Skip to main content

Earthjustice is a nonprofit in the business of building a better future. We’re here because the earth needs a good lawyer.

We Just Got a Big Win in Court Against a Pesticide Linked to Harming Kids’ Brains

Children and farmworkers may soon be spared from a toxic pesticide linked to lifelong intellectual disabilities. On April 29, a federal appeals court sided with Earthjustice and its clients, and ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to either ban all food uses of chlorpyrifos, or figure out how to regulate it in a way that protects those vulnerable populations.

Why is chlorpyrifos harmful?

‘The EPA’s time is now up.’

  • For years, Earthjustice and partners asked the government to ban chlorpyrifos. The Obama administration was on track to outlaw the pesticide on food, but the Trump administration reversed course.
  • The Trump administration’s actions broke the law. If the EPA cannot ensure that a pesticide won’t harm children, the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act requires the EPA to ban uses of the pesticide on food.
  • On behalf of health, labor, and learning disability organizations, Earthjustice sued the EPA for shirking this duty.
  • In its decision in April 2021, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: “The EPA’s egregious delay exposed a generation of American children to unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos … But the EPA’s time is now up.”

Public support for a chlorpyrifos ban helped move the needle.

  • As our case worked its way through the courts, more than 350,000 Earthjustice supporters sent messages to their political representatives asking them to ban the toxic chemical. (Add your voice today!)
  • This public pressure moved states like Hawai’i, California, Oregon, and New York to pass their own chlorpyrifos bans in the last few years. In addition, the largest U.S. producer of chlorpyrifos announced it will stop making the pesticide.
  • On his first day in office, President Biden ordered the EPA to review the Trump administration’s decision not to ban chlorpyrifos. That review is still under way.

What happens next?

  • The court gave the EPA 60 days from the end of the case to either ban all food uses of chlorpyrifos or retain only those uses it can find safe for workers and children.
  • The science is clear: There are no safe uses of chlorpyrifos. Therefore, we should expect — and demand — a total ban.
  • “The Court got it right: EPA’s time is now up,” says Patti Goldman, a managing attorney at Earthjustice. “EPA must now follow the law, ban chlorpyrifos, and protect children and farmworkers from a pesticide we know is linked to numerous developmental harms.”

What can I do?

Tell EPA Administrator Regan to follow through with the federal appeals court’s order, and ban chlorpyrifos now.

California activists rallied after a public hearing in 2018 on restricting the uses of chlorpyrifos

California activists rallied after a public hearing in 2018 on restricting the uses of chlorpyrifos

Max Whittaker / New York Times