Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill into law recently that bans pesticide chlorpyrifos on golf courses and other lawn and environmental settings in the state. The legislation is the first in the U.S. to ban chlorpyrifos on golf courses.
Connecticut’s decision follows bans in other countries and the U.S. federal government. In 2019, the EU banned the sales of chlorpyrifos. Earlier this year, the U.S. EPA banned the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops. The EPA decision followed a Ninth Circuit Court order directing the federal agency to issue a final rule in response to a 2007 petition by Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council. The EPA banned residential use of chlorpyrifos in 2000. Four states (California, Hawaii, New York, and Oregon) banned chlorpyrifos.
“Connecticut has stepped up where the EPA has dragged its feet,” said Jason Davidson, Senior Food and Agriculture Campaigner with Friends of the Earth, in a statement. “This bill will keep chlorpyrifos out of places that directly affect our communities and provide safeguards for bees and other pollinators. We are thrilled to see Connecticut continue to lead in protecting people and the environment from toxic pesticides.”
The notorious history of chlorpyrifos
Chlorpyrifos belongs to a class of pesticides called organophosphates, first developed by the Nazis as neurotoxins. Chlorpyrifos was initially registered as a pesticide in 1965 for agricultural and non-agricultural uses. Until the EPA banned its use on crops, it was one of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S. An estimated five million pounds per year were used across the country, with one million pounds used in California alone.
A 2016 revised human health risk assessment by the EPA stated that there are no safe uses for chlorpyrifos. The EPA found the following:
- All food exposures exceed safe levels.
- Children ages one to two were exposed to levels of the pesticide that are 140 times what the EPA considers safe.
- No safe drinking level for the pesticide exists.
- Pesticide drift at 300 feet away from a field’s edge is at unsafe levels.
- The pesticide was found at unsafe levels in the air in public places, including schools, homes, and agricultural areas.
The health hazards linked to chlorpyrifos
Studies connect chlorpyrifos to brain damage in children, including one study that links prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos with long-term harm to the brain. Another study links neurodevelopmental problems in young children with prenatal exposure. Chlorpyrifos is also associated with health problems in adults. A study links exposure to chlorpyrifos with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that chlorpyrifos use affects the health of fetuses, pregnant women, and children.
There are other effects that chlorpyrifos has on human health. Those effects are higher among those who apply the pesticide. One study examined cancer incidence among chlorpyrifos applicators in Iowa and North Carolina. Researchers found that among 54,383 pesticide applicators, 2,070 incidents of diagnosed malignant neoplasms. They also found a risk of lung cancer.