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The Trump Administration Again Refuses to Ban the Brain-Toxic Pesticide, Chlorpyrifos

July 18, 2019
Center for Food Safety

The Trump Administration Again Refuses to Ban the Brain-Toxic Pesticide, Chlorpyrifos

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its decision to allow the neurotoxic insecticide, chlorpyrifos, to remain on the market, defying the scientific consensus that the chemical causes learning disabilities in children exposed to it.

The decision reverses a ban proposed by the Obama administration's EPA in late 2015, which was not finalized by the time Trump came to power. The new administration's Department of Justice intervened to block the August 2018 ruling of a federal court that the ban be finalized.

"With this unconscionable decision, the Trump administration has betrayed America's children, using all the means at its disposal to ensure that kids will continue to suffer from entirely avoidable learning disabilities caused by this neurotoxic chemical," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety.

EPA has long been aware of the pesticide's toxicity. While most residential uses of chlorpyrifos were banned nearly two decades ago, the agency permitted its continued use in agriculture, creating a double-standard in which rural kids are left unprotected. People are exposed to chlorpyrifos in food and water, but also through inhalation of spray drift and vapor.

Efforts to remove the chemical from the market began in 2007, when public interest groups filed a petition with EPA seeking a ban on the pesticide's agricultural uses as well as revocation of tolerances (permitted residue levels) on food crops sprayed with it. After years of inaction, lawsuits eventually forced EPA to propose a ban in 2015.

The science demonstrating chlorpyrifos' harms is extremely strong. Long-term studies by scientists at Columbia University and the University of California at Berkeley have demonstrated conclusively that children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb suffer from higher rates of a broad range of developmental disorders, including reduced IQ and memory deficits, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A ban on the pesticide is widely supported by the medical science community.

In response to federal inaction, several states have taken matters into their own hands. In 2018, Hawaii became the first state to pass a law to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, as a result of efforts by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and allies. The hazards of chlorpyrifos and other pesticides used in Hawaii were detailed in CFS's 2015 report, Pesticides in Paradise.

Since then, California and New York have also banned chlorpyrifos, while bills proposing a ban are pending in Connecticut and New Jersey.

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