Trump’s EPA Keeps Brain-damaging Pesticide in Fruits and Vegetables

Chlorpyrifos is linked to learning disabilities in children and unsafe to farmworkers


Erin Fitzgerald, Earthjustice, (415) 283-2323

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos can still be used on food, although mainstream science says this pesticide is unsafe for children and farmworkers. This decision meets the deadline ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for the EPA to make a final decision on a petition to ban chlorpyrifos on food.

“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children’s brains,” said Patti Goldman, Earthjustice attorney. “It is a tragedy that this administration sides with corporations instead of children’s health. But this is only a setback. Lawmakers in states like Hawai’i and New York are now showing the rest of the country that banning this dreadful pesticide is not only possible, but inevitable.”

While the Trump administration disregards science and health, states are taking action. Last year Hawaiʻi passed a law banning chlorpyrifos and this year, New York legislators overwhelmingly approved a bill doing the same in that state. The New York bill awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

“Every day we go without a ban, children and farmworkers are eating, drinking and breathing a pesticide linked to intellectual and learning disabilities and poisonings,” said the 12 plaintiff organizations challenging the 2017 decision. “We will continue to fight until chlorpyrifos is banned and children and farmworkers are safe from this dangerous chemical.”

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate (OP), a class of chemicals that includes sarin nerve gas. First developed by the Nazis for chemical warfare, OPs were later repurposed for agricultural uses. Chlorpyrifos and other OP pesticides are used on strawberries, apples, citrus, broccoli, corn, and more. In fact, chlorpyrifos is one of the most frequently used pesticides in the United States.

Studies show that exposures to chlorpyrifos and other OP pesticides in infants and children are associated with lower birth weight, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and even autism.

Chlorpyrifos and the other OP pesticides were banned from almost all home use nearly two decades ago, as they were too toxic to children. EPA was on course to ban chlorpyrifos from all food crops, but weeks after former EPA boss Scott Pruitt met with the head of the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, Dow Chemical — now Corteva Agriscience — Pruitt falsely claimed in 2017 the science is “unresolved” and decided EPA would study the issue until 2022.

Earthjustice is representing the League of United Latin American Citizens, National Hispanic Medical Association, United Farm Workers, Farmworker Association of Florida, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Pesticide Action Network, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Farmworker Justice, GreenLatinos, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Learn more about chlorpyrifos.

Organophosphates are acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children
(Austin Valley / CC BY 2.0)
Organophosphates are acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children (Austin Valley / CC BY 2.0)

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