In 1996, Congress told the EPA that it had three years to fully implement the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, the purpose of which is to test all pesticides used in food production to evaluate their endocrine-disrupting potential – but the EPA never followed through.
"As of the time of this filing, more than 25 years after the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act, [the] EPA has yet to implement the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program it created and further, has failed to even initiate endocrine testing for approximately 96% of registered pesticides," the lawsuit, which was filed back in December, states.
Since endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) block, mimic, or otherwise interfere with the proper functioning of hormones, Congress wanted the EPA to assess all of them in the interest of public safety. To this day, the EPA has stonewalled the mandate while colluding with big industry to cover up the truth.
Since 2015, according to EPA deputy assistant administrator for pesticide programs Ya-Wei "Jake" Li, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program has been dormant – this almost two decades after its inception. That same year, the EPA released its first batch of test results.
Among the 52 pesticides screened for endocrine-disrupting attributes – there are more than 1,300 pesticides currently registered by the EPA – 18 were found to warrant additional testing, but that testing never occurred.
(Related: In 2019, the EPA was caught burying data on the release of toxic substances into the environment.)
That very small test the EPA conducted in 2015 is a start, but it is nowhere near adequate for what Congress mandated. Li says there are two new testing methods available that do not rely on animal assays, and that there is "more to come later this year."
Still, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program never fully came about as was legally required. In fact, the program has been under attack, including by the Trump administration, which tried numerous times, unsuccessfully, to defund it entirely.
"This is a program that's been ignored for 25 years, essentially," said Pegga Mosavi, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Food Safety (CFS).
CFS is at the forefront of the lawsuit against the EPA, along with fellow plaintiffs Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Organización en California de Líderes Campesinas, Rural Coalition, Pesticide Action Network North America and Center for Environmental Health.
"We started looking into it last summer and recognized just how egregious the entire issue was," Mosavi added.
"It's impacting so many people, specifically a lot of people [represented by] our clients. Farmworkers are incredibly vulnerable, since they are the most directly exposed to pesticides via their occupation, but there's also concern of exposure via food and drinking water."
Back in 1999, the year the EPA was supposed to have fully followed through with implementing the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also sued the agency.
Again in 2005, the nonprofits Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals both sued the EPA over its continued mishandling of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, as well as its failure to meet new statutory deadlines.
"That suit was dismissed the following year when the court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing," The Defender reported.
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