What Products Contain Chlorpyrifos? EPA to Ban Pesticide Tied to Child Development Problems

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will stop allowing the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food after it was linked to potential neurological effects in children.

The agency said the insecticide has also been found to inhibit an enzyme which can lead to neurotoxicity. This is when a manmade substance changes how the nervous system works.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit directed the agency to give a final rule to a petition filed by environmental campaign groups in 2007. The petition asked the EPA to stop there from being a maximum allowed level of chlorpyrifos residue in food, arguing this was unsafe.

Denials of the petition and objections in 2017 and 2019 by the Trump administration were challenged in the Ninth Circuit by advocacy groups. In 2019, the court ordered the EPA to issue a final rule either providing proof that it was safe for chlorpyrifos to be used at certain levels or revoke its use with food.

Michal Freedhoff, the EPA's leading chemical safety and pollution prevention official, told The Washington Post: "This comes after more than a decade of science in which it became pretty clear that there were potential neurodevelopmental effects on children that were being observed at lower levels than people had previously thought."

The ban on the pesticide used since 1965 will come into effect in six months.

What products contain chlorpyrifos?

A white or colorless crystal in its pure form, chlorpyrifos is used against pests such as mosquitoes, termites, and roundworms. Pesticide products such as Eraser, Govern and Hatchet contain chlorpyrifos.

The pesticide works by blocking an enzyme and stopping messages traveling between nerve cells, killing the pest.

Chlorpyrifos insecticides have many agricultural uses, including on soybeans, fruits, and nut trees, and row crops such as cauliflower and broccoli.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, a person can be exposed to pesticides if they are eaten, inhaled, or they get into the skin or eyes. This can also occur if a person uses them at work or at home.

Addressing potential concerns about what foods can be safely consumed, the EPA said on Wednesday: "The U.S. 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 will help remove traces of bacteria, chemicals, and dirt from the surface. Very small amounts of pesticides that may remain in or on fruits, vegetables, grains, and other foods decrease considerably as crops are harvested, transported, exposed to light, washed, prepared, and cooked."

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A stock image shows a farmer spraying vegetables with pesticides. The EPA has banned the use of chlorpyrifos. Getty Images