Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Aug 9 2018

EPA’s decision put farmworkers, children, pregnant women potentially at risk

SEATTLE — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with Attorney General Bob Ferguson today that the Environmental Protection Agency improperly halted a scientific safety review of the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, allowing the continued use of the pesticide at potentially dangerous levels.

The court reversed the EPA’s decision to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos, and ordered the EPA to revoke all uses on food within 60 days. 

In its decision, the court wrote, "There was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children."

“The EPA’s mission is not ambiguous: Protection is literally its middle name,” Ferguson said. “This action by the Trump Administration was yet another attempt to undermine the EPA’s mandate. It is disappointing that it took a federal lawsuit to force the EPA to do its job. I won’t allow the Administration to ignore science at the expense of Washington farmworkers and consumers.”

This is Ferguson’s 12th legal victory against the Trump Administration. In seven of those, the case is finished and cannot be appealed. No court to rule on the merits of the attorney general’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against the office. Ferguson has now filed 32 lawsuits against the Trump Administration. 

In this lawsuit, the Trump Administration may appeal the case or ask the Ninth Circuit to consider the case en banc, or by a larger panel of judges.


Chlorpyrifos is an ingredient in numerous pesticide products, used on more than 80 food crops nationwide. People who buy these foods, including several types of fruit, may be eating residue of chlorpyrifos.

Scientific evidence has documented the harmful effects chlorpyrifos has on human health, such as lower IQ and attention deficit disorders. Children are at the highest risk of exposure, as well as pregnant women.

Farmworkers and those living in agricultural communities also experience dangerous levels of exposure. Other than by consuming residue on food, unsafe exposure to chlorpyrifos can occur through drifting during a pesticide application and by entering treated fields up to 18 days afterward. As of 2015, there were nearly 100,000 agricultural workers in Washington state working on about 7,312,000 acres of cropland statewide.

Due to these safety concerns, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) filed a petition with the EPA requesting the agency revoke the use of chlorpyrifos in 2007. More than eight years later, the EPA began the rulemaking process to prohibit all uses of chlorpyrifos on food. In 2016, the EPA published a proposed rule that would have revoked all uses of the pesticide on food.

When former EPA head Scott Pruitt suddenly stopped its review of the pesticide in March 2017, his only reasoning was that the scientific research on the effects of chlorpyrifos remain “unresolved.” 

Washington and six other states filed objections to the EPA’s decision in June 2017. Ferguson and five other attorneys general joined a case that had been filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens, along with PANNA, NRDC and several other nonprofit organizations, in July 2017; two other attorneys general joined in February.

Counsel for Environmental Protection chief Bill Sherman is leading the case for Washington. In 2016, Ferguson created the Counsel for Environmental Protection to protect our environment and the safety and health of all Washingtonians.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.



Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov