WASHINGTON — Dow Chemical is pushing the Trump administration 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 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 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 Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide use on food, although recent studies found even tiny levels of exposure could hinder children’s brain development.
In his prior job as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt often aligned himself with the interests of executives and corporations who supported his state campaigns.
Pruitt filed over a dozen lawsuits to overturn some of the same regulations he’s now charged with enforcing.
Pruitt declined to answer questions from reporters Wednesday as he toured a polluted Superfund site in Indiana.
The letters to Cabinet heads, dated April 13, were obtained by The Associated Press. As with recent human studies of chlorpyrifos, Dow hired its own scientists to produce a lengthy rebuttal.
Government scientists have compiled an official record over four years running more than 10,000 pages indicating the three pesticides — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied.
The EPA found Dow’s chlorpyrifos is “likely to adversely affect” 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants in its study, including critically endangered or threatened species of frogs, fish, birds and mammals. Similar results were shown for malathion and diazinon.
In a statement, Dow said its lawyers asked for the EPA’s assessment to be withdrawn because its “scientific basis was not reliable.”
Environmental advocates said criticism was unfounded. The methods used to conduct EPA’s evaluations were developed by the National Academy of Sciences.
Organophosphorus gas was originally developed as a chemical weapon by Nazi Germany.
Dow has been selling Chlorpyrifos for spraying on fruits and other crops since the 1960s. It’s among the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the U.S.
A 2012 study at the University of California at Berkeley found 87 percent of umbilical-cord blood samples tested from newborn babies contained detectable levels of chlorpyrifos.
Dow, which spent more than $13.6 million on lobbying in 2016, has long wielded political power in the nation’s capital.
When Trump signed an executive order in February mandating the creation of task forces to roll back government regulations, Dow’s chief executive was at Trump’s side.