California moves to ban brain-damaging pesticide as EPA resists court action

California moves to ban brain-damaging pesticide as EPA resists court action
© Getty Images

California, the nation’s top agricultural state, banned a common pesticide Wednesday, citing research showing it hinders brain development in children.

Chlorpyrifos, known on the market as Lorsban, is sprayed on a wide variety of crops including corn and cranberries, and farmers often call it a last line of defense against certain insects. 

The chemical was initially targeted for phase-out by the Obama administration after U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists recommended a ban on the pesticide in 2016. But that decision was reversed under the Trump administration, and the agency has delayed taking further action, leaving bans in state hands.

ADVERTISEMENT
California’s action comes from the state’s EPA, though state lawmakers are also considering a ban by legislation.

The agency argued the ban was needed “to prevent the significant harm this pesticide causes children, farm workers and vulnerable communities,” according to a statement.

The EPA banned household use of chlorpyrifos in 2000 due to its risks for children, and scientists recommended a full ban on the pesticide in 2016. But President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE's former EPA administrator, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade MORE, ignored that advice, leaving the department in a long legal battle over the substance.

In August, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the agency 60 days to implement a ban, but the Department of Justice asked the court to reconsider. In April, the court instead gave the agency 90 days to determine whether it would allow the chemical to be used on crops.

“EPA’s last re-evaluation of chlorpyrifos was completed in 2006 as part of the reregistration process. EPA is currently re-evaluating chlorpyrifos," said Michael Abboud, an EPA spokesman.

The process of banning the substance in California could take up to two years, and Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomNew York bans discrimination against natural hair California lawmakers pass bill requiring Trump, presidential hopefuls release tax returns to appear on ballot Democratic governors: Exclusion of census citizenship question doesn't mean an end to 'confusion or anxiety' MORE (D) said the budget would include $5.7 million to help farmers transition to safer alternatives. 

Scientists worry chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin, affects the human nervous system much like it attacks those of insects. The pesticide has been linked to learning and memory issues and prolonged nerve and muscle stimulation.

States are increasingly taking action to ban chlorpyrifos as the EPA delays action. Hawaii and New York have already banned use of the pesticide on food.