Citing “irreversible harm,” lawmaker introduces bill to ban class of pesticides

By Carey Gillam

US Rep. Nydia Velazquez on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban organophosphates in food production, citing harm to children, farmworkers and other vulnerable communities exposed to the group of chemicals.

“The science has been clear for decades: this type of pesticide is a dangerous neurological threat to farmworkers and our children,” Velázquez said in a statement. “These pesticides during early life have been shown to lead to irreversible harm to the developing brain, which can result in long-term effects like attention disorders, autism, and reduced IQ.”

The move is the latest in a series of actions aimed at reducing US pesticide use, and comes as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is evaluating continued use of organophosphates, which commonly leave residues in finished food products.

Pesticide manufacturers and agricultural industry groups oppose a ban. A coalition of more than two dozen such groups sent a letter to the EPA in late July, arguing that organophosphates act as an “essential tool” for managing insect pests.

“The continued availability of this group of pesticides is important to US growers due the safety and effectiveness of these proven pesticides,” the coalition said in the letter.

The EPA recently banned food uses of a type of organophosphate called chlorpyrifos, an insecticide popular with farmers but shown by scientific research to cause neurodevelopmental harm to children. Critics say there are more than a dozen other organophosphates that should be similarly banned.