(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2018) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must ban a widely used organophosphate pesticide linked to brain damage in children, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday. The appellate court ordered EPA to finalize its proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, produced by DowDupont, based on undisputed findings that the pesticide is unsafe for public health, and particularly harmful to children and farmworkers. The ruling comes in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of labor and health organizations, represented by Earthjustice.
In the absence of EPA action, states have started to stand up. In May, the state legislature in Hawaii passed legislation, which took effect in May, to become the first state to ban the chemical. On July 30, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released its scientific assessment concluding that the organophosphate insecticide, chlorpyrifos, should be listed as a Toxic Air Contaminant (TAC) in the state based on evidence of its neurological effects and exposure risks of concern. Legislation is also pending in Congress to ban chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides nationwide.
Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous nerve agent pesticide that can damage the developing brains of children. Prenatal and early life exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to lower birth weight and neurodevelopmental harms, including reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development. It is also acutely toxic to farmworkers — routinely sickening workers and sending them to the hospital.
Chlorpyirifos was first developed by the Nazis for chemical warfare but later repurposed for agriculture. It is widely used on apples, oranges, broccoli, and dozens of other crops. It’s been banned from home use for about two decades, as it is too toxic to children.
The court ruling details EPA’s long, illegal delay in acting to ban chlorpyrifos, even after the science clearly showed the harm and risks to children’s health. The court explained that enough was enough: “If Congress’s statutory mandates are to mean anything, the time has come to put a stop to this patent evasion.”
The court ruling comes more than a year after former EPA boss Scott Pruitt reversed EPA’s own proposal to ban this pesticide. That decision came weeks after Pruitt met with the head of Dow Chemical, which is the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, selling it under the name of Lorsban. Mr. Pruitt then falsely claimed the science is “unresolved” and decided EPA would study the issue until 2022.
A decade ago, Earthjustice and partners began legal action to protect children, farmworkers, and rural communities from chlorpyrifos. While families across the country are at risk of dangerous exposure through food, farmworkers and children living in rural Latino communities face disproportionate risk. Chlorpyrifos is unsafe for farmworkers even with the most protective safety gear. In addition, their children risk exposure at home, as chemicals can linger on work clothes. Moreover, anyone living downwind of farms risks exposure when the wind carries the toxic spray into schools and homes.
See Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides and You article Widely Used Pesticide in Food Production Damages Children’s Brains: EPA science on chlorpyrifos ignored as agency reverses decision to stop insecticide’s agricultural use. Want to protect farmworkers and your family, join the campaign to advance organic; see Beyond Pesticides’ organic webpage and eat with a conscience.