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New EPA Report Links Pesticide to Fish, Wildlife Concerns

Each year, millions of acres of crops in the U.S. are sprayed with chlorpyrifos. (Adobe Stock)
Each year, millions of acres of crops in the U.S. are sprayed with chlorpyrifos. (Adobe Stock)
September 24, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new risk assessment of chlorpyrifos, but critics of the agency say there's already enough strong evidence that the commonly-used pesticide is harmful to children and are calling for a federal ban.

This is the third federal assessment of this chemical, despite decades of research showing chlorpyrifos is a potent neurotoxin that can harm the developing brain. It was first used in the 1950s.

Nathan Donley, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the Obama administration announced plans to ban the pesticide in 2016.

"Then a new administration came in, and that decision was reversed," Donley said. "This has been tied up in the courts for a number of years now. I believe the 9th Circuit Court decided to basically give the EPA and ultimatum and say, 'You need to decide whether you're going to ban this or not.' The EPA said, 'We're not going to ban it. We're going to study it some more.' "

The EPA is slated to issue its proposal in October, and Donley believes a ban is unlikely.

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation has said it's an important pest-management tool. But chlorpyrifos is already banned in Europe, and in California and Hawaii.

Donley pointed out the pesticide is used on a variety of crops, from wheat and sugar beets to vegetables and fruits. He said traces can be found on supermarket produce, which can be especially risky for pregnant women.

"Chlorpyrifos can pass through the placenta, so it is found in umbilical cord samples, and it can reach the uterus," Donley said. "And so, there's a big issue with pregnant women, you know, eating food that contain traces of chlorpyrifos, and that reaching the fetus."

Studies also have shown that the children of some women who ingest chlorpyrifos have lower IQs and higher rates of attention-deficit disorder.

Last month, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Representative Joe Neguse, D-Colo., introduced the "Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticides Act," which proposes reforming the nation's pesticide laws.

"One of the parts of this bill would be to ban all organophosphates, which would include chlorpyrifos," Donley explained. "So this bill would really overhaul our pesticide regulatory system and get rid of the 'worst of the worst' pesticides."

He said it would be the first sweeping update to pesticide use since the mid-1990s.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - ID