One of the country’s largest agricultural chemical companies announced it will stop selling its chlorpyrifos pesticides by the end of the year.
Corteva Agriscience, the Delaware-based company that produces the Indianapolis-made chlorpyrifos pesticides Lorsban and Dursban, announced it would stop producing the pesticides by the end of the year due to declining demand.
The company told Reuters that demand for the chemical is less than 20% of what it was during its peak in the 1990s.
Chlorpyrifos use in Indiana peaked at 464,254.3 kg in 1995. By 2017, average yearly usage had dropped to 163,052 kg, or nearly a third of its peak usage in the state.
Chloryprifos has been linked to “brain abnormalities” in children that resulted in cognitive defects like lower IQ levels and a decrease in working memory.
The chemical can also cause a series of adverse health conditions, including paralysis, seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.
A 2016 health assessment for chlorpyrifos found that Americans are exposed to chlorpyrifos in food every day. Children between 1 and 2 years of age had the most exposure at .242 micrograms per kilogram per day.
The Clinton administration banned chlorpyrifos for residential use in 2001 with the help of Corteva’s predecessor, Dow Agrisciences, but the pesticide was still allowed for use on some agricultural crops.
The chemical’s use has been a major concern for agricultural field workers and their families.
“Every day, farm workers are exposed to chlorpyrifos and other toxic chemicals that are sprayed on our fruits and vegetables,” said Teresa Romer, president of United Farm Workers in a statement. “The move by chlorpyrifos’ biggest manufacturer to stop its production is a significant victory, but the fight to ban this chemical that poisons farm workers and all consumers from the food we eat is not finished. The wide use of pesticides on our food is a public health concern and we must continue working to protect our families from its dangers.”
In 2018, nearly a dozen labor organizations and environmental advocacy groups sued to get a federal court to review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to deny a 2007 petition that asked the agency to revoke tolerances, or the limited allowance, of chlorpyrifos on food products.
In a 2-to-1 decision, federal judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA knew chlorpyrifos could be harmful and should not have allowed its use. The court then ordered the EPA to revoke all tolerances for the chemical.
The federal government appealed the decision by requesting a hearing by the court’s entire 11-judge panel. The request was granted, effectively vacating the original panel’s ruling.
The new panel then gave the EPA 90 days to issue a “full and fair decision” on the 2007 petition. The EPA decided to deny the petition and continue allowing the use of chlorpyrifos.
The chemical is up for its 15-year review in 2022.
Advocacy groups said they are pleased that at least one company has decided to stop producing chlorpyrifos, but many other companies produce the chemical.
Several groups have said they will keep pressuring the federal government to ban the chemical.
“This is a victory for our kids, farmworkers and rural communities nationwide. After years of pressure and increasing public concern, the end of chlorpyrifos is finally in sight,” said Dr. Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council.
“We will be watching the manufacturer’s statements to ensure that the sunset of chlorpyrifos is as quick and as complete as possible. Ridding the American marketplace of this pesticide is a huge step, but it cannot be allowed to continue to threaten the health of kids in other global markets.