New Federal Bill Would Ban Pesticide Toxic to Kids

WASHINGTON – A bill introduced in the Senate today would protect children nationwide by banning chlorpyrifos—a pesticide linked to learning disabilities—from use on U.S. fruits and vegetables.

Introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), this bill would provide critical protections, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the new administration is currently fighting a proposed ban on the chemical. This is despite EPA’s own 2016 health analysis, which showed residues on fruits and vegetables led to exposures in children up to 140 times higher than EPA’s safety limit.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network petitioned EPA to ban chlorpyrifos a decade ago. In addition to today’s legislative action, the groups are continuing to appeal directly to EPA, as well as using the courts, to protect children’s health from this toxic chemical.

A statement follows from NRDC President Rhea Suh:

“This bill tells the chemical industry that our children’s health and safety are not for sale,” said Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Families shouldn’t have to worry the fruits and veggies they feed their kids could do them harm. Farmworkers shouldn’t have to fear that they might be exposed to toxic pesticides in the fields or that their children will be poisoned if it drifts into their communities. Our leaders in Washington must stop playing politics with children’s health.”

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. In May, 2017, just weeks after the new EPA administration announced it would not finalize the chlorpyrifos ban, 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.

In April, NRDC and Pesticide Action Network, represented by Earthjustice, argued in court that EPA failed to respond substantively to the groups’ petition to ban the chemical by the court-ordered deadline of March 31, 2017. Last week, however, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the groups . While the decision was based on a narrow procedural issue and did not address the health threats of the pesticide or the validity of our challenge, it means chlorpyrifos can still be used on food crops, potentially for years to come.

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.

Earlier this year, NRDC also joined nearly 50 doctors, nurses, public health experts and scientific researchers in urging EPA to take swift action in light of new research suggesting much smaller concentrations of the pesticide than previously believed are dangerous.


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, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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