Chlorpyrifos (trade name Lorsban), a potent pesticide, was banned for home use in the United States in 2000. Now the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
is countermanding the Obama administration’s ban on its use on food crops.
Scientific evidence has shown that chlorpyrifos could be potentially harmful to human health, and the pesticide has been linked to learning disabilities in children. Research studies found that children exposed to organophosphate pesticides including chlorpyrifos are at higher risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as loss of intelligence and behavior problems. Exposure to low doses of the neurotoxin in utero also has been found to affect brain development in fetuses, increasing the risk of autism in children.
In its decision, the EPA stated that data supporting objections to agricultural use of the chemical pesticide were “not sufficiently valid, complete, or reliable” and that environmental groups opposing the use of chlorpyrifos had failed to prove that a ban was warranted.
Chemical residue from the pesticide can be found in nuts, peaches, nectarines, cucumbers, broccoli, corn, soybeans, cranberries, and other fruits and vegetables. Hawaii was the first state to ban chlorpyrifos in 2018. California and New York are considering enacting statewide bans.
In June 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, sent a letter to Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator, cautioning that failing to remove chlorpyrifos from the market “puts all children at risk” and accusing the EPA of ignoring its own findings that chlorpyrifos poses specific risks to children. “EPA has consistently found that chlorpyrifos is not safe, particularly in regard to in-utero exposure and exposures to children,” the groups wrote.
The AAP had published a study on prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos in 2006, which found that inner-city minority children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos used for indoor pest control in their home environments during their first 3 years of life scored lower on psychomotor and developmental tests than children with lower levels of exposure. The highly exposed children were also significantly more likely to display mental and motor delays such as attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and “pervasive” developmental disorders at age 3 years compared with children with lower exposure.
The EPA said it will continue to review chlorpyrifos and make its next determination by 2022.