Tracking the use, risks of the pesticide chlorpyrifos

Scientists say that a pesticide called chlorpyrifos can cause brain damage. But its residues can be found on fruits and vegetables and in human urine samples across European Union countries, according to recent reports.

A June 17, 2019 article in the EU Observer noted that although some EU countries have banned the use of the pesticide, it still reaches consumers in those countries because goods move freely across national borders in the EU. There’s a pan-European system to alert authorities about the presence of chlorpyrifos and other dangerous chemicals in foods, but those alerts often don’t get passed on to consumers until after the foods have been purchased and eaten, the article said. The EU will reconsider approval of the chemical in 2020.

In the U.S., chlorpyrifos is banned in California and Hawaii, and several other states have announced or are considering similar bans, including Oregon, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. A federal appeals court ruled in April 2019 that the Environmental Protection Agency must decide by mid-July if there will be a national ban.

Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the EU Observer that brain damage linked with chlorpyrifos can occur even at the lowest detectable levels.

“That means by definition that you can’t define a dose tolerable for consumption—that dose must be zero,” he said.

Read the EU Observer article: The most dangerous pesticide you’ve never heard of

Learn more

Flaws found in industry-backed studies of commonly used pesticide (Harvard Chan School news)