The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food for the protection of human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said chlorpyrifos’s removal from the marketplace is “an overdue step to protect public health. Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide,”

“After the delays and denials of the (Trump) administration, EPA will follow the science and put health and safety first,” Regan added.

Chlorpyrifos has been used on corn, soybeans, and other food crops. It was only last December that EPA extended the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos for some agricultural purposes. Several states previously banned the use of the pesticide. The EPA announced the ban on Aug. 18.

Chlorpyrifos has gained a reputation as a “toxic, brain-damaging pesticide. Agricultural interests say they are exploring other treatment options now that chlorpyrifos is out of the picture.

As a final rule, EPA is revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establish an amount of a pesticide that is allowed on food. In addition, the agency will issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances.

The Obama administration came close to withdrawing chlorpyrifos, but Trump’s White House kept it available for farm uses. And Dow AgroSciences, the largest manufacturer of the pesticide, was pressured to limit the ban.

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used for a large variety of agricultural uses, including soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops, as well as non-food uses. It has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurological effects in children.

The steps the agency is announcing today respond to the U.S. Court’s Ninth Circuit’s order directing EPA to issue a final rule in response to the 2007 petition filed by Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council. The petition requested that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances, or the maximum allowed residue levels in food, because those tolerances were not safe, in part due to the potential for neurodevelopmental effects in children.

Under the Trump Administration, EPA denied the petition in 2017 and denied the subsequent objections in 2019. These denials were challenged in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 by a coalition of farmworkers, health, environmental, and other groups.  In April 2021, the court found that “. . . EPA had abdicated its statutory duty under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act . . .” to “conclude, to the statutorily required standard of reasonable certainty, that the present tolerances caused no harm.” In its decision, the court ordered EPA to grant the petition, issue a final rule in which the agency either modifies the chlorpyrifos tolerances with a supporting safety determination or revokes the tolerances, and modify or cancel food-use registrations of chlorpyrifos.

EPA has determined that the current aggregate exposures from the use of chlorpyrifos do not meet the legally required safety standard that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from such exposures. A number of other countries, including the European Union and Canada, and some states including California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, and Oregon have already taken similar action to restrict the use of this pesticide on food.

While farmers have historically relied on chlorpyrifos, its use has been in decline due to restrictions at the state level and reduced production. Additionally, some alternatives have been registered in recent years for most crops. There are also other chemistries and insect growth regulators available for certain target pests. EPA is committed to reviewing replacements and alternatives to chlorpyrifos.

The U.S., according to the government, has a safe and abundant food supply, and children and others should continue to eat a variety of foods, as recommended by the federal government and nutritional experts. Washing and scrubbing fresh fruits and vegetables with plain water will help remove traces of bacteria, chemicals, and dirt from the surface.

This EPA action will also be incorporated into the ongoing registration review for chlorpyrifos. EPA is continuing to review the comments submitted on the chlorpyrifos proposed interim decision, draft revised human health risk assessment, and draft ecological risk assessment. These documents are available in the chlorpyrifos registration review docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850 at www.regulations.gov.

After considering public comments, the agency will proceed with registration review for the remaining non-food uses of chlorpyrifos by issuing the interim decision, which may consider additional measures to reduce human health and ecological risks. More information on the registration review process is available here.

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