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Toxic Brain Chemical Must Be Banned: Health Professionals Demand EPA Take Action

Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, 916-216-1082 (cell)

October 5, 2011

Toxic Brain Chemical Must Be Banned: Health Professionals Demand EPA Take Action

Children in rural communities get a “double-dose” of the pesticide  chlorpyrifos from food and drift from neighboring fields

Washington, DC — As children settle into the new school year, health professionals are demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ban the neurotoxic chemical chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on farms throughout the country and the same chemical that the agency banned some ten years ago for use in homes.

In a letter to be submitted to EPA tomorrow, over two dozen health professionals cite new science showing the health impacts of chlorpyrifos, including lowering IQs and increasing the risk of ADHD and learning disabilities among children.

“EPA should follow the science and take this brain toxin completely off the market” said Dr. David Carpenter, MD, Director Institute for Health & The Environment, University at Albany. “Chlorpyrifos poses serious threats to children’s health and doesn’t belong in our homes, on our farms, or on our cafeteria trays.”

The recent studies show that exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb and in early childhood, during critical development “windows,” can lead to lasting effects on the brain. Researchers now say that as many as 25% of all U.S. children may have IQs several points lower due to eating foods treated with chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides.

“Fruits and vegetables are essential for healthy children but shouldn't be grown with chlorpyrifos,”said Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, and one of the letter’s signatories. “Children in rural communities face a double dose of this brain poison. They are exposed to chlorpyrifos drifting from neighboring fields, and again when the pesticide is on their food.”

Chlorpyrifos was banned for use in homes over ten years ago because of it’s potential harm to children. But ten million pounds of chlorpyrifos are still used on agricultural fields each year. Air monitoring, biomonitoringand poisoning data confirm that extensive human exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to its continued use in agriculture. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control,the vast majority of us — including children — carry breakdown products of the chemical in our bodies.

Children living in farm communities are at especially high risk. In addition to exposure from food they may also be breathing in particles that drift into their classrooms and homes from nearby farms. Farmworker children are exposed even more, as parents sometimes carry residues of the pesticide home at the end of the day on clothing and shoes.

“Chlorpyrifos drift poses serious threats to communities like mine,” said Luis Medellin, of the community organization El Quinto Sol de America. Luis grew up in homes next to farms using chlorpyrifos in California’s San Joaquin Valley. “The realities on the ground show that this brain toxin can’t be used safely and should not be used in the fields.”

At age 17, Luis began using Pesticide Action Network’s Drift Catcher to document chemical drift from neighboring citrus fields, finding that a majority of samples contained chlorpyrifos. Residents also sampled chlorpyrifos in their urine, and all but one had levels above what EPA considers “acceptable.”

In their letter to EPA, health professionals are demanding that EPA ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. In their letter they state:

We urge EPA to act now on the weight of scientific evidence of health harms of chlorpyrifos for children and fetuses. It is time that EPA take action to protect the public health and provide a healthy legacy for our children and for future generations. We call on EPA to cancel all uses of pesticide chlorpyrifos.

Other letters with a similar demand were delivered to EPA from environmental health groups nationwide, including a petition signed by more than 6,000 concerned citizens across the country.


Available for interviews:

  • Dr. David Carpenter, MD, Professor, School of Public Health, Environmental Health Sciences, University at Albany., 518.525.2660.


  • Dr. Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Director of the Science & Environmental Health Network,


  • Dr. Susan Kegley, PhD, consulting scientist, Pesticide Action Network, chemist and expert on pesticide drift. Dr. Kegley is out of the country but may be reached via internet phone: 510-759-9397.


  • Anne Katten, MPH Pesticide and Work Safety Specialist, California Rural Legal Assistance,, 916. 446.7904 x19. Anne can address farmworker and rural community impacts from pesticide drift.


  • Luis Medellin, El Quinto Sol de America,, 559.723.4119. Luis can address California rural resident stories of chlorpyrifos drift in the state’s agricultural areas.


  • Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida,, 407.886.5151. Jeannie can detail chlorpyrifos drift impacts on rural families and farmworker families in Florida.



  • Studies linking chlorpyrifos exposure and lowered IQ, increased rates of ADHD
  • EPA’s re-evaluation of chlorpyrifos.
  • A letter submitted on behalf of over 50 environmental justice and farmworker organizations calling on US EPA to ban chlorpyrifos
  • A letter submitted by EarthJustice and Pesticide Action Network to US EPA on the dangers of chlorpyrifos pesticide drift
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