EPA decides against ban on use of chlorpyrifos on fruits and vegetables

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday refused to ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on fruits and vegetables.

The decision by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt represented another reversal of a npolicy of the Obama administration, which proposed the ban in 2015, on the basis of scientific findings of neurological harm from exposure to it.

''We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment,'' Pruitt said in a statement Wednesday.

''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.

Pruitt's decision would come as good news for Dow Chemical Co, which sold the pesticide under the brand name Lorsban. In a January letter, it said the Obama EPA had short-circuited its scientific review process for pesticides, in areas like transparency and peer review.

Chlorpyrifos is used as an insecticide against plant pests of numerous crops, including some meant for human consumption. Though it had been in use since 1965, most household uses were phased out in 2001.

Pruitt's decision comes on a petition requesting that the agency ban the use of chlorpyrifos on all US food crops.

The petition dated back to September 2007, when the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council requested a ban of the common pesticide on the basis of concerns over its toxicity.

The petitioners, including some scientists and environmental groups claim that chlorpyrifos could harm children's developing brains and nervous systems. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, exposure to chlorpyrifos could cause a range of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, seizures and paralysis.

However, according to some scientists and the US Department of Agriculture chlorpyrifos was not harmful at exposure levels upheld by the EPA.