Attorney General Racine Seeks to Intervene in Suit to Ban Toxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

AG Racine Part of Coalition of Six Attorneys General Against Pesticide Used on Foods

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine, as part of a coalition of six state attorneys General, has filed a motion to intervene in a suit to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to effectively ban a toxic pesticide. Chlorpyrifos, which is commonly used on foods that infants, young children, and pregnant women consume, has been shown to negatively affect proper development and functioning of the central nervous system and brain.

“The EPA already has collected ample evidence that this is a toxic chemical that is dangerous to children and pregnant women,” Attorney General Racine said. “Our job is to protect District residents, who consume food produced in many other parts of the United States. We simply want the EPA to do its job and make sure our food crops are safe from these chemicals.”

The motion, filed in a suit currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, is led by New York. In addition to Attorney General Racine, attorneys general from four states (Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland) joined the motion to intervene.

The underlying lawsuit asks the court to force the EPA to take final action on a decade-old petition submitted by a coalition of environmental, human health and farmworker non-governmental organizations. The petition asks the EPA to revoke all Chlorpyrifos “tolerances” -- or permitted residues -- on food. This would effectively ban the pesticide’s use on all food crops.

In 2014, after the EPA failed to respond to the petition for 7 years, the groups sought to compel the EPA to make a decision regarding continued use of the pesticide. The court ultimately ordered the EPA to issue a decision on whether to ban the pesticide by March 31, 2017. The EPA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to revoke all tolerances for Chlorpyrifos, finding in the process that the use of the pesticide on food presents a risk that does not meet the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act’s (Food Act) safety standard.
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However, on March 29, 2017, new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued an administrative order denying the original 2007 petition by the non-governmental organizations to revoke Chlorpyrifos food tolerances. This effectively blocked the proposed rule that would have revoked all tolerances, meaning the pesticide could continue to be used on food crops. The groups contend that Pruitt’s order violates the federal Food Act’s requirement that pesticides must be found safe in order be used on food products. Pruitt’s order puts off until October 2022, if not longer, any decision on whether to revoke or modify current residues or tolerances for the pesticide.

In June 2017, the organizations challenged Pruitt’s order in the 9th Circuit.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used insecticides in the United States. It is applied to many food crops commonly eaten by infants, young children, and pregnant mothers -- such as apples, strawberries, cherries, bananas, pears, peaches, and nectarines. Residues of the pesticide have repeatedly been documented in baby foods and juices. USDA’s Pesticide Data Program shows that detection of Chlorpyrifos residues is very common. For example, residues were found on over 42 percent of almonds sampled.

A copy of the motion to intervene is attached.