Scientists have found that commonly used pesticide products, which include insecticides and herbicides, can cause long-term health impacts such as cancer, neurological problems, and learning disabilities. Some can even kill people by poisoning them.
Take chlorpyrifos. Scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that this pesticide—widely used on food crops—can damage children’s brains, but under President Trump, the agency rolled back a proposed ban. Then there’s glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, which the World Health Organization has linked to cancer. Yet this weed killer, sold by chemical-manufacturing giant Bayer (formerly Monsanto), remains approved by the EPA—most recently under the Trump administration—and is still widely sold in stores and used pervasively in agriculture. Meanwhile, over the past two decades, the monarch butterfly population has dropped an astounding 80 percent, as the herbicide has decimated the native milkweed plants that monarch caterpillars need to survive.
According to federal law, the EPA must refuse to approve overly harmful pesticides, but it has failed to do so, instead bowing down to the agrochemical industry. For example, despite increasing evidence that shows neonicotinoid insecticides, or neonics, are a leading cause of pollinator die-offs, often killing bees on contact and harming their ability to navigate, forage, and reproduce even at very low exposures. Yet they continue to be the most heavily used class of insecticides in the United States, wreaking havoc on pollinators. From spring 2017 to 2018 alone, more than 40 percent of U.S. honeybee colonies were lost.
NRDC is fighting in court against agrochemical giants like Dow and Bayer, as well as against government agencies that aren’t doing their job to protect human health and the environment. To protect farmworkers and families, butterflies and bumblebees, we must avoid overuse of harmful pesticides on farms as well as in schools, parks, homes, and public lands. But most of all, we must push federal, state, and local governments to ban all unsafe pesticide uses.