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It's About Time the EPA Act on Toxic Pesticide, 9th Says

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on December 11, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's about time the EPA made a final rule on the potentially toxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, the Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday. Chlorpyrifos is a widely used pesticide that, in addition to protecting almond, orange, and cotton crops from pests, is connected to the poisoning of farm workers and rural residents, as well as neurological impairments in children.

The Pesticide Action Network North America and National Resources Defense Council first petitioned the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos in 2007, but the agency has been slow to respond. The EPA issued a proposed rule banning the pesticide in October, which the Ninth Circuit has ruled must be finalized by the end of 2016.

The Case Against Chlorpyrifos

Though chlorpyrifos has been in use since 1965, health risks caused the EPA to revoke its approval for home use in 2001. In high concentrations, chlorpyrifos causes cholinesterase inhibition in humans, according to the EPA. It overstimulates the nervous system, leading to nausea, dizziness, respiratory paralysis and even death.

Six years after its residential use ban, PANNA and the NRDC asked the EPA to pull the pesticide entirely. According to PANNA: "Study after study links chlorpyrifos exposure to significant brain impacts such as increased risk of ADHD, autism and reduced IQs in children."

EPA Takes Its Time

The EPA was in no rush to act on the environmental groups' petition. In June 2015, seven years after the petition was filed, the EPA announced that it would issue a proposed rule revoking chlorpyrifos food tolerances in April, 2016. More analysis and public comment were necessary before the EPA could act, the agency said.

The Ninth Circuit disagreed, however, rejecting the EPA's timeline. It ordered the EPA to issue a proposed revocation or deny the groups' petition by the end of October, 2015. EPA did just that. On the last day possible, it proposed revoking chlorpyrifos's use in agriculture, finding that it "cannot conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure meets the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act safety standards."

Now, under the Ninth's order, the agency must finalize those rules by the end of next year.

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