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Chlorpyrifos: Going to court to stop use of an old, toxic insecticide

Chlorpyrifos should be banned immediately 

On behalf of Prevent Cancer Now and Safe Food Matters, Ecojustice launched a judicial review of Health Canada’s decision to allow a three-year phase-out of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos, following the May 13, 2021 announcement that chlorpyrifos’ use and products are cancelled.  

Despite cancellation, Health Canada is allowing the continued sale of chlorpyrifos for two more years, and is allowing the agricultural and pest control industries to use this toxic pesticide until December 2023.

Chlorpyrifos has been demonstrated to be a risk to human health and is notorious for its potential to cause brain damage in children. It has been banned in Europe with a six-month phase-out, and the US Environmental Protection Agency announced in August 2021 that chlorpyrifos would be banned in six months.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has been re-evaluating the use of chlorpyrifos since 1999 and has already restricted its use in certain circumstances due to the dangers it poses to human health. 

The groups argue that when cancelling the pesticide, the PMRA failed to consider its threat to human health when it allowed such a lengthy phase-out.

“Ecojustice, on behalf of our clients, is asking the federal court to find the three-year phase-out of chlorpyrifos unlawful. The sale and use of this pesticide must be banned as soon as possible. 

“This case can set a precedent by setting a clear threshold for what the PMRA considers an ‘acceptable risk’ when making decisions about the regulation and cancellation of pesticides.”

Daniel Cheater

Lawyer, Ecojustice

“Chlorpyrifos has been a high-volume pesticide, and is the last of many insecticides from WWII nerve agents. For decades it has been known to harm the nervous system. 21st century research confirms genetic damage and that low doses may interfere with reproduction and development.

“Health Canada relies on industry supplied data and has yet to respond to the clarion calls of scientists to stop these toxic exposures. Environmental and human health will only be protected when regulatory approaches to human health are evidence-based and eliminate the use of toxic pesticides. The PMRA requires the direction and wherewithal to follow and use all of the science.”

Meg Sears

Chair, Prevent Cancer Now

“The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has known for well over a decade, or should have known, about the neurotoxic effects on infants and children, yet has done nothing for two reasons. The PMRA follows what the US EPA does. The EPA was delayed by Trump, and the PMRA’s decision-making was delayed. The PMRA is also beholden to and relies on industry science, without conducting systematic reviews of published scientific literature. 

“It’s time Health Canada and the federal government step up to bring scientific integrity and resources to the PMRA so it can actually do its job properly and protect Canadians from the harms of pesticides.” 

Mary Lou McDonald

President, Safe Food Matters

(Press release. Updated with EPA news, November 2021.)