Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Trump’s EPA Dismisses Agency’s Own Findings That Chlorpyrifos Harms Children’s Brains

Trump’s EPA Dismisses Agency’s Own Findings That Chlorpyrifos Harms Children’s Brains
Moms Clean Air Force members attend a press conference hosted by Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announcing legislation to ban chlorpyrifos on July 25, 2017. Moms Clean Air Force

The Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a risk assessment for toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos Tuesday that downplayed its effects on children's brains and may be the first indication of how the administration's "secret science" policy could impact public health.

Several studies have found that babies exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb can suffer from lower birth weights, attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, lower IQ and limited working memory, Earthjustice pointed out. But the EPA on Tuesday discounted those findings, ruling instead that the science on chlorpyrifos' brain-damaging effects "remains unresolved." In doing so, it reversed the findings of EPA scientists from previous administrations.

"This shows that E.P.A. has completely abandoned any commitment to protecting children from this extremely toxic chemical when their own scientists recommended twice to ban it," Natural Resources Defense Council senior director for health Erik D. Olson told The New York Times. "The science is being overridden by politics."

In Tuesday's conclusion, the EPA discounted several epidemiological studies, including a prominent one conducted by Columbia University that found a connection between chlorpyrifos exposure in utero and developmental disorders in toddlers. This suggests the agency is moving forward with its proposed "secret science" policy that would reject or at least give less weight to the conclusions of studies that do not make their underlying data public. However, several long-term health studies do not publish such data in order to preserve their subjects' privacy. The "secret science" policy has not yet been made an official EPA rule, but the agency already seems to be applying it in the case of the chlorpyrifos assessment. EPA spokesperson James Hewitt said the agency had not been able to confirm the conclusions of the Columbia study.

"The EPA is ignoring decades of science by leading universities and in doing so, it's neglecting its duty to protect children from pesticides," Earthjustice managing attorney Patti Goldman said in a statement. "Ignoring the demonstrated harm to children doesn't make chlorpyrifos safe, it just shows a commitment to keep a toxic pesticide in the market and in our food at all cost."

EPA scientists sounded the alarm on chlorpyrifos in 2014 and 2016, recommending it be banned from use on food, according to The Hill. (It was already banned for household use in 2000). But in 2017, the EPA under Trump halted the process of banning the chemical. This triggered a round of lawsuits, leading eventually to Tuesday's risk assessment.

"They kicked the decision back to scientists and said they're reanalyzing it so that's how they got around the courts telling them to decide whether to ban it or not," Center for Biological Diversity senior scientist Nathan Donley told The Hill.

He said Tuesday's assessment suggests it is unlikely that the agency will ultimately decide to ban the pesticide.

Meanwhile, states including California and Hawaii have taken matters into their own hands and banned the chemical. Corteva, the pesticide's No. 1 maker, has said it will stop producing it by the end of 2020, according to The New York Times. Despite this, Earthjustice pointed to EPA documents showing that Corteva has been lobbying the agency.

Rashtrapati Bhavan engulfed in smog, at Rajpath, on Oct. 12, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Biplov Bhuyan / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

An annual comprehensive report on air pollution showed that it was responsible for 6.67 million deaths worldwide, including the premature death of 500,000 babies, with the worst health outcomes occurring in the developing world, according to the State of Global Air, which was released Wednesday.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New research finds that dust in buildings with older furniture is more likely to contain a suite of compounds that impact our health. Aleksandr Zubkov / Getty Images

By Hannah Seo

If you've been considering throwing out that old couch, now might be a good time. Dust in buildings with older furniture is more likely to contain a suite of compounds that impact our health, according to new research.

Read More Show Less


Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, genetics, and a bunch of other things are known to be behind excessive weight gain. But, did you know that how much sleep you get each night can also determine how much weight you gain or lose?

Read More Show Less
Marine scientists who study seagrasses have published a study describing how to reintroduce eelgrass into Virginia coastal bays. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Robert J. Orth, Jonathan Lefcheck and Karen McGlathery

A century ago Virginia's coastal lagoons were a natural paradise. Fishing boats bobbed on the waves as geese flocked overhead. Beneath the surface, miles of seagrass gently swayed in the surf, making the seabed look like a vast underwater prairie.

Read More Show Less
Landmark legislation aims to address the ocean impacts of human-caused global heating and reform federal ocean management. ToryYu1989 / PxHere / CC0

By Jessica Corbett

Leaders of climate and conservation groups on Tuesday welcomed House Democrats' introduction of landmark legislation that aims to address the ocean impacts of human-caused global heating and reform federal ocean management—recognizing that, as Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva put it, "a healthy ocean is key to fighting the climate crisis."

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch