By Julie Wilson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released an assessment detailing the health and environmental risks associated with the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a chemical developed by Dow AgroSciences in 1965 that’s widely sprayed on a variety of crops.

The EPA’s report, released on December 31, updates the June 2011 preliminary human health risk assessment based on new information. The report acknowledges that chlorpyrifos poses a notable threat particularly “to workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos pesticide products.”

The report also notes the potential of chlorpyrifos to contaminate drinking water: “When used in large amounts in small watersheds in certain geographic areas, chlorpyrifos also shows potential risks from drinking water.”

Mainly due to its toxicity in children, chlorpyrifos was banned for use in homes more than a decade ago, except in containers with treated baits. However, today it’s still widely used by the agricultural industry to kill a variety of pests including rootworms, cockroaches, beetles, fire ants and many other insects.

The organophosphate insecticide is applied to golf courses and is registered for direct use on some animals, including turkeys and sheep. Chlorpyrifos has also been used to treat dog kennels and is a common ingredient in dog shampoos, flea sprays and collars.

In the agriculture industry, chlorpyrifos is applied to beets, wheat, cotton, peanuts and vegetables, as well as apples and grapes. In 2004, an estimated 2.3 million pounds[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][PDF] of chlorpyrifos was sold in California.

The insecticide is particularly dangerous due to its ability to drift far from its source. It can remain on plants for up to two weeks and accumulates heavily in fish and crops.

Children and developing fetuses are the most at risk for chlorpyrifos toxicity, which sometimes results in horrific, irreparable damages. Its effect on unborn fetuses has been extensively researched, both in humans and animals.

In 2013, scientists sought to understand the developmental toxicity of chlorpyrifos on fetuses and suckling pups of rats. The results found that “chlorpyrifos caused embryotoxic and teratogenic effects with growth retardation of fetuses,” as well as decreased infant head size, dilated cerebral ventricles and hypoplasia of the heart and lungs. Other abnormalities included incomplete bone formation in the skull and absence of the last rib.

EPA assessment ignores risks presented to rural and farm children as result of chlorpyrifos

In wake of the EPA’s latest findings, chlorpyrifos will remain registered for use. The agency’s report essentially ignores the risk posed to children living on or near farms who will likely be exposed to chlorpyrifos via inhalation caused by chemical drifts. A post on Switchboard, the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), acknowledges the EPA’s failure in an excerpt below.

“All kids, rural or urban, may eat or drink food and water contaminated with chlorpyrifos. But in California’s agricultural communities, there is often little separation between farms and the places where children live, learn, and play–homes, schools, and playgrounds may be right next to the fields where chlorpyrifos is sprayed,” wrote Veena Singla, a staff scientist with NRDC’s health and environmental program.

In 2012, the EPA enacted restrictions on chlorpyrifos application, creating a buffer around “sensitive” areas like schools, reports The Huffington Post. “That wasn’t enough for California officials, who say the history of companies not following the rules requires a proactive stance.”

In September last year, California proposed restrictions that would grant county commissioners the authority to require anyone applying the chemical to be trained and certified and to obtain a permit before spraying. The regulation entered a 45-day public comment period beginning on September 26; however, the results have not yet been released.

Singla put it best when she wrote:

California is a state known for leading the nation with new, innovative, ‘green’ and healthier solutions–but chlorpyrifos is definitely not the cream of the crop. … California’s agricultural bounty must not be at the expense of the health and well-being of its children, and we can do better.”


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This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published January 31st, 2015