Brain-Damaging Pesticide No Longer Sold in California

State’s Farms Must Comply With Ban by Year’s End
Contact: 
(202) 667-6982
For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, February 6, 2020

WASHINGTON – Farms in California can no longer buy a neurotoxic pesticide that can damage children’s brains and nervous systems.

As of today, chlorpyrifos is banned for sale in the state that grows most of the nation’s fresh produce. Farmers have until the end of the year to use any remaining stockpiles of the pesticide they have on hand.

In October, the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom reached a deal with pesticide manufacturers, including Dow Agro Sciences, to prohibit the sale and use of chlorpyrifos in the Golden State. In 2018, Hawaii was the first state to ban it, and New York recently announced that it will prohibit all uses by 2021.

Between 2015 and 2018, more than four million pounds of chlorpyrifos were sold in the state, according to data from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Organic farms don’t use chemical pesticides, but conventional growers have persisted despite studies by the Environmental Protection Agency and other researchers showing that even small amounts can impair children’s IQ and brain functions.

“Removing chlorpyrifos from the toolbox of chemical agribusiness in California is the kind of aggressive action elected leaders must take to safeguard public health,” said EWG President Ken Cook, a Bay Area resident. “Gov. Newsom’s action means that farmworkers, children and other Californians will no longer be exposed to a dangerous chemical that can permanently impair the brain and nervous systems. If only President Trump’s EPA had listened to its own scientists and not blocked a federal ban of chlorpyrifos, millions of other kids would enjoy the same protections.”

In early 2017, the EPA was poised to implement a nationwide ban on chlorpyrifos. But after the 2016 election, Dow launched an aggressive campaign to block that decision.

Dow, the pesticide’s main manufacturer, donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration festivities, and its CEO met privately with then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Ignoring his agency’s own scientists, Pruitt aborted the scheduled ban soon after.

Pruitt resigned in disgrace in July 2018 after a scandal-ridden 18-month tenure, but Andrew Wheeler, who took over as agency administrator, fought in federal court to keep chlorpyrifos legal.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.