Energy & Environment

Democrats introduce bill to ban chlorpyrifos, other pesticides to protect farmworkers


Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban chlorpyrifos and other pesticides that have sparked concerns among farmworker groups due to negative health effects.

A bill led by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) would ban organophosphates, a group of pesticides that attack the nervous system that research has shown has damaging effects on farmworkers.

That includes chlorpyrifos, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been pressured to ban through a series of lawsuits.

The widely used pesticide was banned for household use in 2000, after studies found children who had been exposed to it had lower IQs than those who were not. Chlorpyrifos has also been linked to learning and memory issues and prolonged nerve and muscle stimulation.

The legislation also bans neonicotinoids, known to have damaging effects to vulnerable bee populations, and paraquat, which has been linked with Parkinson’s disease.  

“The farmworkers who feed our country face dangerous chemical exposure without recourse to protect their health, and surrounding communities bear the frontline costs of pesticide runoff in their land, water, and air,” Udall said in a press release.

“This bill updates our laws so that they adhere to the science. And the science is warning us that we must protect critical links in our food chain, and protect children and farmworkers from brain damage and other health risks of dangerous pesticides,” Udall added in the release. 

The bill sharply targets the EPA as environmental groups have criticized the agency under the Trump administration for failing to enact stringent restrictions on pesticides.

The legislation would suspend the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the European Union or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA. The bill would also create a petition process to enable individual citizens to push the EPA to bar certain pesticides. 

Under the Trump administration, the EPA has repeatedly issued emergency exemptions that allow farmers to continue use of pesticides that are otherwise restricted.

The bill would nix that option and would also allow local communities to block some pesticides without being preempted by state law.

It also places more requirements on farms and chemical companies.

Employers of farmworkers would be required to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, while pesticide manufacturers would be forced to produce labels in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Tags Joe Neguse Tom Udall
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