The Bug Man

Urge Congress to ban pesticide chlorpyrifos


One of the biggest failings of the new Environmental Protection Agency in the current administration under Secretary Scott Pruitt has been the refusal to ban the deadly pesticide, chlorpyrifos.

This could have a devastating impact on the health and safety of the people closest to its application and even on the general public due to its residue on treated produce. Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide still in wide use in American agriculture, including right here in New Mexico. It is an organoposphate related to seran nerve gas used in chemical weapons.

For many years, the EPA's own scientists have documented the dangers of this pesticide. It is known to cause delays in mental development, which is particularly harmful to children's developing brains. The safety of adult farmworkers is also greatly threatened by having to mix and apply the pesticide.

Because of drift when it is applied, chlorpyrifos has been found at unsafe levels in the air at schools, homes and communities in agricultural areas. Exposure to the pesticide can lead to convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and even death. Chlorpyrifos was banned from residential use 17 years ago, but it continues to be used on our food, despite all of the scientific research that documents the harm it can cause even by the slightest exposure.

The truth is, chlorpyrifos should have been banned from agricultural use years ago. The growing body of evidence from EPA scientists' research culminated in the agency releasing a revised human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos in November, 2016 that confirmed that no safe uses for the pesticide existed and recommended a complete ban.

The call for a ban was strongly supported by numerous environmental organizations and even by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The powerful influence and legal challenges of the agribusiness industry and chlorpyrifos' manufacturer, Dow Chemical, successfully delayed the ban. A court-imposed deadline was given to the EPA for a final decision by March 31 of this year.

By that time, the new administration was in place, and Scott Pruitt's decision was to further delay the ban of chlorpyrifos until at least 2022. Similar to his position on climate change, he ignored a mountain of the EPA's own research, claiming the science is not yet conclusive.

On the positive side, Sen. Tom Udall has taken the lead in challenging Pruitt on refusing to ban chlorpyrifos. He is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the EPA's budget.

In a hearing on the 2018 budget, he pressed Pruitt to provide an explanation for why he overruled the judgment of EPA's professional staff and reversed EPA's direction to ban chlorpyrifos. This all came in the wake of reports that Pruitt met briefly with the CEO of Dow Chemical 20 days before deciding not to ban the pesticide.

Udall also introduced Senate Bill 1624, banning the pesticide. A companion bill, HB 3380, has also been introduced in the House. For the sake of the health and safety of all Americans, we urge everyone to support the complete ban of chlorpyrifos. Urge your representatives in Congress to support these bills, and we urge New Mexico farmers to use available alternatives to this deadly pesticide.

If you have any pest questions, contact Fagerlund at or call me at (505) 385-2820.