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News > U.S.

EPA Greenlights Banned Chlorpyrifos, Linked to Health Issues

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 July 2019

The U.S. environmental agency will reverse a ban on chlorpyrifos, known to cause low birth weight, reduced IQ, and attention disorders in kids exposed to the chemical.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency says it will reverse a ban of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, linked to health issues in children, from use on U.S.-grown fruits and vegetables.


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The agency denied a petition led by Earthjustice and a dozen other environmental groups, to ban the pesticide. The organizations cited studies that conclude exposure to the pesticide is linked to low birth weight, reduced IQ, attention disorders and other issues in infants and children.

Under the Obama administration, the EPA had banned the use of chlorpyrifos in 2015 after it decided it could not be certain whether exposure to the chemical in food and water would be harmful. However, Trump's first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, reversed that decision in 2017, prompting a long legal battle.

In April, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA had until mid-July to decide overturn Pruitt’s measure, or continue to prohibit chlorpyrifos.

The pesticide is made by Corteva Agriscience, once a part of the major pharmaceutical and chemical producer, DowDuPont. 

"We are committed to working with the Agency as it seeks to make an accurate assessment and, if necessary, reduce potential exposures, while also ensuring that growers for whom chlorpyrifos is a critical tool can continue to use the product safely," said Gregg Schmidt, a spokesperson for Corteva said to Reuters in an email.

As part of the legal case, the EPA denied all of the objections listed by the environmental groups and said there was not enough evidence to link exposure to chlorpyrifos to children's health issues.

"After reviewing the objections, EPA has determined that the objections related to Petition claims regarding neurodevelopmental toxicity must be denied because the objections and the underlying Petition are not supported by valid, complete, and reliable evidence sufficient to meet the Petitioners’ burden," wrote Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator for chemical safety at the EPA.

The denial also said that chlorpyrifos is "currently the only cost-effective choice for control of certain insect pests."

The environmental groups said on Thursday they will continue to fight the decision until chlorpyrifos is banned.

“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,” the groups said in a joint statement.

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group who appeared in The World According to Monsanto, said current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler ignored the advice of EPA scientists who supported a ban.

“If the Trump administration had followed the advice of its scientists, chlorpyrifos likely would not be in the food and milk kids eat and drink today,” said the agro-chemical expert.

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