California to Ban Pesticide Toxic to Kids

Joan Cusick for Californians for Pesticide Reform

In a groundbreaking win for children in California—and across the United States—Governor Newsom’s administration started the process to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos (pronounced “klor-PEER-a-foss”). California is an agricultural powerhouse, growing fruits and vegetables sold around the world. This action protects farming communities and the food supply.

California is the country’s top user of chlorpyrifos, using close to a million pounds per year mainly on fruits, nuts, and vegetables. An increasingly overwhelming body of science—including from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California's EPA itself—shows that exposure to low levels of chlorpyrifos in early life can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reductions in IQ, developmental delay, and ADHD.

California’s agricultural communities, burdened with disproportionate risk from contaminated air, water, food, and homes, have been working with children’s health experts to demand action in Sacramento for decades. To prevent harm to further generations of California’s children, chlorpyrifos needs to be out of the fields as soon as possible. As Angel Garcia, a community organizer with the Tulare County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety notes, “Right now is the height of the chlorpyrifos season in the San Joaquin Valley. We’re grateful to the governor for the decision to cancel chlorpyrifos and urge [Governor Newsom] to make sure the process wraps up as soon as possible. Any use of this pesticide poses a continued threat to our communities and a life sentence for children who suffer brain damage as a result of exposure.”

California’s EPA is on strong footing to enact a ban because doctors, researchers, agency scientists, and even the courts have found that using chlorpyrifos puts children at risk, particularly in California. 

Today’s announcement initiates a formal regulatory process. Advocates for children’s health and farmworkers will now need to keep the pressure on to ensure chlorpyrifos is out of the fields and opposition from the chemical manufacturer are defeated. For this reason, we will continue to stand with farmworkers and their families in support of Senator Durazo’s SB 458, which, if enacted, would stop chlorpyrifos use in January 2020. SB 458 is currently moving through the state senate.

In conjunction with action to ban chlorpyrifos, Governor Newsom announced a proposal of $5.7 million to support the transition to safer and more sustainable farming in California. This long-awaited investment can not only prevent against harmful pesticides used in replacement of chlorpyrifos but also sets the stage for the state to be a leader in growing food without poisoning workers, communities, and the food supply.

Ban Chlorpyrifos

About the Authors

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman

Senior Scientist, Health and Environment program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.