EU should ban brain-harming chlorpyrifos to protect health

Exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to ADHD and autism. It should not be allowed on the European market

Today, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) together with Générations Futures, Pesticide Action Network Europe and Pesticide Action Network Germany released a factsheet on the health effects of chlorpyrifos.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides in Europe and its residues are also commonly found in our food. The current authorisation for chlorpyrifos on the European market will expire on 31 January 2019. We are very concerned about the possibility of an extended authorisation due to its health harming properties. Chlorpyrifos is linked to the disruption of the hormonal system and effects on the developing human brain. Children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb or in early life can suffer neurodevelopmental effects later in life, like attention deficit disorders (ADHD) and autism.

This factsheet sets out the case and evidence against the use of chlorpyrifos and explains the health impacts which justify its ban.


Widespread risk from brain-harming chlorpyrifos, state scientists find

Current uses of chlorpyrifos put children at risk from unsafe levels of exposure from residues on food, contaminated water, and pesticide drift

Nerve agent chlorpyrifos is a toxic air contaminant that threatens agricultural communities and harms children’s developing brains, PAN North America reports, July 30, 2018.

Sacramento, CA – California took a step closer Monday to curbing the use of a pesticide linked to permanent brain harm, including ADHD, autism and IQ loss. Sixteen months after disgraced former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt defied his own scientists and refused to ban the neurotoxic organophosphate chlorpyrifos, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has concluded their own study by largely agreeing with the EPA scientists: current uses of chlorpyrifos put children at risk from unsafe levels of exposure from residues on food, contaminated water, and pesticide drift up to half a mile. Now, children’s health advocates are pushing the department to follow the science with sound policy, and become the second state in the nation to ban it. Hawaii’s state legislature passed a statewide ban in May.

DPR’s scientific conclusions were announced at a hearing convened Monday by the state’s Scientific Review Panel (SRP), a body of independent scientists overseeing DPR’s risk assessment of chlorpyrifos. Review of the chemical had been on hold for many years pending the proposed federal ban. The SRP formally accepted the risk assessment Monday, and unanimously agreed to designate chlorpyrifos a Toxic Air Contaminant, joining a list of 46 other chemicals including a number of fumigant pesticides. DPR now has ten working days to initiate the regulatory process formalizing the Toxic Air Contaminant designation.

“We’re glad that the state has finally accepted the overwhelming consensus of federal and independent scientists who’ve studied chlorpyrifos for years and determined that it harms kids’ brains severely and irreversibly,”

said Mark Weller, co-director of the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform.

It’s what comes next that will determine for how long California’s communities will continue to be put at risk. DPR has the authority to halt exposures immediately by suspending use in California while formal assessment of control options are considered. However, DPR may also follow the timeline under the Toxic Air Contaminant regulations that allow for two years to decide how to mitigate the risk to children’s brain health. And meanwhile, almost a million pounds continues to be used on California’s food crops each year, exposing thousands of children and pregnant women to a chemical that permanently damages the developing brain.

“With everything we now know, it’s unconscionable that this toxic chemical is still being used on food crops in California,”

“The state must immediately suspend all use of chlorpyrifos to protect kids, farmworkers and agricultural communities.”

said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Pesticide risk assessment regulatory use designed and/or promoted by the industry

The chemical industry writes its own rules


Research done by the Pesticide Action Network reveals that in 92% (11 out of 12) of the EU-methods for pesticide risk assessment examined, it was the industry that designed and/or promoted their regulatory use. Industry is writing its own rules. This is a major conflict of interest. The cases concern criteria and methods (risk assessment methodologies) on HOW the rules of the pesticide Regulation 1107/2009 should be used in decision-taking on individual pesticides. In most cases European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, drafted the guidelines on the use of these criteria and methods. Such methods are used to dismiss tumours observed in animal toxicity testing of pesticides, to approve carcinogenic pesticides in our food, to classify polluting pesticide metabolites in our groundwater as irrelevant, to allow the dying of 50% of the insects in every spraying turn, to construct ‘safe’ levels for harmful pesticides without any experimental evidence, among others.

Industry, spearheaded by industry lobby group ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute), developed their desired methods during the past 15 years in a series of invited-only meetings with industry employees and a few university professors that generally shared their views. Next it tried to get its allies in regulatory expert panels that draft opinions on the methods like the panels of EFSA, IPCS/WHO (World Health Organisation/ International Program on Chemical Safety), JMPR (WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues) and other agencies.

In 75% (9 out of the 12) of the risk assessment methods studied by the Pesticide Action Network, industry-linked experts managed to get
a seat in EU and global panels where these methods were produced. Generally there were only a handful of experts present in the panels that decided on far-reaching opinions about the methods. Only rarely were experts present in these meetings that are actively conducting experimental scientific work. In any case, not much science is used for drafting opinions on risk assessment methods in panels. “Expert judgement” is the prevailing practice, which is in fact just the opinions and ‘feelings’ of those that are present in the room. The global scientific societies that bundle the hundreds of thousands of scientists that do scientific research in the world are not involved nor asked to do a peer-review of these methods of risk assessment, which is the standard procedure for scientific work. In none, 0% (0 out of 12) of the methods studied by the Pesticide Action Network, the method was peer-reviewed by independent academic scientists.

Since a solid conflict-of-interest policy was lacking in the beginning of this century in most agencies, many expert panels have been dominated by experts that support the views of industry. In the case of TTC (Threshold of Toxicological Concern; a method to design safe levels for pesticides) up to 77% (10 out of the 13) of the experts in the EFSA-working group were linked to industry and were promoting this method in the past.

Food Authority EFSA is known for having close ties to industry. In 50% (6 out of the 12) of the methods studied by the Pesticide Action Network, EFSA and other agencies had exclusive meetings with industry on the design of the methods, sidelining other stakeholders.

Industry obtained most of its inspiration from the US where citizens are not protected by the precautionary principle and the burden of proof on harmfull effects of pesticides is put largely on the public. An entirely different system therefore from the EU system. Yet, in 67% (8 out of the 12) of the methods studied by the Pesticide Action Network, an US-origin could be seen. Without a doubt the US-type of risk assessment is invading the EU-system through the backdoor.

The 12 methods studied here all are designed to lower the level of protection of the public and to enable the approval of pesticide that can cause harm. On top of this, the methods adopted are even misused in practice. In 92% (11 out of 12) of the methods studied by the Pesticide Action Network misuse was observed in actual decision-making of EU pesticide approval.

A full revision of the EU risk assessment methods is needed, according to the Pesticide Action Network. Fully independent scientists that are actively conducting experimental work as a daily practice should be tasked to do this to protect the public with the newest scientific in sights and knowledge.

Continue reading Industry writing Its own rules, a research report written by the Pesticide Action Network Europe, January 2018.