E.P.A. won't ban chlorpyrifos pesticide that scientists say damages children's brains

In the Federal Register, EPA said “critical questions remained regarding the significance of the data” that show chlorpyrifos causes neurological harm to young children.

You can thank disgraced former Trump EPA chairman Scott Pruitt for today's big victory for American chemical companies.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it will not ban chlorpyrifos, aka Lorsban, a widely used commercial pesticide that scientists have connected to developmental disabilities and other serious health problems in kids. Studies have shown clear potential for chlorpyrifos to damage the developing brains of children.

Under President Obama, the EPA banned chlorpyrifos while it investigated these claims.

Under Pruitt, in 2017, the ban was dropped, and now it's official.

"E.P.A. has determined that their objections must be denied because the data available are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners' burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe," the agency said in a statement.

"The decision not to prohibit the use of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, comes after years of legal wrangling," reports Lisa Friedman for the New York Times. "It represents a victory for the chemical industry and farmers who have lobbied to continue using the substance, arguing it is necessary to protect crops."

A quick background on the pesticide, first, from CivilEats back in 2015:

scientists identified chlorpyrifos as one of a dozen industrial chemicals fueling what they called a "pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity."

Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide, is classified as a neurotoxin because it disrupts neurotransmission, essentially how brain cells communicate. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, it is also the active ingredient in dozens of commercial pesticides, used to control a wide range of insects on crops like corn, almonds, apples, and oranges. According to Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures the pesticide Dursban using chlorpyrifos, it has been used on more than 50 agricultural crops.

Chrolo sold in the U.S. under the commercial name Lorsban by Corteva Agriscience (formerly Dow) is banned for household use, but is widely used commercially by farmers for over 50 crops: fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables.

EPA said it will continue to review chlorpyrifos through 2022.

From today's New York Times coverage of the EPA's decision to not ban chlorpyrifos:

The Obama administration decided to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015 after scientific studies produced by the E.P.A. showed the pesticide had the potential to damage brain development in children. But in 2017 Scott Pruitt, then the administrator of the E.P.A., reversed that prohibition, setting off a new round of legal challenges.

And from the Washington Post, how California is handling the matter at the state level, plus responses by groups that have fought to ban the pesticide, who are not happy with today's EPA decision:

California health officials said in May that their decision came amid growing evidence that the pesticide "causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations at lower levels of exposure than previously understood." California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proposed $5.7 million to support the transition to "safer, more sustainable alternatives," according to the California Environmental Protection Agency.

California's proposed ban is expected to take six months to two years to take full effect and comes as other states have started taking similar action. Last year, Hawaii became the first state to ban pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, though that ban will not take effect until 2022. New York state lawmakers recently approved legislation to ban the pesticide by Dec. 1, 2021. Oregon, Connecticut and New Jersey also are considering measures to take chlorpyrifos off the market.


"Today's decision is shameful," Kristin Schafer, executive director of the Pesticide Action Network, said in an email. "It flies in the face of decades of strong scientific evidence, and the recommendations of the agency's own scientists. This administration is putting children, workers and rural families across the country at continued risk for no good reason, and we will continue to press for a full federal ban of this dangerous chemical. This administration has made perfectly clear who they are working for."

[PHOTO: © Shutterstock]