The Biden administration will ban the use of chlorpyrifos on all food crops, citing potential risks to human health. The common insecticide has been applied to a variety of crops since the 1960s, including broccoli and cranberries, and has been linked to learning disabilities in children.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the move on Wednesday, reversing a 2017 decision by the Trump administration. For years, agricultural giants and the chemical industry have battled with environmentalists, public health experts and farmworkers over the future use of the chemical.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan called the move “overdue.”
“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,” he said in a statement. “After the delays and denials of the prior administration, EPA will follow the science and put health and safety first.”
That science indicates the chemical can cause irreversible harm. Children exposed to organophosphate pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, have an increased risk for abnormal neurodevelopment, including persistent loss of intelligence and behavior problems, studies have shown. Even low-dose exposure, particularly in the womb, has been found to harm brain development, leading to higher risk of disorders such as autism.
The Obama administration began the process of barring agricultural use of the chemical in November 2015, only to have the Trump administration defy the recommendation of EPA scientists and refuse to take chlorpyrifos off the market.
Wednesday’s decision is a response to a federal appeals court’s April ruling that the EPA either prove chlorpyrifos’s safety or halt its use altogether. The ban is slated to take effect in six months.
“Finally, we will protect future generations by stopping this acutely toxic pesticide from being sprayed into the air we breathe, the water we drink and the fruits and vegetables we eat,” Tracy Gregoire, a project coordinator at the Learning Disabilities Association of America, one of several groups that sued Trump’s EPA over its refusal to ban the pesticide, said in a statement Wednesday.