The chlorpyrifos lawsuits claim that children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb or at a very young age have suffered severe neurological injuries because of the chemical.
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What Do We Know About the Chlorpyrifos Lawsuits?
In 1966, the Dow Chemical Company was awarded a patent for several pesticides, including chlorpyrifos. Since then, the chlorpyrifos pesticide has been marketed under various trade names, such as:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents several companies that are registered to market chlorpyrifos products. Among these companies are the following:
- Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva Inc.)
- Drexel Chemical Company
- AMVAC Chemical Corp.
- Direct AG Source
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Biomonitoring Program, the general population can experience chlorpyrifos exposure by consuming the chemical, inhaling it, or through contact with the skin. Individuals who live near locations where chlorpyrifos products are sprayed and those who work in packing plants or who farmed fields where the chemical is in abundant supply are most at risk.
Main Legal Issues Involving Chlorpyrifos
The primary legal issue is whether the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos failed to adequately warn the public about the increased risk of severe neurological injuries caused by prenatal/postnatal exposure to chlorpyrifos.
Multiple studies have shown that prenatal or postnatal exposure to chlorpyrifos can lead to adverse medical conditions that include ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and other neurocognitive and neurological disorders in both infants and children. When a pregnant woman is exposed to the chemical, it enters the bloodstream and passes on to the developing fetus through the umbilical cord.
In some cases, chlorpyrifos exposure can lead to respiratory paralysis and death.
Between 1987 and 1998, approximately 21 to 24 million pounds of chlorpyrifos were used in domestic applications. From 2009 to 2015, amounts of the chemical ranging from over 1,100,000 pounds to nearly 1,500,000 pounds were used in California alone.
Despite this massive dissemination of the chemical, associated companies did nothing at the time to ensure they warned users of the neurological risks for infants and children who are exposed to the chemical.
In July 2021, lawsuits were filed on behalf of residents of various California counties where children suffered from severe neurological injuries after being exposed to chlorpyrifos. These lawsuits claim a range of injuries caused by chlorpyrifos exposure, including the following:
- Mental retardation
- Verbal and nonverbal communication problems
- Vision problems
- Compulsive behaviors
To date, lawsuits have aimed to recover damages for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses, as well as punitive damages.
Chlorpyrifos Injuries & Side Effects
In February 2002, the EPA assessed the risks of chlorpyrifos and determined the adverse health effects stemmed from overstimulation of the nervous system, which causes:
- Respiratory paralysis (at very high exposures)
- Death (at very high exposures)
Signs of low exposure to chlorpyrifos also include:
- Drooling/increase in saliva
- Runny nose
- Tearing of the eyes
- Excessive sweating
More elevated exposures to the chemical could produce the following signs and symptoms:
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle twitching
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Blurry or darkened vision
The most severe exposures to the pesticide could produce:
- Loss of bladder/bowel control
- Difficulty breathing
In its 2009 technical fact sheet on chlorpyrifos, the National Pesticide Information Center explored the signs and side effects of toxic exposure to the chemical. According to the organization’s research, newborn babies and young children are more susceptible than adults to the negative effects of exposure to the pesticide.
The report further outlined results from various studies involving rats and chlorpyrifos. The researchers reported:
- Adverse neurobehavioral effects
- Adverse effects on neuronal cell development
- Adverse DNA synthesis
- Behavioral and social effects in neonates and adolescent rats
A 2014 study published by Environmental Health Perspectives explored whether gestational exposure to pesticides like chlorpyrifos causes developmental neurotoxicity in humans—leading to autism and developmental delay. The researchers found that around 30 percent of mothers who lived roughly within a mile’s distance of an agricultural pesticide application when pregnant showed a 60 percent higher risk for ASD (particularly for second- and third-trimester exposures).
Other observational studies have also established the neurocognitive effects of chlorpyrifos exposure on adolescents.
