In August 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a decision to revoke all food tolerances of the brain-damaging insecticide chlorpyrifos. Friends of the Earth’s Food & Agriculture Team has worked to maintain this fight alongside fellow environmental and public health entities for more than a decade. This victory is a huge step forward for public health and the environment and against the use of toxic pesticides.
Chlorpyrifos belongs to a pesticide class called organophosphates, which was developed during World War II as a toxic nerve agent weapon. Despite their original purpose, organophosphates including Chlorpyrifos have been used in the United States as a pesticide to kill insects, particularly on food crops, since the 1960s. However, they are also toxic to humans. Peer-reviewed studies have shown just how harmful chlorpyrifos is. The pesticide is linked to autism, reduced IQ, ADHD, Parkinson’s and neurological problems — especially for pregnant women and children. Further, chlorpyrifos is highly toxic to wildlife, jeopardizing the existence of almost 1,4000 threatened species.
Originally set to be banned in 2019 under the Obama administration, the EPA rolled back the proposed ban under the Trump administration. This led Friends of the Earth and others to act, continuing to pressure key parties at the federal level while working to enact bans at the state level. In recent years, Friends of the Earth has worked to ban chlorpyrifos in California, Maryland and New York, as well as to introduce similar bills in other states, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Oregon. Finally, our work to support the reintroduction of a ban on organophosphates contributed to the broad, sustained efforts of so many organizations and activists that led to the EPA’s decision to revoke all food tolerances of chlorpyrifos this year.