Chlorpyrifos Autism Lawsuit Filed Against Insecticide Manufacturers, Appliers

Several companies face a product liability lawsuit filed by a California family, which alleges that exposure to the controversial insecticide chlorpyrifos caused their daughter to develop autism.

The complaint (PDF) was filed in California’s Kings County Superior Court on October 27, by Carmela Zamora Avila and Reymundo Arciniega Herrara, who are presenting claims on behalf of themselves and their minor daughter, Britney Michelle Arciniega.

The chlorpyrifos autism lawsuit presents claims against chemical companies Corveta, Inc. and Dow Chemical Company, as well as the City of Avenal, California where they lived, John A. Kochergen Properties, Inc. and Westside Harvesting, L.P., which were responsible for applying the pesticide.

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Chlorpyrifos was first put into use in 1965. Although use of the product in household settings was banned in 2001, due to the health risks, it is still used on more than 40,000 farms nationally for 50 different types of crops, including grapes and almonds. It has been sold under a variety of brand names, including Dursban and Lorsban, as well as Scout, Empire, Eradex, and Warhawk.

In a study published in 2014, chlorpyrifos was added to a list of 11 chemicals identified as developmental neurotoxins, with widespread damaging affects to developing brains and reducing intelligence. Researchers indicated chlorpyrifos, along with other chemicals, may cause neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.

According to the lawsuit, Britney was born in 2006, and has been exposed to chlorpyrifos from multiple sources, including in utero exposure as her mother worked as on farms picking grapes and cleaning grapefruit fields, and her work at a packing facility. In addition, her mother claims she consumed chlorpyrifos due to contamination of tap water from the California Aqueduct. Her father was also exposed to chlorpyrifos as an agricultural worker, resulting in additional secondary exposure, according to the lawsuit.

“Britney has subsequently been diagnosed with autism, obesity, and vision problems. She has ongoing difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, compulsive behaviors, and attending to her own needs and activities of daily living,” the lawsuit states. “It is unlikely that Britney will ever be able to be gainfully employed or able to live independently, and she is reasonably certain to need some assistance and care for the rest of her natural life.”

In July 2019, the EPA made a controversial decision to allow chlorpyrifos to stay on the market in the United States, despite numerous objections and studies linking the pesticide to serious health risks. Since then, several states have either filed complaints against the EPA over the decision, or say they plan to do so.

California has already moved to ban the pesticide, with restrictions on chlorpyrifos already in effect since January 2019.

A press release issued last week indicated several dozen similar cylorpyrifos lawsuits were likely to be filed before the end of this month.


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