Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said today that the draft biological opinion the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the pesticide malathion makes it clear that the EPA must ban the substance as soon as possible. The draft opinion says the continued use of malathion would jeopardize the continued existence of 78 species around the country and would cause adverse effects to many others, marking the most severe findings of harm and risk FWS has ever published on a given substance.
“We’re in the middle of a widely documented extinction crisis, and we can’t afford to keep pretending otherwise any longer,” Grijalva said today. “The Biden administration has a chance here to pull an indefensible product out of circulation, protect dozens of species that otherwise have little chance of survival, and demonstrate that our environmental policies are based on the best available science. The Natural Resources Committee is continuing its oversight of pesticide impacts on endangered species, and I hope to see today’s analysis translate to official action as soon as possible.”
Malathion’s harms to wildlife and human health were documented as far back as the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. The substance has remained on the market thanks to decades of lobbying and political protection, including by Trump-era Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who suppressed earlier FWS risk findings on malathion and other substances.
Chair Grijalva and several other Committee leaders pushed for the immediate release of the suppressed report in 2019. The New York Times reported in March 2019 that a staff-level FWS analysis found that malathion and another pesticide called chlorpyrifos “jeopardize the continued existence” of endangered birds, fish and other animals and plants, which – if publicized – likely would have led to tighter restrictions on the chemicals.
As the Times reported, Bernhardt prevented FWS from releasing the findings, which the agency planned to do in November 2017.
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