Chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion are a group of pesticides that are a big money-maker for Dow Chemical, with the company selling approximately 5 million pounds of chlorpyrifos in the U.S. each year, according to the Associated Press. Dow Chemical, however, has a small problem on its hands, and it’s not the fact that the pesticide was “originally derived from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany,” per the AP, though that’s certainly not great for marketing materials. In this case, it’s the fact that studies by federal scientists have found that chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion are harmful to almost 1,800 “critically threatened or endangered species.” Historically, groups like the Environmental Protection Agency would want to avoid killing frogs, fish, birds, mammals, and plants, which is why the regulator and two others that it works with to enforce the Endangered Species Act are reportedly “close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used,” the AP reports.
Luckily for Dow, the E.P.A. is now run by climate-change skeptic and general enemy of living things Scott Pruitt, who last month said he would reverse “an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children's brains.” Plus, Dow Chemical C.E.O. Andrew Liveris is good buddies with President Donald Trump. So, you can see how the company, which the AP reports also spent $13.6 million on lobbying last year, might feel like it is in the clear.
According to the AP, lawyers representing Dow and two other companies that manufacture the pesticides in question (known as organophosphates) have sent letters to the heads of the E.P.A, the Department of Commerce, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, asking them to “set aside” the results of the studies, claiming that they are “fundamentally flawed.” Not surprisingly, the scientists hired by Dow “to produce a lengthy rebuttal to the government studies” have come up with diverging results.
In addition to Pruitt’s long history of, per the AP, aligning “himself in legal disputes with the interests of executives and corporations,” Dow has another reason to be hopeful the government will conveniently ignore any lingering concerns about killing off entire species: Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to Donald Trump who was literally standing next to the president in February when he signed an executive order “mandating the creation of task forces at federal agencies to roll back government regulations.”
Dow also donated $1 million to underwrite Trump’s inaugural festivities, the AP reports, but God help the person who dares to wonder aloud if the check was some sort of an attempt to curry favor with the administration. As Rachelle Schikorra, Dow’s director of public affairs, told the AP, any such suggestion is “completely off the mark.”
This piece originally appeared at Vanity Fair.