The Timeline Important to Chlorpyrifos Lawsuits
- April 1966: Dow Chemical Company was awarded US Patent Number 3,244,586 for various formulations of opyridyl phosphates and phosphorothioate-based pesticides, including chlorpyrifos.
- May 1995: The EPA levied a $732,000 penalty against DowElanco (predecessor to Dow AgroSciences) for failing to report information on adverse health effects over the past decade connected with the use of chlorpyrifos.
- 2000: Registrants voluntarily agreed to eliminate, phase-out, and modify certain uses of chlorpyrifos in response to health and environmental risks from exposure. As a result, the pesticide was no longer marketed for residential or for use on tomatoes. Restrictions were placed for the chemical’s use in apple and grape applications. Dow withdrew their residential formulation of chlorpyrifos, Dursban, from the market.
- 2002 (finalized in 2006): EPA announced label changes to mitigate risks of chlorpyrifos.
- December 15, 2003: Dow AgroSciences was fined a $2 million penalty as part of its entry into a Consent Order with the New York Attorney General for making false and misleading claims regarding the safety of chlorpyrifos between 1995 and 2003.
- September 2007: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) petitioned the EPA to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
- July 6, 2011: EPA published its Preliminary Human Health Risk Assessment for chlorpyrifos in line with the review program requiring re-evaluation of pesticides on a 15-year cycle.
- July 2012: EPA posted its Spray Drift Mitigation Decision and Changes to Application Rates. New measures were agreed upon by chlorpyrifos registrants in an effort to mitigate the effects of spray drift during agricultural applications, especially to children and bystanders.
- December 31, 2014: EPA released its Revised Human Health Risk Assessment, based on data from AChl inhibition in laboratory animals. The agency stated its belief that effects could result from lower exposures than indicated in the toxicology database.
- November 6, 2015: EPA proposed rule to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the agency to respond to an administrative petition to revoke all tolerances for the pesticide by October 31, 2015.
- November 17, 2016: EPA posts its Revised Human Health Risk Assessment for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Registration Review of chlorpyrifos.
- July 24, 2019: EPA issues its order denying objections from the Pesticide Network North America (PANNA) and the NRDC to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.
- September 22, 2020: EPA issues its Draft Ecological Risk Assessment and Revised Human Health Risk Assessment.
- February 6, 2020: Corteva announces the company would stop selling chlorpyrifos.
- December 2020: EPA issues its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision
- April 29, 2021: 9th Circuit Opinion speaks to EPA’s denial of the 2007 petition ordering the EPA to ban all food uses of on chlorpyrifos or keep only the uses that were safe for children and workers. Court orders the Biden Administration to ban toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.
- August 2021: EPA revokes all tolerances to chlorpyrifos.
What Is the Purpose of Chlorpyrifos?
Chlorpyrifos (0,0-diethyl-0-3,5,6-trichloro -2-pyridyl phosphorothioate) is an organophosphate pesticide. The chemical substance is registered with the EPA in agricultural settings to control invasive pests—worms, aphids, spiders, beetles, weevils, grasshoppers, ants, and other insects—that invade high-value crops, such as oranges, almonds, walnuts, and alfalfa.
Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology explains how chlorpyrifos kills pests by influencing the normal function of the nervous system. By inhibiting acetylcholinesterase in the insect, chlorpyrifos prompts the accumulation of acetylcholine and amplifies stimulation of the postsynaptic neuron. The nervous system becomes overstimulated, which causes the insect to die.
The problem comes from the fact that when the chemical degrades to an analog, its toxicity increases one-thousand-fold over its parent, reports Bloomberg Law. The resulting residue sticks to surfaces, from car dashboards to walls to stuffed animals. Once it enters the womb, it affects the infant’s developmental health.
How Liability Law Applies to Chlorpyrifos Cases
Under most state laws, a patient injured through the use of a defective product can bring a lawsuit based on the following legal theories:
- Design Defect: When a product is manufactured per design specifications, but the design itself renders the product ineffective or unsafe;
- Manufacturing Defect: When a product is safely designed, but has a defect through the manufacturing process, rendering it dangerous or unsafe; and/or
- Failure to Warn: When the product manufacturer fails to warn the public of the risks or to provide adequate instructions about the use of the product, thereby rendering it unsafe or dangerous.
All states enforce a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against a product manufacturer. A member of our legal team can inform you of your state’s laws.
Chlorpyrifos Lawsuit News
Five Things Farmers Need to Know About EPA's Ban on Chlorpyrifos
The EPA announced its intention to publish a new rule that will revoke all residue tolerances for the insecticide, essentially making it illegal to use on food and feed crops. This new EPA rule will take full effect in around six months, meaning farmers can still use chlorpyrifos through this growing season, but next year, it won't be an option. Read more at Progressive Farmer
Lawsuits Warn Newly Banned Pesticide Might Linger for Years in Homes
Lawsuits filed in recent months allege that the harmful effects of a pesticide linked to developmental issues in children could last well beyond the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new ban on the chemical. Read more at The Hill
EPA Will Ban A Farming Pesticide Linked To Health Problems In Children
A pesticide that's been linked to neurological damage in children, including reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorders, has been banned by the Biden administration following a years-long legal battle. Read More at NPR
Pesticide Caused Kids’ Brain Damage, California Lawsuits Say
Lawsuits filed Monday in California seek potential class-action damages from Dow Chemical and its successor company over a widely used bug killer linked to brain damage in children. Read more at AP News
Parents Sue Chlorpyrifos Makers Corteva, Dow Over Child’s Autism
The farmworker parents of a girl with autism, obesity, and vision problems are suing Dow Chemical Co., Corteva, a California town, and two pesticide application companies, claiming that exposure to the powerful insecticide chlorpyrifos led to her significant health problems. Read more at Bloomberg
Scientific Studies Regarding Chlorpyrifos
Contemporary-use pesticides in personal air samples during pregnancy and blood samples at delivery among urban minority mothers and newborns
Environmental Health Perspectives published a study where 29 pesticides were measured in collected plasma samples from mothers and newborn pairs. Researchers found that pesticides like chlorpyrifos are “readily transferred to the developing fetus during pregnancy.”
Researchers found deficits in auditory processing and visual acuity in infants who had experienced prenatal exposure to organophosphate insecticides and concluded these deficits could adversely affect cognitive development later in life.
Prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure in association with PPARγ H3K4me3 and DNA methylation levels and child development
Researchers measured chlorpyrifos levels in cord blood of 425 mother-infant pairs, then measured infants’ health outcomes and childhood neurodevelopment. The study concluded that prenatal exposure to the pesticide affected cognitive and language development.
Prenatal and infant exposure to ambient pesticides and autism spectrum disorder in children: population-based case-control study
This study aimed to explore any links between early developmental exposure to ambient pesticides and autism spectrum disorder. A population of 2,961 people with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder were identified. They were then mapped using data from state-mandated Pesticide Use Reporting to determine likely exposure to pesticides. The study revealed that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos was associated with risk of autism spectrum disorder by the ratios of 1.13, 1.05, to 1.23. Researchers concluded that the risk of this disorder increases after pesticide exposure within 2,000 meters of their mother’s residence during pregnancy.
Researchers evaluated combined exposures to folic acid intake and pesticides to assess connection to autism spectrum disorder. California children enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) case-control study were confirmed to have pesticide exposures as well as maternal supplemental folic acid. The study concluded that the link between pesticide exposure and ASD were reduced in kids whose mothers had high folic acid intake in the first month of pregnancy.
The relationship between pesticide exposure during critical neurodevelopment and autism spectrum disorder: A narrative review
This review offers a synopsis of the links between popular pesticides, including chlorpyrifos and autism spectrum disorder. Highlights of the view include associations between ASD and exposure to low-dose pesticide. This low-dose pesticide could induce gut microbiota, which could associate with ASD. This level of exposure can also change neuronal morphology, synapse, and glial cells found in ASD.