Trump EPA Rejects Pesticide Ban, Threatening Kids' Health

Toxic pesticide residues on food will remain a threat to children’s health as a result of the Trump administration’s rejection of the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos—a pesticide linked to increased risk of learning disabilities and  behavioral problems. This is yet another example of EPA Administrator Pruitt’s willingness to go against the expertise of the Agency's own staff and sacrifice children’s health for industry profits.

The Trump EPA’s denial of the NRDC and Pesticide Action Network 2007 petition to ban chlorpyrifos contradicts EPA’s own analysis from November 2016 (just five months ago!) that found widespread risk to children from residues of the pesticide on food, in drinking water, and in the air in agricultural communities. Up until last night, EPA explained that because of these risks a ban was needed to protect children's health.

Pruitt’s decision contradicts the guidance from experts within the agency itself, reflecting a stark refusal to follow the science. Indeed, today’s about-face move was chock full of “alternative facts” to defend this reversal.

Here are the real facts about chlorpyrifos from real experts on children’s health:

  • Significant scientific research points to a link between chlorpyrifos and learning disabilities. From the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Multiple epidemiological and toxicological studies indicate that children who have had an exposure to organophosphate pesticides such as chlorpyrifos in both urban and agricultural settings are at increased risk for abnormal neurodevelopment with persistent loss of intelligence and abnormalities of behavior.”
  • EPA’s own experts have raised the alarm for a decade. Since 2007, EPA has convened three independent scientific review panels (2008, 2012, 2016)—at each one, experts affirmed the evidence of harm to children at levels lower than allowed by EPA and raised concerns that current exposures could therefore put children at risk.
  • Studies show that children are exposed to the chemical through fruits and vegetables. Since 2000 when indoor uses of chlorpyrifos were banned—due to concerns about impacts to children’s health—numerous studies have tied children’s exposures to pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. As shown in the graph below, when children were fed an organic diet (lacking residues) the evidence of chlorpyrifos measured in their body decreased dramatically and when they resumed the conventional diet, their levels went back up.

Despite these real facts, the Trump administration has decided to put the needs of chemical corporations before children’s health. Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids. If the EPA refuses to protect the American people from this hazardous pesticide, we'll take them to court. The health of our children depends on it.

Data from Lu et al 2006

Data from Lu et al 2006

  • EPA’s 2016 analysis found that any amount of chlorpyrifos residue on popular fruits and vegetables, like apples, can result in unsafe exposures for kids. These residues are routinely found even on the inside of fruit you peel, like bananas, oranges and melons.
  • Children in agricultural communities, like in California, are doubly and triply at risk because in addition to food, they are faced with unhealthy levels in the air drifting off of fields and higher risk of contaminated drinking water.
  • Nearly 50 scientific researchers, medical doctors, nurses, and public health professionals sent EPA a letter urging cancellation of the remaining agricultural uses of this dangerous neurotoxic pesticide, and praising the conclusions of EPA’s 2016 human health risk assessment. 

Experts warn of an alarming increase in learning disabilities. We cannot let these facts be ignored. We need to do everything we can to help our kids get off to a good start. This means getting toxic chemicals, like chlorpyrifos, out of our fields and off our children's plates. We will see Administrator Pruitt in court and require him to provide real evidence, not just “alternative facts.” In the meantime, in the face of EPA’s refusal to follow the science, families with young children (or on the way) should eat organic fruits and vegetables, as much as possible.

About the Authors

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman

Senior Scientist, Health and Environment program

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Health program
Blog Post

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that residues from the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos are lurking on fruits & vegetables—up to 14,000 percent higher than the “safe” limits.

Blog Post

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally took a step today to protect all children from the harmful effects of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.

Blog Post

In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a group of over 60 scientists, pediatricians, nurses and clinicians supported the proposal to ban the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos from use on food.

Join Us