Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Television show and body testing confirm children’s exposure to neurotoxic pesticide

Parents cite injustice, call for a ban on widely-used chlorpyrifos


Cutler-Orosi, California and Kekaha, Hawai’i – Following a two-hour special that aired on French television earlier this week and was posted online yesterday, mothers and health professionals are pressing officials in California and Hawai’i to ban the neurotoxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, after the pesticide was found in hair samples of every child tested.  

“It’s unconscionable that pesticides are being found in the hair and bodies of our children. State and federal officials have a responsibility to ban chlorpyrifos and make sure our children are protected in our homes and schools from these hazardous chemicals,” said Malia Chun, a mother of a Hawaiian girl tested, and who also serves on the board of the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action. 

The television special, produced by Martin Boudot for France 2, the French national tv station, highlights research linking chlorpyrifos to falling IQs, autism and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in children and includes interviews with researchers like Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a specialist at the UC Davis MIND Institute.  

The television report and testing also raises issues of environmental injustice. According to research by the California Department of Public Health, Latino schoolchildren are nearly twice as likely as their white peers to attend school near the heaviest and most hazardous pesticide use.  

“It surprises me that someone from another country had to come to learn more about the use of certain pesticides that are dangerous to my family’s health. In fact, the hair samples taken by the reporter found that my child has been exposed to multiple pesticides. It puts things in perspective as to where state priorities are. Department of Pesticide Regulation officials need to act swiftly to ban the chemical,“ said Claudia Angulo, a Latina mother of children in California’s San Joaquin Valley, whose hair was sampled.   

In California, of the six children tested, each had at least fifty different pesticides in their body. In Hawai’i, each had over thirty-five different pesticides.  

Hair testing is an affordable and robust method for testing exposures. Levels of exposure can’t be directly linked to health effects, without additional information, but they do raise concerns around potential impacts.   “Evidence of the neurotoxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, was found in children’s bodies, as well as breakdown products that generally tell us that these children were exposed to other types of neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides. These results show that these children were exposed to a cocktail of pesticides, and the consequences of exposure to such mixtures over a lifetime are not known, nor is the issue of exposure to such mixtures currently evaluated by our regulatory agencies,” said Emily Marquez, an endocrinologist and staff scientist at PAN. 

Many of the pesticides found in the children’s hair are still allowed for use in California and Hawai’i but are banned in France and many others remain on the list of Highly Hazardous Pesticides. According to the California Department of Public Health, chlorpyrifos is one of the top ten most widely used pesticides near California schools and the University of Hawai’i has documented chlorpyrifos in the air near schools on Kaua’i.  

Kaua’i County Council Member Gary Hooser and others have publicly called on Hawai’i Governor David Ige to ban the pesticide. In California, the broad-based coalition, Californians for Pesticide Reform, has pressed for a ban, as federal officials have indicated they are moving to ban the chemical, though potentially waivering under pressure from the main manufacturer, Dow. 

Press contacts:
Paul Towers, PAN North America, (916) 216-1082, ptowers@panna.org
Angel Garcia, El Quinto Sol de America, (559) 667-2966, angel@elquintosoldeamerica.org

Summary of Test Results

French Study test results



Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

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

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