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Production Ends for Pesticide Linked to Health Problems in Kids

The largest manufacturer of a pesticide linked to impaired brain development in children will end its production.  (jcesar2015/Pixabay)
The largest manufacturer of a pesticide linked to impaired brain development in children will end its production. (jcesar2015/Pixabay)
February 24, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota farmers who use a controversial pesticide on their corn, soybeans and other crops will need to find another product next year after the manufacturer announced it will end production in 2020 because of declining sales. The decision by Corteva to quit making chlorpyrifos comes after California banned the pesticide effective this year.

The advocacy group Earthjustice has pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to support the product's ban. Earthjustice attorney Marisa Ordonia said its use has been linked to brain damage and other health defects in children.

"I think what it sends a signal of is that people don't want this. They don't want it on their food and they're responding to that," Ordonia said. "You know, if their sales have declined, I think that tells us something."

Earthjustice wanted other U.S. manufacturers to stop making the pesticide, which has been banned in Germany and Sweden, among other countries. According to research by the Society of Environmental Journalists, there is significant use of the pesticide in eastern South Dakota, but it is not as concentrated as parts of surrounding states such as Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

The World Health Organization considers chlorpyrifos "moderately hazardous" to humans based on its acute toxicity. But exposure beyond recommended levels has been linked to neurological effects, along with developmental and autoimmune disorders.

Ordonia said there's also evidence it can harm water and wildlife.

"One of the things about the way that chlorpyrifos works is that it affects the nervous system of anything, so not just the pests that it's designed to kill but also people, which is why it's so dangerous," she said.

The United States banned most home uses of chlorpyrifos in 2001, but not agricultural uses. The EPA has resisted removing the product from the market, saying additional safety tests are needed. Corteva said it will continue to back the pesticide during the EPA's review.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD