Groups Appeal EPA’s Refusal to Ban Major Pesticide Linked to Brain Damage in Children
Today, Earthjustice representing Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council asked a panel of three federal appeals court judges to order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act based on its own scientific conclusions and permanently ban chlorpyrifos, a highly dangerous pesticide linked to many health hazards, particularly to children’s brains.
The groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to direct the EPA to act within 30 days to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos, based on the agency’s repeated findings that the pesticide is unsafe. The move comes a week after the EPA refused to ban chlorpyrifos despite its own findings that the pesticide is unsafe in food, drinking water, and pesticide drift. Prenatal 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.
“President Trump and his EPA flouted court orders and EPA’s scientific findings that chlorpyrifos puts children, farmworkers, their families and many others at risk,” said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice managing attorney handling the case. “We are asking the court to protect children by ordering EPA to take action now to ban chlorpyrifos.”
Last November, EPA released an updated assessment of the risks linked to chlorpyrifos. It concluded there is no safe level for chlorpyrifos exposure in food or drinking water, and that workers are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide even with maximum protective controls. The EPA also confirmed chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools and homes adjacent to agricultural areas.
“EPA is refusing to take this chemical off the market—but it is not rescinding its own scientists’ finding that this pesticide is toxic to children,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at NRDC. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids. The health of our children must come before chemical corporations.”
Residential uses of chlorpyrifos were banned 17 years ago. However, this neurotoxic pesticide is still widely used on staple foods like strawberries, corn, wheat, and citrus. In fact, over half of all apples and broccoli in the U.S. are sprayed with chlorpyrifos.
“EPA’s stunning reversal on chlorpyrifos in the face of overpowering scientific evidence of harm to children signals yet another dereliction of duty under the Trump administration,” said Kristin Schafer, policy director for Pesticide Action Network. “If it takes a court order for EPA to stand up to pressure from Dow’s lobbyists and do right by children and their families, then so be it.”
“The EPA said repeatedly that this pesticide is not safe,” said Erik Nicholson, National Vice President of United Farm Workers. “It is long past time for EPA to permanently ban all uses of chlorpyrifos, stop caving-in to corporate interests, and focus on the wellbeing of workers and their children who live in areas surrounded by pesticides.”
In addition to asking the court to order EPA to ban all food uses of chlorpyrifos, the groups asked the court to order EPA to begin canceling all chlorpyrifos uses. The agency had been under court order to issue a ruling by last Friday resulting from NRDC and PAN’s 2007 petition to ban the pesticide.
Read the explainer: What You Should Know About Chlorpyrifos.
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.