The agency broke the law by continuing to allow use of the toxic pesticide despite scientific proof that the chemical harms children’s developing brains.
In a win for public health, federal courts just ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize its long-awaited ban on the chemical chlorpyrifos—a toxic pesticide known to cause learning disabilities in children—from being used on produce sold in the United States. The decision is the result of a lawsuit filed by NRDC as part of a coalition of labor and health organizations, represented by Earthjustice.
“This is a victory for parents everywhere who want to feed their kids fruits and veggies without fear it’s harming their brains or poisoning communities,” says Erik Olson, the senior director of NRDC’s Health & Food program.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the EPA broke the law by ignoring sound science—some of which came from the agency itself—and allowing produce to still be treated with the chemical. It is well documented that exposure of the pesticide in early life, even at low levels, can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reductions in IQ, developmental delays, and ADHD.
The ban is long overdue. NRDC has been fighting to keep chlorpyrifos off our fruits and veggies for more than a decade, ever since the science became clear. After the Obama administration nearly finalized a ban in 2016, the Trump administration reversed course and allowed the toxic pesticide to continue contaminating our food supply, including kids’ favorites, like apples, oranges, and berries.
Some have said the administration’s illegal delay was related to the close ties between the nation’s largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, Dow Chemical, and President Trump. The company reportedly donated $1 million for Trump’s inauguration, and its CEO previously played a chief advisory role to the president, heading up his now defunct American Manufacturing Council.
In the meantime, states like Hawaii stepped up to enact their own chlorpyrifos bans. The court’s decision gets us significantly closer to a necessary federal protection of our food supply.
“Some things are too sacred to play politics with—and our kids top the list,” Olson says. “The court has made it clear that children’s health must come before powerful polluters.”