The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a ban on the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide used on fruits and vegetables, almonds, and other crops. The agency plans to finalize its rule by the end of 2016.
The chemical has been banned from consumer products and household use for the past 15 years, and in 2006, the EPA limited the number of crops on which it can be applied. Environmentalists have since petitioned the agency to ban all uses of the chemical.
“We’ve known for years that chlorpyrifos is dangerous and that’s why we sued EPA,” Veena Singla, a health program scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Los Angeles Times. “The agency’s announcement is a huge step in the right direction, but we think there’s enough evidence to ban all its uses now.”
Since the 2000 ban, nearly 3,000 studies have been published on the health hazards of chlorpyrifos exposure. The latest study, published by Elsevier B.V. in September, found that children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb suffered from tremors in both arms that affected their ability to draw, and could later affect their ability to write.
Chlorpyrifos affects the nervous system of people, pets, and other animals the same way it affects the targeted pests, according to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC). The chemical binds to enzymes that control the messages that travel between nerve cells, and if the body can’t keep up with replacing the depleted enzymes, nerves and muscles are unable to function properly.
The NPIC maintains that children may be more sensitive to pesticides than adults, and nerve damage in children has been observed to be more severe in studies thus far.
More than 5 million pounds of the chemical is used in the U.S. every year.
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