Court OKs EPA’s Delay in Weighing Ban on Pesticide Toxic to Kids

Procedural Decision Does Not Dispute EPA’s Own Science Linking Chemical to Learning Disabilities, But Will Allow Agency to Continue Putting Children at Risk

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be allowed to continue putting children nationwide at risk by delaying a decision on a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos—a pesticide linked to learning disabilities—from use on U.S. fruits and vegetables, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

The court’s order was based on a narrow procedural issue; it did not address the safety of the pesticide or the substantive validity of the Natural Resources Defense Council and its partners’ challenge to EPA. It comes in a lawsuit filed in April by NRDC and Pesticide Action Network, represented by Earthjustice, after EPA failed to respond substantively to the groups’ petition to ban the chemical by the court-ordered deadline of March 31, 2017. This effectively greenlighted its continued use on food crops.

However, the agency has not refuted its own 2016 health analysis that showed residues on fruits and vegetables led to exposures in children up to 140 times higher than EPA’s safety limit, which had initially led the agency to propose a ban of the pesticide.

In a further effort to pursue a ban on the chemical, NRDC and its partners, joined by seven states, filed an administrative appeal with EPA on June 5, challenging the agency’s failure to finalize the ban on chlorpyrifos. That appeal is still pending.

A statement follows from Erik Olson, Director of the Health Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“The new EPA administration is handing out favors to its cronies in the chemical industry, at the expense of children’s health. This dangerous chemical has no place in our communities or on the food we feed our families. EPA’s own science shows there are unsafe residues of the pesticide on common fruits and vegetables—including kid favorites like apples and oranges. We will continue to fight to keep all kids safe from this toxic chemical.”


In the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas, chlorpyrifos was banned from household use nearly two decades ago but is still widely used on many U.S. food crops, including children’s favorites like apples, oranges and strawberries.

Significant science shows that exposure to low levels of the pesticide in early life can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reductions in IQ, developmental delay and ADHD.

Farmworkers—the majority of whom are Latino—and their children face additional, disproportionate risk because the chemical is used so close to where they live, work and go to school—resulting in exposures from air, water and dust in their homes. Earlier this month, news reports suggest a dozen farmworkers in California may have been poisoned by the pesticide (and dozens more put at risk) after inhaling a noxious odor that blew in from a neighboring field.

Earlier this year, NRDC joined nearly 50 doctors, nurses, public health experts and scientific researchers in urging the agency to take swift action in light of new research suggesting much smaller concentrations of the pesticide than previously believed are dangerous. Additionally, on June 5, NRDC and over a dozen environmental, health, farmworker, and Latino organizations filed objections to EPA’s failure to ban chlorpyrifos. Seven states also filed objections to EPA’s decision.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.