US EPA forced to decide this month on pesticide’s fate

The EPA is on the clock to decide the future of a popular pesticide linked to health problems

A California appeals court ruled this week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has until the end of this month to decide whether or not to ban a widely used pesticide linked to a number of health problems.


The order, filed yesterday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, forces the EPA's hand on the pesticide chlorpyrifos (pronounced KLOR – pie ­ra – phos), one the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticides with an estimated 10 million pounds applied annually.

While banned for more than a decade for household use, it's still used commercially on corn, soybeans, fruit and nut trees and some golf courses. In 2012 the EPA required homes and schools to have buffers to reduce exposure.

The order is in response to a lawsuit filed in 2007 by the Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council calling for the EPA to cancel registration for the pesticide.

While manufacturers such as Dow Agrosciences have maintained the safety and efficiency of chlorpyrifos, scientists have expressed concern over what it does to exposed people. Various studies have linked it to birth defects, low birth weights and impaired brain development, and endocrine disruption.

Fetuses exposed to the pesticide while in the womb are most at risk.

Buffer zones are required around fields treated with some pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to neurological effects in children.

The EPA has until June 30 to respond to the lawsuit. [See yesterday's court order here.]

"It is time for EPA to protect children in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide causes brain damage in children," said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represented the groups in the lawsuit, in a statement. "EPA has dragged its feet for far too long in the face of harm to children and workers."

An EPA report earlier this year found that chlorpyrifos poses health risks to workers who mix and apply it and also can contaminate drinking water.

"We are concerned about some workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos to agricultural and other non­residential sites," the EPA wrote about the report. "We are also concerned about workers who work around areas that are treated with chlorpyrifos, even if they are not using chlorpyrifos products as part of their jobs."

If EPA intends to deny the administrative petition, "the final denial shall be issued no later than September 15, 2015," according to the court order.

Banner photo: tpmartins/flickr

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