News Release: January 5, 2015
Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098
Kimiko Martinez, NRDC, (310) 434-2344
Paul Towers, PANNA, (916) 216-1082
EPA’s Assessment of Dangerous Pesticide Leaves Communities at Risk
Continued widespread agricultural use of chlorpyrifos poses threats to children’s health
As 2014 drew to a close, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave a new year’s gift to industry and took steps to allow children and pregnant women to be more at risk of exposure to the widely-used neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, a chemical that interferes with brain development in fetuses, infants and children.
After years of waiting, EPA released their human health risk assessment, the result of a legal petition and several lawsuits filed by a coalition of environmental health groups. EPA’s new assessment relies heavily on one model and scant studies from Dow, the company that manufactures chlorpyrifos.
Fourteen years ago, the EPA banned household use of chlorpyrifos due to strong scientific evidence of negative effects on children’s health. However, agriculture uses were allowed to continue. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) urged the agency in 2007 to extend the ban to all uses because of the growing scientific evidence of brain impairments to children and the detrimental impacts to children and communities when pesticide drifts from farm fields onto neighboring homes, schools and playgrounds.
“We have gone to court because EPA has allowed children to be exposed to developmental impairments like reduced IQ, autism, and attention deficit disorder. EPA’s assessment depends far too much on flawed studies from industry, and children are left in harm’s way,” said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represented the groups in legal actions related to the petition.
Though banned for home uses because of dangers to children, chlorpyrifos is still heavily used on fruit and nut orchards, soybeans, and corn, with an estimated 5 million pounds applied in the U.S. annually.
EPA had long ignored children’s exposure to pesticide drift and had failed to act on peer-reviewed scientific studies showing brain impairments to children exposed to chlorpyrifos. California EPA is also assessing the harms caused by chlorpyrifos.
“The science on health impacts—together with many personal stories—overwhelmingly supports the need for a phase out,” said Margaret Reeves, Ph.D., senior scientist at PANNA. “There are numerous independent, peer-reviewed studies documenting risks to agricultural communities, but EPA and California officials have moved at a snail’s pace, and have failed to protect children’s health.”
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the pesticide because their bodies and brains are still developing, and chemicals that interfere with the nervous system during development may cause long-term or permanent damage. Children in agricultural communities face the greatest risks. All children may consume pesticide residues on food and in drinking water, but rural and farm children additionally may be exposed to pesticides drifting from treated fields into the places they live, learn and play. Family members who work on farms may carry pesticide residues into homes on their clothes and shoes at the end of the day.
“Many studies link chlorpyrifos with severe and long-lasting impacts to children, including developmental delays, lower IQ and behavioral problems,” said Veena Singla, Ph.D., staff scientist with NRDC. “EPA is failing to protect all our nation’s children equally because they ignored the bigger threats faced by kids in agricultural communities—it’s unfair and EPA needs to do more.”
- Chlorpyrifos fact sheet (Pesticide Action Network North America)
- Scientists and advocates warn of harmful pesticide's effects on children in California (March 2014, Veena Singla, Natural Resources Defense Council)
- Californians urge state government to take action on chlorpyrifos (March 2014, Medha Chandra, Pesticide Action Network)
- Give brains a chance, say scientists (Feb. 2014, Kristin Schafer, Pesticide Action Network)
- New studies show long-term harm to children from common pesticides (April 2011, Gina Solomon, Natural Resources Defense Council)
- Three new government-funded studies link pre-natal pesticide exposure and later learning disabilities (April 2011, Jennifer Sass, Natural Resources Defense Council)
- Report from California’s Department of Public Health showed that chlorpyrifos was one of the top 10 most frequently detected pesticides applied within a quarter mile of schools in California
- Map documenting where chlorpyrifos is used
- List of foods with documented chlorpyrifos residue
- 2007 petition to ban chlorpyrifos
About the Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer. Visit us at www.earthjustice.org and follow us on Twitter @Earthjustice
About the Pesticide Action Network
Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN North America, or PANNA) works to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens’ action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to ensure the transition to a just and viable society. Visit us at www.panna.org and follow us on Twitter @pesticideaction