After finding the EPA had engaged in an “egregious delay” exposing a generation of American children to unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos, a judge on April 29 gave the agency 60 days to either modify or revoke the widely used pesticide’s registration.
Chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide, is strongly linked to brain damage in children. These and other health concerns have led several countries and some U.S. states to ban chlorpyrifos, but the chemical is still allowed on food crops in the U.S. after successful lobbying by its manufacturer.
Chlorpyrifos in food
Chlorpyrifos insecticides were introduced by Dow Chemical in 1965 and have been used widely in agricultural settings. Commonly known as the active ingredient in the brand names Dursban and Lorsban, chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, acaricide and miticide used primarily to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests on a variety of food and feed crops. Products come in liquid form as well as granules, powders and water-soluble packets, and may be applied by either ground or aerial equipment.
Chlorpyrifos is used on a wide variety of crops including apples, oranges, strawberries, corn, wheat, citrus and other foods families and their children eat daily. USDA’s Pesticide Data Program found chlorpyrifos residue on citrus and melons even after being washed and peeled. By volume, chlorpyrifos is most used on corn and soybeans, with over a million pounds applied annually to each crop. The chemical is not allowed on organic crops.
Non-agricultural uses include golf courses, turf, green houses and utilities.
Human health concerns
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents more than 66,000 pediatricians and pediatric surgeons, has warned that continued use of chlorpyrifos puts developing fetuses, infants, children and pregnant women at great risk.
Scientists have found that prenatal exposures to chlorpyrifos are associated with lower birth weight, reduced IQ, the loss of working memory, attention disorders and delayed motor development. Key studies are listed below.
See these comments to regulators from the Endocrine Society citing “ample evidence that chlorpyrifos has extensive effects on neurological and endocrine systems with demonstrated evidence of harm to humans and wildlife.”
Chlorpyrifos is also linked to acute pesticide poisoning and can cause convulsions, respiratory paralysis and sometimes, death.