Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Court Reinstates EPA Ban on Brain-Harming Pesticide

For Immediate Release: August 9, 2018

Seattle, WA – In a decision released this morning, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals mandated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must finalize its ban on the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos within 60 days. The judge determined that EPA broke the law by allowing continued use of the pesticide — applied to fruits, vegetables, grain and nuts — despite scientific evidence linked to impacts on children’s developing brains.

Read the full court order on chlorpyrifos.

Hawai’i recently banned the pesticide in that state, and California scientists recently listed it as an air contaminant and developmental toxicant, noting it poses risks to children in their air, water and food. The decision today was in response to years-long litigation brought by Pesticide Action Network (PAN), NRDC, Earthjustice, and more recently, farmworker organizations.

Kristin Schafer, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network North America, released the following statement:

“Children, farmworkers, rural families and science are all huge winners today. The court affirmed that EPA’s job is to protect public health, not industry profits — and found that their reversal of the planned ban of this brain-harming pesticide was in fact illegal. Sadly, under this administration it takes judges to force our public agencies to stand up to corporate interests and do their jobs.”


Chlorpyrifos is a widely used and highly-volatile neurotoxic chemical that study after study has shown is harming the development of children’s brains. One study even used MRI technology to link chlorpyrifos exposure to changes in brain architecture. And when mothers are exposed during pregnancy, their children have lower IQs, developmental delays and increased risk of autism.

Based on dozens of studies like those mentioned above — and in response to a 2007 lawsuit by PAN and our partners — EPA scientists put forward a proposal in late 2015 to withdraw all uses of chlorpyrifos on food crops. In fall 2016, they published a follow-up assessment of health risks that found that, through their diet, infants were being exposed to the pesticide at levels 140 times what could be considered safe. The scientists also found that workers were exposed at unsafe levels in the field, and that drinking water was contaminated at concerning levels.

The proposal to effectively ban chlorpyrifos was moving forward in time for a court-ordered deadline, and the agency pulled together a strong scientific case to back up the action. Then in an about-face decision in March 2017, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called the science on chlorpyrifos “unresolved,” and said agency experts will continue thinking about it until at least 2022.


Paul Towers, ptowers@panna.org, or 916.216.1082

Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

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