California to ban controversial pesticide blamed for harming child brain development

Los Angeles — The nation’s most productive agricultural state will ban a widely used toxic pesticide blamed for harming brain development in babies, California officials said Wednesday.

The move would outlaw chlorpyrifos after scientists deemed it a toxic air contaminant and discovered it to be more dangerous than previously thought. State Environmental Secretary Jared Blumenfeld said it’s the first time the state has sought to ban a pesticide and the move was overdue.

“This pesticide is a neurotoxin and it was first put on the market in 1965,” Blumenfeld said. “So it’s been on the shelf a long time and it’s past its sell-by date.”

The decision comes after regulators in several states have taken steps in recent years to restrict the pesticide currently used on about 60 different crops in California, including grapes, almonds and oranges. Hawaii banned it last year and New York lawmakers recently sent a bill to the governor outlawing use of the pesticide.

DowDuPont, which produces the pesticide, has criticized efforts to curtail its use and said it will hurt farmers who rely on it to control insects. Blumenfeld said the state took action in part because the federal government allowed the pesticide to be used after the Obama Administration tried to phase it out.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump reversed that effort after re-evaluating the science. Environmental groups and farmworkers challenged that decision and a federal appeals court last month ordered the EPA to decide by July whether to ban the pesticide.