WASHINGTON – The European Union today confirmed it will ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops early next year, citing the risk of brain damage to children – evidence the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored in scuttling a proposed ban on the chemical.
In August, the European Food Safety Authority, or EFSA, said there is “no safe level” of exposure to the insecticide, which drove today’s decision. The EFSA also cited possible damage to DNA. Chlorpyrifos will no longer be allowed for sale in the 28 member countries of the EU after the end of January.
The EPA was poised to ban chlorpyrifos early in 2017. But after the 2016 election, Dow launched an aggressive campaign to block that decision.
Dow, the pesticide's main manufacturer, donated $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration festivities, and its CEO met privately with then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Soon after, Pruitt ignored his agency’s own scientists and aborted the scheduled ban.
Pruitt resigned in disgrace in July 2018 after a scandal-ridden 18-month tenure, but Andrew Wheeler, who took over as administrator of the agency, fought in federal court to keep chlorpyrifos legal. California has banned the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops after February.
“American children and farmworkers would not be exposed to this dangerous pesticide today if the Trump EPA had not ignored the advice of its scientists and kowtowed to the chemical agricultural industry,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Why should kids in France, Germany and Italy be protected from a brain-damaging chemical while U.S. kids continue to be exposed?”
A robust body of scientific evidence shows that even small doses of chlorpyrifos can damage parts of the brain that control language, memory, behavior and emotion. Multiple independent studies have found that exposure to chlorpyrifos impairs children’s IQs.
EPA scientists assessed those studies and concluded that the levels of the pesticide currently found on food and in drinking water are unsafe. The scientists estimate that typical exposures for babies are five times greater than the agency’s proposed “safe” intake, and 11 to 15 times higher for toddlers and older children. A typical exposure for a pregnant woman is five times higher than it ought to be to protect her developing fetus.
The most recent data from the U.S. Geological Survey show an estimated 5 million pounds of the weedkiller were sprayed on U.S. cropland in 2016.
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.