WASHINGTON – Today the Environmental Protection Agency announced it will ban all uses of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food, a move to protect public health that also highlights the risks of unsafe but widely used pesticides.
The agency’s action will make it illegal for any traces of chlorpyrifos to be present on produce or foods. Even in small amounts, exposure to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy and early life harms the developing brain, including reduced IQ, delayed development of motor and sensory functions, and social and behavioral dysfunction.
Until now, the EPA allowed some trace amounts of chlorpyrifos, known as tolerances, on food. The ban will take effect six months after its upcoming publication in the Federal Register. The EPA says it will continue to study the risks of non-food uses of chlorpyrifos.
In response, EWG President Ken Cook issued the following statement:
We strongly commend the Biden administration for taking this dangerous bug killer off the market.
The most important lesson for the public to take away from today’s decision is that the government insisted chlorpyrifos in our food was completely safe, right up until the moment when it was banned for being too dangerous.
There are many, many other pesticides currently on the market with government approval that are manifestly unsafe and should be immediately banned or severely restricted.
In the case of chlorpyrifos, we’re talking about 56 years of false assurances since the chemical was approved for use in 1965, including decades during which mounting scientific evidence made clear that it was harming the brains of generations of American children.
And that’s the lesson from today’s important and courageous decision from the Biden EPA.
Science didn’t keep this poisonous insecticide on the market and in our food for decades. Politics and money did.
Today’s decision responds to an April 29 federal appeals court order directing the EPA to issue final regulations banning or limiting food uses of chlorpyrifos.
A chlorpyrifos ban was first proposed by the Obama administration in 2015, but the Trump EPA reversed course in 2017 and revoked the proposed ban. In December 2020, the EPA then proposed allowing the substance’s continued use. In the absence of federal action, several states have taken steps to ban or limit chlorpyrifos.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.