WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced it would not ban a widely-used pesticide associated with developmental disabilities and other health problems in children.
The decision not to prohibit the use of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, comes after years of legal wrangling. It represents a victory for the chemical industry and farmers who have lobbied to continue using the substance, arguing it is necessary to protect crops.
In making its ruling, the E.P.A. rejected claims that the amount of pesticide residue allowed to remain in or on treated foods was unsafe, and said that the science was unsettled.
“E.P.A. has determined that their objections must be denied because the data available are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners’ burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe,” the agency said in a statement.
The agency added that it would continue to review the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2022.
The product, sold under the commercial name Lorsban, has already been banned for household use but remains in widespread use by farmers for more than 50 fruit, nut, cereal and vegetable crops.
The Obama administration decided to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015 after scientific studies produced by the E.P.A. showed the pesticide had the potential to damage brain development in children. But in 2017 Scott Pruitt, then the administrator of the E.P.A., reversed that prohibition, setting off a new round of legal challenges.
Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice, an environmental group that brought a legal challenge against the E.P.A.’s 2017 decision on behalf of farmworker organizations and others, criticized the decision.
“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s E.P.A. is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children’s brains,” Ms. Goldman said in a statement.
A federal appeals court in April ordered the E.P.A. to make a final ruling on whether to ban chlorpyrifos by this month. Since then a number of states, including California and New York, have moved to prohibit its use.
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