Cal/EPA Assessment Finds Pesticide Chlorpyrifos Poses Risks to California Children

SAN FRANCISCO (January 11, 2016) –  A long awaited health assessment from the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) finds that children are at risk from the dangerous agricultural pesticide chlorpyrifos. The chemical is a widely-used toxic pesticide that can interfere with brain development in fetuses, infants and children.

However, despite extensive technical comments from experts calling into question a model developed by Dow, the company which sells chlorpyrifos, the assessment continued to rely on this model. The model does not account for extensive evidence tying low-level chlorpyrifos exposures during critical windows of brain development to lasting neurological damage.

A recent study found that Latino children were almost twice as likely to attend schools in close proximity to where the most toxic pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, are applied.

Following is a statement by Veena Singla, staff scientist with NRDC’s health program:

“The assessment is a step in the right direction because it finally accounts for the on-the-ground reality that communities face every day—pesticide drifting away from fields and into nearby homes and schools, a reality that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored. But there are still significant flaws which Cal/EPA needs to address before finalizing the document. The Department of Pesticide Regulation’s reliance on industry science seriously underestimates threats to children.

“Latino children living in agricultural communities are disproportionately at risk of exposure to this toxic pesticide. So failure to adequately evaluate the health impacts from chlorpyrifos is an ongoing environmental injustice directly impacting this community.

“Cal/EPA must not continue to allow industry science to trump the health of California’s kids. The finalized risk assessment needs to thoroughly evaluate the harm to the developing brain of children, and we believe a ban of chlorpyrifos from California fields is needed to protect kids and communities from the harms of this toxic pesticide.”


Troubling data continues to emerge from California, where more than 1 million pounds of chlorpyrifos are used every year on the state’s crops. In 2013 (the latest year for which data are available), there was a big jump in chlorpyrifos use in California.

New studies indicate that in addition to their brains, children’s lungs may also be at risk from chlorpyrifos. Researchers found greater risks for asthma-like symptoms or decreased lung function in kids associated with exposures to pesticides including chlorpyrifos.

Additionally, there is extensive evidence showing that low-level exposures of chlorpyrifos during critical windows of brain development can cause lasting damage. Studies have shown that these impacts include developmental delays, reduced cognitive capacity, behavioral problems and learning challenges. A recent study found long-term harm to children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb – 11-year-olds whose mothers had been exposed to chlorpyrifos – had tremors in both arms that affected their ability to draw. The study’s authors expressed concern that this damage could hinder these children’s writing abilities and success in school.


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