Two Maryland lawmakers are calling for new legislation which would enact a statewide ban of the use of a controversial pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to a risk of childhood brain damage, as well as damage to the environment and wildlife.
Maryland State Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam and Delegate Dana Stein wrote an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun on January 31, announcing that they will introduce a bill to ban chlorpyrifos in Maryland during this legislative session.
“Chlorpyrifos is extremely harmful. Research shows that prenatal exposures are associated with reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention deficit disorders and delayed motor development. It is also linked to adverse birth and developmental outcomes, including pre-term birth, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities, autism spectrum disorders, pediatric cancers, neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits and asthma,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, chlorpyrifos is widely used across the United States on fruits, vegetables, nuts and other conventionally grown crops, including many kid favorites like apples, peaches, grapes and strawberries.”
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.
Scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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.
Nathan-Pulliam and Stein are calling for state lawmakers not to wait on the EPA. They note in their opinion piece that a Chesapeake Bay Program discovered the pesticide in 90 percent of water samples from the bay. In 40 percent of those samples, it had concentrations exceeding levels where it is known to have ecological effects.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is one of a number of state attorneys general who are currently suing the EPA over its decision not to ban chlorpyrifos.