EWG Calls on EPA To Ban Use of Brain-Damaging Pesticide

WASHINGTON – The neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos should be banned for use immediately by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Working Group wrote in a public comment letter to the agency this week. The EPA should make it illegal for any traces of chlorpyrifos to be present on produce or other foods.

Studies have shown that even in small amounts, exposure to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy and early life harms the developing brain, causing life-long damage, such as reduced IQ and delayed development of motor and sensory functions as well as social and behavioral dysfunction.

Millions of pounds of chlorpyrifos have been sprayed on U.S. crops every year. As a result, chlorpyrifos has been found on popular children’s food, frozen strawberries, as well as other produce, and even milk. It can also contaminate drinking water.

In 2016, an EPA risk assessment concluded that dietary exposures to chlorpyrifos for children one and two years old could be more than 140 times the suggested safe levels.

“The numbers are alarming, especially because even tiny amounts of this pesticide can cause irreparable neurological damage to children,” said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., an EWG toxicologist.

Farmworkers and their families and local communities, which are often communities of color, bear an even greater burden of exposure to chlorpyrifos and other pesticides.

A chlorpyrifos ban was first proposed by the Obama administration in 2015, but has been continuously thwarted by pesticide industry executives and the EPA under ex-President Trump.

In 2017, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made an eleventh-hour decision to abort the ban, and his successor, Andrew Wheeler, continued to fight to keep it legal and allowed for use by conventional agriculture operations. In December 2020, the EPA proposed allowing its continued use.

At the same time, the European Union determined there is no safe level of exposure for the pesticide and banned its sale.

“The EPA must take immediate action to ban this highly toxic pesticide,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., vice president of science investigations for EWG. “The U.S. needs to catch up to the EU in protecting children from chlorpyrifos.”

California banned the sale of chlorpyrifos last year. It has also been banned in Hawai’i, and New York will prohibit all uses in 2021. Under the Biden administration, it’s time for the EPA to follow the states, and the advice of its own scientists, and ban the sale and use of 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.

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