Court Orders EPA to Ban Pesticide Toxic to Kids

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency must ban chlorpyrifos—a pesticide linked to worker poisonings and learning disabilities in children—on produce sold in the U.S. within 60 days unless it can identify a safe level of use, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today. The judges found the agency broke the law by continuing to allow the toxic chemical to be used to grow fruits and vegetables despite solid evidence—including from EPA’s own scientists—showing it harms the developing brain.

The ruling comes after a lawsuit by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and a coalition of labor and health organizations, represented by Earthjustice. The decision can be found here.

The following is a statement from Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at NRDC:

“The court ruled in favor of science, which has clearly shown that chlorpyrifos is too dangerous to be used to grow our food. The Trump EPA had allowed the continued use of this toxic pesticide, even though they knew it is damaging to human health – especially the developing brains of children. This will ensure that kids can eat fruits and vegetables free of this neurotoxin.”


NRDC has been fighting for over a decade to get chlorpyrifos off our fields and out of our food supply, petitioning EPA to ban it in 2007 with the Pesticide Action Network. EPA was finally on track to ban it at the end of 2016. But the Trump administration quickly reversed course—allowing continued spraying on all sorts of U.S. food crops, including children’s favorites like apples, oranges and berries.  Farmworkers and farmworker families who are predominantly Latinx are most exposed, and consumers across the country are at risk, too, given the widespread use of chlorpyrifos.

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

In the absence of EPA action, states have begun to get the pesticide out of the fields. As a result of a landmark settlement, California ended sales of chlorpyrifos in February of 2020 and completely banned spraying the pesticide in January of 2021.  Hawaii’s first in the nation ban goes into effect in 2022, New York has initiated a regulatory process and Maryland has committed to a phase-out.  Legislation is also pending in Congress to ban chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides nationwide.  

Following action at the state level, Corteva Inc (formally part of Dow chemical which was the largest US producer of chlorpyrifos) announced it will cease production of the chemical by the end of 2020.  Dow chemical had close ties to President Trump.  Among other things, 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.”

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 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.

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