Scott Pruitt
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies about the fiscal year 2018 budget during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., June 27, 2017. Getty Images/Saul Loeb

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly met Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris in March before his office announced in May the rollback of proposed ban on Chlorpyrifos, a deadly pesticide that is known to affect the central nervous system of infants and newborn babies. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate made up of white or colorless crystals. It carries the odor of rotten eggs or garlic.

Chlorpyrifos is being used as a pesticide since 1960s, and is typically sprayed on citrus fruits, apples, cherries and other crops. It keeps a variety of pests at bay like termites, mosquitoes, and roundworms. It was also used as a domestic insecticide before Dow Chemical restricted the use to commercial purpose only in 2000 as the federal regulators raised safety concerns.

People and animals can get exposed to Chlorpyrifos if they eat or drink something that has been contaminate with the pesticide or even touch something that has been sprayed with the substance, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Some of the initial symptoms experienced by people who have been exposed to the pesticide include weakness, loss of coordination, diarrhea, unconsciousness, loss of bladder and bowel control, convulsions, shortness of breath, and paralysis.

Read: What Is The Clean Water Rule? EPA Chief Pruitt Wants To Repeal It

The University of California at Berkeley found in a 2011 study that 87 percent of blood samples taken from umbilical cords of newborns contained detectable levels of chlorpyrifos. Three hundred and twenty nine children living in Salinas, an agricultural center in Monterey County, California, participated in the study.

Dow Chemical
The production plant for high density polyethylene of Dow Chemical in Tessenderlo, Belgium, Oct. 24, 2012. Getty Images/Yorick Jansens

Dow Chemical sells nearly 5 million pounds of Chlorpyrifos pesticide every year, the Associated Press reported. Former President Barack Obama’s administration proposed ban on the use of pesticides on food. Under the existing norms, EPA has to check if the pesticides used on food are safe for human consumption.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing more than 66,000 pediatricians and pediatric surgeons, wrote a formal letter to Pruitt on Tuesday urging him to reconsider his decision to revoke the ban on the harmful pesticide, citing the negative impacts of the chemical.

“There is a wealth of science demonstrating the detrimental effects of chlorpyrifos exposure to developing fetuses, infants, children, and pregnant women,” the letter said, according to the AP . “The risk to infant and children’s health and development is unambiguous.”

Pruitt claimed at the congressional hearing on June 15 that he rolled back the ban on Chlorpyrifos because he had “meaningful data and meaningful science,” suggesting it was safe for use.

Read: EPA's Scott Pruitt Decides Not To Ban Pesticide Said To Harm Children's Brains

However, when he was further pressed to reveal the said data, Pruitt’s office went on to cite media releases from the Department of Agriculture and other trade organizations that stated the pesticide had its advantages in farming. The releases did not talk about the safety of the pesticide.

“Despite several years of study, EPA has concluded the science addressing chlorpyrifos remains unresolved,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman, said Tuesday. “We will make a decision based on the science, not on real — or perceived — pressure from companies or environmental activists.”

Pruitt’s decision to not ban chlorpyrifos came under further scrutiny after it was revealed that Pruitt met Dow Chemical CEO, a few months before EPA implemented its final decision on the pesticide. According to Pruitt’s March meeting schedule procured through multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, the EPA administrator met Liveris on March 9 for about a half hour at a Houston hotel.

Liveris was appointed by President Donald Trump to his Presidential Manufacturing Council in December, before Trump assumed office.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump introduces Andrew N. Liveris, chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company and Trump's choice to be the head of a national manufacturing council at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dec. 9, 2016. Getty Images/Drew Angerer

The details of the conversation between Pruitt and Liveris has not been revealed. Bowman has just said that Pruitt was “briefly introduced” to Liveris at the conference.

“They did not discuss chlorpyrifos,” Bowman said Tuesday, according to the AP report. “During the same trip, he also met the Canadian minister of natural resources, and CEOs and executives from other companies attending the trade show.”

Executive Director of California Academy of Sciences Jon Foley condemned Pruitt’s decision in a tweet.