Trump EPA Doubles Down on Refusal to Ban Pesticide Toxic to Kids

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today once again declared its refusal to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children. The announcement is the latest development in response to a lawsuit pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a coalition of labor and health organizations that are being represented by Earthjustice.

A March court order required the agency to formally respond to objections raised by the groups over EPA’s refusal to ban the toxic chemical from use on food crops, despite solid science—including from EPA’s own scientists—showing it harms the developing brain. The March order signaled the court’s increasing impatience with EPA’s repeated attempts at delay a decision on a proposed ban of the chemical.

NRDC intends to continue fighting to protect families by pushing for a ban on chlorpyrifos, and all other dangerous chemicals in its class, known as organophosphates.

A statement follows from Erik D. Olson, Senior Director for Health and Food at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
“Scientists have repeatedly made it clear that chlorpyrifos is linked to long-term harm to kids’ brains. But the Trump administration just keeps thumbing its nose at the science. Our leaders have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable residents—our kids—but this administration chooses instead to protect its deep-pocketed allies in the chemical industry. Until EPA gets this stuff out of our fields and off our food, this fight is not over.”

Adapted from World War II-era nerve gases, chlorpyrifos was banned 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.

NRDC has been fighting for more than two decades to get chlorpyrifos out of our food supply, and first petitioned EPA to ban it in 2007 with the Pesticide Action Network. EPA was finally on track to ban it at the end of 2016, after agency scientists twice found that the chemical fails to meet safety standards and should be banned. Shortly after taking office, however, the Trump administration reversed course and continues to fight to keep it on the market.

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 of scientific studies including from Dow Chemical, the nation’s largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos.

Dow Chemical has close ties to the President. 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.”

In the absence of federal protections, states are starting to stand up. California and Hawaii have already started the process to ban the chemical. And this spring the New York state legislature passed a ban that awaits the Governor’s signature.

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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 and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.