Department of Pesticide Regulation Releases Draft Risk Assessment for Brain-Harming Chlorpyrifos

Make Your Voice Heard: Comment Period For Chlorpyrifos Risk Assessment Open Until October 2

JOIN US! Public Hearing on Chlorpyrifos Risk Assessment Sept 15 in Sacramento

2016 Air Monitoring Data Shows Unsafe Levels of Chlorpyrifos in Kern
DPR Action on Brain-Harming Chlorpyrifos Falls Short
Coalition urges immediate ban based on EPA studies

When U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt bowed to industry pressure and refused to end use of the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos - slated for a ban after decades of study - all eyes turned to California to take decisive action. 

Last week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation followed Trump's playbook and ordered up more of the same: more studies, more delays, and ultimately more childhood exposure to a neurotoxic chemical EPA scientists have determined to be unsafe to use in any amount. 

DPR's Risk Assessment for chlorpyrifos, released in draft form and available for public comment until October 2, means that any action at the state level will be delayed for a year or more. Even more troubling, the risk assessment ignores the EPA's 2016 risk assessment and fails to take into account the well-documented neurotoxic effects of chlorpyrifos, taking aim instead at its cholinesterase-inhibiting properties, which occur only at much higher doses. 

Mark Weller, Co-Director of Californians for Pesticide Reform and Erik Nicholson, Vice-President of United Farm Workers, issued a joint statement: 

"California's proposed action fails to protect the most vulnerable populations: young children, pregnant women and farmworkers. Their revised risk assessment fails to consider the well-documented brain-harming effects of this pesticide. Any mitigations that result from such a flawed risk assessment will undoubtedly fall far short.
DPR must recognize that the science of the neurotoxic effects of this pesticide is well-established and beyond any doubt, and come up with a swift timetable for removing chlorpyrifos from California's fields as quickly as possible.
California's agricultural communities were betrayed by the U.S. EPA in March when they reversed a proposed ban. California can and must do better."
Make Your Voice Heard: Comment Period for DPR's Risk Assessment Now Open Until Oct 2
Tell DPR to Ban Chlorpyrifos Now!

Tell DPR: Follow the US EPA scientists' latest research and ban chlorpyrifos in California. We need swift and decisive action on chlorpyrifos, and nothing short of a ban will protect kids from brain-damage, IQ loss, autism and more. 

You can add your comment here, or email your comments to 

JOIN US! Public Hearing on Chlorpyrifos Risk Assessment 
10am Sept 15 in Sacramento

Please join us in Sacramento at the monthly meeting of the Pesticide Registration and Evaluation Committee, which will be a public hearing on DPR's draft Risk Assessment for chlorpyrifos, with an opportunity for comment. We want to make sure DPR knows we're paying attention to their next move on this neurotoxic pesticide.

What:  Pesticide Registration and Evaluation Committee meeting 
Where:  Sierra Hearing Room, 2nd Floor
CalEPA Headquarters
1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 
When:  10am - 12 noon Friday September 15
More info or want to carpool? Email

Air Testing Shows Unsafe Levels of Brain-Harming Chlorpyrifos in Kern
Chlorpyrifos found in air more than 18 times higher than EPA level of concern

Chlorpyrifos has been found in the air in Kern County in amounts far in excess of the level of concern established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for pregnant women, according to 2016 air monitoring data  just released by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).
Chlorpyrifos, which is primarily manufactured by Dow Chemical Co., was banned for home use in 2000 because of links to a wide range of neurological and developmental impacts. Slated this year for a total federal ban on all food uses, the proposed ban was reversed in March by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who offered no scientific basis for his decision. In light of the Trump Administration's failure to act, California officials can stand up for science and public health by implementing a statewide ban based on the assessment by EPA scientists.
A ban can't come soon enough for residents of California's farming communities, who worry about the effect of chronic exposure on the wellbeing of their children. "I believe my son has ADHD because I was exposed to chlorpyrifos at a citrus packing plant when I was pregnant," said Claudia Angulo of Orange Cove, a member of the Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety (CAPS) in Fresno County. "The same thing happened to my pregnant co-workers and their children. The air monitoring tells me that there are probably more children who will suffer until California bans chlorpyrifos."
The news of high chlorpyrifos concentrations comes on the heels of three recent drift incidents - two in Kern County and one in Madera County- involving the pesticide, that harmed dozens of farmworkers and nearby residents. In one of the incidents, chlorpyrifos drifted more than half a mile from where it was applied.
The chlorpyrifos air concentration for a one-month period at the air monitoring site on the campus of Shafter High School in Kern County was 39.4 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) - more than 18 times higher than EPA's level of concern for pregnant women (2.1 ng/m3).
Such figures are particularly alarming, given that the air monitor at Shafter High is some distance from fields, and chlorpyrifos use is much higher in other parts of Kern County and elsewhere in California. According to DPR data, more than 1.1 million pounds of chlorpyrifos were used statewide in 2015, with more than a quarter of that total in Kern County alone.
A growing body of scientific evidence gives residents reason to be alarmed. A 2014 study conducted by the UC Davis Mind Institute found that pregnant women who lived within a mile of fields where chlorpyrifos was sprayed more than tripled their chances of giving birth to a child with autism. Additionally, the UC Berkeley CHAMACOS team, studying organophosphate impacts on women and children in the Salinas Valley, found that every 522 pounds of combined organophosphate pesticide applications within one kilometer of a pregnant woman's home correlates with a two point IQ loss in her children at seven years old.
The Shafter air monitor data also reveal that annual average air concentration of another Dow pesticide, 1,3-dichloropropene (product name: Telone), a carcinogenic fumigant, nearly doubled over 2015 concentrations (increasing from 800 ng/m3 to 1,560 ng/m3), and measured more than twice the previous DPR regulatory level for cancer risk (650 ng/m3). The large increase may not be surprising, given that DPR's loosening of the cancer regulatory level last year - over the objections of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) - resulted in a 50% increase in the amount growers are permitted to use.
"There has to be a better way to grow food that doesn't increase kids' health risks," said Gary Rodriguez, a 4th grade teacher in Shafter. "We know that both brain-harming chlorpyrifos and cancer-causing Telone are present in the air at Shafter High at dangerous levels, even though they aren't used heavily nearby. These pesticides need to be phased out immediately."
A proposed new regulation aimed at protecting schoolchildren from pesticide exposure will establish quarter-mile buffer zones on school days for the most drift-prone application methods, in an effort to prevent acute exposure accidents. Public health advocates point out that the even greater problem is chronic exposure to pesticides like chlorpyrifos, which is toxic in tiny amounts. The presence of chlorpyrifos at the Shafter High School air monitoring site in at least half of the samples collected throughout the year points to the failure to contain this highly drift-prone pesticide - and the necessity of much stronger protections, including an outright ban.
Including chlorpyrifos and Telone, a total o f 25 pesticides were found in the air at DPR's monitoring stations, reflecting the reality of simultaneous exposure to multiple pesticides faced by residents of farmworker communities. California regulates pesticides individually, and cumulative impacts are not included when determining the safety of levels measured in the air. A 2016 UCLA study found that some carcinogenic pesticides commonly used in combination may interact to increase the risk of cancer by more than just their sum.

"It's very troubling to me that the state allows schoolchildren to breathe known carcinogenic pesticides, and doesn't even study the threat from combined pesticides," said Valerie Gorospe, community organizer with the Delano-based Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.