Children and unborn babies who are exposed to chlorpyrifos, a brain-damaging nerve gas insecticide, may develop lifelong side effects including autism, ADHD, and lower IQ.
UPDATE: EPA Bans Chlorpyrifos on Food Due to Neurological Side Effects in Children
On August 18, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will ban the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos on all food due to neurological side effects in children. “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.
Chlorpyrifos is used on a wide variety of agricultural crops to kill insects. Some of these crops include soybeans, fruit trees, nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops.
1st Chlorpyrifos Lawsuit Filed for Child With Autism
In September 2020, the first chlorpyrifos lawsuit was filed in California on behalf of Rafael C., a child who was born in 2003 with severe autism and other neurological disorders. He was exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb when his mother packed produce during pregnancy. His father sprayed Lorsban and Dursban.
Lawyers for the family say they plan to file around 90 additional chlorpyrifos lawsuits for children who were born with neurological problems, autism, cognitive and intellectual disabilities, ADHD, and more.
The lawsuit was filed on September 18, 2020 in Kings County Superior Court in Hanford – Alba Luz Calderon de Cerda and Rafael Cerda Martinez v. Corteva Inc., et al., Case No. 20C-250.
Top Manufacturer Stops Making Chlorpyrifos
In January 2020, Corteva announced that it would stop making chlorpyrifos by the end of 2020 due to declining sales. The move came soon after the state of California banned the use of chlorpyrifos and gave companies a deadline of February 6, 2020 to stop selling it. The ban dramatically reduced the agricultural market for chlorpyrifos.
9 States File Chlorpyrifos Lawsuit over EPA Failure to Ban Pesticide
September 2019 — Nine states have filed a lawsuit against the EPA accusing the Trump administration of putting industry profits over public safety by failing to ban chlorpyrifos. In July 2019, the EPA made a controversial decision to keep chlorpyrifos on the market, despite the agency’s own conclusions that it causes neurological damage in children and babies.
The states include New York, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, and the District of Columbia.
What is Chlorpyrifos?
Chlorpyrifos is a chemical pesticide that is sprayed on many types of fruits and vegetables to kill insects. An estimated 8 million pounds of it are sprayed every year in the U.S., with California spraying the most chlorpyrifos out of any state.
Is Chlorpyrifos Toxic to People?
Chlorpyrifos belongs to a nasty group of chemicals called organophosphates, which are neurotoxic to bugs and people alike. In fact, these chemicals were first developed by Nazi Germany in World War II for chemical warfare, but later repurposed for agricultural uses.
What is the Problem?
Even low doses of chlorpyrifos can cause brain damage over time. The risk is especially serious for young children under 2 years old and fetuses developing in the womb of pregnant women who are exposed.
Side Effects of Chlorpyrifos in Children
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Brain damage
- Low IQ
- Developmental delays
- Memory problems
- Motor skill delays
What Foods are Sprayed with Chlorpyrifos?
Chlorpyrifos is sprayed primarily on corn. It is also used on wheat, wine grapes, apples, oranges, lemons, citrus trees, kale, berries, strawberries, almonds, pecans, nut trees, soybeans, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, cauliflower, alfalfa, sugar beet, sunflowers, onions, cabbage, peaches, cherries, collard greens, and other foods.
Where Else is Chlorpyrifos Used?
The non-agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos include golf courses, turf, green houses, and wood structures such as utility poles and fence posts to kill termites. It is also used as a mosquito insecticide, and for use in roach and ant bait stations.
Chlorpyrifos Brand-Names in the U.S.
Chlorpyrifos product names in the U.S. include Lorsban®, Lock-On®, and Cobalt®. Before it was banned for residential uses, chlorpyrifos was also advertised and sold under the brand-name Dursban®.
How Does Chlorpyrifos Work?
Chlorpyrifos kills insects by suppressing an enzyme that regulates nerve impulses in the body. It was created by Dow Chemical in the 1960s to kill cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes, and other bugs, but people who are exposed can also suffer neurological side effects.
Is Chlorpyrifos Bad for Children?
Multiple studies have shown that young children who are repeatedly exposed to chlorpyrifos have a higher risk for autism and ADHD. Furthermore, a recent EPA report linked chlorpyrifos with low intelligence and problems with attention, memory, and motor skills.
