Tractor spraying pesticide

With the current US administration shifting government focus away from environmental issues, one hazard that has been put on the backburner is chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide used in agriculture and on turf in the United States. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been working on banning the chemical outright, the agency has since discarded its plans. Efforts to limit the use of chlorpyrifos trace back to the early 2000s. The question is: why the hold up? And what’s the significance of yet another delay?

Ban in Household Use

Chlorpyrifos, which emerged in the 1960s along with many other pesticides, was banned from domestic use by the EPA back in 2000 after the agency concluded direct exposure could be harmful to humans. At the time, chlorpyrifos was a common household pesticide used against insects like termites.

Despite the domestic ban, chlorpyrifos is still widely used today. The EPA has estimated that approximately 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos is applied annually in the United States in agriculture alone. Used to treat common plants such as strawberries, apples, grapes, almonds and other nut trees, cabbage, peppers, wheat, soybeans, and even Christmas trees, chlorpyrifos is also permitted for structural treatment in buildings and industrial plants, and on golf courses and other turfs.

Golf course

Implications for Children’s Health

Research at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Developmental Health has raised concerns about the pesticide’s effects on children’s neurodevelopment. One of the professors directing these studies is Professor Virginia Rauh, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the EPA. Rauh has focused on perinatal epidemiology and the impact of pesticides on children before and after birth.

Her studies have concluded that chlorpyrifos is associated with developmental issues, such as ADHD, poor memory, and delayed motor development. One study also cited higher incidences of nausea and tremors for children who had been prenatally exposed to chlorpyrifos when compared to those who had…