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EPA Will Ban A Farming Pesticide Linked To Health Problems In Children

Farmers have been spraying chlorpyrifos on crops, including strawberries, apples, citrus, broccoli, and corn since 1965.
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Farmers have been spraying chlorpyrifos on crops, including strawberries, apples, citrus, broccoli, and corn since 1965.

A pesticidethat's been linked to neurological damage in children, including reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorders, has been banned by the Biden administration following a years-long legal battle.

Environmental Protection Agency officials issued a final ruling on Wednesday saying chlorpyrifos can no longer be used on the food that makes its way onto American dinner plates. The move is intended to better protect the children and farmworkers, according to the agency.

In a statement Administrator Michael Regan called it "an overdue step to protect public health from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide."

"After the delays and denials of the prior administration, EPA will follow the science and put health and safety first," Regan said.

Health and labor organizations have been waging a campaign to revoke the use of chlorpyrifos for years. The EPA was considering a ban but under the Trump administration, the agency concluded there wasn't enough evidence showing the harmful effects of the chemicals on humans and kept it on the market.

That decision sparked a slew of legal challenges and in April, a federal appellate court ruled the onus was actually on the EPA to produce indisputable proof that the pesticide is safe for children. If the agency failed to comply by Aug. 20, the judge said, then the food growers would be barred from using it.

Farmers have been spraying chlorpyrifos on crops, including strawberries, apples, citrus, broccoli and corn since 1965. Up until 2000, it was also a common household item that was used to keep American homes free from ants, roaches and mosquitos.

"It took far too long, but children will no longer be eating food tainted with a pesticide that causes intellectual learning disabilities," saidPatti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice, which represents health and labor organizations behind the lawsuit. "Chlorpyrifos will finally be out of our fruits and vegetables."

The Natural Resources Defense Council similarly cheered the EPA's move, but cautions that the pesticide can still be used on other things, including cattle ear tags. The group wants a ban on other organophosphate pesticides, which are in the same chemical family as chlorpyrifos.

The new rule will take effect in six months.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.