Reversing a Trump administration decision from 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will ban the popular insecticide chlorpyrifos, amid concerns that the product can impact the neurodevelopment of young children.
Chlorpyrifos has been used for decades to help farmers defend their crops against a wide array of pests, and its impact on people was the source of much debate in the early months of Trump’s presidency. Trump and then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt opted to keep the chemical on the market despite outcry from some scientists and activists.
The final Biden administration rule released Wednesday will halt the application of chlorpyrifos on fruits and vegetables across the country. According to The Washington Post, several states — including California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, and Oregon, as well as Canada and the European Union — are already phasing out the insecticide on farms.
At the heart of the decision is a study from 2006, titled Impact of prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure on neurodevelopment in the first 3 years of life among inner-city children, which found a large proportion of mentally delayed children among those who reportedly had high levels of exposure to chlorpyrifos. The American Farm Bureau Federation challenged the veracity of the study since the underlying science was not made available to the organization for review.
Dow, the maker of chlorpyrifos, has repeatedly upheld the safety and value of its product. In one statement, connected to the 2017 debates over the product, Dow said, “Chlorpyrifos is, in fact, one of the most widely used and thoroughly studied pest control products in the world, supported by more than 4,000 studies examining chlorpyrifos in terms of health, safety, and the environment. It is approved not only for use in the U.S., but nearly 100 countries.”
The manufacturer also argued that the EPA has not always applied the agency’s own data standards to reviews of chlorpyrifos and that the product deserves to remain registered.
In the recent years that chlorpyrifos has continued to remain on the market, environmental activist organization Earthjustice has filed lawsuits to have the product halted and has repeatedly reached out to politicians and media to keep their concerns at the forefront of the discussion.
From an economic standpoint, it is believed that revoking chlorpyrifos will cost the ag industry tens of millions of dollars.
This article will be updated as more information and response to this action becomes available.