Updated: Oct 25, 2021
The Environmental Protection Agency must ban the use of chlorpyrifos—a pesticide linked to worker poisonings and learning disabilities in children—on produce sold in the U.S. within 60 days unless it can identify a safe level of use, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in late April. The judges found the agency broke the law by continuing to allow the toxic chemical to be used to grow fruits and vegetables despite solid evidence that it harms the developing brain. The ruling comes after a lawsuit by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and a coalition of labor and health organizations, represented by Earthjustice. The decision can be found here.
From Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at NRDC: “The court ruled in favor of science, which has clearly shown that chlorpyrifos is too dangerous to be used to grow our food. The Trump EPA had allowed the continued use of this toxic pesticide, even though they knew it is damaging to human health – especially the developing brains of children. This will ensure that kids can eat fruits and vegetables free of this neurotoxin.”
NRDC has been fighting for over a decade to get chlorpyrifos off our fields and out of our food supply, petitioning EPA to ban it in 2007 alongside the Pesticide Action Network. EPA was finally on track to ban it at the end of 2016 until the Trump administration quickly reversed course and allowed farmers to spray chlorpyrifos on all sorts of crops, including children’s favorites like apples, oranges, and berries. Farmworkers and their families, who are predominantly Hispanic, are most exposed, and consumers across the country are at risk, too.
Significant science—including a study by EPA itself—shows that exposure to even low levels of the pesticide in early life can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reduced IQ, developmental delay, and ADHD. Chlorpyrifos is also a bee toxicant.
In the absence of EPA action, states had begun to get the pesticide out of the fields. As a result of a landmark settlement, California ended sales of chlorpyrifos in February of 2020 and completely banned its use in January of 2021. Hawaii’s ban goes into effect in 2022, New York has initiated a regulatory process, and Maryland has committed to a phase-out. Legislation is also pending in Congress to ban chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides nationwide.
Following action at the state level, Corteva Inc (formally part of Dow Chemical, which was the largest US producer of chlorpyrifos) announced it will cease production of the chemical by the end of 2020. Dow Chemical had close ties to President Trump. Among other things, the company reportedly donated $1 million for Trump’s inauguration and its CEO previously played a chief advisory role to the president, heading up his now-defunct American Manufacturing Council.