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Chlorpyrifos Health Risks Lead Several States to Seek Bans on Widely Used Pesticide

A growing number of states are moving to ban chlorpyrifos-based pesticides, citing long-standing health risks associated with the widely used products.

According to a report late last month by NBC News, state officials in California, Connecticut, New York and Oregon are all trying to put in place chlorpyrifos bans after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refused to ban the chemical over the advice of its own experts in 2017. Some lawmakers in Maryland have also called for the pesticide to be banned.

Experts say that if California bans the chemical, it may start a cascade effect, since it is the most populous state in the country, the largest agricultural state, and it has been known to be at the vanguard of environmental policies that often become national.

Already, California has passed several restrictions, including an agreement this year by all counties which involve a ban on aerial spraying. The new restrictions also restrict application of the pesticide within 150 feet of homes, businesses or schools, and it is classified as a toxic air contaminant.

Several bills have been introduced to ban or restrict chlorpyrifos by Democrats in Congress as well, but those bills are not likely to move forward with the parties controlling one chamber each.

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.

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.

EPA scientists were tasked under the Obama administration with studying the side effects of chlorpyrifos, and recommended that it be permanently banned nationwide. However, the EPA under President Trump reversed that decision in March 2017. 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.

The agency faces lawsuits filed by attorneys general from several states over its decision.

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