Chlorpyrifos is a brain-damaging pesticide that is linked to severe side effects in children, including autism, ADHD, low IQ, developmental delays, and other neurological problems.
EPA Bans Chlorpyrifos on Food Due to Neurotoxic Effects in Kids
In August 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will ban chlorpyrifos on all food “to protect human health, particularly that of children and farm workers.” Chlorpyrifos is an insecticide that is used on a wide range of crops, including soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops.
“It has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurological effects in children,” according to the EPA.
9 States Sue EPA for Failing to Ban Chlorpyrifos
September 2019 — Nine states have filed a lawsuit accusing the EPA of failing to protect public safety by failing to ban chlorpyrifos.
The EPA’s own scientists have failed to find a “safe” level for chlorpyrifos on food. In November 2015 and again in November 2016, the EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos on food crops. However, former-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt disregarded those proposals and delayed any decision until October 2022.
What is the Problem?
Chlorpyrifos residues have been repeatedly in baby foods and juices. It is related to nerve gas, and works by blocking an enzyme that is necessary to proper brain development in children.
Several studies found that babies of women who were exposed to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy had developmental delays in brain and motor skill in the first 3 years, lower IQ and memory and at age 7, and movement disorders (including arm tremors) by age 11.
What is Chlorpyrifos?
Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely-used insecticide chemicals in the United States. It is sprayed on dozens of types of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Approximately 8 million pounds are sprayed per year in the U.S., with California spraying more chlorpyrifos on crops than any other state.
Who Made It?
Chlorpyrifos is a type of chemical called an organophosphate. This class of chemicals were originally developed by Nazi Germany in World War II for nerve gas in chemical warfare. After the war ended, organophosphates were repurposed to kill insects for agriculture. Chlorpyrifos was developed by Dow Chemical and released in 1965.
Is Chlorpyrifos Dangerous?
Chlorpyrifos is a powerful nerve toxin that can kill people as well as insects. The problem is that even low doses of chlorpyrifos have harmful effects on people. The brain-damaging effects are most serious for children under 2 years old and fetuses in the womb.
Chlorpyrifos Side Effects in Children
In children, chlorpyrifos side effects may include:
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Brain damage
- Low IQ
- Developmental delays
- Memory problems
- Motor skill delays
What Foods are Commonly Sprayed with Chlorpyrifos?
In the U.S., chlorpyrifos is commonly sprayed on corn, wheat, grapes, strawberries and other berries, cherries, bananas, apples, pears, oranges and other citrus fruits, almonds, pecans and other nut trees, vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, soybeans, sugar beet, peaches, nectarines, and many other foods.
Where Else is Chlorpyrifos Used?
Chlorpyrifos is also used for non-agricultural purposes to kill insects, such as termites and mosquitos. It is commonly sprayed golf courses, turf, green houses, and wood structures like utility poles and fences. Some types of cockroach and ant bait stations contain chlorpyrifos.
What are Chlorpyrifos Brand Names in the US?
- Dursban® (banned for residential use in 2001)
How Does Chlorpyrifos Work?
Chlorpyrifos works by blocking an enzyme that controls messages between nerve cells. When the enzyme is blocked, the nervous system malfunctions and causes the insect to die. Unfortunately, people who are exposed can also suffer neurological side effects.
Is Chlorpyrifos Bad for Children?
Decades of studies have shown a link between chlorpyrifos and harmful brain side effects in children. These studies show that children under 2 years old who are repeatedly exposed to chlorpyrifos are more likely to have autism, ADHD, low IQ, and problems with attention, memory, and motor skills.
Chlorpyrifos Exposure During Pregnancy
Exposure to chlorpyrifos is particularly harmful to a developing baby in the womb. Prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure is associated with low birth weight, reduced intelligence at 7 years of age, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development.
STUDY: 87% of Newborn Babies Test Positive for Chlorpyrifos
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley found that 87% of newborn baby blood samples from the umbilical-cord tested positive for chlorpyrifos because their mothers were exposed to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy. The study was published in Environmental Research in January 2015.
What Studies Link Chlorpyrifos to Autism?
In 2010, a study by the University of California, Davis found a three-times (3X) increased risk of autism among children born to pregnant women living near fields where chlorpyrifos was sprayed.
In 2014, another study linked chlorpyrifos with developmental delays and autism among babies of pregnant women lived within 1 mile of a field where chlorpyrifos was sprayed, particularly during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.
Ways People are Exposed to Chlorpyrifos
- Eating food that is contaminated with pesticide residue
- Touching food (skin absorption)
- Babies in the womb (prenatal exposure)
- Drinking water
- Breathing pesticide spray in the air
- Workers in agricultural fields
- People who mix, handle, or spray pesticides
Is There Any Safe Exposure?
No. In an Updated Human Health Risk Analysis for Chlorpyrifos published in 2016, the EPA warned that there is no “safe” exposure levels for chlorpyrifos in food and water, reaffirming the agency’s proposal to revoke all acceptable food residue limits.
Is Chlorpyrifos In My Food?
EPA tests have found widespread evidence of chlorpyrifos pesticide residues on food. In some cases, the residues were up to 140 times (14,000%) above the level of concern for causing health problems.
Is Chlorpyrifos in My Drinking Water?
Dangerous levels of chlorpyrifos drinking water contamination have been discovered throughout the U.S., with extremely high levels of contamination discovered in agricultural regions.
The EPA warns that there is no known “safe” level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water, but tests have found chlorpyrifos contamination in drinking water “continue to exceed safe levels” even including refined drinking water.
Is There a Chlorpyrifos Ban in the US?
Health risks of chlorpyrifos have been known for decades, which resulted in a ban on household use of chlorpyrifos in 2000.
Based on decades of research, the EPA under Obama was set to ban all chlorpyrifos in 2015. But in 2017, the EPA under Trump suddenly reversed course, refused to ban chlorpyrifos, and delayed another decision until 2022.
In 2019, Trump’s EPA reaffirmed that it would not ban chlorpyrifos, despite their own experts concluding that it causes brain damage.
Growing Number of U.S. States Banning Chlorpyrifos
After the EPA refused to ban chlorpyrifos, California pushed ahead an passed a law phasing out the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos. The move follows similar bans in the states of Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Symptoms
The symptoms of low-level chlorpyrifos poisoning may include:
- Abdominal muscle cramps
- Twitching or tremors
- Loss of coordination
- Blurred or darkened vision
- Slurred speech
The symptoms of severe poisoning with chlorpyrifos can include:
- Respiratory failure
- Cardiac arrest
- Irregular heartbeats
- Loss of consciousness
Other Health Problems from Repeated Exposure to Chlorpyrifos
Agricultural workers can suffer the following health problems as a result of repeated poisoning with low doses of chlorpyrifos:
- Poor memory
- Concentration problems
- Severe depression
- Persistent headache
- Speech difficulties
- Delayed reaction times
- Nightmares, sleepwalking and drowsiness or insomnia
- A flu-like condition with headache, nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, and feeling unwell