Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 24, 2016

Contact: Nathan Donley, (971) 717-6406,

Advocates to EPA: It's Time to Ban Organophosphate Pesticides

PORTLAND, Ore.— A diverse group of farmworker, child-safety and environmental advocates has sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency urging it to ban seven organophosphate pesticides that are currently under review. According to the EPA’s own recently released risk assessments, the use of these neurotoxic pesticides may result in significant risks to people and animals that are exposed to them.

Organophosphates are widely used in agriculture on crops such as corn, cotton, watermelon and wheat. A recent study at the University of California at Berkeley found that an astonishing 87 percent of umbilical-cord blood samples tested had detectable levels of an organophosphate. Early childhood exposure to organophosphates has been linked to cognitive delay and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Organophosphates were also used as nerve agents in chemical warfare and have been linked to Gulf War syndrome, which causes fatigue, headaches, skin problems and breathing disorders.

“These pesticides pose unacceptably high risks to children, workers and wildlife, and really can’t be used safely,” said Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “In this letter farmworkers, child-safety and consumer advocates have spoken with one voice, asking the EPA to ban these relics of our toxic past.”

The agency’s levels of concern were exceeded, in some cases by more than 1,000 percent, for many exposure scenarios for people who ingest pesticide-contaminated food and water. Further risks of concern were present for farmworkers for many different occupational handler scenarios.

In addition to effects on human health, organophosphates are also very dangerous to many species of wildlife. By the end of 2005, more than 1,440 bird-related incidents involving organophosphates had been recorded in North America, resulting in the deaths of more than 335,000 birds. Organophosphate use has also been linked to population declines of several amphibians in California, a state with heavy use of these pesticides. 

“For organophosphates a high toxicity risk is not the exception, it's the rule. When risk of toxicity is exceeded by nearly every single metric in a risk assessment, it's a sure indication that these pesticides can't be used safely,” said Donley.

This letter was submitted in response to the EPA’s request for public comments on new releases of human-health and ecological risk assessments for chlorpyrifos-methyl, dicrotophos, dimethoate, ethoprop, profenofos, terbufos and tribufos.

The groups signing onto the letter include:

Alaska Community Action on Toxics
American Bird Conservancy
As You Sow
Beyond Pesticides
Beyond Toxics
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
Californians for Pesticide Reform
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Effective Government
Center for Environmental Health
Center for Food Safety
Clean and Healthy New York
Coalition for Clean Air
Columbia Legal Services
Environment America
Factory Farming Awareness Coalition
Farmworker Association of Florida
Farmworker Justice
Food & Water Watch
Friends of Farmworkers
Friends of the Earth
Global Workers Justice Alliance
Headwater LLC
Made Safe
Migrant Clinicians Network
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
Organic Consumers Association
Parents for a Safer Environment
Pesticide Action Network
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
Toxic Free North Carolina
Women’s Voices for the Earth
Worker Justice Center of New York

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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