Trump EPA Rejects Ban on Pesticide Linked to Learning Disabilities in Children

The Trump administration has rejected a proposed ban on the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, leaving California kids and communities at risk of exposure to this chemical in food, water and the air. US EPA’s chlorpyrifos evaluation last fall found that the pesticide is unsafe to use in any amount, because use leads to toxic residues on fruits and vegetables, drinking water contamination, and harmful drift from fields in agricultural communities. The chemical is found on numerous common fruits and vegetables at levels up to 14,000 times greater than those previously thought to be safe for kids to eat.


US EPA had proposed to ban all food uses of chlorpyrifos in 2015, but Wednesday’s action from Scott Pruitt’s EPA is a complete about-face. Because federal action will be stymied, California must take up where EPA left off, implement the ban and protect our state’s children from Trump Administration backtracking.

In the face of an administration that is all too willing to ignore science and dismantle common-sense public health and safety protections, California needs to follow the lead of US EPA in recognizing the significant science that shows low-level exposures to chlorpyrifos before birth can be linked to the following types of neurodevelopmental problems:

What’s at stake in California

There’s about a half million expectant moms and 2.5 million children under age 4 in California that could be at risk from toxic residues of chlorpyrifos on food, including favorite fruits like apples.

A million pounds of chlorpyrifos are used every year in CA, with Kern, Fresno, Tulare and Imperial Counties topping the list at more than 100,000 pounds of the chemical used in each. Latino schoolchildren disproportionately attend a school with chlorpyrifos used nearby, with over 300 schools and 150,000 children in harm’s way.

Farmworkers, their families and agricultural communities face the biggest risks from chlorpyrifos drifting from fields into homes and schools. According to US EPA’s analysis, pregnant women in CA communities could be putting their babies at risk just by breathing—as shown in the graph below, the average levels of chlorpyrifos found in the air in Salinas, Ripon and Shafter exceed EPA’s target risk level.

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Graph shows the EPA target risk level for chlorpyrifos in air, for chronic exposure to adults, compared to the average air levels measured in Salinas, Ripon, and Shafter by the CA Department of Pesticide Regulation. (Source: US EPA 2016 Chlorpyrifos Revised Human Health Risk Assessment for Registration Review, Table 9.1)

Within these dispassionate numbers are the stories of California children who bear the brunt of continued chlorpyrifos use in the state—children like Eva Galindo and Alan Munoz who suffer from autism and ADHD.

California must honor Cesar Chavez and protect our agricultural communities

The statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform, representing more than 190 groups, is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to step in and implement US EPA’s proposed chlorpyrifos ban in California. Both Governor Brown and California lawmakers have vowed to stand up to the Trump administration’s disregard of science and defend the state’s people.

California needs to:

  • Update, then finalize, the state’s chlorpyrifos safety assessment  to reflect the most current science from US EPA’s assessment on negative impacts to children’s brains.
  • Protect our food, water, kids and farmworkers by ending the use of chlorpyrifos.

Failing to act on chlorpyrifos comes at the expense of our children’s health. That’s a price the Trump Administration may be willing to pay to promote their agenda of deregulation and polluter profits, but that we cannot afford as a nation. It’s time for California to follow the science, ban chlorpyrifos and lead the way to a healthier future.

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