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Chlorpyrifos, Previously Banned Neurotoxic Pesticide, Again Allowed on Our Food, Despite Known Harms

Gharda and industrial agriculture will be allowed to sell and use chlorpyrifos for the 2024 growing season

Contacts

Erin Fitzgerald, efitzgerald@earthjustice.org

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Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the agency will not challenge the November ruling of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned EPA’s rule banning the use of the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in food. This means that a handful of chemical companies, including Gharda Chemical, which filed the challenge against the EPA’s ban, can sell this toxic pesticide again, even though it is linked to learning disabilities and behavioral disorders in children.

According to EPA, alfalfa, apple, asparagus, cherry, citrus, cotton, peach, soybean, strawberry, sugar beet, and wheat, which is more than half of the chlorpyrifos uses, will be allowed to have chlorpyrifos again. EPA said it will further review chlorpyrifos food uses and restrictions in the near future. People can be exposed to chlorpyrifos through numerous sources, including the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.

“Harm from chlorpyrifos is generational — children don’t get a do-over on brain development and acute poisonings have a cumulative effect on the long-term health of farmworkers and their families. Pursuing environmental justice means protecting children and farmworker families — EPA should act accordingly,” said Noorulanne Jan, Earthjustice associate attorney.

Chlorpyrifos, a member of the organophosphate family, which includes sarin nerve gas, had been widely applied to crops such as soybeans, apples, citrus, broccoli, and cauliflower since the 1960s. A nationwide reprieve happened in early 2022, after the EPA banned the pesticide’s use on food and feed crops thanks to a lawsuit by Earthjustice and its partners. Studies done by Columbia University and others have linked chlorpyrifos exposure to neurodevelopmental harm in children. Very small exposures to chlorpyrifos can cause irreversible harm to the developing brains of children, resulting in impairments, like decreased IQ, autism, and hyperactivity.

The initial ban came as a result of a successful challenge filed by Earthjustice, on behalf of public health, labor, farmworker, and disability organizations, in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that compelled EPA to protect children from chlorpyrifos. Advocacy groups had been fighting for a chlorpyrifos food ban for over 20 years, as EPA in 2001 banned residential use of chlorpyrifos because of harm to children. Earthjustice will continue to fight to ban chlorpyrifos, and all organophosphates.

A gloved hand holds up a slice of a red skinned apple.
More than half of all apples in the U.S. were sprayed with chlorpyrifos, a pesticide considered too toxic for residential use. (Lance Cheung / USDA)

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