What We’re Reading: US Pressures GOP States on School Mask Bans; Purdue Opioid Settlement Hits Snag; EPA Bans Pesticide

President Joe Biden pushes back against governors banning school mask mandates; family behind Purdue Pharma refuses to pay settlement for opioid suit without legal protections; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bans a pesticide linked to health issues in children.

Biden Pushes Back Against Banning School Mask Mandates

President Joe Biden ordered the Education Department to use all tools available to help local governments and school districts trying to institute mask mandates in states where Republican governors are attempting to ban the policies for schools, according to Politico. Many governors have made moves to punish school districts who require masks by denying state funds despite children under 12 years of age not being eligible for COVID-19 vaccines; the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 has dramatically increased in recent weeks. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said to The New York Times that he may use the department’s Office for Civil Rights to prevent states from banning school mask mandates, which could impede students’ access to education.

Sackler Family Refuses Opioid Settlement Payments Without Legal Protection

A report from the Associated Press stated that members of the Sackler family, which own oxycodone maker Purdue Pharma, are refusing to pay the money owed resulting from state-led opioid suits unless they are granted legal protection for all current and future lawsuits related to Purdue’s actions surrounding opioid promotion. The US Bankruptcy Trustee, as well as 9 states and the District of Columbia, have objected to Purdue’s settlement plan because it would provide protection to members of the Sackler family despite none of them personally declaring bankruptcy. The ordeal has prompted protests and the potential for federal legislation entitled the SACKLER Act that would forbid these deals, also known as third-party releases. Lawsuits against Purdue and the Sackler family, including those from several states, have been on pause since the company filed for bankruptcy 2 years ago.

EPA Bans Pesticide Linked to Childhood Health Problems

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final ruling banning the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on food that has contributed to health problems for children and farmworkers. According to a report from NPR, health and labor organization have been attempting for years to revoke the use of the chemical, which has been found to cause neurological damage in children, including reduced intellectual quotient, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorders. The agency considered banning under the Trump administration but concluded that there was not enough evidence to support the ban. The new rule will go into effect in 6 months.