Chlorpyrifos Pregnancy Risks Lead Congressional Lawmakers to Seek Ban for Insecticide

New congressional legislation calls for a ban on chlorpyrifos (CPS) pesticides, which continue to be sold under names like Dursban, Lorsban and other brands, even though exposure during pregnancy has been linked to a risk of serious developmental problems for children. 

Rep. Nydia Velaquez, of New York, filed the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act of 2019 in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3, seeking to overturn a decision by former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt in 2017, which allowed the controversial class of pesticides to remain on the market.

The bill, H.R. 230, bans the use and stockpile of chlorpyfiros. Similar legislation has been submitted in the U.S. Senate for some time.

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Scientists at the EPA were tasked under the Obama administration with actually studying the side effects of chlorpyrifos, and recommended that it be permanently banned nationwide.

A study published in 2014 added chlorpyrifos 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.

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

The petition calling for the ban was filed by health advocacy groups 10 years ago. An EPA review concluded last year that the concerns were justified, and that the pesticide causes significant health problems.

In March 2017, Pruitt overturned the Obama-era decision to ban the pesticide, but on August 9, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to ban it. However, that decision is being contested, with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming the Ninth Circuit does not have the power to order such a ban.

“According to reports, on March 9th of 2017, Mr. Pruitt met with a pesticide manufacturer for 25 minutes to reconsider an Obama-era ban on the use of Chlorpyrifos and promptly reversed the ban,” Velaquez said in a January 14 letter to other lawmakers. “This is a clear example of Administrator Pruitt kowtowing to powerful companies that trample on our collective health and exposes children to toxic materials all in the name of profits.”

Since it was filed, Velaquez’s legislation has gathered a bipartisan group of at least 50 co-sponsors and is supported by a number of consumer watchdog and environmental activist groups.


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