EPA Resists Court Order to Protect Kids’ Health

The agency continues to refuse to finalize its ban of chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children.
Credit: Cameron Whitman/Stocksy

The agency continues to refuse to finalize its ban of chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children.

A federal court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize the ban on the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos last month, but the EPA is now asking the court to reconsider its decision. “The Trump administration is shameless in its refusal to ban this dangerous chemical that is poisoning our children’s brains,” says Erik Olson, senior director of Health & Food at NRDC.

A panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the EPA had broken the law by continuing to allow the use of chlorpyrifos despite scientific proof—including from the agency’s own scientists—that the chemical harms children’s developing brains. Exposure to the pesticide, which is sprayed on numerous U.S. food crops, including apples, oranges, and berries, has been shown to increase risk of learning disabilities, IQ reductions, developmental delay, and ADHD in children.

“Science, the law, and the EPA’s own staff have all made it clear this toxic stuff does not belong on our food or in our fields,” Olson says, “yet this administration is still going to bat for the billion-dollar chemical industry.”

The case against the EPA was brought by NRDC as part of a coalition of labor and health organizations led by Earthjustice—though NRDC’s fight against the chemical has now stretched on for more than a decade. In 2007, NRDC and the Pesticide Action Network petitioned the EPA for a ban, and in 2016, the Obama administration was on track to make it official.

However, the Trump administration reversed course soon after taking office, bringing to light its ties with Dow Chemical, the nation’s largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos. Among other things, the agrochemical giant reportedly donated $1 million for Trump’s inauguration, and its CEO was a chief advisor to the president, heading up his now defunct American Manufacturing Council.

Facing federal inaction, some states have started to tackle the issue on their own. Hawaii became the first state to ban the chemical in June. A month later, California—which uses nearly 20 percent of all the chlorpyrifos in the country—released a study that reaffirmed the scientific findings on the pesticide’s danger, setting the state up for restrictions on its use. NRDC, alongside its fight for a federal ban, is now pushing for California to put its findings into law to better protect state agricultural workers and communities, as well as all those who consume fruit, veggies, and nuts grown there.

“We will not stop fighting to put children’s health before powerful polluters,” Olson says.

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