California Moves to Ban Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

Published May 16, 2019

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is acting to ban the use of chlorpyrifos in the state by initiating the cancellation of the organophosphate pesticide’s registration, the California Environmental Protection Agency announced on May 8. CalEPA states that this action is intended to protect workers, public health, and the environment. The decision follows the formal listing of chlorpyrifos as a “toxic air contaminant” in California last month. State law defines toxic air contaminants as “air pollutant[s] which may cause or contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious illness, or which may pose a present or potential hazard to human health.”

The listing of chlorpyrifos as a toxic air contaminant required DPR to develop control measures to protect the health of farm workers and others living and working near areas where the pesticide is used. DPR—together with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and the California Air Resources Board—has determined that “sufficient additional control measures” for the pesticide are not feasible.

“The decision to ban chlorpyrifos follows mounting evidence, including recent findings [PDF] by the state’s independent Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants, that the pesticide causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations at lower levels of exposure than previously understood,” CalEPA’s press release reads. “These effects include impaired brain and neurological development.”

Federal EPA’s human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos was last revised in November 2016 and shows risks to workers who mix, load, and apply chlorpyrifos pesticide products. The agency’s website states that it will “continue to review the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects” as part of the ongoing registration review. EPA says it will complete its assessment by Oct. 1, 2022. Chlorpyrifos currently remains registered at the federal level.

Information about federal EPA’s actions related to chlorpyrifos is available on the agency’s website.