Chlorpyrifos, a dangerous pesticide linked to birth defects and brain damage, has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a press release from the EPA, it is stated that the agency is removing all tolerances for the pesticide.
After years of back-and-forth and the reversal of a ban by the Trump Administration in 2017, the EPA reinstated its restrictions in August 2021 with the official ban on use/production to go into effect six months later. As one of the most popular pesticides used in agriculture, chlorpyrifos was regularly used for crops and produce.
The pesticide has been in use since 1965 and was a common product in households until dangers were told of its toxicity in the early 2000s, largely influenced by guidance from the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). The FPQA set more stringent safety standards in regard to health effects and required reregistration of certain products. Under these reregistration guidelines, chlorpyrifos producers entered into an agreement with EPA to eliminate, phase out, and modify certain uses.
These restrictions caused a 20 year-long windfall of legal battles between governmental agencies and those producing the pesticide. As different presidential administrations controlled the EPA during this period, varying information regarding the product’s safety were presented to the public, causing confusion and scrutiny to its decision making.
While the governmental response to criticism of chlorpyrifos has been vacillating, the evidence of its neurotoxicity has grown to a fever pitch. From acute symptoms experienced from minor exposure like headaches, nausea, and dizziness, to extreme and debilitating health effects like respiratory paralysis and death.
Chlorpyrifos effects on children are even more cause for concern: “chlorpyrifos blocks an enzyme that our brains need to control acetylcholine, one of the many neurotransmitters mediating communication between nerve cells. These neurological effects pose especially elevated risks for children as their brains and nervous systems develop.”