Maryland Phasing Out Chlorpyrifos Use


ANNAPOLIS, M.D.—The Maryland General Assembly announcedthat virtually all use of chlorpyrifos—a pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children—will be phased out in the state by the end of 2020, following years of pressure from public health, farmworker and community groups. Most uses are required to end on December 31, 2020, and all uses will be banned by the end of 2021. Unfortunately, agricultural lobbyists were able to add a provision to eliminate the law after four years, which forces advocates to pass legislation in 2024 to continue the ban. 

A statement follows from Tom HuckerSenior Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

“This is a landmark victory for the health of Maryland’s children, farmworkers, and rural families. Chlorpyrifos threatens the brain development of children everywhere who eat the fruits and vegetables grown with it and poisons the people who live and work in agricultural communities. But the fight is not over since a provision to eliminate the law after four years was unfortunately added to this legislationSo, we will continue to push for a permanent ban on this harmful pesticideMarylandershould not have to worry about this dangerous toxin re-appearing on their food after 2024.”  

Adapted from World War II-era nerve gases, chlorpyrifos was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from use in household products, like roach sprays, nearly two decades ago but is still widely used on many U.S. food crops, including children’s favorites like apples, oranges and strawberries.

EPA’s own assessment of the chemical’s risks 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. This assessment is based on dozens ofscientific studies, including from Dow Chemical, the nation’s largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos until recently.

Farmworkers and families in agricultural communities face disproportionate harm because the chemical is used so close to where theylive, work and go to school—resulting in exposures from air, water and dust in their homes.

NRDC and partner groupshave been fighting for more than two decades to get chlorpyrifos out of our food supply. This includes ongoing litigationagainst the Trump administration over its refusal to ban the chemical from use on U.S. food crops. In 2018, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ordered the EPA to end all uses of chlorpyrifos, but it remains in use.

In the absence of federal protections, states are starting to stand up.Hawaiihas also started the process to ban the chemical, and California, New York state, and Hawaii have previously banned the use of chlorpyrifos. Maryland becomes the first state in the continental United States to ban it via legislative action.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 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 www.nrdc.organd follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​