“Short-Term Fix” Won’t Protect Kids from Chlorpyrifos

California's temporary recommendations restricting use of chlorpyrifos fall short of the protection that Californians continue to demand.

Last week dozens of Californians traveled to Sacramento to urge the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to protect their families by banning the brain toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. Thousands of NRDC members also called on DPR to take decisive action. Today, DPR responded with new temporary recommendations restricting use of chlorpyrifos, but the limits fall short of the protection that Californians continue to demand.

We know that exposure to organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos—even at low levels previously considered safe—can lead to reduced IQ, developmental delays, and increased risk of learning disabilities. Farmworkers and their children, many of whom are Latinx, face additional, disproportionate risk because the chemical is used so close to where they live, work, and go to school—resulting in exposures from air, drinking water, and dust in their homes.

And the health impacts of chlorpyrifos don’t end near the farm. Chlorpyrifos residues are lurking on many fruits and vegetables, at levels up to 14,000 percent higher than the “safe” limits. Right now, organic food is the only surefire way to avoid these and other synthetic pesticide residues – but not everyone has access to organic food.

DPR announced that its new measures discontinue the use of chlorpyrifos on “most crops,” but the details tell a different story. While the recommendations will reduce chlorpyrifos use at the margins, the pesticide will still be sprayed on many common crops across the state, including grapes, nuts, and citrus. It will also remain allowed for use on many more crops, if applied as granules or through drip irrigation systems.

Scientists, the U.S. EPA (under President Obama), DPR, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have all concluded that ongoing chlorpyrifos use poses an unacceptable risk to developing children. As the Trump Administration continues to shirk its duty to protect our youth, temporary measures that only “nibble around the edges” are not enough. California can act now by halting all use of this neurotoxin.

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