Grandchildren in Danger

Aug. 15, 2017

'I am not going to sit by and let it happen'

I’m a mother of two and a grandmother of four. What we all want for our families is for them to live and thrive in a safe environment. But Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is putting that in danger with his destructive agenda.

What’s at risk? Basic essentials like the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Nothing terrifies and angers me more than to know someone is willing to put the interests of fossil fuel and chemical companies over the health and safety of my family.

But I am not going to sit by and let it happen. Sadly, Pruitt has the power to alter myriad of different regulations, but for the sake of urgency, I would like to discuss an issue that’s near to my heart: the future of harmful pesticides and herbicides in our food and soil.

Activists have long called on the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used at about 40,000 farms to grow broccoli, cranberries and other foods. It has been making news for its suspect role in the collapse of pollinator populations and its effects on endangered species. But, perhaps most damningly, a number of studies have found that the pesticide can affect children’s cognitive function when their mother is exposed to the chemical during pregnancy. Last year, the EPA’s chemical safety experts concluded that the pesticide should be banned entirely after a scientific review of its harmful effects.

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But guess who decided to ignore the science and risks? Our “head of the EPA” Pruitt, who said the EPA wouldn’t ban the pesticide in March. “By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results,” he said in a statement at the time.

But what Pruitt failed to mention was that he had met with the chief executive officer of Dow Chemical, which produces the pesticide, just a few weeks before announcing his decision, as the Associated Press reported in June. An EPA spokesperson denied in April that Pruitt had ever met with Dow Chemical on the matter, but either way, the company is already embedded in the White House. Its chief executive heads President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council and the company has been lobbying the Trump Administration to stop looking into its harmful effects.

Another harmful chemical Pruitt will get to have a say on? Glyphosate, a herbicide manufactured by Monsanto that’s the key ingredient in commercial weed killer Roundup. Almost a pound of the pesticide is used on every acre of cropland in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. After researchers at the World Health Organization deemed it a “probable human carcinogen,” over 800 signed onto a class-action lawsuit claiming the pesticide gave them cancer. Last fall, EPA officials said it probably doesn’t cause cancer. Monsanto agrees — and of course, they’ve long been lobbying the EPA to stop looking into it.

But we need to understand how these chemicals will impact human health. These toxins are poisoning our children and ourselves right now. Why are they allowed to be used to grow the food our children and grandchildren consume? We are talking about pesticides used to grow the food our children and grandchildren consume. How can we take such a risk when there are non-toxic options available?

We can’t let a decision like the one on chlorpyrifos happen again. Under the law, pesticides must be reviewed by the EPA at least one time every 15 years. Glyphosate is currently undergoing its review — and it gravely concerns me that this decision will ultimately be up to Pruitt. Even though California recently added glyphosate to its list of known carcinogens, it’s unlikely Pruitt will do the right thing and label the pesticide as unsafe.

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Now, critics may argue that the EPA released a report saying glyphosate, which nonprofits Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project found in Cheerios, Ritz Crackers and other mainstream snacks, is safe. Let’s talk about this. Monsanto is about as big of a business as you can get — and it has millions to spend on lobbying to end research that may hurt its bottom line. How can we trust the Office of Pesticide Programs when they depend on data from herbicide and pesticide manufacturers to make decisions? Not to mention that nearly 30% of the EPA’s operating budget. And there are accusations that an EPA official helped Monsanto “kill” the office’s study on whether glyphosate caused cancer. (Monsanto denies the allegations and the EPA has declined to comment on because of litigation on the matter.)

Can we really trust the same people making tremendous profits from these pesticides and herbicides to release honest and transparent data? It’s not a risk I’m willing to take. After all, we did that long enough with the cigarette industry — and just look at how that turned out.

Having the choice to buy organic food is not enough. What about families that can’t afford organic food? I’ve spent my adult life fighting for environmental justice and the health of families. I can say unequivocally that a ban on these dangerous chemicals is the only option that will keep our kids and grandchildren safe for years to come.

Please use your voice and send a message via email, social media, phone calls or peaceful protest, urging Scott Pruitt to ban glyphosate and other harmful pesticides and herbicides. Be persistent and loud — it’s the only way to protect our families and our environment’s future.

Contact Scott Pruitt and the EPA:
Phone: 202-564-4700

Address: Environmental Protection Agency
Office of the Administrator 1101A
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Blythe Danner is an Emmy and Tony-winning actor and a board member of the Environmental Media Association.

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