Is Chlorpyrifos Dangerous for Pregnant Women?
Chlorpyrifos has proven to be particularly dangerous to the unborn babies of pregnant women who are exposed. Prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is associated with low birth weight, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development.
87% of Newborn Babies Test Positive for Chlorpyrifos
In January 2015, a study found that 87% of umbilical-cord blood samples from newborn babies tested positive for chlorpyrifos because their mothers were exposed to the pesticide during pregnancy. The study was published in Environmental Research by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley.
What Studies Link Chlorpyrifos to Autism?
Pregnant women who lived near fields where chlorpyrifos was sprayed were three times (3x) more likely to have a child with autism, according to a study by the University of California, Davis in 2010.
In 2014, another study in California found a 60% increased risk of developmental delays and autism for the babies of pregnant women living within 1 mile of an agricultural field where chlorpyrifos was sprayed, especially in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.
How Are People Exposed to Chlorpyrifos?
- Eating chlorpyrifos residue on food (fruits, vegetables, nuts)
- Babies in the womb during pregnancy
- Drinking water that is contaminated
- Skin absorption
- Breathing toxic spray that drifts in the air
- Living near fields and orchards where chlorpyrifos is sprayed
- Workers in agricultural fields
- Workers who mix, handle, and spray chlorpyrifos
Is There Any Safe Level of Chlorpyrifos Exposure?
No. The EPA warned that there is no “safe” exposure levels for chlorpyrifos in food and water, according to an Updated Human Health Risk Analysis for Chlorpyrifos in November 2016. The updated analysis reaffirmed the agency’s support for their October 2015 proposal to revoke all “safe” food residue limits for chlorpyrifos.
Is Chlorpyrifos In My Food?
Testing by the EPA found widespread evidence of food contamination with chlorpyrifos. In some cases, chlorpyrifos residues were significantly above the level of concern for harming health — up to 140 times (14,000%) higher than what the EPA considered acceptable.
Here are the estimated % of exposures for some popular foods:
- Apples — 55% sprayed with chlorpyrifos
- Peaches — 25% sprayed with chlorpyrifos
- Nectarines — 10% sprayed with chlorpyrifos
- Oranges — 20% sprayed with chlorpyrifos
- Strawberries — 20% sprayed with chlorpyrifos
- Grapes — 10% sprayed with chlorpyrifos
Is Chlorpyrifos in My Drinking Water?
In 2014, the EPA found chlorpyrifos contamination of drinking water in all 50 states. Unsafe levels of contamination were discovered in groundwater and surface water throughout the U.S., with extremely high levels of chlorpyrifos in agricultural regions.
Chlorpyrifos gets into the drinking water supply by drifting in the air and running off fields and flowing into groundwater and surface water.
Unfortunately, there is no “safe” level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water due to the risk of neurological side effects effects. The EPA warned: “Water exposures from non-food uses continue to exceed safe levels, even taking into account more refined drinking water.”
Is There a Chlorpyrifos Ban in the US?
The EPA banned the at-home use of chlorpyrifos in 2001, but still allowed it to be sprayed on farms and orchards.
In 2015, after decades of research and debate, the EPA under Obama was on the cusp of banning all use of chlorpyrifos. But in 2017, Trump’s first EPA administrator Scott Pruitt abruptly reversed course, refused to ban chlorpyrifos, and delayed a decision by 5 years.
In July 2019, Trump’s EPA reiterated that it would not ban the use of chlorpyrifos, despite the EPA’s own experts linking it to brain damage in children.
Even so, California has pushed ahead and banned chlorpyrifos from agricultural use. Furthermore, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, and New Jersey have approved bans.
Symptoms of Chlorpyrifos Poisoning
Low level poisoning with chlorpyrifos will cause the following symptoms in people:
- Abdominal muscle cramps
- Twitching or tremors
- Loss of coordination
- Blurred or darkened vision
- Slurred speech
Severe poisoning with chlorpyrifos can produce the following symptoms:
- Respiratory failure
- Cardiac arrest
- Irregular heartbeats
- Loss of consciousness
Repeated or prolonged poisoning with lower doses of chlorpyrifos — especially in workers — may produce the following symptoms:
- Impaired memory and concentration
- Severe depression
- Chronic 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