You’ve probably never heard of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos. But, according to CDC data, you probably have chlorpyrifos in your body—because you probably have been regularly exposed to it since you were developing in the womb.
Chlorpyrifos is part of a class of pesticides, the organophosphates, that are most frequently reported as the cause of acute poisonings of farm workers. It is one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that every year farmers apply more than 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos on dozens of crops, ranging from apples and broccoli to walnuts and wheat.
Earthjustice has filed a series of lawsuits over chlorpyrifos, and one of the cases forced the EPA to update its analysis of the impacts of chlorpyrifos. The EPA released that analysis this summer, and we submitted comments on Thursday.
Our comments pointed out that, although pesticides are designed to kill things, the collateral damage inflicted by chlorpyrifos is staggering.
Air monitoring has detected toxic levels of chlorpyrifos near rural homes and schools, endangering rural residents and in particular children. Three recent epidemiological studies have shown that babies developing in the womb are regularly exposed, as a result of their mothers’ exposure, to chlorpyrifos and organophosphates, and that in utero exposure to these pesticides causes developmental harm. The greater the exposure to chlorpyrifos and organophosphates, the lower children score on measures of intelligence, motor control and behavioral development.
And the damage from chlorpyrifos is not just to people. The National Marine Fisheries Service has found that the use of chlorpyrifos jeopardizes the continued survival of 27 endangered or threatened West Coast salmon and steelhead species.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement we negotiated, the EPA must make a final decision by Nov. 23 about the existing uses of chlorpyrifos. The EPA’s preliminary risk assessment indicates that several subpopulations, such as infants and children, are exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos that cause harm. Based on this analysis alone, the law leaves the EPA only one choice: to restrict or cancel uses in order to reduce exposure to a safe level.
We will be reviewing the EPA’s forthcoming decision to make sure the agency follows the law and protects the health of people and wildlife.