For Immediate Release
Kevin Regan, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 21
Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 235
Suzanne Struglinski, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 289-2387
Heather Pilatic, Pesticide Action Network, (415) 694-8596
Luis Medellin, El Quinto Sol, (559) 723-4119
Groups Seeking Ban on Toxic Pesticide Go to Federal Court
Outlawed in homes and gardens, pesticide is still sprayed on food crops
NEW YORK - Community groups joined environmental advocates in filing a lawsuit today to force the Environmental Protection Agency to decide once and for all whether or not it will ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.
Chlorpyrifos -- sprayed on corn, oranges, almonds and other crops --
is acutely poisonous and is among a class of pesticides initially
developed for World War II-era chemical warfare. Short term effects of
exposure to chlorpyrifos include chest tightness, blurred vision,
headaches, coughing and wheezing, weakness, nausea and vomiting, coma,
seizures, and even death. Prenatal and early childhood exposure has been
linked to low birth weights, developmental delays and other health effects.
In recognition of the particular risks the chemical presents for
children, EPA banned residential uses of chlorpyrifos in 2001. But the
pesticide is still widely used in fields and orchards across the
country. This continued use puts nearby rural communities in harm's way,
and chlorpyrifos ends up in our nation's food and water supplies,
leading to even more widespread exposure (click here for a list of foods with documented chlorpyrifos residue.)
Luis Medellin has experienced the dangers of this pesticide
firsthand. Medellin lives with his parents and three little sisters in
the agricultural town of Lindsay, California, where chlorpyrifos is
sprayed routinely on the orange groves surrounding his home. During the
growing season, the family is awakened several times a week by the
sickly smell of nighttime pesticide spraying. What follows is worse:
searing headaches, nausea, vomiting. After undergoing testing for
pesticides in his body, the 24-year-old Medellin discovered
concentrations of chlorpyrifos breakdown compounds nearly five times the
national average for adults, as calculated by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
"When I found out I had this chemical in my body, it scared me. But
what really worries me is how my little sisters might be affected." said
Medellin, a community organizer with the Lindsay-based El Quinto Sol.
"I wish the growers would stop using such dangerous chemicals so my
family and I can be safe."
In September 2007, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) filed a petition with EPA
asking the agency to ban chlorpyrifos. In the nearly three years since,
the agency has not responded. Today's lawsuit,
filed by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice on behalf of
NRDC and PANNA, would force EPA to make a decision on the pesticide's
"This dangerous pesticide has no place in our fields, near our
children, or on our food," said Earthjustice attorney Kevin Regan.
"We're asking a court to rule so that EPA will finish the job and ban
An estimated 8 to 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos are applied to U.S. crops each year (click here for a map showing where this pesticide is used.)
"The overwhelming evidence shows that chlorpyrifos is dangerous,
especially to children and fieldworkers," said Aaron Colangelo, a senior
attorney with NRDC. "There's no good reason for EPA to take three years
to decide what to do about it."
Exposure to chlorpyrifos in agricultural communities is widespread.
California Air Resources Board monitoring in the state's San Joaquin
Valley detected chlorpyrifos in one-third of all ambient air samples,
sometimes at levels that pose serious health risks to young children.
Monitoring by PANNA and community groups in Washington state and Luis
Medellin's hometown of Lindsay, California has shown that daily exposure
to chlorpyrifos can be substantial, regularly exceeding the
"acceptable" 24-hour acute dose for a one-year-old child established by
In one 2000 incident, dozens of students and staff at an elementary
school in Ventura, CA fell ill after chlorpyrifos applied to a nearby
lemon orchard drifted onto school grounds.
"Chlorpyrifos is among a class of pesticides that targets developing
nervous systems -- in insects and humans alike. These pesticides are
linked to a host of devastating diseases ranging from ADHD to childhood
brain cancer," said PANNA senior scientist Dr. Margaret Reeves. "Their
human health costs are just too high and farmers are farming
successfully without them. There's no defensible reason for continuing
to use chlorpyrifos."
A copy of the lawsuit is available here: http://www.earthjustice.org/documents/legal-document/pdf/2073-complaint
A fact sheet on chlorpyrifos is available here: http://www.panna.org/docsOPs/cpffactsheetoct06%5b1%5d.pdf
A map documenting where chlorpyrifos is used is available here: http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/show_map.php?year=02&map=m6009
A list of foods with documented chlorpyrifos residue is available here: http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/pesticide.jsp?pesticide=160
A study linking chlorpyrifos to low birth weights is available here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1247388/pdf/ehp0112-001125.pdf
A study linking chlorpyrifos to developmental delays is available here: http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/mailman/ccceh/pdf-papers/LovasiAJPH2010.pdf