California Defies Feds With Chlorpyrifos Ban

After discovering thatchlorpyrifos was linked with cognitive delays in children, the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency moved to ban it. Naturally, the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda included rolling back that ban to keep this chemical on the market even though the EPA’s own scientists said this was a bad idea.

Enter California, which just summarily banned it rather than waiting to see how the federal drama played out.

This organophosphate pesticide was once widely used across the United States. But safety concerns led to bans on indoor and residential use and later to a decision to reconsider its uses in agriculture, as well (though Snopes notes the effects of this pesticide are debated).

Some claim it’s safe for use agriculturally, while others declare it’s linked with congenital anomalies in children or causes other health problems. The question is whether humans have a chemical pathway that’s sensitive to this formulation, which works predominantly on insects and mollusks. Research seems to suggest a strong correlation between exposure and ill effects, but scientists have been unable to demonstrate a causal link.

Opponents of chlorpyrifos still believe it is clearly linked with health problems, and material safety data sheets bear this out. People are advised to wear protective equipment when applying it, and some recommend regular blood tests to monitor the effects of this chemical on the body.

With a body of evidence strongly suggesting something in chlorpyrifos may be hazardous to human health, banning it seems like a reasonable idea especially on behalf of farmworkers and children exposed to it. Many farmworkers lack personal protective equipment, even when it is recommended, and they may inhale and/or touch harmful chemicals day after day as a result.

It’s also clear we need more research to assess its safety. This is the responsibility of government agencies tasked with protecting human and environmental health and we know this compound can cause environmental harm by killing beneficial insects.

California’s decision is particularly notable because the state has a very large agricultural industry. While California alone cannot drive a company out of business by refusing to buy its pesticides, it can certainly take a chunk out of the bottom line, which can create an incentive to explore healthier, safer alternatives.

Chemical companies like Dow are unsurprisingly not taking this without a fight and intend to challenge the ban in court. It would not be the first court case the state is fighting, as it faces off against the Trump administration and attempts to promote policies that align with the values of many of its residents.

It will take about two years for California to completely implement its ban, assuming litigation doesn’t create additional obstacles. Meanwhile, some advocates are looking even further and suggesting that we ban all organophosphate chemicals because of their hazards.

This class of compounds has been around since the 1930s and is extremely effective and popular. But it’s also known for causing severe neurological effects that can be fatal if not identified and treated.

The conversation about agricultural chemicals is particularly pressing in light of climate change, which will alter what we farm and how. And we must mitigate the risks posed by indiscriminate use of these chemicals.

Photo credit: mladenbalinovac/Getty Images

64 comments

Thomas M
Thomas M21 days ago

tyfs

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Gino C
Gabriel C26 days ago

thank you for posting

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Leo C
Leo C29 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Leo Custer
Leo Cabout a month ago

Thank you for posting!

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RK R
RK Rabout a month ago

With a ban in one area this sets up a test ready research lab between CA and the areas without the ban.

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Julie D
Julie Dabout a month ago

Yay California!

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Paulo R
Paulo Reesonabout a month ago

alright California!

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Leopold M
Leopold Marekabout a month ago

Tyfs

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Leopold M
Leopold Marekabout a month ago

Tyfs

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Ben O
Ben Oabout a month ago

Way to go!

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