The EPA Will Not Ban a Pesticide That Can Harm Kids’ Brains
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided on July 18 to keep the pesticide chlorpyrifos on the market, despite numerous studies linking it to brain disorders in children. In a move cheered by chemical manufacturers and agribusiness firms, the agency said there wasn’t enough evidence to tie chlorpyrifos to neurological defects, contradicting the scientific consensus and the EPA’s own research, which recommends that the substance be banned.
“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children’s brains,” said Patti Goldman, a lawyer for Earthjustice, in a statement (referring to laws in states like Hawaii that ban the chemical’s use). Earthjustice is one of several groups that challenged the EPA in court over the use of the chemical.
The chemical’s producers and boosters say farmers rely on pesticides like chlorpyrifos to keep insects off their crops, and they question the damaging evidence.
Chlorpyrifos, patented by Dow Chemical, is a nerve agent that disrupts an enzyme necessary for proper nerve functioning. For ants crawling up a cornstalk, this usually means a quick death. For workers who handle pesticides, as well as for their kids and kids pawing unwashed fruit in the produce aisle, it can mean an increased risk of memory loss, attention disorders, learning disabilities, and related problems. Research has shown that exposure to even small amounts of chlorpyrifos can slow children’s brain development. What’s more, the chemical belongs to a family of highly toxic substances known as organophosphates, which, studies have shown, increase the risk of autism.
The documented dangers are long term as well. Columbia University researchers found that chlorpyrifos contributed to developmental delays that plagued children for years. Seven years after being exposed to the pesticide, children in the study were more likely to experience problems with their working memory. These children were also more likely to experience hand tremors — 11 years after exposure. Studies that examined the effects of chlorpyrifos in farmworker communities found…