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Chlorpyrifos Linked to Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Children

Chlorpyrifos is a widely used insecticide (meant to kill bugs) that is linked to serious neurodevelopmental disorders in children in utero and during the early developmental years. Recent studies have revealed a strong correlation between exposure to Chlorpyrifos and autism, ADD, ADHD, learning disabilities, memory problems, childhood tremors, diminished cognitive ability, delays in motor development and nerve disorders. Babies and children are at the highest risk.

According to a consensus of leading scientific and medical experts:

“Children in America…are at an unacceptably high risk of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect the brain and nervous system, including autism, intellectual disabilities and … behavioral disabilities.” 2016 Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks Consensus Statement

The research available today holds that these disruptions in children’s brain development appear to be permanent and irreversible.

Dow Chemical first introduced the insecticide in the 1960s and it was used heavily in homes and in agriculture. The toxic chemical, an organophosphate, targets the nerve system and causes the movements of the whole body to become uncoordinated, causing tremors, muscular spasms, convulsions, and even death.

While meant to target bugs, as the product was sprayed in homes, people ingested/inhaled it and many people got very sick, including some dying from the exposure. After a significant number of severe adverse health effects came to light in the late 1990s, the United States banned the use of Chlorpyrifos in homes and residential settings in 2001.

But, Dow Chemical and others have continued to sell millions of pounds of the chemical to farming operations. Each year, Chlorpyrifos is applied to approximately 8.5 million acres of agricultural crops, including nuts, citrus fruits, cherries, broccoli, strawberries, oranges, bananas, apples, cotton, and corn. The leading product is Dow Chemical’s Lorsban.

In 2014, the CHARGE study was released and found that women who lived less than a mile from farm fields where Chlorpyrifos (like Lorsban) was sprayed during their second trimester had their chances of giving birth to an autistic child more than triple.

An organization called EarthJustice has worked for years to try and get Chlorpyrifos banned because it is so dangerous. Through a series of lawsuits, EarthJustice sought to force the EPA into making a decision whether to ban Chlorpyrifos. You can learn more about EarthJustice’s work on Chlorpyrifos here.

On November 10, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) scientists issue a report called The Chlorpyrifos Revised Human Health Risk Assessment, which stated there is no safe level of exposure to Chlorpyrifos. Further, 1 to 2-year-old children risk exposure from to Chlorpyrifos residue on the food we eat, which alone is 14,000 percent above the level the EPA deems safe.

The Chlorpyrifos Revised Human Health Risk Assessment

All signs pointed to the EPA banning Chlorpyrifos. However, after a meeting with Dow Chemical’s CEO, the EPA Administrator announced the EPA was not going to take any action against Chlorpyrifos or restrict its use.

In June 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing more than 66,000 pediatricians and pediatric surgeons stated it is “deeply alarmed” by the EPA’s decision to allow Chlorpyrifos to remain on the market in any manner.

“There is a wealth of science demonstrating the detrimental effects of chlorpyrifos exposure to developing fetuses, infants, children and pregnant women. The risk to infant and children’s health and development in unambiguous.”—AAP Letter

Where the EPA refused to act, some states decided to take action to protect their own citizens. Notably, Hawaii just recently banned all Chlorpyrifos use in the state.

Hawaii Just Made a Brilliant End Run Around Scott Pruitt’s EPA

California has also taken steps in the last years to monitor which farms are using Chlorpyrifos and how much is being used on each farm. Approximately ¼ of all Chlorpyrifos is sprayed in California and over 500,000 children attend schools within a quarter mile of fields where Chlorpyrifos is sprayed.

For more information on California’s progress, check out the following websites:

Chlorpyrifos Makes California’s List of Most Dangerous Chemicals

California Department of Pesticide Regulation—Chlorpyrifos

Farmworkers Want Pesticide Banned In California After EPA Refuses

Those living in close proximity to farming operations and those working on farms are most at risk of Chlorpyrifos poisoning. The toxic substance can be consumed as a residue on food, in drinking water, or by breathing in contaminated air. It has a distinct smell that is slightly skunky, like rotten eggs or garlic. Symptoms of direct exposure include difficulty breathing, coughing, itchy eyes, nausea, lightheadedness, disorientation, and headaches.

“Without the ban, farmworkers, their children and others can’t escape exposure because the poison is in their air they breathe, in the food they eat, the soil where children play. We all have a basic right to a healthy life.”—Erik Nicholson, National Vice President of United Farm Workers 

We are investigating claims due to exposure to this highly toxic chemical. Please contact us for more information.