Say "yes" or say "no": court tells US EPA it must decide on petition to ban hazardous pesticide

After 8 years of waiting, advocates for public health and the environment are one step closer to knowing if the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will grant their petition to ban a dangerous pesticide that damages the developing brains of children.

On June 10, 2015, the 9th Circuit Court ordered EPA to respond to a petition filed by NRDC and Pesticide Action Network North America in 2007 to ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. In the years since 2007, the petition has been in a sort of "legal limbo," since EPA never granted or denied it. This new court order gives EPA until June 30, 2015 to finally indicate whether or not they intend to grant or deny the petition, so that action can move forward.

EPA recently completed an assessment of human health risks from chlorpyrifos use which had significant flaws and failed to protect workers and children. NRDC, along with a coalition of farmworker, health and environmental groups, submitted substantive technical comments to EPA.

EPA's lack of action on this dangerous pesticide continues to put Californians in harm's way. California is the biggest user of the pesticide in the US (there's about 5 million pounds used in the country, with over a million of that in California). California also employs almost a third of all the nation's agricultural workers, and EPA's assessment found that workers could be exposed to dangerous levels of chlorpyrifos in over 100 activities they perform on the job. Having workers who are poisoned, sickened, or suffer chronic health conditions because of unsafe pesticide exposures has real human and economic impacts for California. In addition, communities and agriculture are inextricably intertwined in California, with homes and schools right next to fields. The risk of pesticides drifting off fields is not an abstract problem for these families, but the reality of life every day.

In the meantime, California is also way over-due in evaluating the safety of continued use of chlorpyrifos in the state. California took a small step forward with its proposal to designate chlorpyrifos as "restricted use," but despite its impressive sounding name, this on its own will be inadequate to protect communities. With its comprehensive review, California has the opportunity to discard the flawed science EPA used and take the lead for public health in the Golden State.

We hope both US EPA and California will follow the science and move swiftly to institute the restrictions needed to protect families from chlorpyrifos threats.