Energy & Environment

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

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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.

{mosads}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 Trump’s former EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, 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 Newsom (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.

Tags California chlorpyrifos Donald Trump EPA Gavin Newsom Pesticide Scott Pruitt

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