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Pesticide Peril

Common Agrichemicals Endanger Hundreds of Species

gary powell/

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found in its first rigorous nationwide analysis of the effects of pesticides on endangered species, that 97 percent of the 1,800-plus animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by malathion and chlorpyrifos, two commonly used pesticides; another 78 percent are likely to be hurt by another, diazinon. But now the new EPA administration under President Trump has declined to ban chloripyrifos; the decision may be challenged in court.

All three pesticides are organophosphates widely used on crops such as corn, watermelon and wheat. Last year, the World Health Organization announced that malathion and diazinon are probable carcinogens. Based on the EPA’s conclusions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service will issue biological opinions to identify mitigation measures and changes to pesticide use to ensure that targeted products will no longer potentially harm any endangered species. As part of a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the biological opinions are due by December.

This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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