Court Ruling Allows EPA to Proceed with Chlorpyrifos Ban

EPA chlorpyrifos ban does not have to wait until lawsuits brought by the agricultural industry are resolved, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A federal appeals court has cleared the way for U.S. environmental regulators to ban chlorpyrifos, despite lawsuits filed by the agricultural industry to prevent the pesticide from being removed from the market.

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that is used to control insects, worms and other pests, primarily on soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops. It has been on the market in the U.S. since 1965, and has been sold under a variety of brand names, including Dursban, Lorsban, Scout, Empire, Eradex and Warhawk.

Despite it’s widespread use, potential side effects of chlorpyrifos exposure have been a concern for decades, and use of the product in household settings was banned in 2001. However, the pesticide is still used on more than 40,000 farms in the U.S.

Since 2014, studies have linked the chemical to a variety of side effects, which may damage developing brains and reduce intelligence, ultimately causing the pesticide to make it on a list of 11 chemicals identified as developmental neurotoxins. Researchers have made strong connections that chlorpyrifos, along with other chemicals, may cause neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.

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Chlorpyrifos Ban Cleared to Proceed by Federal Appeals Court

In August 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a chlorpyrifos ban which would prevent the pesticide from being used on all crops and food. However, in May 2022, lawsuits filed by the beet and soybean industry, backed by chlorpyrifos manufacturers, claimed the ban violated federal law. They sought to postpone the ban until the lawsuit was resolved.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an order (PDF) on October 19, denying the petition to postpone the ban. The order was released without comment or opinion.

The decision means the EPA does not have to wait to enact the chlorpyrifos ban.

The EPA’s original decision to approve a ban on the pesticide came after a chlorpyrifos court order issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in early 2021, in which the court found the “EPA had abdicated its statutory duty under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act”, to ensure the pesticide was safe for human exposure.

The court ordered the EPA to either conduct a safety evaluation proving the current tolerances for chlorpyrifos are safe for the general population, infants and children, ban the pesticide, or significantly reduce the amount of residue that is allowed in food.

In recent years, courts nationwide have seen several chlorpyrifos lawsuits pursuing claims for strict product liability, failure to warn, defective design, negligence, nuisance and trespass, indicating their own children were harmed by chlorpyrifos exposure.


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