Energy & Environment

EPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to ban the use of a pesticide that has been linked to developmental issues in children from use on foods. 

In a statement on Wednesday, the agency said that it was revoking all food tolerances for a chemical called chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to lower IQ, impaired working memory and negative effects on motor development.  

The agency said it would be reckoning all “tolerances” which establish how much of a pesticide is permitted in food, through a new final rule. In addition, it will issue a notice outlining its intent to cancel existing registered uses of the chemical. 

“Today EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health. Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. 

“After the delays and denials of the prior administration, EPA will follow the science and put health and safety first,” he added. 

The Trump administration had sought to continue the use of chlorpyrifos, issuing a proposal to do so in December. That proposal was never finalized, though, as it was issued shortly before the Biden administration took over. 

In its announcement on Wednesday, the EPA indicated that it would continue to review non-food uses of chlorpyrifos. 

The latest move follows a court order earlier this year that gave the agency limited time to either find uses for the pesticide that are safe or outlaw it. 

“The EPA has spent more than a decade assembling a record of chlorpyrifos’s ill effects and has repeatedly determined, based on that record, that it cannot conclude, to the statutorily required standard of reasonable certainty, that the present tolerances are causing no harm,” the majority opinion in that case stated. 

Organizations that had been fighting to ban the substances celebrated the news Wednesday. 

“Today, we celebrate this huge victory alongside the men and women who harvest our food, who have waited too long for a ban on this pesticide,” said Teresa Romero, president of United Farm Workers, in a statement. 

“We are relieved that farmworkers and their families will no longer have to worry about the myriad of ways this pesticide could impact their lives,” Romero added. 

Agricultural workers can be exposed to chlorpyrifos through their jobs and the general public can be exposed to through food. 

Like the Biden administration, the Obama administration wanted to ban chlorpyrifos, and proposed a rule to do so in 2015. 

In 2017, however, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said further studies were warranted.

Updated at 4:15 p.m.

Tags Michael Regan Scott Pruitt

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