Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

child eats strawberry

American farmers use chlorpyrifos, a pesticide tied to brain and nervous system issues, on crops such as apples, broccoli, corn, and strawberries. (Photo: Stephanie Chapman/Flickr/cc)

'Finally!': Court Orders EPA to Stop Stalling Potential Ban on Pesticide Tied to Brain Damage in Kids

"We hope Trump's EPA finally decides to protect the future of countless children and the health of millions of farmworkers."

Jessica Corbett

In a ruling welcomed by public health advocates, a federal court on Friday ordered the Trump administration to stop stalling a potential ban on a pesticide linked to brain damage in children, giving regulators until mid-July to make a final decision.

"While we are moving forward, the tragedy is that children are being exposed to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide science has long shown is unsafe."
—Patti Goldman, Earthjustice

Citing unacceptable health risks for children, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ended household use of chlorpyrifos in 2000. However, farmers can still use the pesticide—which is also tied to nervous system problems in people and animals—on crops such as apples, broccoli, corn, and strawberries.

The unanimous ruling (pdf) Friday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is the latest development in a drawn out court battle between the EPA—which blocked a planned agricultural ban on chlorpyrifos in 2017—and the anti-pesticide, environmental, and farmworkers organizations who disagreed with that decision.

Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represents the groups fighting to ban the pesticide from foods, commended the court for its ruling in a statement Friday.

"While we are moving forward, the tragedy is that children are being exposed to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide science has long shown is unsafe," she said. "We hope Trump's EPA finally decides to protect the future of countless children and the health of millions of farmworkers."

Noting that public health advocates have been working to outlaw the pesticide for more than a decade, Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Mae Wu said, "All the science says EPA must ban."

Kristin Schafer, executive director of the Pesticide Action Network, tweeted, "No more delay, [EPA]."

Scandal-ridden former EPA chief Scott Pruitt blocked the ban on chlorpyrifos in March of 2017, shortly after he met with the chief executive of Dow Chemical, which has been selling the pesticide for decades and lobbied against restrictions on it.

The appeals court ruled last August that the EPA had illegally impeded the ban and ordered the agency to finalize its proposal. But then, the EPA requested a rehearing, which the court granted in February.

Shortly before the rehearing last month, Goldman explained the legal issues behind the case in a short video:

Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook, in a statement Friday, criticized EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler—who replaced Pruitt—for failing to ban the pesticide and urged him to fulfill the agency's mission to protect human health and the environment.

"We'll find out in three months if the Trump EPA remains under the tight control of the chemical agriculture industry, or if Administrator Wheeler will finally take his job seriously and ban this brain-damaging pesticide," said Cook. "It's deplorable that Wheeler has defied the court's order for almost nine months, and it's time for him to do his job and protect public health."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Progressives Mobilize in Georgia for Dec. 6 Senate Runoff

Advocacy groups backing Sen. Raphael Warnock call the Democrat a "reproductive rights champion" who is also "fighting to stop the climate crisis and create good jobs in the process."

Jessica Corbett ·


Senate Report Details Failure to Confront 'Persistent and Lethal' Threat of White Supremacists

"The federal government has continued to allocate resources disproportionately aligned to international terrorist threats over domestic terrorist threats," the report reads.

Julia Conley ·


Justice Demanded After Qatari World Cup Official Admits Hundreds of Migrant Worker Deaths

"Until all abuses suffered by migrant workers in Qatar are remedied, the legacy of this World Cup will be severely tarnished by their mistreatment," said Amnesty International's head of economic and social justice.

Brett Wilkins ·


Congressional Labor Caucus Demands More Funding for NLRB Before GOP Takes House

"Workers need the NLRB to receive funding that allows it to fully implement its mission," several Democratic lawmakers told House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer.

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives in Congress Begin to Push Back Against Biden Betrayal of Rail Workers

"What we're seeing is an inhumane deal being pushed onto workers even after a majority voted it down," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo