Dow’s cheap and devastating nerve gas is the first pesticide ever to be cancelled in California

Sacramento, CA: California’s farmworking communities will soon get a reprieve from a devastating pesticide linked to permanent brain damage in young children. A little more than two years after the Trump Administration reversed a proposed federal ban of the neurotoxic organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos, Governor Newsom today announced the commencement of cancellation proceedings in California, along with additional funding to help farmers transition to safer alternatives. The process is expected to take from six months to two years, and will be the first time a pesticide has ever been cancelled in California.

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

Advocates for children’s health applauded the move as a victory for California’s children, who risked dangerous exposure from air and water pollution and from residues on food.

“Governor Newsom has taken a courageous step for the welfare of California’s children, and for the restoration of California’s moral leadership. This unprecedented step points to the dawn of a much-needed new vision for agriculture in California that protects and enhances rural communities. The end of this hazardous chemical can’t come soon enough.” said Sarah Aird, co-director of the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform.  

New restrictions placed on chlorpyrifos in November are expected to reduce overall use, but the state’s analysis confirmed that the chemical is too dangerous to use in any amount. That means that babies and children continue to be at risk until the process is complete.

“Right now is the height of the chlorpyrifos season in the San Joaquin Valley,” noted Angel Garcia, community organizer with the Tulare County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety. “We’re grateful to the governor for the decision to cancel chlorpyrifos and urge him to make sure the process wraps up as soon as possible. Any use of this pesticide poses a continued threat to our communities, and a life sentence for children who suffer brain damage as a result of exposure.”

California joins Hawaii and New York as the third state to propose a ban, but the decision will particularly reverberate in the nation’s largest agricultural economy where almost a million pounds a year are used, mostly on citrus and nut crops in the San Joaquin Valley.

Since  the EPA’s March 2017 decision to reverse the federal ban, California has been engaged in a lengthy review process to determine the chemical’s fate. That review concluded with the listing of chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant in April, but left open the possibility for continued use. Governor Newsom’s announcement closed off that possibility with the launch of a legal cancellation process.



Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR) is a diverse, statewide coalition of over 190 member groups working to strengthen pesticide policies in California to protect public health and the environment. Member groups include public and children’s health advocates, clean air and water groups, health practitioners, environmental justice groups, labor, education, farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates from across the state.

En español »